First of all, and most importantly, I must tell you that I am a Star Wars geek. I have seen the original tri-fecta of
films in the theater as a child growing up and have collected every action figure bearing the Star Wars name. That being
said, I have no malice toward the legacy nor the legions of fans who love the mythos as much as I do. Simply put, I love
Star Wars. Always have.
Yet, being a film critic means you have to give your unbiased opinion. In other words, I must forget the childish
enthusiasm I have in seeing Yoda wield a lightsaber for the first time in the saga; or the rocket that Jango Fett fires
from his backpack; or the first appearance of what is to become the stormtroopers and concentrate solely on the quality
of the film. Easy? No, not really. It would be easy to say that this film is fantastic and blows away the others, but
unfortunately I cannot. Since Phantom Menace came out several years ago, I have come to the conclusion that George Lucas
is making the prequels for the purpose of furthering his digital filmmaking presence, not because he has some story to
tell. And much to the regret of Star Wars fans everywhere, that is a monumental disappointment. For, excluding the
special effects, these prequels have no substance. And they certainly are not one with the force.
Episode II, the latest digital showcase, kicks off some 10 years after Episode I. Anakin is a young adult now and Queen
Amidala is no longer the Naboo Queen, but a senator. On top of that, Amidala is being stalked by an assassin and Anakin
and Obi-Wan are employed by the Jedi Council to protect her and find out who is trying to have her killed.
The above activities result in two separate storylines: the romance between Anakin and Amidala and the
investigation of a mysterious assassin by Obi Wan. While the two soon-to-be lovers seek shelter in the
familiar surroundings of Naboo, Obi Wan visits the waterworld known as Kamino. There, he observes the inner
workings of the clone process and has a poker-like confrontation with Jango Fett (and his son Boba), the
bounty hunter used as the clone prototype. Meanwhile, on Naboo, Anakin and Amidala spend time together at a
lake house retreat where they talk of the do's and don'ts of jedi-dom and frolic in an open field. But this
is short-lived as Anakin is tormented by nightmares of his mother's whereabouts. Rather than stay secluded,
the two return to Tatooine in search of Anakin's mother.
Eventually, Obi Wan's journey takes him to Geonosis where he encounters the manipulative Count Dooku. Dooku's bug-like
minions capture Kenobi, but not before he is able to relay his whereabouts to Anakin and the Jedi Council. After Anakin
resolves the issues surrounding his mother, he and Padme head to Geonosis to rescue Obi Wan. Unfortunately, they too are
captured and put into an arena for sacrifice. While thwarting the arena beasts, the three are later joined by throngs of
Jedi and a battle ensues. During the battle, Yoda arrives with a horde of clone troopers and a full-scale war breaks
out - the beginning of the Clone War. The battle sequence is intense as Anakin and Obi Wan pursue Dooku and have the
ritualistic lightsaber duel. But that is where I will stop, without giving away the ending.
There are many good things about this film. The special effects are top notch, particularly in the clone war sequence
and the digital backgrounds of Kamino and Geonosis. While protecting Amidala, we see the beginnings of Anakin's inner
conflict, his defiance and animosity toward Obi Wan, and his initial surge to the dark side. It was apparent that Hayden
Christensen was a good choice for Anakin. But if you really want to see the beginning of Darth Vader, you should rent
"Life as a House." Another delight was to see that Jar Jar was virtually non-existent in the picture, except for a few
blabbering scenes. [Note: one scene is almost added tongue-in-cheek as if to make Jar Jar responsible for the downfall
of the Republic - check it out]. And lastly, what fan would not get excited to see the origins of Boba Fett and a young
Jedi Master duel it out with a "Tyrannical" Sith? Great stuff.
But unfortunately, there is nothing more memorable about the film or its characters. Dialogue is splattered
and rushed, the romance between Anakin and Amidala is cold and emotionless, and Count Dooku comes across as a
proper diplomat instead of a menacing villain. Even the music is not as inventive as Episode I, minus the
Anakin and Amidala love theme ("Across the Stars"), which permeates throughout the entire score in countless
repetitions. In fact, just watching the film makes you wonder if the main characters themselves have been
cloned and restrained from giving the performances that they are capable of. After all, these are extremely
talented actors and actresses. But regretfully, I feel they suffer from poor writing more than anything
else. For, if Lucas were really concerned about the story, he would have had several renowned screenwriters
proofread his work and edit the heck out of the dialogue to give it more punch and emotion.
I have and always will be a Star Wars fan. And regardless of the mechanics, this is a good popcorn movie and
one to be watched over and over again, particularly in a theater projecting digitally. It still takes you to
that galaxy, far, far away, and gives you background details of things to come, yet leaves you yearning for the
days of old (or should I say new?) where Han Solo would be cocky and self assured, Chewbacca would scowl, Princess
Leia would kick butt, Luke would grow to become a Jedi Knight, and the force would surround us, binds us, and
bring all things together.