Here is the fifth movie of the Star Wars saga, which in reality is the second story of the saga. It tells of the rising unrest within the Federation, the Galactic Empire, and a young Jedi Knight named Anikan Skywalker and we know it would not be complete if there were not a love story involved. Of course the young lovers in this story are Skywalker and Padme Amidala, former Queen of Naboo, now serving as a Senator. All of the above evolutions will set in motion the measures that will destroy peace in the Galaxy, the balance of the Force, the Order of the Jedi Knight, and the lives of two young ill-fated lovers.
We pick up our story where the Jedi Knights, based on the planet of Courrisant, are called upon to guard the life of Senator Amidala (Natalie Portman) after an attempt is made on her life to prevent her from casting a crucial vote. Requested to protect the politician are none other than her former cohorts from Episode One, Obi-wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and a now very grown Annikan Skywalker (Hayden Christiansen) whom she still refers to as "Anni". The young padouin has become a skilled, if not arrogant Jedi Knight, and has some handsome looks to boot. She barely notices him but you can tell that she has haunted him for the past 10 years and his desires to "cover her body with his body" are strong, and I am not meaning in the protective sense. His behavior is kept in check until Obi-wan is called away to do some investigating into who has ordered a hit on the senator's pretty head, which takes him to a hidden planet where he meets a bounty hunter named Jango Fett. Kenobi learns of an army of clones, fathered by Fett that was ordered by a Jedi Leader believed to be long dead. Things get interesting after that.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch on Courrisant, we see that the Jedi Council is overwhelmed at the prospect of an impending war, which is being decided by the Senate. Amidala's vote is to be vital in declaring or averting war. Other battles rage within Skywalker however, by day they are his desires to impress Amidala with 'lightsaber' and by night, the nightmares of his mother's suffering, of which he can neither explain nor extinguish. This takes him back home to Tatooine to where he seeks out his roots and the viewer starts to get to the root of the story. One finally begins to see what the Obi-wan and the Jedi Council feared about him in Episode I, and a number of characters and plots are introduced and foreshadowed. Episode II fills in the gaps and many things begin to make sense. It quenches your curiosity but at the same time leave you hungry and eager to know what happens next especially in Episode III, when we know that Annikan turns to the Dark Side. This movie explained lots of "hows" but not lots of "whys", still this is a marked improvement over Episode I, which was sorely disappointing and contained the ubiquitous Jar-Jar Binks. And while the Gungan's visual presence is minimal here (although ANY Jar-Jar is too much in my opinion), he still manages to contribute to a serious fuck up.
There are some cinematic points of Episode II, both good and bad that are worth pointing out. First, as in the last movie, the CGI, special effects, and graphics were spectacular, equaling, if not rivaling, those of the prequel. Still impressive were Courrisant, Naboo, and the descending view of other planets. Most significant however was Yoda, both his screen appearance and his character development. Yoda in this film, unlike the previous ones, was a computer-generated image. Although Frank Oz still provided the voice, Yoda is no longer a puppet but instead a composition of pixel and digital mastery. For those of you who may argue against tampering with the ancient art of puppetry....I'll tell you, there are some things you can't do with marionette strings . We are finally able to see Yoda as the superb Jedi Master as he revered to be, and it is incredible. You'd never see shit like this had it been done Muppet Show style, and the enrichment potential for Yoda's character would have been lost. You'll be pleased.
Episode II is a vast improvement, but still not up to par. George still has a way to go, and another chance to make it right in Episode III, which is supposed to be a very dark film which link the two sets of trilogies. There are some scenes that just seem to end abruptly and really don't resolve or have much continuance. Start thinking and you'll find several logic flaws in the plot. A big downside to all of this blue-screen technology is the human factor is greatly diminished, which results in flat acting performances given by many of the films characters. I guess it is hard to give an Oscar-caliber performance when your costars and locations are computer screens and light models. However, McGregor came through as the temperate Kenobi quite well, as did Samuel Jackson, who for a second could have been Jules Winfeild from Pulp Fiction with a futuristic sword. Natalie Portman's rendering could have been better, but I am sure that most male viewers will not notice and instead focus on her trotting around in clothing resembling a fair Medieval maiden cavorting through the meadows. She does manage to later counter that impression however, by transforming into a not-so-helpless damsel in distress who gets her midriff ripped off during a scuffle (gotta get in the mandatory babe/skin quota). Portman's clothes and hair are definitely newsworthy, just as in the last film, but between changing clothes, ass kicking and fending off Annikan's advances, her role in this movie doesn't seem to have much purpose. Newcomer Hayden Christiansen does an adequate job as Annikan, although not through verbalization, his body movement and particularly his eyes (bedroom type). You feel their anger and their chill, but he's gonna need more than his visage and peepers to credibly do his job in the next movie. (I just couldn't see Jake Miller 10 years from now taking on that role and with any luck he'll be one of those troubled child actors we read about in the paper.)
One thing I think that this movie has on the other movies is the soundtrack, definitely worth getting. There may be hope for Lucas and his legacy yet, he's got one more opportunity to do the right thing, let's hope he does.
May the Force Be With You.
Billz Movie Worthiness Scale: B
Billz Movie Worthiness Scale Values:
A = movie tickets and popcorn for 2 (about $40)
B = buy the DVD when it comes out ($25)
C = rent it
D = wait for it to be on cable/pay TV
E = wait for it to be on regular TV
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