We gave it a C+
Press Portman for spoilers to ”Attack of the Clones,” and she just sighs. ”Everyone knows the story,” says ”Episode I”’s Queen Amidala (now just a senator in ”Episode II”). ”It’s in how the tale is told where people will be surprised.” She has a point: Every ”Star Wars”-phile knows that the new movie — the second in Lucas’ trilogy of prequels to his original ”Star Wars” cycle — finds Anakin Skywalker (Christensen) mired in those angry young Jedi-wannabe years before becoming big bad Darth Vader. ”Episode II” merely reveals how Anakin and Amidala’s romance, Anakin’s mother, and the machinations of Supreme Chancellor Palpatine (McDiarmid) and bounty hunter Jango Fett (Temuera Morrison) factor into the evil evolution.
Yet the question dogging ”Episode II” isn’t about story but storytelling. In a recent interview, even McGregor (back as Obi-Wan Kenobi) reportedly said he found ”Episode I” ”flat.” So all eyes are again on Lucas, who prior to ”Episode I” hadn’t directed a film since 1977’s ”Star Wars.” ”I think he did feel more comfortable directing ‘Episode II,”’ says producer Rick McCallum. ”Twenty-plus years away was a big deal.”
This time, Lucas got writing assistance from Hales (who worked on the filmmaker’s ”The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles” TV series) and used only digital cameras during production; he shot for 60 days in the summer of 2000, then wrote and shot additional scenes throughout postproduction. ”Episode II” boasts even more F/X creations like ”Episode I”’s junk dealer Watto and the much-reviled Jar Jar Binks, who both return, by the way, though detractors of the floppy-eared Gungan will be pleased to know that Binks has a smaller role this time.
Pay close attention to Jar Jar’s first appearance, which winks knowingly at his critics. ”I can’t wait to see what happens the first moment he appears on screen,” says McCallum, who wouldn’t elaborate on the scene. Guess ”Episode II” does have some secrets after all.