It’s true that Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones is superior to its immediate predecessor, but it’s still not much of a movie.
Lucas, while stubborn as ever in his refusal to completely excise Jar Jar Binks, has nevertheless acquiesced to fan pressure by creating 132 minutes of the stuff that fans have been dying to see for two-plus decades: massive lightsaber battles, the secret origin of Boba Fett (which is a truly superfluous subplot), the inner workings of the Jedi Council, the corruption of Anakin Skywalker, and, most tellingly, one climactic scene in which Yoda kicks ass.It’s an amusing diversion that never really bores and I admit that I had a good time watching it but it never really satisfies either, due mostly to a surfeit of miserable acting and a preference for digital artifice over emotional urgency.
What this trilogy sorely lacks is a Han Solo character; a gritty, human protagonist with a healthy dose of skepticism to offset Lucas’s stifling, utopian CG fetish. Without such a player, the movie lacks sorely for depth and not even of the dramatic kind but of the structural kind as well.
Here’s an example: not once, while watching, did I ever get the feeling that there was anything happening to any of the characters or with any of the events beyond exactly what was shown on-screen at that moment. That’s just a staggering kind of incompetence given how much work and effort went into the film, to say nothing of how much its audience is willing to believe in the Star Wars universe as real, plausible, just a few parsecs away.
I chalk Episode II up as a wasted opportunity. But the mythology Lucas gave the world with the first trilogy has endowed him with a considerable though not limitless storyteller’s line of credit. There is a genuine affection for this absurd universe that is not easily squandered to nothing, and people are willing to forgive much.
My point is that Lucas has one more chance to redeem himself and quite possibly the entire franchise with the next, last installment. And it’s a testament to this series that, even after two blown opportunities, people are still willing to believe that he’ll pull it off. I’m one of them.