If 'Attack of the clones' is percieved to be the 'Empire strikes back', of this second coming of the Star Wars trilogy in prequel form, then much is to be desired from it. And for the most part it redeems itself and indeed its somewhat lost glory from its predecessor (Episode 1) this time around. I'll decline to comment on which of the 2 is better, or even which one I personally liked more, I think that both are very entertaining ventures in their own right and Lucas has revamped himself for this new era, a fact that we'll have to accept to actually enjoy this crucial moment of the Star Wars saga.
Most who are familiar with the storyline and have been following its slow revelation on the Web already know that this present set up takes place roughly ten years after the events that transpired in 'The Phantom Menace'. Anakin is now an older, and yes more irreverent, Jedi apprentice. Under the tutelage of his master, Obi Wan Kenobi, he has become a more formidable Jedi as well, a transformation that will admirably help in his becoming completely engulfed by the dark side in the last part of this particular trilogy set. The now familiar opening yellow scroll informs us that as ever, there is much unrest in the galaxy owing to the formation of a seperatist movement by Count Dooku (Christopher Lee), a former Jedi and apparently, once master to the now deceased Qui Gon Jinn. A voting is under way that will be crucial in deciding the fate of the Republic and whether to use an army of clones that are being secretly assembled, in an impending battle with the forces of the seperatists, a situation that legitimizes the use of the title 'Attack of the clones'.
I won't go as far as saying that the movie was an improvement over the Phantom menace. There were moments that worked, and some that stalled its progress. But don't get me wrong this is THE summer movie of the year. Sure its dumbed down by over wrought dialogues, and some stilted performances, but much of that can be forgiven once the action, which is the real focus this time round, comes into play. Yes there are huge clunks of romance thrown in during the first half that give the film a more human feel. But that makes the events as mature as Harry Potter would feel if the 2 leads were bratty teens, deeply lovestruck and desperate for a kiss.
Hayden Christensen does a passable job of the role assigned to him. He brings out the rage, arrogance and suppression of his character neatly, however, much is left desired of his chemistry, or lack thereof, with co-star Natalie Portman, wonderful in her role as the former queen Amidala. He is assigned to protect her after a failed assasination attempt on her life, but is unable to supress his desire for her, whenever they are caught in solitude, which happens more often than it should. Obi Wan seems more of what will eventually metamorphisize into the Alec Guiness version of him that we first saw in 'A new hope'. He is calmer, and more in control. There are many scenes that sharply contrast the understanding that he possesses with his skills, with the lack of the same that Anakin displays. Here, for the first time, we see shades of envy and misunderstanding creeping up between the two. There are numerous occassions when Anakin feels the need to question his masters orders, something that initiates and then builds on the friction between the 2.
There is much political talk/debate this time round as well. References are made to democracy (supposedly the form of ruling practiced presently in the galaxy) and even dictatorship, something that will appear with the formation of the Empire. But much of this only serves to drag the proceedings, and with perhaps the longest running time yet in the series (close to 140 minutes), the entire affair seems less epic than simply over-long. I found myself even lost at times by all the ideologiacal chitter chatter about how governments should be run etc etc. Also of little help was the split proceedings of Anakin's wooing of Amidala with Obi Wan's intense space hopping search for the assassin. But once everything was revealed, the pace picks up and gets into high gear.
For the numerous Star Wars enthusiasts many new locations as well as creatures are revealed during the entire stretch. The most impressive of these has to be the wet planet of Camino, a rain drenched stronghold of the clone army. With its lush white interiors, Lucas returns to the strong visuals he first displayed in THX 1138. It is also in this part of his story telling that the most intrigue is also built. The attentive viewer will find himself asking questions such as who is Count Dooku? What is his grudge against the republic? How does Anakin fit into all this? Perhaps some of you will also find yourself smiling at this witty exchange of dialogue between Amidala and Anakin. Amidala: "You don't like politicians". Anakin: "I like 2 or 3".
There is so much that happens that in an after thought the film seems like it was at least 3 hours long. Many characters are introduced that will have future implications that we have already witnessed. There is also the one customary visit to Tatooine to tie loose ends, and C3PO's re-introduction seemed like a breath of fresh air to loosen the suffocating high talk. To some, everything that happens may seem like a process of adjustment, being done to sync the 2 differing time lines of the distinct trilogies. However there is depth and indeed meaning to all of this. Nothing is put onscreen without reason. John Williams score also deserves special praise. He continues here with shades of the Empire's theme and Anakin's theme with a little bit of Duel of the fates thrown in during the battle scenes. However it is his love theme that really is the highlight of his work for this film. It seems epic in tune and even had me thinking of the Godfather 2 theme at times. Its rousing and simply astonishing and stands as a testament to this mans deep love for his work on the Star Wars movies.
And then there is final battle itself. Lucas abandoms his trademark 3 way camera work for a more linear approach that works better. There is a very impressive chase through the droid factory where Anakin's prowess with the lightsaber are established as a precursor to the big fight. I will mention one thing though, when the fight starts, it happens rather suddenly. You expect one thing and then a few seconds later, an entire field is filled with many, many Jedi's against thousands of droids. Samuel Jackson is finally seen in battle, but what made me sit up in amazement was the unbelievable showdown between Yoda and Tyrannus. It is very brief, but for the duration that its on screen, it works like magic. Every blow was powerful, every exchange threatening. I watched the movie with a bunch of friends, a couple of whom had never seen any Star Wars movie before and they cheered when this fight started, to the point of nearly applausing at the very end. This only goes to prove that not only can fans enjoy this tale, but anyone for that matter.
Still Lucas has a long way to go before we see the end of the Jedi's, save for Obi Wan and Yoda, the introduction of the Death Star, which has a neat cameo in this part, the coming out into the open of the Sith, and appearance of a certain Darth Vader amongst the most feared rulers of the galaxy. - Faizan Rashid