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    Star Wars Episode II Shoots Into Theaters

    Summer 2002 continues with its list of big movies with the release of the nextsaga in the Star Wars series Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones. Thefilm picks up approximately 10 years after the end of the disappointing firstinstallment of the prequel trilogy, The Phantom Menace.

    However, the negative reaction towards Phantom Menace left George Lucas inas favorable a spot imaginable for someone with impossible expectations to fill.He has nowhere to go but up from there, and for the most part, Lucas has learnedfrom his mistakes. Even Attack of the Clones, though, does manage to sufferfrom many of the shortcomings that afflicted Menace, mainly an occassionallydull and convoluted story that moves in fits and starts.

    But then there are also several stretches in Clones (particularly its closing30-45 minutes) that offer just what we’#146;ve come to expect from a Star Warsmovie: fantastic, mesmerizing, visually stunning screenplay. Even during themost dull spots (the first hour of the movie) the sheer power of the film isenough to carry you through.

    Without a doubt, Episode II: Attack of the Clones has to be the most visuallystimulating epic ever made. It is a bombardment of special-effects artistryand imagery that strokes the imagination and transports you into a fully realizedgalaxy far, far, away. Even the formidable computer-generated wizardry seenin Episode I is paled in comparison.

    In the end, Attack of the Clones ultimately belongs to Yoda, the two-foot puppetwho had previously spent the saga leaning on his cane and spouting wise gibberish.This time around, Yoda is entirely computer-generated, and not only does hegive the movie’#146;s best performance, but he also puts down the cane and picksup a light saber for the first time. The scene is completely artificial, createdentirely on computers, and yet it’#146;s also a thrilling, magical moment, andthe kind Star Wars fans will have to see for themselves.

    Attack of the Clones dispenses the childish tone of Menace in favor of a moretragic story line that hints at the great darkness in store for young AnakinSkywalker (Hayden Christensen), now a brooding, cocky teenager inevitably wanderingtoward his destiny as the heavy-breathing epitome of evil, Darth Vader.

    Anakin’#146;s doomed relationship with the un-aged Padme Amidala (Natalie Portman)takes up a good chunk of Clones. Unfortunately, the script (done by Lucas andJonathan Hales) adheres to the Star Wars tradition of clunky, wooden dialogue,and every time the young lovers speak you wonder whether rigor mortis is supposedto set in before or after death.

    As rigid as their scenes are, knowing that their union will eventually spawnLuke Skywalker and Princess Leia makes them oddly fascinating anyway. In Attackof the Clones, you can see the plot strands of the later Star Wars movies beginto coalesce: Ewan McGregor, as Obi-Wan Kenobi, channels Alec Guinness much moreconvincingly this time (he’#146;s the only actor in the cast who seems to behaving any fun).

    The origins of bounty hunter Boba Fett are revealed (once again, it’#146;sall built around a father-son relationship), and even the Death Star makes acameo appearance. The nostalgic pull of the saga cannot be denied, and Clonesexploits that nostalgia effectively, without making it feel like a cheap ploy.

    Although Episode II has the unfortunate task of being compared to the ‘other’big summer hit Spiderman, which has been shattering box office records leftand right, it should not be written off as being inferior. Spiderman may bethe better movie with its warmer, more memorable characters, but for sheer disposablefun, Clones has the webslinger beat. I give the film 3 stars out of 4.

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