Star Wars Episode II - Attack of the Clones


A LONG TIME AGO, IN A GALAXY FAR, FAR AWAY

From the opening score, this movie had my full attention. It starts, as all in this grand Saga have, with a wide view of a starfield, which pans to a ship. This time, four ships: the sleek chrome diplomatic consulate ship of the planet Naboo, flanked by three yellow and chrome fighters of the type seen in Episode I. As this ship descends with a throbbing sound reminiscent of antique propeller driven passenger flights, you get another grand view of the capital world of Coruscant. This splendor is abruptly interrupted when an unidentified assailant violent blows up the consulate ship on the landing pad. Senator Amidala (Natalie Portman), having served her term as Queen and now representing her planet to the Republic, and who was travelling in disguise as a fighter escort pilot, rushes to the side of her trusted bodyguard and decoy, Cordé, but nothing can be done.

The delegation from Naboo goes straight to the offices of Supreme Chancellor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid), who requests that the Jedi Council appoint a guardian to protect the Senator. Enter Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen), chosen by Palpatine because of the Senator's familiarity with them, having been protected by Obi-Wan 10 years previous. A second assassination attempt and a high-speed chase through a spectacular futuristic sky-way lead to the capture of the would-be assassin, however she is executed before interrogation, by a mysterious figure in battle armor and a jetpack (fans this should look very familiar).

Obi-Wan sends Anakin and Amidala back to Naboo to protect her from danger, while he himself follows a lead off to the planet Kamino. Here he is surprised to find that not only are they expecting him, but the natives, who are cloners, have cloned an entire army of soldiers (who's armor is a strong forshadowing of the familiar stormtrooper gear) at the request of someone claiming to be a Jedi Master and member of the Council, ten years previous. Obi-Wan grows suspicious of this claim, as that Jedi Master had died before the time the order had been placed, so he investigates further. He discovers that the genetic donor of the clone army is a bounty hunter named ... Jango Fett (Temuera Morrison). Obi-Wan goes to visit Fett and his son, Boba (Daniel Logan). During the visit, he notices Fett's armor in the other room, recognizing it from Coruscant. He asks Fett about the Jedi who recruited him, and Fett looks confused and responds with a different name (Tyrannous - may be spelling error) as his recruiter. Obi-Wan goes a bit too far in his questioning, and tips off Fett that he is on to him. After reporting to the Council, Obi-Wan attempts to capture Fett, but only succeeds in planting a tracking device on his ship. He then follows Fett to the planet Geonosis, where he discovers Count Dooku (Christopher Lee), head of the Seperatists, is allied with Nute Gunray of the Trade Federation and they are amassing a new Droid army. Unable to reach the Jedi Council, he sends off a message to Anakin to forward to them, however he is captured while recording the message.

Meanwhile, on Naboo, Anakin is allowing his long-buried feelings for Padmé Amidala to resurface. Although both of them agree that falling in love would disrupt their chosen paths, their resolve appears not to be an obstacle. After a recurring nightmare Anakin announces that he must travel to Tatooine to find his mother, who he has not seen in 10 years, because he feels she is suffering. After some searching, he discovers that his mother married and had a son, Owen Lars, but she had been kidnapped by Tusken Raiders. He brashly rushes off to find his mother, only to have her die in his arms after proclaiming that she was now "complete". This touches off the rage of anger and hatred inside Anakin, and he gives into the Dark Side and kills the entire tribe of Tusken Raiders. After a brief funeral, Artoo shows Anakin and Amidala the message from Obi-Wan and they brashy blast off, with Artoo and Threepio in tow, to the rescue.

Meanwhile, on Coruscant, the devious Chancellor Palpatine plants a seed in Jar Jar Binks' mind, and Jar Jar, as emissary of Naboo, moves to give Palpatine emergency powers of war. The Jedi Council, having recieved Obi-Wan's message, head off to Geonosis and Kimono, and Palpatine calls for the creation of the Grand Army of the Republic.

This is where the action picks up. Our would-be rescuers try to fight their way through the droid factory, only to be captured. Threepio loses his head and gets it placed on a battledroid body, and Artoo uses new gadgets never seen before (jet thrusters) to save the Senator from molten metal. The Geonosians, under the leadership of Count Dooku, place our heroes in a gladiator style arena to face three very nasty beasties. Just when it starts to look bad for our Jedi, Master Mace Windu (Samuel L. Jackson) shows his true style and starts this party with his bright purple lightsaber. Instantly blades flash into life all around the arena, scattering the winged Geonosians in fear. Dooku, however, is unfazed. He orders his droids into the army to make short work of our heroes. Jedi to the rescue, Windu and company leap into the arena and take up their lightsabers in defense of the prisoners. One Jedi looking suspiciously like a band member of N'Sync (I thought Lucas said they got cut out?) tossed them a pair of lightsabers and they join the fray. A heated battle ensued, droids and Jedi falling to each others attacks, the vicious monsters still rampaging around, and Jango Fett rushes in to join the fight. Anakin manages to charm a beast, which attacks Fett. No matter to Fett who dispatches this beast with the grace of a big-game hunter, but when he turns to face Windu, he is abruptly beheaded in a flash of purple. The look on young Boba's face was obvious foreshadowing of his future hatred of the Jedi.

Just when it looked like the Jedi were all going to die, Yoda arrives with the army of clones to save the day. Everyone flees the arena and a giant ground battle ensues on the plains outside between the two armies. Obi-Wan and Anakin rush off to stop Dooku. Obi-Wan knows of Dooku's abilities, for he used to be Qui-Gon Jinn's Master, however Anakin is brash and tries to rush him, gaining a face full of force lightning. With Anakin stunned, Obi-Wan attacks Dooku, only to end up being injured by Dooku's saber. As Dooku reared up to finish Kenobi, Skywalker leaps to the rescue and blocks his lightsaber. Obi-Wan then tosses him his own blade, and Anakin thrills the crowd by fighting with two sabers in an impressive display, which ends in one saber being cut in half and the other arm being severed at the elbow. Things looked bad for our heroes when who should arrive but Dooku's old Master, none other than Yoda himself! After a pointless contest of telekinesis and Force Lightning, Dooku challenges Yoda to a lightsaber duel. Yoda dropped the old and feeble act, took a "crouching tiger" stance, and pulled a saber from his belt. The crowd goes wild. I was expecting a cool saber in the miniature Master's hands, yellow perhaps, but his was the standard blade. Nothing, however, was standard about the way he wielded it. Multiple flips, levitations, bouncing off the walls and spinning around at incredible speeds, Dooku finally distracts him by toppling a pillar towards the injured duo and making his escape.

This is where a lot of the interwoven plot twists come together. Dooku, the leader of the Seperatists, returns to meet with his Master, who is none other than Darth Sidious (aka Palpatine!). Sidious greets him with the name "Lord Tyrannous" (the name Fett had given to Kenobi as the one who commissioned the clone army). This reveals that the entire seperatist movement was a ploy by the evil Palpatine to create a false threat to the Republic, raise his own army, and gain supreme dictator-like power. We know that Palpatine never relinquishes this power and within 20 years will dissolve the Galactic Senate and declare the Republic to be his Empire. The Jedi were unwilling pawns in this game and unknowingling followed the script that Sidious had set for them.
The anti-climatic silent wedding of Anakin (with his new robotic arm) and Padmé merely sets the stage for the beginning of Episode III.

All in all I loved this film. Although I am a major Star Wars fan, it was everything I expected and more. A few minor inconsistencies with things that had been accepted backstory, but this is George Lucas' story and he reserves the right to keep it true to his vision.

I give it 5 out of 5 stars.

Chuck Wingard, webmonkey@sleeptilnoon.com

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