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PCR # 110 (Vol. 3, No. 18) This edition is for the week of April 29--May 5, 2002.

This Week's PCR
Movie Review
"Star Wars: Episode II
Attack of the Clones"

four stars

Movie review by: Michael A. Smith

Movies are rated 0 to 4 stars

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20th Century Fox    
Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Hayden Christensen, Ian McDiarmid, Anthony Daniels, Frank Oz, Samuel L. Jackson, and Christopher Lee
Directed by: George Lucas
Written by: George Lucas and Jonathan Hales
Rated: PG
Running Time: 2 hours 15 minutes

Did you ever see a movie directed by someone whose work you admire and come away thinking "What the hell happened to him?" I know pretty much after every John Carpenter film I say to myself, "I wonder if he really did 'Halloween'" Well, that is the feeling I got after seeing "Phantom Menace" three years ago. I gave George Lucas the benefit of the doubt last time for two reasons: 1) He only had three feature films to his credit. 2) He hadn't directed a film in almost 20 years. Let me say right at the beginning: George, all is forgiven!

In my opinion, "The Empire Strikes Back" is the best of the second trilogy of films, and it's going to take some doing to take that distinction away from "Attack of the Clones" in the first trilogy.

The film begins 10 years after the end of "Phantom Menace." Padmé Amidala (Portman), the former Queen of Naboo, is now a member of the Senate. Following an assassination attempt she is quickly assigned two Jedi Knights to protect her. One is old friend Obi Wan Kenobi (McGregor). The other is his young apprentice, Anakin Skywalker (Christensen). Both are obviously taken by the others' physical maturation and it's obvious within the first few minutes that romance will soon bloom. What begins as just another ordinary security mission soon grows into an adventure that must be seen to be believed.

What amazes me most about this film is that, though you basically know what's going to happen because of Episodes 4, 5 and 6, when they do occur (Anakin and Padmé fall in love, Anakin begins being seduced by the Dark Side) it comes at you like a revelation. The credit for this is due largely to the cast. Despite the fact that Harrison Ford is the most popular actor in movie history, you have to admit that the original "Star Wars" film did not boast the greatest in talent. Sure, it had Alec Guiness and Peter Cushing, but they weren't in the largest of roles. As for Mark Hamill.............did anyone besides me see "Corvette Summer" or "The Night The Lights Went Out In Georgia?" "AOTC" is easily the best group of actors Lucas has assembled for a film since "American Graffitti." Most impressive is young Hayden Christensen, who easily makes you forget the blunder that was Jake Lloyd. If not for the talented people around him, he would easily steal every scene he's in. He makes you feel every emotion, be it his yearning for Padmé, his anger when he feels that Obi Wan is "holding him back" and the rage that rises up in him as he begins his journey to the Dark Side. Another great surprise is Christopher Lee, who certainly does not reflect the fact that he will turn 80 on May 27th. It is also a nice touch to see Lee in the same series that began with an appearance by frequent co-star (22 films), and Hammer film superstar, Peter Cushing.

Don't look for too much development with the Senator Palpatine/Darth Sidious character. Jar Jar Binks' role is mercifully diminished in Episode 2, so those turned off by his previous appearance (which was all of us, I think) can take heart. The highly-anticipated light-saber duel between Yoda and Count Dooku must be seen to be believed; at first they show each other they are masters of the force--then feeling that's going nowhere, they whip out the sabers! To go into too much more detail would give away too much of the story, and I would never do that. This isn't "The Crying Game," but to even alude to the characters and situations that are encountered would definitely take the fun away from my fellow "Star Wars" afficiandos who will enjoy, as I did, putting the pieces together to a puzzle they have already solved.

On a technical level, much has been made of Lucas's desire to shoot this and all future movies on Sony Panavision 24p---basically High Definition videotape. Much of Phantom Menace was done that way and, to many fans, it showed. No such problem here. The tape-to-film transfer is transparent to my eyes and is at least as spectacular as anything committed to film these days. Regarding the current PCR debate about CGI? About the only computer-generated effect not quite nailed yet is something like humans riding the backs of weird animals; there was some cheeziness there. However, the Stormtrooper clone army scenes are breathtaking. There's the Yoda vs Dooku battle I've already touched on. And Obi Wan's pursuit of Jango Fett through an asteroid belt rates as a special effects highlight. As always, John Williams' music is masterful.

To sum it up, "Attack of the Clones" is almost destined to be the biggest film of the summer, if not the year. I enthusiastically recommend it and give it my highest award, four stars out of four. Episode 3 is due May 2005. Get in line now!

This week's special edition movie review of "Star Wars: Episode II--Attack of the Clones" is ©2002 by Michael A. Smith. All graphics this page are creations of Nolan B. Canova, ©2002, all rights reserved. All contents of "Nolan's Pop Culture Review" are ©2002 by Nolan B. Canova.