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Star Wars: Attack of the Clones (****)
directed by George Lucas
written by George Lucas and Jonathan Hales
142 minutes
Star Wars: Attack of the Clones

Principal Cast
Ewan McGregor -- Obi-Wan Kenobi
Natalie Portman -- Senator Padmé Amidala
Hayden Christensen -- Anakin Skywalker
Christopher Lee -- Count Dooku/Darth Tyranus
Samuel L. Jackson -- Mace Windu
Frank Oz -- Yoda
Ian McDiarmid -- Supreme Chancellor Palpatine/Darth Sidious
Pernilla August -- Shmi Skywalker
Temuera Morrison -- Jango Fett
Jimmy Smits -- Senator Bail Organa
Jack Thompson -- Cliegg Lars
Leanna Walsman -- Zam Wesell
Ahmed Best -- Jar Jar Binks (voice)/Ahck Med-Beq
Rose Byrne -- Dormé
Oliver Ford Davies -- Sio Bibble
Ratings are based on Rick's four star system.
One star - the commercials are more entertaining than the viewing.
Two stars - watch if you have nothing better to do.
Three stars - good solid entertainment.
Four stars - you never dreamed viewing could be this good.
Past Feature Reviews
A review by Rick Norwood

Too much!

Most action films have three big action set-pieces, one at the beginning, one in the middle, and one at the end. Attack of the Clones has six or seven really big action sequences, and when it comes to action directors, George Lucas is one of the best.

Action, like comedy, is hard. Again like comedy, timing is everything. The director must make it clear to the audience what is at stake, what must happen for the hero to win, what bad things will happen if the hero loses. Then, at every moment of the action, it must be viscerally clear to the audience every time the balance of power shifts. And all this has to happen fast -- information must be conveyed through visual channels at very high speed in such a way that the audience doesn't think about it, but reacts to it.

George Lucas does all this so well, so fast, on sets so big, with so much happening all at the same time, with so much originality, and yet with every action crystal clear, that it is no wonder a lot of the older critics (old at heart, not necessarily in years) simply got tired. The critics have trashed Attack of the Clones, much as they trashed The Phantom Menace, and, I think, for the same reason. Both films failed to make them young again.

I have heard people who came out of The Phantom Menace having had an absolutely wonderful time, only to trash the film a few weeks later, because it was the trendy thing to do. Maybe the audience I saw Attack of the Clones with will be trashing it in a few weeks. But while they were watching it, they were laughing at all the right places, cheering, bouncing up and down, and obviously having a grand old time.

"Too much!" can be both a good thing and a bad thing. There were a few times when, briefly, the quick cuts between different planets left me confused. That didn't happen in The Phantom Menace. And there were several times when I though the film had reached its climax when, in fact, there were several more major battles to go. Remember, a Star Wars film isn't over until the light saber sings. Also, from interviews, it is clear that George Lucas was hurt by the unfair reception that The Phantom Menace received. Unfair because the critics kept harping on the merchandising, which is not a part of the film. Unfair because Jar-Jar was called racist, which carries political correctness to a whole new level. And unfair because the film was criticized for not meeting expectations which were so high no film, including the original Star Wars, could have met them -- expectations of feeling like a twelve-year-old again.

From interviews, you can see that Lucas is hurt by this. The Phantom Menace was, after all, only the fourth film he has directed. He hasn't had time to be callous and cynical. All he can do is stick to his own vision. If he tries to please everybody, he will certainly please no one. He says he does not enjoy directing. He certainly doesn't need the money. He did this for his fans, and for his own personal satisfaction. If you want him to stop, keep trashing his films.

I think Attack of the Clones shows a few cracks in his armor. He brought Jonathan Hales (who's he?) on board as co-scripter. If Lawrence Kasdan wasn't available, Lucas would have done better to trust his own script. I may have it just backwards, but the good lines sound like Lucas to me: "You don't want to sell me death sticks. You want to go home and rethink your life." The bad lines sound like some Hollywood hack: "I'm beside myself."

The Star Wars series is for twelve-year-olds. If you want romance, go see Spider-man. Feel free to yell, "Mush!" when Anakin and Amidala kiss. And, if your inner twelve-year-old is dead, you won't enjoy the movie.

"But I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now."

Copyright © 2002 Rick Norwood

Rick Norwood is a mathematician and writer whose small press publishing house, Manuscript Press, has published books by Hal Clement, R.A. Lafferty, and Hal Foster. He is also the editor of Comics Revue Monthly, which publishes such classic comic strips as Flash Gordon, Sky Masters, Modesty Blaise, Tarzan, Odd Bodkins, Casey Ruggles, The Phantom, Gasoline Alley, Krazy Kat, Alley Oop, Little Orphan Annie, Barnaby, Buz Sawyer, and Steve Canyon.

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