Sunday, June 12, 2011

Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones * * * *

Star Wars Episode II Attack of the Clones is the story about how the war began between the Galactic Republic and the separatists. Starting with the attempted assassination of Senator Padmé Amidala, which parallels the assassination of the Archduke Ferdinand that helped start World War I, a series of discoveries are made that cumulate in a massive battle. It is also the story of Anakin Skywalker's budding relationship with Padmé, and his gradual (or maybe sudden) descent into the dark side.

I am very impressed with how Hayden Christensen consistently portrays Anakin as a tormented character.  This is a tough trick to pull off, since we already know that the sweet boy from Episode 1 turns evil. The question is how did he get there?  Here Hayden Christensen makes the transition very believable.

It gets confusing talking about episode order versus production order.  This is the fifth Star Wars film, but it is called Episode II.  George Lucas suggests that people watch the movies in episode order, but I disagree. There are people and places in this movie that take on much less significance if you have not seen the first two movies made, called episodes IV and V.  It is better to see the original trilogy first.

Star Wars movies are difficult to evaluate because there have been enough of them that different people have different ideas about what a Star Wars movie should be.  Every time George Lucas takes the series in a different direction, which he has done with almost every Star Wars film, a certain number of people rebel against the change.

In 2002, I was blown away by this movie, but now just a little less so. In terms of action and special effects, this is the most intense Star Wars film. Technically and visually it is an amazing achievement, but it borders on turning into a video game;  There is almost too much detail.  The story is good, but a little less compelling than the best Star Wars movies. The relationship between Anakin and Padmé is simplistic making it less believable.

Since this is the second movie in the second trilogy, it is tempting to compare it with The Empire Strikes Back, which is widely regarded as the best of the Star Wars movies, and by me as the best movie ever made.  However the two movies and the two trilogies are very different.  The first trilogy was about good people rebelling against evil and caring for one another.  The second trilogy is about the rise of evil.  The emotion in this film comes not from a close group of people who care about each other, but from the struggle and suffering of the main characters.  Personal relationships take a back seat to intense action and violence.

Middle movies in trilogies are transitional films because they have no clear beginning or end.   The second movie in this trilogy seems overly intent on explaining events leading up to the first Star Wars movie.

Roger Ebert criticized the movie for not looking good (and for simplistic dialog). On the first release of the film, I noticed some brief technical glitches in the special effects that seemed to be gone 3 weeks later. This means that the movie was rushed to meet it's release date, but then the film was remastered and sent out to theaters again. The DVD version looks gorgeous and has no such problems.

Like The Phantom Menace, whatever flaws this film may have, it still feels like a masterpiece to me.  The story is simply too good and the movie is a feast for the senses.

I happen to like the teaser trailer.  The full trailer is here.

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