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Episode II: Attack of the Clones

I waited for the release of Episode I for almost 20 years. I grew up living in this mythical world. My room was covered with Star Wars memorabilia as far back as I can remember. So when The Phantom Menace was released, I was ecstatic! A few of my friends and I ventured to the local cinema for a midnight showing of The Phantom Menace. I shrieked like a girl when Star Wars flashed on the screen. I was amazed at the new characters and the younger versions of my old favorites. I enjoyed the film mainly due to my yearning to see a new Star Wars movie. While excited to see the movie, it was not as good as I hoped. Jar Jar Binks comes to mind; so does the goofy announcer of the pod race. More importantly, Episode I was not as good as it SHOULD have been.

Now Episode II looms in the near future. For months, I’ve heard rumors that sped my heart rate up. I found news on the internet promising me that Episode II would be a great movie and I wanted to believe it. Then the ultimate geek sees a rough cut and proclaims its excellence. Now, I can’t help buying into the hype. Every time I find myself becoming more and more excited, I remind myself of Episode I.

I have in my hands the script for Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (probably due to the mischievous hands of a little hobbit!). I have never been good at denying myself surprises. I consider a chance to review this script not as a spoiler, but a gift. I feel like a kid who cannot sleep on Christmas Eve, lying awake anticipating the next morning. Lucky for me, Mom and Dad are not here to stop me from tearing into my gift early.

So, are you ready for your bubble to burst? Are you ready to hear that Episode 2 is another movie that doesn’t satisfy? Well, keep waiting because you won’t hear it from me! The Attack of the Clones script has alleviated most of my concerns and raised my excitement levels to new highs. Now, if you dislike Star Wars, then this movie will not change your mind. Feel free to go watch some romantic comedy. If however, like me, you are a huge Star Wars fan; then this movie will validate your love of the series in spite of the disappointments of The Phantom Menace. This review is spoiler free.

AOTC begins with Senator Padme Amidala (Portman) returning to Coruscant for a very important vote; whether or not to create an army to help the Jedi keep the peace between the Republic and a separatist group of planets led by Count Dooku (Lee), a former Jedi himself.

Senator Amidala narrowly escapes an assassination attempt against her, apparently formulated in response to her opposition to the creation of an army. At the request of Chancellor Palpatine (McDiarmid), the Jedi agree to offer protection to Amidala. She disagrees but reluctantly submits after the Chancellor recommends Obi Wan Kenobi as her protector, along with his padawan, Anakin Skywalker (Christiansen).

This is where the movie diverges onto different paths. Obi Wan searches for the man behind the assassination attempts on Senator Amidala and meets up with Jango Fett. While Obi Wan is dueling with Jango Fett, a love story is beginning on Naboo.

After reading the script, I immediately began reading it again. I could not put down any of the 117 pages. The scenes flowed well together and were enticing. Lucas has wisely limited many of the negatives that appeared in Episode I such as Jar Jar Binks. While there are only a few requisite space scenes in this movie, we finally get to see the first major Jedi battle. And it is a big one! The action is fast paced and positively the most violent scenes to ever appear in a Star Wars movie.

Reading a script gives you a chance to see how characters are intended to come across on screen. In a movie like Star Wars, this can be very interesting due to the tendency of action to overshadow acting. What follows is a brief review of each main character in the movie.

Obi Wan Kenobi

A lack of screen time for McGregor was a major complaint in Episode I. What most critics failed to realize was the importance of establishing Obi Wan Kenobi as a padawan of Qui Gon Jinn. Kenobi’s loss in Episode I fundamentally shapes who he is in the future. Not surprisingly, Kenobi steps into the focal role vacated by Liam Nieson, and hits a home run. We now begin to see the wickedly cool talents of Master Kenobi alluded to in “A New Hope.” Anticipating seeing Ewan McGregor portray him makes me downright giddy.

Anakin Skywalker

Anakin Skywalker is a tortured soul. While extremely skilled, he is impatient and angry. A major event occurs to Anakin which will forever change him. This event foreshadows his future path. From the script, Anakin is well written. My chief concern with this character is Hayden Christiansen. The trailer shows a limited actor in a monumental role. I hope the movie proves me wrong.

Senator Padme Amidala

Padme Amidala is vastly improved in this outing. Portman is given a real opportunity to use her acting abilities. Episode I reduced her to a monotone politician. AOTC gives us a glimpse of where Princess Leia got her leadership and determination. Character improvements in Amidala alone will add volumes to AOTC.

Jango Fett and Boba Fett

The Fetts are a Lucas reward to fans of the original three movies. Jango Fett is a bounty hunter hired by a mysterious man to create a clone army. Boba Fett is his “son.” Watching this father and son interact is one of my favorite parts of the script. Boba Fett has been raised to have the same values as his dad. Watching young Boba Fett mimic his dad is exciting and disturbing at the same time. The Fetts importance in Star Wars universe will be firmly cemented by the end of this movie.

Chancellor Palpatine

After all six movies are complete; it will become quite obvious that Palpatine is one of the more brilliant adversaries in all movie history. His plan is methodical but quite successful. If only he’d had a more loyal student in Return of the Jedi.

Count Dooku

Watching Christopher Lee portray Count Dooku on screen will be one of the true highlights of AOTC. Lucas has chosen yet another classically trained actor to portray one of the most dynamic characters in Star Wars. Dooku is a former Jedi Knight who is leading a separatist movement against the Republic. There is much more to Count Dooku than meets the eye

Master Yoda

Now, what makes me most excited about AOTC? Yoda. He has a much bigger part in this movie than any of the previous films. But it is more than his screen time that is scintillating. It is what Yoda does in the course of the film itself that I guarantee will make audiences scream in delight; A truly “Oh my God” moment.

While I’m a huge Star Wars fan, I still see some cause for worry. The love story between Anakin and Padme comes across rather mushy and rushed as it is scripted. Love can be mushy so I’ll cut it some slack. But, Christiansen and Portman will have to do one heck of a job to convince me of their romance.

Though the script is well written, Lucas has a propensity for overpowering written word with CGI. The trailer does NOTHING to alleviate this concern. It is not fair to judge the entire movie from a three-minute clip, but I remain worried. Directors need to understand that CGI is wonderful; but can be distracting if used too much.

Given my concerns, I still consider Attack of the Clones a winner. Star Wars isn’t Citizen Kane. It isn’t supposed to be. Star Wars movies should be an enjoyable voyage to a fantasy world ‘far far away.” Thankfully for the fans, Attack of the Clones rights the ship that had drifted. Reading the script was like peaking into a present on Christmas. You are excited by what you saw, but can’t wait to see the whole thing. I’ll see you at midnight on May 16th.