The Star Wars films continue as I delve further into George Lucas’ films thanks to the Sci-Fi Chronicles. This time it is the second instalment in the Prequel Trilogy. And while a considerable step-up from The Phantom Menace, this one is still too clunky and too digital.
Jonathan Hale helps Lucas out on the script, but even his efforts don’t do much to make for a stronger film. The dialogue is still sub-par, and while the action beats are tighter, and the pacing of the film seems to fall more in line with the serials that it pays homage to, it sitll isn’t as strong, or as dark as one would hope for the middle tale of the trilogy.
Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) is now a Jedi Padawan, a moody one, who continues to carry a lightsaber for Amidala (Natalie Portman), who begins to reciprocate his feelings, with Obi-Wan Kenobi (a bearded Ewan McGregor) serving as his Jedi Master.
Anakin finds himself drawn between his feelings for Amidala and his loyalty to the Jedi Knights. He is assigned to be her protector after an assassination attempt and the two, with R2-D2 in tow, return to her home planet of Naboo, an idyllic setting and now privy to the most forced and poor written love story I’ve come across.
Kenobi, meanwhile, is tracking down a lead from a bounty hunter, and an old friend who runs a 50s era looking diner, and discovers a clone army.
Orchestrating everything behind the scenes is Chancellor Palpatine/Darth Sidious (Ian McDiarmid) and his new acolyte, Count Dooku (Christopher Lee).
Everything comes to a rocky conclusion as our heroes are captured, battles erupt, and the Clone Wars (something I, like so many others, had wondered about since I was a child).
Lucas once again, eschews most of the practical effects, going instead with a digital realm, which once again, makes everything shiny and pretty, but detracts from the reality that the Original Trilogy imbued that universe with.
Yes, the digital canvas allows Lucas to let his mind soar, and populate his galaxy as he as always wanted, but it doesn’t distract from the fact that you can tell what is and isn’t real as you watch the film.
Like Phantom Menace there are some cool moments, Kenobi gets most of them, exchanging fisticuffs with bounty hunter, Jango Fett (Temuera Morrison), a space chase through an asteroid field, and plenty of lightsaber action.
Christensen gets some moments when he’s not required to moon over Amidala, his search for his mother (Pernilla August) on Tatooine and the fallout of that encounter are especially defining for the character, because despite his earlier moody angst, this really pushes him towards the Dark Side.
There are a few eye-rolling moments, the diner, a bouncing (digital) Yoda wielding a lightsaber (you’re not sure if it’s cringe worthy or bad ass), all the crap dialogue C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) has during the film’s climactic video game-looking battle…
We do, however, get a John Williams score (my least favourite of the entire series), a full out battle with the Jedi, and the introduction of the clones, as well as some sweet looking starships.
Yes, I saw this one in the theatre more than once, though the sting of The Phantom Menace still wore heavily upon me. I mean, it couldn’t be as bad, right? There was nowhere to go but up!
I do realise that until he sold it, Star Wars was his creation, he could do with it what he wanted, and we were just fortunate to get a look at it every now and again. But, I think the prequel films would have been stronger if the dialogue had been better (oh, and more practical effects).
The film remains gorgeous to look at, I’ll say that for Lucas, he makes a beautiful looking film, but style over substance doesn’t hold for long.
Everything comes to a head next time, with Revenge of the Sith!