Ten years after initially meeting, Anakin Skywalker shares a forbidden romance with Padmé, while Obi-Wan investigates an assassination attempt on the Senator and discovers a secret clone army crafted for the Jedi.
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Ten years after the 'Phantom Menace' threatened the planet Naboo, Padmé Amidala is now a Senator representing her homeworld. A faction of political separatists, led by Count Dooku, attempts to assassinate her. There are not enough Jedi to defend the Republic against the threat, so Chancellor Palpatine enlists the aid of Jango Fett, who promises that his army of clones will handle the situation. Meanwhile, Obi-Wan Kenobi continues to train the young Jedi Anakin Skywalker, who fears that the Jedi code will forbid his growing romance with Amidala. Written by
Sitting in that darkened cinema, a bag of popcorn in one hand and a cup of cola in the other, I desperately tried to hold onto the bitterness and cynicism that the awful billion-dollar-toy advert of Episode I had hammered into my brain. But it was no good. John Williams' score sent those delightful shivers of nostalgia up my spine and by the time the familiar yellow scroller had faded into distant space I was lost in a heady mist of fanboy love.
Sadly, it was not to last. After a brief set-up, we got our first glimpse of Anakin mk. 2. No longer the irritatingly chirpy Jake Lloyd, our Vader-in-making had transformed into the charisma vortex that is the supremely untalented Hayden Christensen. Consistently out-acted by the logs of wood burning in the fireside scene, Christensen walks around with an expression that says nothing more than "I am concentrating very hard on remembering my next cue". In fact, he's so dismal he even sucks the life out of the usually lively Ewan MacGregor, who seems like he's become as disillusioned with Lucas as the rest of us. Portman manages moderately well, and as Mace Windu, Samuel L. Jackson does the usual badass schtick that we've seen him do in everything else. Even Christopher Lee seems stripped of his menace, possibly because most of his scenes consist of acting against green-screen - a tricky thing for even the most experienced of actors.
The direction, too, is lame. Some action scenes (such as the hover-vehicle chase through a futuristic city right at the start) go on too long and become a tiresome showreel for ILM's CGI department, whilst others are cut horribly short (most notably the Obi-Wan/Jango Fett battle scene, something us fanboys were drooling over before the movie). The battle scenes just fling computer animation all over the place and hope the audience will be suitably impressed, though the effect is rather like setting all your fireworks off at once - big bangs and lots of colour, but nothing to focus on.
The pacing of the film is woeful too. The romance scenes take up too much screen time - something that wouldn't be quite so bad if the two leads didn't have the chemistry and electricity of wet cement - whilst the potential catharsis of Anakin's slaughter of a Sand People village happens off camera! Unbelievably during this last bit, we're treated to all the other characters talking about how something <i>really really interesting</i> is happening offscreen. Show not tell, Lucas! Even the lousiest director knows that.
So many bad things, so few words to say it in: Watto returns, except as an unbelievably offensive Jewish stereotype (big nose, long white hair, a black Rabbi hat). 3-CPO and R2 wander through the film, serving no purpose at all. The dialogue is ATROCIOUS and the jokes are worse. If CGI is so great these days why is it so obvious?
Good things? Few and depressingly far between. The "death sticks" scene worked pretty well, the floaty thin white aliens were gorgeous and watching Yoda kick all kinds of arse made his battle scene with Christopher Lee the single most satisfying Star Wars moment of all time. Ever. Ever, ever, ever. But the brilliance of that last part (the only truly great bit in Episode II) only highlights the ham-fisted, amateurish trash that is the rest of the movie.
I think the worst part of Epsiode II is that it confirms that Lucas really is just a hack. Without a Kaufman or a Kasdan to do all the hard work or a Spielberg to pick up the directorial slack, Lucas is just a big stupid kid telling big stupid stories. If Episode II were some other sci-fi franchise, I would regard it merely as an unbearably awful film. But as it's another step in Lucas' ongoing mission to destroy both his own legend and the Star Wars universe, I can only give it my utter contempt.
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