HPPUB MOVIE REVIEWs of  Star Wars: Episode II, Attack of the Clones; Episode III. Revenge of the Sith

Title:  Star Wars, Episode II: Attack of the Clones

Release Date:  2002

Nationality and Language: USA, English

Running time: 132 Minutes

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Distributor and Production Company:  20th Centurt Fox, LucasFilm 

Director; Writer: George Lucas

Producer: Rick McCallum

Cast:    Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Hayden Christiansen, Christopher Lee, Samuel L. Jackson, Frank Oz

Technical:  Digital Shot Panavision, 2:1 ration

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Review:  Well, even in the days of the democratization of movie making and the media, a cultural legend can set moviegoers up in camps and make hundreds of millions. Media machines still work.

  What is interesting about this movie, besides the Romeo and Juliet story, is the transplantation of politics. I guess on an intergalactic level the basic problems can be the same. Here, we have a war over the right to secede. Them treachery and murky loyalties  And the moral issue of breeding cannon-fodder soldiers. Yet, the clones, however spectacular the mass-battle scenes, seem to be in the background most of the time. The moral issues are left to other filmmakers.

  The varied planets and worlds (separated by parsecs that measure like miles) make fascinating viewing, especially the ocean-planet inhabited by tall grays.

  But more interesting is the destiny Anakin Skywalker, the Jedi knight that starts to go wrong with a touch of evil at the height of his young manhood, just as he comes into his powers. Bitter at the death of his mother, he takes horrible revenge on women and children as well as men (as if that distinction is valid) and admits later to sadistic pleasure. In the final coliseum battle resembling Gladiator, he is scathed, a dismemberment that will continue in Episode III (he sinks into a volcano) and has to have his body replaced. He will be no Clark Kent.

  Hayden Christiansen plays this ambiguous and troubling role with an over-rehearsed, sometimes stilted delivery, that seems to match his immaturity. It seems as though these young Romeos are to look as “young” as possible, as if the completion of puberty must itself bring on evil.


Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005), of course, relates how Anakin Skywalker became Darth Vader. It is a bit of a Shakespearean character tragedy, how a good young man goes to the Dark Side. I pose this question to people. One “middle school kid” on the Orange Line Metro says, “he was tricked! He wanted to save his bride’s life, and she died instead!”  Good answer, but we can induct. In Smallville, for example, young Clark Kent will be taunted by Lex (and red kryptonite) about the possibility of the same transformation. Here the answer is part “world politics” and partly story structure.  There is some early foreshadowing when Anakin is offered (and forced to accept) a job on the Jedi “Board” but denied a full title, and several times the script refers to him as “the Apprentice.” (“You’re hired!”  The Donald is no where in sight! Palpatine [below] hardly qualifies.) Soon there is a critical confrontation halfway through the movie that provides the point of no return, when Anakin (Hayden Christiansen) walks in on Mace Windu (Samuel L. Jackson) fighting with Chancellor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid), finding Palpatine already becoming physically transformed by his own evil. The Jedi, you see, always live for others, but they seem to have become corrupted by their own self-righteousness. Anakin has started to see that, as he already has contrasted the Jedi with the Sith, who live for self-promotion. You have moral ambiguity here, where true morality perhaps comprises integrity within your own purposes and goals. Now the other problem, of course, is that Anakin has secretly married Padme (Natalie Portman) and she is already pregnant. There is nothing like family responsibility that can make a young man rethink his motives.


Really, though, there is more to it that even that. There is the whole question in their society of what kind of man Anakin is. He is apparently A Superior Man (the kind who as a kid was at the top of every class in high school), in a society that has biologically different beings with similar intellects but with an obvious invitation to racial assignment of roles and living spaces. Perhaps that is common in other civilizations throughout the Milky Way. (On earth we are lucky that homo sapiens is really very biologically consistent.) If he has some kind of godly status, can he still then father children? (In Greek and Roman mythology, the gods could.) But what has happened is that he has reached a turning point, where his loyalties to others come into question, and he makes irrevocable choices. This happens to real people (including me) all the time. The Sith, after all, represent some good things, too. Freedom. Technical advancement. Mobility. Flat-world style communication. So the road to tragedy is laid. He will have his final battle on a planet that looks like Io with an atmosphere (including a confrontation with his mentor Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor)). And the med-evac Siths can cover his charred body with a new Darth Vader suit, right on the shores of a lava dome, and complete the transformation. In the meantime, Padme has her twins, but dies of grief. The kids are adopted by heterosexual couples in a way that would please Maggie Gallagher. Then you hook to the original Star Wars I movie of 1977.


Christiansen plays his role and says his lines with a straightforward authority that befits a couple characters in my own scripts. However, he has been breached already. He has lost an arm, and his body has been shaved and manipulated into buff. Perhaps the breach is a warning of his eventual vulnerability to downfall—as to the universal rules as to what can happen to each kind of character. Angels can take up the Dark Side and fail, because they assume they have the knowledge of Good and Evil. Perhaps this world does not have a Savior (or maybe it will some day). An interesting problem could occur if another character “sacrificed” himself for Skywalker; could he loose his salvation too?


The worlds of the movie are visually fascinating. In the opening sequence, we see the home planet from the air, and it looks like a covering or circular cities, each one of which is populated with high rise buildings (like Hong Kong or Singapore) and space ports. In this world you learn your trigonometry identities!  Apparently the home planet has an earth double and a couple of moons. Maybe a hundred or so light years away a solar system like this exists. But a planet has to be lucky to support life.


One of the tasks in an NBC Apprentice episode was to design an ad for this film.




Related reviews: The Island


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