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Thursday, 9 May, 2002, 16:23 GMT 17:23 UK
New Star Wars shows its force
Hayden Christensen
The best Star Wars film ever?
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By Tim Masters
BBC News Online

A long time ago, in a cinema not so far away, Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace did not go down too well with fans and critics alike.

For the eagerly-awaited follow-up, the Force was clearly with George Lucas.

Or put another away: hang onto your lightsabre - this one will rock the planet.

Attack of the Clones continues the story of Anakin Skywalker's slide towards the Dark Side.

Ewan McGregor
Obi-Wan is Anakin's mentor
Events have moved on 10 years, and the Jedi apprentice (Hayden Christensen) is now in his late teens, and has an attitude to match.

Even in the opening few minutes it becomes clear that Episode II is a very different beast to its predecessor.

Many of the same characters are there - Padme Amidala (Natalie Portman), Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and Mace Windu (Samuel L Jackson) - but they are riding along on a rollercoaster of a plot.

Lucas gets things moving early on with an adrenalin-charged chase sequence through the traffic-choked skyways of the planet Coruscant.

These early scenes also set up the slow-burning tension between Anakin and his mentor Obi-Wan.

Hayden Chistensen, who is set to become Darth Vader in the next film, superbly interweaves the evil undercurrents into his otherwise heroic persona.

Natalie Portman and Hayden Christensen
The love story is a welcome diversion
One scene on the planet Tatooine where he loses control of his emotions is genuinely spine-tingling.

Anakin is also at the centre of a love story. There were ripples of consternation through fandom when one of the cinema trailers made the saga look like it had turned to slush.

But the scenes with Anakin and Amidala smouldering away against a backdrop of flowery meadows and giant waterfalls are in fact a welcome chance to draw breath before the next hailstorm of laser bolts.

They also work in context and are pretty crucial to the plot.

The forbidden romance sets plenty of events in motion for Episode III. There are some tantalising glimpses of people (and a planet-sized space station) that feature later in the Star Wars timeline.

If there are any yawns to be had, it is during the political gobbledegook about seceding from the Galactic Republic.


But it is never long until the next special effects set-piece and Attack of the Clones does its best to out-do the recent blockbusters.

Cue cavernous interiors (Lord of the Rings, anyone?), a nerve-shredding dog-fight in an asteroid belt, and a big showdown in an alien arena that dwarfs Gladiator's Colosseum.

Jar Jar Binks is back, but has very little screen-time, and the big laughs come from that old double act, R2-D2 and C-3PO.

And there are fab baddies in the form of Count Dooku (Christopher Lee) and bounty hunter Jango Fett (Temuera Morrison).

This is quite possibly the best Star Wars of the series. It looks lavish and Lucas pushes all the right buttons. He also lets us see that ancient Jedi Master Yoda knows how to handle a lightsabre!

When people in a cinema burst into spontaneous applause mid-way through a scene, you know the director has done something right.

Maybe it was just an outpouring of relief.

Star Wars: Episode II, Attack of the Clones is released in the UK on 16 May.

See also:

19 May 02 | Reviews
Star Wars: Your views
09 May 02 | Reviews
Attack of the Clones: Press views
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