Directed by George Lucas. USA. 2002.

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I am, what you might call, an somewhat experienced Disney World traveller. I have been to that magical land of 6 foot tall characters, (who mysteriously seemed to shrink as I grew older) wonderful bands, and $6 pretzels at least four times in my life. I remember my very first roller coaster ride there, being just tall enough to go on. I was petrified, climbing into a train called “I B Crazy” with my Mom and Dad. I started screaming the second the train started to move which amused my Dad to no end. He sat beside me directing. “Don’t scream now....not now....” Then as we climbed up to a precipice “OK, scream now!!” Opting for the continuous shriek of terror, rather than the intermittent approach I howled all the way round “Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.” I remember forming plans to move away from home, and into the “Haunted Mansion.” (I think it was something involving amusing myself with a trampoline in the first room you enter there that stretches up and down.) Most of all though, I can recall with perfect clarity the first family Disney trip after “Disney-MGM Studios Theme Park” had
opened, for:
1) It afforded the opportunity to soak my mother with a large water cannon effect. 

2) They had this AMAZING ride that I forced my family to go on over and over again..... Star Tours.

There was absolutely nothing like it. From the age of four I had dreamed of the ability to go and play in the Star Wars universe, and here I was doing it. Stomping like a pro, all the way through droids machinery repair shops, through galaxy tour travel shops, talking away to R2-D2 and C3P0. After probably the fourth time through Star Tours (though if you were to ask my Mom and Dad, you might get a different total) we headed outside only to discover that those wacky Disney imagineers had constructed a FULL SIZE IMPERIAL WALKER. Which, if you were incredibly cool like me, you could stand underneath, and demand that not only your family, but passers-by take roll upon roll of pictures of you. 

I am still, just that hip. I was one of those spiffy individuals you saw on your televisions while you were comfortably ensconced in your home environments. We were not at home. We, the Kings and Queens of niftiness had lined up the night before advance tickets for Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace went on sale. Yessir, I waited for 32 hours to be one of the first to see it, in the 12:01am showing on opening day. 32 hours of Star Wars monopoly, and Trivial Pursuit (to this day I still know the answer to “how many TIE fighters followed the Millennium Falcon into the Death Star in Return of the Jedi). This time though, I was determined to be more collected. This time, I thought about the incredible amount of teasing I took after being seen sitting on the pavement along with my fan brethren, waiting for tickets, on countless news shows. This time, I waited, until the day AFTER opening day. Of course, I have since seen it four times. 

Attack of the Clones takes place ten years after the events of The Phantom Menace. Queen Padme Amidala is now a Senator campaigning for peace in the Republic, working towards abolishing the movement to create an army of Clones to force separatists to stay with their governing body. When her security force is attacked, Padme has two old friends assigned to protect, and detect who’s behind the plot on her life; Obi-Wan Kenobi, now a Jedi Knight, and Anakin Skywalker, Obi Wan’s padawan learner.

Ewan McGregor (The Pillow Book, Eye of the Beholder) reprises his role as Obi-Wan, and is a picture perfect model of a younger Alec Guinness (the original Obi-Wan). In truth, I think it is he who has the hardest job in this film, for where fellow castmates Natalie Portman, and Hayden Christensen can create personalities that are all their own, McGregor has a fairly straight and narrow path to follow, trying to develop his own character in Kenobi, but not leaping too far off Guinness’ trail, lest he perturb legions of Star Wars fans. McGregor has laced Kenobi with heaps of good natured charm, but the truly impressive thing here is how fast his good natured sparkle can flash to menace. McGregor has obviously put just as much work into his stunt choreography here as he did in his first Star Wars outing, as his lightsaber sequences are truly impressive, as are his lightsabre-less moments. There is one sequence that leaps to mind that is so detailed it would have taken an impossibly long time to execute, that in fact features McGregor soaking wet for the entire time, and though he is being dragged across stone, and flying through the air, he never seems to lose his wicked sense of humour. I am totally blown away by the fact that McGregor is almost continually having conversations with beings that are complete CGI creations, and to his credit, not once does anything appear forced. He also manages to be a saving grace for parents in this one, for while you would be none to happy about your young son playing at being Anakin, the most evil thing ever to walk the earth, playing at being Obi-Wan, a loyal patient friend, and heroic crusader for good seems totally acceptable.

Natalie Portman (The Professional, Beautiful Girls) plays the lovely Senator, and puts in a resplendent performance. She manages to give so much emotion to her romantic scenes with Christensen that they almost make the audience feel as though they are in the scene with them, stumbling upon private moments. What’s more is that through her interpretations’ level of realism, Portman’s Padme makes you push aside the fact that you’re watching a love story between an intergalactic senator, and a Jedi-in-training, but makes it a love story that could be taking place anywhere. Portman makes it so easy to be with her. The levels of resourcefulness, intelligence, and strength, that she brings to Amidala is unequalled in most performances from actresses her age, a very good job.

Hayden Christensen (Life as a House, The Virgin Suicides) has taken on a boatload of pressure to step into the shoes of the adolescent Anakin Skywalker, and has far and away exceeded all my expectations. He, like Portman, has created a very human character in an unreal world. He is the embodiment of a young man trying to impress, whether it’s complaints about his mentor, or using the force to make pieces of fruit fly through the air. Christensen has also poured natural chemistry into the onscreen relationship between Amidala and Anakin, but he foreshadows what he is to become by seeming more aggressive towards her than she would like. The subtle switches from a genuine admiration for Padme to a need to control her are very nicely done. His flares of temper are skilful and effective, never seeming over the top in the slightest. Not only is Christensen’s onscreen chemistry with Portman well done, but his obvious riendship with McGregor adds a layer of warmth to the relationship between Obi-Wan and Anakin. It will be very interesting to see how the connection between the two twists in Episode III.

The effects in Lucas’ latest epic are more mind boggling than in the last instalment. The scenes are so well constructed, everything from your first view of Coruscant traffic jams, to Padme’s Naboo home looks and feels like a painting come to life. John Williams’ incredible score only manages to add to that feeling bringing goose bumps in everything from Yoda’s lightsabre battle sequence to Anakin’s speeder search at dusk on Tatooine to find his mom. I just hope that technology keeps leaping ahead with Lucas, lest new improvements on his wizardry become impossible.

As there were long lines for Star Tours in Disney World, there were long lines for Episode II at my local theatre. It was quite the effect walking down the hallway towards cinema 8 with my parents listening to each individual cinema start their performance as we waited for ours, with that familiar theme booming out from behind each door. I loved the fact that even though we had all arrived an hour early for our show, no one was bored or upset. We all stood, munching our popcorn in unison, chatting about Star Wars memories. (Even though bitter debates ensued over who was a better heartthrob, McGregor or Han Solo himself, Harrison Ford. Sadly though, no trivial pursuit was brought out.) After the movie was over, and we all filed out, my inner voice said “that was great!!” My inner voice said “Is there a woman on earth who is not currently sincerely in love with Ewan McGregor?” And then, my inner voice said “Episode III comes out in 2005. Is it too early to line up now?”

Jen Johnston
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