By Lisa Schwarzbaum
May 24, 2002 at 04:00 AM EDT

Attack of the Clones may be ”better” than ”The Phantom Menace” — i.e., less jar-jarring and more securely fitted to the heroic scale of the venerable saga. Yet this installment, centered on the gathering moral darkness that will one day turn Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) into Darth Vader, proceeds with a chill, conservative grimness of purpose. The showpiece chases and futuristic aliens of this fifth production are as ornate and state-of-the-art as any tech-head could want, and we are attentive. But the sensation of being entertained is as faint as light from a galaxy far, far away.