'Star Wars: Episode II'
delivers on action,
but flops on romance
May 17, 2002
By Franklin Harris
The final act of "Star Wars: Episode II — Attack of the Clones" is the movie for which "Star Wars" fans have waited almost 20 years.
Unfortunately, at the heart of "Attack of the Clones" is an unconvincing love story that takes up most of the first two-thirds of the film.
Fans have speculated about the Clone War since Obi-Wan Kenobi alluded to it during the first "Star Wars." Most of them will probably be satisfied with the way in which George Lucas has chosen to bring it to the screen.
Jedi Knights, clone troopers, battle droids and monsters that look like they just walked out of a Ray Harryhausen "Sinbad" movie collide in an epic battle.
And the action climaxes with a spectacular lightsaber duel between a now fully computer-animated Yoda (still given voice by Frank Oz) and the dark Jedi, Count Dooku (Christopher Lee).
The duel shouldn't work, but it does. And it is particularly gratifying to see Lee, an expert at playing villains since his days as Count Dracula, shine during one of the "Star Wars" saga's finest moments.
The problem Lucas faces in this installment is the exact opposite of the one that crippled "The Phantom Menace."
While the nine-year-old Anakin Skywalker of "The Phantom Menace" was too innocent, betraying no hint of his coming fall to the Dark Side, the 19-year-old Anakin of "Attack of the Clones" (Hayden Christensen) is the galaxy's biggest jerk.
In the time since he last saw Queen Padmé Amidala of Naboo (Natalie Portman), Anakin's prepubescent crush has turned into an obsession.
Not a day went by during those 10 years that he didn't think of her, he says.
Anakin's feelings for Amidala, who is now a senator, are obvious to just about everyone, including his mentor, Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor).
Nevertheless, the Jedi Council assigns Anakin to act as Amidala's bodyguard, following two failed assassination attempts.
Lucas never convinces us that Amidala, supposedly a responsible leader, should fall for the pouting, temperamental Anakin.
And the fact that Portman and Christensen have absolutely no chemistry together only makes their romance even harder to accept.
Anakin wins Amidala over simply by telling her repeatedly how much he loves her. She eventually reciprocates, because the plot demands it. Otherwise, Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia will never be born.
But a more sensible woman would reach for a restraining order rather than a wedding ring.
The end result is that the tragedy of Anakin's transformation into Darth Vader, which only begins in this episode, is lost.
Anakin has so few redeeming qualities that we feel nothing when he finally snaps, and we cannot sympathize with Amidala's forbidden love for the young Jedi.
Photo © Copyright 20th Century Fox|
Badass Yoda is. Open up a can on you he will.
Flaws like these would ruin any other film, but "Attack of the Clones" remains worthwhile because of its climactic battle and because of the secondary plot involving Obi-Wan's search for the would-be assassin.
McGregor is the only one of the film's three lead actors who actually gives a performance, as opposed to a line reading. His confrontation with the bounty hunter Jango Fett (Temuera Morrison) and discovery of the clone army are the highlights of the middle act.
Lucas can be happy to know that he has almost redeemed himself for the failure of "The Phantom Menace." Like "Return of the Jedi," "Attack of the Clones" is a flawed but enjoyable film, at least as far as its intended audience is concerned.
But it isn't the great film it could have been if Lucas knew half as much about love and loss as he does about droids and Death Stars.