Sat May 11, 2002
Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones
The Force is still with us...
By John DeSando, WCBE's "It's Movie Time"
George Lucas has brought us back to the energy and imagination of the two original Star Wars adventures with his new "Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones." Although recently, especially with "Phantom Menace," he seemed to be merely creatively cloning, this installment has some of the wit and character development of those earlier episodes.
In "Clones," we watch young Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen), a Jedi Knight and future father of Luke, struggle with independence from his mentor, Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor), and from the emotional and personal restrictions of being a knight. The film does well showing the beginnings of a rebel, albeit one who will go to the depths of the Dark Side as Darth Vader.
What Lucas couldn't do, apparently, was give Christensen acting lessons -— an actor with less range doesn’t come immediately to my mind. So dull but handsome is he that Natalie Portman as his love, Senator Padme, comes off as dull but beautiful, and the former she is surely not. Their love scenes are almost silly, aided considerably by trite romantic pap.
Lucas and co-writer Jonathan Hales can't seem to get the dialogue always right—the memorable sarcasm and flip attitude in the face of the enemy, so charmingly delivered in the original by Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, and even Mark Hamill, try to appear under the guise of puns or clich?'s that can't be saved by the current cast.
Yet Lucas and Hales can come through: early Obi-Wan dialogue talking about political contributions has a contemporary relevance and is just good writing: "It is my experience that Senators focus only on pleasing those who fund their campaigns... and they are by no means scared of forgetting the niceties of democracies in order to get those funds."
If I have not at least implied that Anakin is no Darth, then let George Lucas tell us how he sees the character develop: "He turns into Darth Vader because he gets attached to things. He can't let go of his mother; he can't let go of his girlfriend. He can't let go of things. It makes you greedy. And when you're greedy, you are on the path to the dark side, because you fear you're going to lose things, that you're not going to have the power you need." The same might be said of Lucas himself, who has a good thing going but a tendency to be greedy and powerful, two traits that keep him from always choosing the right actors or dialogue.
The Sony, Lucasfilm, and Panavision digital imagery is, by contrast, almost flawlessly interesting and exciting. The lightsaber fights are realistic; the chase and war scenes are so detailed and colorful that you believe the comic-book world Lucas has brought you back to. I saw "Star Wars" 25 years ago with my children -— we will never forget our joy at discovering together the humbly brilliant Lucas mind melding with our own. The images and characters are the touchstones for today's success, however humble that may be.
The Force is still with us.
John DeSando co-hosts WCBE's "It's Movie Time" and vice-chairs the board of the Film Council of Greater Columbus.