(No major spoilers)
Well, I finally saw Star Wars Episode 2: Attack of the Clones. Is it going to change my life? No. But is it lots of fun? Yes. Would I see it again? Hell, yes. My wife likes it too, and we're planning to take the kids next time. For my second viewing, I saw it on digital, and it was mightily impressive; sharp, clear, bright, and without a trace of those damned glitches, spots, and other imperfections that normally mar the movie-going experience.
The action sequences were utterly amazing, and there were moments of genuine tension and affection (even from unexpected sources, such as the father/son relationship of Jango and Boba Fett). There were a couple of scenes that didn't play too well for me (the scenes in the meadow on Naboo could have been entirely omitted and the film would have been better for it in my opinion) and some clunky dialogue here and there, but frankly, you would be hard-pressed to find a movie out there which couldn't benefit from a few cuts. The entire plot thread revolving around Obi-Wan was absolutely flawless in my opinion, with the chase through Coruscant, his detective work, and his battles with Jango Fett. And the second half of the film is simply a relentless joyride of action thrills, as even the worst critics will admit.
The most common negative criticism is of Anakin's attempts at romantic dialogue. I found this to be a typical example of the critics' deliberate effort to perceive everything in the worst possible light, rather than trying to see it in context. Shouldn't a character's life history have some influence on his behaviour? Anakin was raised as a slave until the age of 8, and then whisked away to the monastic Jedi Order. The only woman he's ever really known in his entire life is his mother, for Christ's sake! This guy should have the social skills of Cliff Claven, so why is anyone surprised when his advances sound clunky and unrefined? Just in case the critics didn't get it, the film showed him very obviously awkward and tongue-tied when they first meet, but amazingly, some of the critics still didn't get it. Do they believe he should have been a Casanova? Indeed, if his lines were smooth, it wouldn't have made any sense at all!
Amidala is a similar story; she became Queen at a ridiculously young age and then from that point on, she appears to have been exclusively surrounded by dignitaries and sycophants. When asked by Anakin about past loves, she has to think back more than a decade! However, while Amidala is no Cleopatra, she is nevertheless more worldly than Anakin, and she should have acted that way. If she had, as a woman who's seen the world but is intensely lonely after years of professional solitude, a lot of those scenes would have played better. The audience would realize that she falls for Anakin not because of his awkward advances, but because of her own pent-up needs. She should have put down Anakin a few times by smirking at his pick-up lines or saying something like "Anakin, where did you learn a line like that?" in order to make this clear, both to us and to Anakin. She should have been far less effusive when she finally declared her feelings for him (a particularly cringe-inducing scene which my wife declared the worst of the movie by far).
In any case, while I think that Natalie Portman could have done a better job (hint: more melancholy, more reluctant, more worldly, more obviously falling for him because of her loneliness and not because of his charm) and that her lines could have (or should have) been a lot better, we must remember that the scenes in question take up only a small portion of the film, and that most of the movie is exactly what we would expect from a movie called Star Wars: action. Gunfights, harrowing chases through the aerial "streets" of Coruscant, light sabre battles, and what I can only describe as an absolutely ass-kicking final hour. This movie whets our appetite for the real Clone War that is to come, and I for one can't wait. Bring it on, George!
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