Rating: PG for action-violence and mild adult situations
Run Time: 2 hours, 21 minutes
A word of advice for director George Lucas: in order to bring the Force “back into balance”, you’ll have to do a lot better than lifeless, CG- saturated fare like “Attack of the Clones”.
A narrative decade has passed since a precocious, fresh-faced kid named Anakin Skywalker hurled us light-years into reverse to the psychological origins of the menacing, all-consuming Darth Vader. Now Anakin (Hayden Christensen) is an impulsive Jedi-in-training, full of the folly of youthful manhood and a Force-ful aptitude far beyond his years. Under the tutelage of the wise and witty Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor), Anakin’s untapped resources are developing at an alarming rate, but with nothing but annoying intrusions to mar the powerful path of the Force.
Among those intrusions are a plot to overthrow the Republic with a newly generated hoard of Clones (aka The Clone Army) and an attempt by Separatist rebels to assassinate the young and beautiful Senator, nee Queen, Padme Amidala (Natalie Portman). Obi-Wan and Anakin are dispatched to protect Padme from harm, an assignment fraught with consequences. Jedi Knights are forbidden emotional attachments, but that doesn’t stop the roguish “Ani” from succumbing to his primal urges and falling hopelessly in love with the breathtaking ex-royal.
Millions upon millions of dollars heaped upon a project of such vast proportions need to reap more rewards than spiffy bluescreen technique and stylish weaponry. Save for a rousing homage to “Gladiator” involving our fearsome threesome and a bevy of bloodthirsty primevals, there’s little thrill to be found. Sure, master-of-understatement Yoda goes mano-a-mano (make that light-saber-a-light-saber) with the evil Count Dooku (Christopher Lee), but I want (and expect) more: a good script, characters I can care about, and performances that are relaxed and self-assured .
Rumor has it that Christensen tested well against Portman, but it’s not evident onscreen. Their romance, pivotal to the moral darkness that will ultimately spell the doom of Skywalker, is lacking in maturity and chemistry, revealing none of the weighty emotion that is capable of toying so ominously with the psyche. Christensen is wooden, and Portman seems more aware of her draping headgear and loopy hairdos than with her imminent love interest.
Jimmy Smits and Samuel L. Jackson (as Senator Bail Organa and Jedi Master Mace Windu) are horribly miscast, and Lee merely reprises his role as the evil Saruman the White from “Lord of the Rings”, albeit in a galaxy far, far, away. Only McGregor performs with the quirky assurance benefiting his stature as the coolest and most powerful patriarch to roam the tribal planets. MIA are the threatening (read: entertaining) presences of antagonists Darth Vader and Darth Maul. Gone is the charming dysfunction that rendered Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Princess Leia so “human”.
A sinister warning at the film’s climax intones that “the shroud of the dark side has fallen”. In more ways than one.