STAR WARS EPISODE II: ATTACK OF THE CLONES (2002) – Underrated SW entry

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Maybe I’m subject to a Jedi mind spell, but for me, Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones is the most satisfying Star Wars movie since The Empire Strikes Back (1980). The story of 1999’s Episode I was inevitably exposition; this one has all the pay-offs.

Here’s a rundown of the major plot points and fans’ criticisms of the movie.

Jar Jar Binks. Episode I‘s much-reviled comic relief has basically been relegated to a desk job and is on-screen for only a short time. So Star Wars fans, quit’cher bellyaching already!

The romance between Anakin Skywalker (a/k/a Darth Vader-to-be) and Princess (now Senator) Amidala. Much has already been made of this couple’s pedestrian dialogue, but it’s at least as convincing as Empire‘s budding romance between Han Solo and Princess Leia. In any case, Natalie Portman (Amidala) is as shimmeringly beautiful as ever, and Hayden Christensen evokes the Vader-to-be far more convincingly than did Jake “Yippee!” Lloyd in Episode I.

Conflict. There’s a lot of it here, most of it quite convincing and intriguing. Anakin chafing under the tutelage of Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor), some evil politicians who want to take over Amidala’s territory, Anakin’s search for his long-separated mother–it all adds a welcome layer of depth to what is often perceived as a comic-book fairy tale.

Visuals. As always with the Star Wars series, this movie’s visual palette delivers the goods, with otherworldly settings and rich, vivid atmosphere.

In-jokes. There are some extremely sly references here, not just to the other SW movies but to A.I. and Gladiator. And the action sequence with Anakin and Amidala trapped in the clone factory plays like a nightmare version of Charlie Chaplin’s trip through the conveyor belt in Modern Times.

Yoda. The old Jedi master — computer-generated this time, but still voiced by Frank Oz — is the most thrilling surprise here. For an old, short guy, he wields a mean light saber.

Bad acting? Tell that to such pros as McGregor, Samuel L. Jackson, and Christopher Lee.

As with any of the Star Wars flicks, it helps if you’ve seen the others. But on its own, Episode II is as lavish a movie treat as you’re likely to find in this movie series.

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