Set 10 years after 1999's EPISODE I, this whiz-bang spectacle is a two-and-a-quarter hour cornucopia of aliens, monsters, hardware and deep-space derring-do: everything but the kitchen sink and credible characters. There's a great deal of plot — seceding planets, disgruntled miners, political intrigue within the vast interplanetary senate — all subtly undermined by proper names that sound like baby talk: Naboo, Jar Jar, Boba, Windu, Dooku, Shmi. But what drives this second chapter in the beloved six-film saga (or more correctly, should drive it) is the transformation of teenage Jedi-in-training Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) from an impulsive youth into the man who will be Darth Vader. Granted, Lucas is at a disadvantage: Episodes four, five and six of the saga preceded episodes one, two and three, so major plot developments have been robbed of any potential for suspense. No matter how much the dewy Padmé Amidala (Natalie Portman), former democratically elected child Queen of Naboo, loves Anakin, no matter how hard Jedi master Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) tries to guide him away from his worst impulses, Anakin will surrender to the Force's dark side. That his destiny is preordained is no excuse for a Cliff's Notes telling. Anakin has sweaty nightmares (which might have been better staged with Christensen's hands above the covers); Anakin gets mad at father-figure Obi-Wan and throws things; Anakin gets really mad at the desert bandits who do his mother (Pernilla August) wrong and pulls a Lt. Calley, though this scene's impact is blunted by the fact that the massacre takes place offscreen. And familiarity is also no excuse for carelessness with beloved characters. When Obi-Wan laments to Anakin, "Why do I get the feeling you'll be the death of me?" we should feel a portentous frisson. Instead, it's a laugh line, designed to elicit the same delight as the sight of wizened Yoda (voice of Frank Oz) picking up a lightsaber and strutting his stuff (words like "Tasmanian Devil" and "whirling dervish" come to mind). And while it was always clear that Lucas cared more about special effects than acting, here his lack of interest has produced phenomenally wooden performances from newcomers and veterans alike: Only the imperious Christopher Lee, as baleful Count Dooku, emerges unscathed. Still, fans will groove on the film's many spectacular fight sequences, and welcome the answers to such mysteries as why Boba Fett has such a bee in his helmet about the Jedi and where the imperial stormtroopers came from.
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- Released: 2002
- Rating: PG
- Review: Set 10 years after 1999's EPISODE I, this whiz-bang spectacle is a two-and-a-quarter hour cornucopia of aliens, monsters, hardware and deep-space derring-do: everything but the kitchen sink and credible characters. There's a great deal of plot — seceding p… (more)