Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones

I was a child of the 70s and experienced that "feeling" when Star Wars changed the world. I'm still a Star Wars fan, although not a fanatic, and had been casually visiting the Star Wars web site over the past year as the second instalment approached.

Looking back at 1999 and the Phantom Menace I know like most fans I was gripped by the long drawn-out hype surrounding that film. However when finally sitting through Phantom it failed to give me that rare "high" - like more recently in Jurassic Park in the beginning when the awesome Brachiosaurus reared up on its hind legs to graze on some foliage - to then fall down and hit the ground in thundering glory. That was the kind of film when I staggered out dazed into the bright light joyfully exclaiming that the USA was the greatest country in the world. But such moments don't come often - once every few decades.

Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones is the second prequel of the original Star Trilogy from George Lucas. The whole saga, which really has tapped into the collective psyche of the world, is based on the life of Anakin Skywalker - a Jedi Knight who turns to the Dark Side and becomes Darth Vader - the Empire's fearsome military commander, but who in the end before dying returns to the Light Side of the Force.

It is ten years since the events of The Phantom Menace, and things have definitely become worse in the galaxy. Anakin (Hayden Christensen) has turned 20 years old and is the headstrong Jedi apprentice of Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor). Padmé Amidala (Natalie Portman) is no longer the Queen of Naboo, and now serves her people by representing the planet in the Galactic Senate. After years of decay and corruption, the Galactic Republic is beginning to fragment as displeased constituents are flocking to a growing Separatist movement led by the mysterious Count Dooku (Christopher Lee). It is all the beleaguered Jedi Knights can do to maintain peace and order in the galaxy. For the first time in centuries, Senators are seriously considering raising an Army of the Republic to guard against the increasing threats of the Separatists. Some believe such an action will only invite war.

So the world premier of Attack of the Clones steadily came amid positive reviews - in April I first saw part of one of the trailers on British TV and it looked pretty impressive. Back in Poland I couldn't make it for the 1 minute past midnight premier under the stars, but went along by myself the next day at 15.30 to become lost for a few hours in the Galactic Republic.

I wasn't disappointed. I wouldn't say I completely experienced that "tingly" high again - for that I may have to wait a while - but it was close.

The opening scene of cloud and mist enveloping the skyscrapers of Coruscant gave a very different and realistic perspective to this city planet. A refreshing change from the usual clear, blue skies.

The first action sequence - an airspeeder chase through the sleepless, night skies of Coruscant was jaw-dropping - it was immediately apparent that Lucas's Industrial Light and Magic Company had raised the standard once again in special effects. At one point we experience an incredibly realistic sensation of falling towards the ground, with rivers of glittering repulsorlift traffic in the distance far below. I hadn't experienced that sensation before. The colourful neons were great too.

The fat, slobbish but likeable Dexter Jettster - Ex-Mercenary and now cook/diner owner, pulling up his pants in his diner was great - his smiling eyes, facial expression and voice each so realistic and full of character.

Like the head-finned Prime Minister of Kamino proudly exclaimed - the clone armies - future stormtroopers - were truly magnificent - marching in perfect military precision.

The dark side in Anakin's character was finally shown - lacking in the Phantom Menace. Here we could at last see the future Dark Lord - the scene of him holding his dying mother and then slaying the Tusken Raiders was particularly moving, as was his later confession to Padmé - crying "I'll learn to stop people dying", with the Darth Vader theme - "hail to the leader" - in the background.

The climatic battle scene between the droid and clone armies was stunning - the camera zooming fast into the battle sequences I had never seen before, providing unparalleled realism.

Like Luke in Empire - Anakin's sword hand is cut off in a light sabre dual with Count Dooku - the beginning of his transformation into machine.

Yoda was lethal! - here we could see the most powerful Jedi in action. The light sabre dual with Count Dooku(Christopher Reeve) was really funny and I was laughing - but at the same time it was cool!

The final scene of the clones marching onto their Republic Military Cruisers - future Star Destroyers, the huge engine clusters starting up against the John Williams Imperial March was impressive. Here we could see the whole saga fitting into place. I was half hoping to see a few tie fighters screaming past - but that'll have to wait to next time and Episode III. I hope it's called "Rise of the Empire".

Bruce Wenham, May 2002


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