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    Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones
    Rated:PG
    Stars:Hayden Christensen, Natalie Portman, Ewan McGregor, Ian McDiarmid, Clone, Clone, Clone, Clone...
    Score:***

    You know what's fun? Laughing at people waiting in line to see the midnight showing of the latest episode of Star Wars as you walk by carrying special press passes for a 7:00 pre-screening. Even after watching the movie, eating dinner, and going home, when you see on the news people still waiting in line, the special privilege seems even more delicious. It's too bad the movie sucked.

    That's what I would be saying if I were a professional movie critic. One who had sold out. One who had forgotten that maybe, just maybe, a movie could be good without being loaded with ground-shaking and profound cinematic attributes. I'm going to now prove I am not one of those critics:

    Star Wars Episode II was GOOD. I ENJOYED IT. And I wouldn't mind SEEING IT AGAIN.

    Now, before I'm dismissed as another hopeless Star Wars fanboy, let me say that this movie isn't perfect. In fact, it's FAR from perfect. It's got some problems that really bothered me during and after the movie, problems which definitely hurt the score. But some of the complaints I've heard just aren't justified, in my humble opinion. I'd really prefer not to adopt a point-counterpoint format for this review, as it would make me appear defensive rather than objective, but I'm not sure I can get around that.

    Dialog. I sure as hell wouldn't go around repeatedly calling someone "my young apprentice," even if he were in an apprenticeship program under me. It's just too awkward, and such means of reference are well out-of-place in contemporary society. But Star Wars can get away with it. Think about it. A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away is not contemporary society. What might seem wooden, spoon-fed, and contrived now may simply have been the way people talked in the Star Wars universe. You might think I'm going out of my way to dismiss bad writing, so let me elaborate.

    George Lucas isn't THAT bad a writer. He isn't so far removed from society that he doesn't know how people talk. In Episode I, there were complaints that the dialog sounded too contemporary, and that, combined with certain accents, make some characters seem to have very similar stereotypes in modern society. That bothered me, too. Notice how, in Episode II, not all characters seem to have such synthetic dialog. The main ones, the Jedi, the Senators, and the Ambassadors, could be accused of sounding synthetic. Characters who aren't in these "official" positions, on the other hand, don't. It's probably just a culture thing. Shakespeare certainly sounds synthetic to me, but nobody accuses him of not knowing how to write characters. Ooh, I'm sure I'll get many a nasty e-mail for saying that.

    There was one scene, though, where the set, characters, and dialog had too close an analog in modern life. I won't tell you where or when this scene took place, but it yanked me out of the story. My suspension of disbelief was suspended.

    Too much CGI. At times, there's so much action going on that it's difficult to follow. If you ask me, that's they way it should be when you're dealing with large-scale, epic battles. Take, for example, the fight scenes in Braveheart. Increase the number of combatants by a factor of 10. And the people in the background, who just barely look like they're fighting? Make them more convincing. Replace the claymores and axes with light sabers and laser blasters. Oh, yeah, and we'll need lots of clones and droids. No kilts. Boom, CGI-heavy Episode II battle scenes.

    The "love story" subplot between Anakin Skywalker and Padme Amidala. What bothers me here are not Anakin's fantastically lame pick-up lines. Indeed, how is a teenage Padawan Learner, training under the Jedi who follow a strict no-relationship code, and without access to prime-time TV shows, supposed to know the delicate art of wooing a woman? No, what bothers me here is that Amidala succumbs to his socially-inept come-ons. I just don't see it.

    A minor problem I had with Episode II was consistency. It starts off well enough, but then slides into a dry spell before picking up exponentially. Most movies have dry spots, of course, but the contrast between Episode II's boring and action-packed scenes is so pronounced that it damaged the flow of the movie.

    The last thing that bothered me, and has been an albatross around Episode II's neck since long before opening day, is the title. "Attack of the Clones?" I understand Lucas' reasoning behind it, but it's still about as cheesy as it could get. Worse yet, after watching Episode II, I feel the title doesn't accurately represent the movie. It conjures the wrong connotation. "The Phantom Menace" I could see. "Attack of the Clones" seems erroneous.

    So, what's to like about Episode II? The breathtaking visuals and great action sequences are a given, but there's more than that. While Episode I merely hinted at what's to come, Episode II started filling in those blanks. The plot, surprisingly non-formulaic, is filled with intrigue if you look close enough. The story was actually interesting. It's much darker than Episode I. Parts even have an Empire Strikes Back feel to them (a good thing). Then there's the Jar Jar Binks component. You probably know, he is in this movie and does speak from time to time. But his bumbling doesn't save the day this time. Quite the opposite, actually. I think I'll just leave it at that.

    Oh, yeah, one more thing. Don't piss off the little green guy.

     
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