The Summer of Love continues as Peter Parker’s pursuit of Mary Jane Watson is followed by Anakin Skywalker’s (Hayden Christensen) wooing of Padme Amidala (Natalie Portman). Is this a plot to sell more tickets to unescorted females, or have computer geeks finally started taking an interest in sex that involves an actual person?
Whatever. You won’t believe your eyes when you see Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones; and you shouldn’t. George Lucas has finally gone off the digital deep end with a movie so synthetic-looking it might all have been created in a computer. That includes the actors, most of whom, had they not given better performances (make that performances, period) elsewhere, would not be hired again after this.
Dialogue has never been a long suit of the Star Wars series, but the cast has been able to breathe a modicum of life into it before. This time only Ewan McGregor avoids total embarrassment. Samuel L. Jackson isn’t even cool. If the toy-happy Lucas has lost interest in people to this extent, he needs to employ a co-director to work with his actors in Episode III.
Ten years have passed, and the Republic is in trouble. Count Dooku (Christopher Lee) is forming a separatist alliance. Padme Amidala is now a senator, and someone is trying to kill her. An attempt on her life by Zam (Leeanna Walsman) is unsuccessful and starts a trail that leads to bounty hunter Jango Fett (Temuera Morrison) and his son Boba.
Chancellor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) assigns Jedi Obi-Wan Kenobi (McGregor) to protect Sen. Amidala and his apprentice, Anakin (rhymes with mannequin) Skywalker goes along. Anakin hasn’t seen Padme in 10 years, but he’s been nursing a crush and now he’s old enough to do something about it. She addresses him as “Anni,” as if trying to feminize him. Soon everyone is calling him “Anni” until you expect him to break out in a chorus of “Tomorrow”!
Jango Fett has created an army of clones for the Republic. It’s not clear who authorized it, but the army will come in handy before this adventure is over. Actually they’ll arrive like the cavalry in an old Western as Lucas mixes his cinematic metaphors (Gladiatorial combat, rodeo riding, the diner from American Graffiti, the heavily trafficked urban skyways of Blade Runner, ’70s-style car chases in futuristic vehicles, a fight that looks like Crouching Tiger, Leaping Yoda, etc.).
Yoda (voiced by Frank Oz) plays a major role in this episode and tiresome his dialogue quickly grows. With Jar Jar Binks (Ahmed Best) reduced to hardly more than a cameo, Yoda fills the obnoxiousness quota for this episode.
Lucas creates a number of new creatures, some of them fun, for Clones, and manipulates them with more skill than he does the humans. In the first shot of the Jedi Council they stand stiffly as if their Halloween costumes haven’t been properly broken in.
Some of the dialogue (“I don’t think so”) has a contemporary ring, including Obi-Wan’s timeless diatribe about politicians being obligated to their campaign contributors. A scene where he has trouble sending a message across the universe is like anyone having cell phone problems. When a weapon is identified as a “Camino sabre dart” one wonders, how many car names can you work into one phrase?
Lucas crams a universe-ful of creatures and effects onto the screen in this set-up for Episode III, in which Anakin goes over to the dark side and– well, you know the rest.
No, you won’t believe your eyes; but you can believe your nose: this movie stinks. While I’ve never been fanatical about the series, it’s the first Star Wars picture I’ve actively disliked.