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Lou Pickney's Movie Review

Star Wars Episode 2 Movie Review

Thursday
May 9, 2002

WARNING
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IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN STAR WARS EPISODE 2, AND YOU WANT TO BE SURPRISED, DON'T READ THIS REVIEW RIGHT NOW. INSTEAD, RETURN TO LouPickney.com.

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On Monday night, May 6, 2002, I went in to work at WTSP to prepare the 5-6 AM hour of the news for "10 News This Morning". By chance, the nightside executive producer, Marvin Tarver, had landed a media pass to the sneak preview of Star Wars Episode 2 -- Attack of the Clones. It turned out that he and his wife wouldn't be able to make the 10 AM screening, so he offered the pass to me. Of course, I jumped at the chance. Sleep deprivation is a small price to pay for such an opportunity.

See, normally I'm the last person who gets a chance at something like that. We've had movie passes before, but usually for the likes of How High or Rock Star. But the last movie I ever expected to get to see early, and for FREE, was Star Wars Episode 2.

The pass was for two people, and the 6 AM producer (Brian Kargus) wanted to go as well. But our associate producer, Neal Boling, is a major Star Wars fan. So when he got in at 1:30 AM, I showed him the ticket. I felt like one of the characters in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory who landed a ticket to the factory. But, I was willing to give my spot away for Neal, as I knew he'd appreciate it more than probably anyone else in the newsroom. I mean, good gawd, the guy has Star Wars Episode 1 on tape and DVD, and we both agree that Episode 1 was a relatively weak park of the series.

Unfortunately for Neal, timing made that impossible. The screening was scheduled to start at 10 AM, and he had to work until 10:30 AM. Tough break. That'd be like if they made a Sopranos movie and I didn't get to go to the big preview.

The movie was screened at the theatre adjacent to the Parkside Mall in Pinellas Park, FL. Anyway, Brian and I got to the theatre early. We're talking 9:15 for a 10 o'clock start time. Past experiences with these things taught me to get there early to secure a good start. Of course, they often mix radio giveaways in with the media hookups, and there can potentially be more people there than seats available.

We were surprised with how few people were there waiting. And those that were seemed to be people in "the business" (TV, radio or newspaper). I know Bill Murphy from Fox 13 was there, as was Steve Persall from the St. Petersburg Times. Luckily, Steve doubles as our movie critic for 10 News, so that freed up the pass that Brian and I used.

Ten minutes before movie time, I knew there was going to be a small audience. We're talking 30-40 people tops. The theatre manager and movie preview coordinator came around and introduced themselves, and found out where we were from. It was clear they wanted to be sure we were media people.

Neal told me that they didn't have a single preview for Star Wars Episode 1, so he thought that it was a good sign that George Lucas allowed previews to be done for this one. Oh, how right he was.

In the theatre, they apologized that they only had "regular" sound instead of digital. They said only two theatres in the country showing previews are in "L.A. and somewhere else", they said.

Finally, the movie began... and we were thrust into the magical world of George Lucas.

Cinematically, this movie stands out not only in comparison with other films in the Star Wars series (impressive enough company on its own), but also among the all-time great films. This is the first movie to be shot entirely in digital, without using standard film. We watched it on film, but the point is that it has some phenomenal shots -- particularly in the city scenes. The chase scene where Obi-Wan Kanobi (Ewan McGregor) and Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christiansen) try to track down the assassin is breathtaking. This is THE movie that other films will be judged by in the field of cinematic excellence for years to come.

The storyline is solid, particularly the first hour. You'll be drawn in, and 60 minutes will fly by before you know it. When you get tired of the set-up dialogue, Lucas throws some romance your way. When the sweet talk between Skywalker and Senator Padmé Amidala (Natalie Portman) needs a break, Lucas takes you to a fighting sequence. All well done, and very strongly paced.

The sexual tension between Skywalker and Amidala is great. As noted as he is for the science-fiction genre, Lucas is masterful at creating romantic interludes within his films. Skywalker wants Amidala, but she tries to check her emotions toward him, citing her spot in the senate and Skywalker's role as a jedi. They share a kiss, and there's genuine meaning to it. Lucas could've easily put that in as a way of simply throwing a bone to the female demographic, but instead he made it matter within the context of the story. Masterful writing.

The scenes with Kanobi investigating the "missing planet" are interesting, particularly the scenes showing the clones. I can only imagine the choreography efforts that must've been necessary to pull it all together. But they managed to do it flawlessly, further helping to facilitate the suspension of disbelief and to pull the viewer into the story.

The journey Skywalker and Amidala take to find Skywalker's mother may be the only point of the movie where things drag a little bit. But this could've been done intentionally -- pacing things out so there's more payoff for the big fight scenes at the end. The movie picks back up when Skywalker finds his captured mother, only for her to die in his arms. Skywalker then slays the tribe who kidnapped and imprisoned her. This creates a moment of emotional development few films would dare attempt. Skywalker tells Amidala about the incident, and how he (Skywalker) went wild and killed everyone in the tribe -- including the women and the children. Subtle teasing for a turn to the dark side in the next movie, for sure, but also a great way of showing the thought process and emotion of Skywalker.

The big fight in the end is spectacular. In the coliseum, some amazingly imaginative (and well-animated) creatures threaten Kanobi, Skywalker and Amidala (who are all chained to posts in front of a rabid audience). When you watch this movie, look at the crowd in the coliseum, and how they're going absolutely crazy. Animation of that much detail on that level has never been done like this before. It's mesmerizing, and it's one of many subtle details this film gets right.

I'd be remiss to not mention the role Yoda plays in this film. Seeing him fight was intriguing, to say the least. Entertaining and engrossing at the same time.

The movie ending may be disappointing to some, as Skywalker, with a new metal arm replacing the one he lost fighting Darth Tyranus (Christopher Lee), weds Amidala in a private ceremony. The main antagonist, Tyranus, survives. But... this sets the stage for Episode 3. I, for one, can't wait to see it.

In summary, I give my wholehearted suggestion that you see this movie as soon as you can. It may be the best of the entire bunch. That's a very bold statement, I know, but this movie can hold its own and then some. Between the special effects, the superb acting, and the clever writing, the movie brings something for everyone... and leaves you wanting more 2 hours and 15 minutes later. Enjoy.


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