Star Wars: Episode 2 - Attack Of The Clones

Star Wars: Episode 2 - Attack Of The Clones

**

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

After the disappointment of The Phantom Menace comes the double disappointment of Attack Of The Clones.

Studio spin doctors let it be known that George Lucas has listened to his critics and, this time, the spirit of the original Star Wars: A New Hope shines again in an age when technological invention makes sci-fi the most exciting art form in cinema. It doesn't seem to be the case, however. The scenario twists into knots, the performances are lukewarm and the visuals make no advance on The Fifth Element. Where is the magic?

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The storyline stretches through acres of dross, during which the only thing of interest is whether the next escapee from Sesame Street is more hideous than the troll in Harry Potter. The love interest between the Queen of Naboo (Natalie Portman), who is now a senator of the Republic, and Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen), who has grown into an apprentice Jedi, leaks boredom. The scriptwriters require Viagra and Christensen needs acting lessons.

Ewan McGregor, in the pivotal role of Obi-Wan Kenobi, ginger-bearded and treading water, has none of Liam Neeson's screen chemistry, nor Sir Alec's potted grandeur. His ordinariness compliments the theme of democratic inclusivity, a sandy-haired bloke in jim-jams who reminds you of that nice insurance salesman.

Samuel L Jackson, as a black Jedi, should have stayed at home - he does for most of the movie. Christopher Lee, so recently empowering a dark wizard in The Lord Of The Rings, takes a busman's holiday, as Count Dooku - crude misspelling of Dracula? - and steals the film. This is not difficult, due to weak opposition.

There is a plot, although Lucas appears to have lost it. The Republic is in danger from a separatist movement, led by a mysterious Darth person, with his lieutenant, Dooku, and a swarm of winged gargoyles. The Jedi cannot hold the centre, nor the peace, due to a diminishing membership and lack of firepower - lightsabers excluded. There are too many meetings of the High Council, in which weird-looking individuals sit about making banal statements that don't mean anything.

Someone is trying to kill the Naboo senatoress and so Obi-Wan and Anakin are put in charge of her safety. She proves gutsier than either of them. Obi-Wan is beginning to take himself too seriously and Anakin has a wet patch where his brain should be.

Meanwhile, an army of clones, ordered off-the-shelf by a dead Jedi (Neeson?) 10 years earlier, is ready to be dispatched to the war zone. First, declare war. Second, define zone. In outer space, you may not need airtight underwear, but it helps to know where the enemy lives. That's difficult here, because either nothing's going on, or so much you're in a tizz.

The creatures and the effects are the best things on offer. Happily, Jar Jar Binks, the bane of The Phantom Menace, is relegated to a cameo role. The skyways are jammed with trains, planes and automobiles and the cities have more exciting architecture than you might expect.

Anakin goes back to the desert to find his mum, a long and deeply pointless episode, while Obi-Wan proves himself fallible with the lightsaber and hopeless at one-liners.

Only when Lucas recreates the arena sequence from Gladiator does the film wake from its torpor. His choice of beasts to take the place of tigers is fun, rather than fearful. In fact, tension is not an issue. It doesn't exist. Ditto humour and imagination.

By now a moan is echoing around the cinema, soft and low, gathering in intensity: "Han Solo, where are you?"

Answer comes there none.

Reviewed on: 23 Apr 2002
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Obi-Wan and Anakin are put in charge of protecting the Naboo senatoress after an attempt on her life.
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