I am 23. This is the movie I have wanted to see since I was 5. And it made me feel like I was 5 again and the universe was full of magic and wonder. Also cool shit blowing up.
BIG FAT SPOILERS. DO NOT READ THIS UNTIL YOU'VE SEEN THE FILM.
In the months before Episode One came out I O.D.'ed on spoilers. Not only did I know what would happen, I had seen and heard it all. And that really took a lot of joy out of it for me. So for this one, I said screw it. I'm not seeking anything out. I'd seen the trailers, against my will, and only once each-- They were in front of Monsters Inc., Lord of the Rings, and Spider-Man, none of which I could force myself to avoid. I'd read maybe three Entertainment Weekly articles and seen those photos. Even that was a mistake.
But what nothing could reveal is that the degree to which this film is just better than Phantom Menace-- compelling on its own terms, completely apart from the other films-- is both laughable and frightening. It's almost as if Lucas intentionally pulled the greatest mainstream filmmaking swindle since Eyes Wide Shut: He knows exactly the type of prequel you wanted the first time around, and thought it would be funny to make you think he couldn't do it.
I reluctantly grant that all the previous frantic establishing of locations pays off, as we descend into the world(s) far more deeply. There is much more breathing room here. The extended shots of spacecraft don't feel like "Oh, wow, look at ILM", they feel like Kubrick's appreciation for technology coupled with knowledge of its terrible applications. The mood pervades every scene: You can feel that the Dark Side has enveloped the galaxy, and you realize that the Dinotopia-meets-Disneyland happy sunshine of Episode 1 is a useful yardstick.
Think about it: What are the two things you hate most about Episode 1? That fucking kid and Jar Jar. Well, the kid is grown up now, and if he's a bit of a hammy actor (or if Lucas just picked the hammy takes) at least he's COOL, and I welcome the rarity of a flawed hero in Hollywood cinema. Jar Jar is on screen for about two minutes total, and this time his idiocy is not supposed to be endearing. He manages to fuck the galaxy in its collective ass. And damn, but I was relieved to hear that many boos when he showed up.
Does the love story between Amidala and Anakin work? Yeah, kinda, not really, maybe. It's longer and twistier than I expected, but some of the dialogue is just piss poor and it is irretrievably melodramatic. Natalie, however, is believable in every second of pain and passion. She is also relegated to the status of a full post-feminist adventure hero with eye candy on top: brave, beautiful, and diplomatic. Good role model for your daughters. Seriously.
The plot is solidly constructed, and thick yet clearly laid out. There's no longer much parallel action for its own sake (that means cutting away from the thing you want to see), and when there is, it's suspenseful; we aren't just watching the bad guys stroke their proverbial goatees. Plus, there's a terrific surprise near the end revealing that some of them may be doing the wrong things for the right reasons. More morally sticky than we're used to from Star Wars. Lucas beats you over the head with his democracy endorsement but he does have the right idea: Never give too much power to one man.
The final half hour of the film will leave you breathless from pleasure. It rivals the third acts of Aliens and The Matrix for sheer unrelenting asskickery. And the contorted hyperactive crosshatching we're used to is done away with, this is ONE epic battle in endless imaginative permutations. Threepio's Jar Jar style slapstick during it is comparable to a tiny brown spot on the juiciest red apple of your childhood: easily ignored.
Yoda is entirely digitized, there is no puppet. I thought this would anger me, but it's actually a wise move, avoiding a jarring transition between his dialogue and action. I love this little green guy more than I ever thought possible, even without the latex. Mace Windu, Obi-Wan Kenobi, both phenomenal. All the focus and development I was hoping for.
And I just wanna say, I love the title "Attack of the Clones" and always have. Reasons why:
You know what's a shitty title? "Star Wars".
- It almost rhymes but doesn't. It's awkward.
- In A New Hope, there is just the one war.
- All the battles are on different planets. None of them are anywhere near a star.
- Star is a noun, not an adjective. The adjective form is solar, or maybe stellar.
I'll close with this: My friends Alyce and Rob coincidentally attended the same midnight screening as I, she as Aurra Sing, he as Leatherface. There was lightsaber dueling and the crowd cheered us. On the way out, I poked them, and they could barely mumble "Awesome" through their grins. It made me even happier. I'm all for meaningful, realistic films, but something like this, done right, can thrill and inspire you like nothing else. All is forgiven, George.