Film Reviews


By • May 16th, 2002 •

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Locasfilm / 20th Century Fox / PG / 142 minutes

EPISODE II is visually breathtaking and delivers many thrilling action sequences. George
Lucas returns as a visionary with a tale full of nuance and character dimension.

Like it or not, we are all vested in STAR WARS. We’re not “fans” in the commonplace sense – Lucas created a phenomenon that shaped all of us. In the distant future the STAR WARS SAGA will be a signifier in the pantheon of our culture. That’s why the missteps in THE PHANTOM MENACE raised such a tremor. What would the Egyptian people have done if some high priest tried fiddling with the Orisis legend by adding a talking chicken?

Jar Jar Binks is back, regardless of the loud and justified hue and cry of the masses. In fact, he’s all fancied up and hanging out with royalty and politicians. He even gets appointed by Padme Amidala (Natalie Portman) as her senatorial representative! He gives a speech to the Federation! (So much for criticizing Lucas!)

My major disappointment with THE PHANTOM MENACE was the cavalier way in which little Anakin (Jake Lloyd) was taken from his mother, Shmi (Pernilla August). The Jedis didn’t have enough money to buy his mother’s freedom from slavery? (At least when the Buddhist lama hierarchy find the reincarnated Dalai Lama as a baby in some rural setting they take good care of not only his family, but the entire village benefits!) Off goes Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) with his special little student, la de da, with nary a thought about Mom’s life as a slave. Lucas, who has raised his two adopted children as a single father, has fixed this insensitive, emotional plunder in EPISODE II.

But the outcome? Well, who needs mothers anyway?

Ten years have passed and Anakin is haunted by dreams of his mother. He doesn’t know how things turned out for her. He’s become powerful (at swinging a light saber and lifting objects with his mind), but still too poor to buy back Mom. The other Jedi Masters recognize his talents but do not foresee his character flaws. His dreams tell him his mother is in danger. Finally, he wants to go back and find her. (The troubling concept of slavery is not addressed.) Obviously, the Jedi rules dismiss all things love – parental love and sexual love. I still don’t know what the Force is, but its not love. Love is forbidden to Jedis.

With the focus on Anakin (Hayden Christensen), Ewan McGregor seems more comfortable in his role as the legendary Obi Wan Kenobi. Thank God! McGregor seemed intimidated by the weight of his role in THE PHANTOM MENACE. Here he enjoys scolding his young Jedi apprentice. He’s relaxed and confident. He delivers the film’s only memorable line at a bar when approached by a “death” dealer. He uses The Jedi Mind Trick: “You want to go home and rethink your direction in life.” He makes Kenobi his role and this scene seals it.

Christensen is given the brunt of difficult dialogue. Perhaps a more skilled actor would have softened the blow of Jedi-speak with a defiant wink to the audience; but Christensen certainly has that teenage pensive gaze so prevalent in headstrong young men. Christensen has the height, beauty, and determined stare that allows us to accept Anakin as a young man anxious to get out from under his Master’s control. And we see the beginnings of his ruthless nature, though it’s strangely framed by his actions – he acts on violent impulse and then falls in love. Both are not allowed.

Before I end on a note that will enrage Yoda disciples, I will again hail Episode ll as visually stunning. Lucas has kept the best digital craftsmen for himself and the film resonates with artistic genius. We’ll have to wait for Lucas to surpass himself – who else will?

I loved everything about this movie, except Yoda as a kung fu fighter against the villainous Count Dooku (Christopher Lee). Unfortunately, Dooku is no Darth Maul. I screamed with horror! It was absolutely hilarious. Yoda made faces! (Yoda must have gotten a new agent who demanded his client get his own light saber and action sequence). Yoda – I can’t wait for you go to the swamp. Live peacefully until Luke stumbles on to you. Have some dignity at your age and stay put!

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