It’s really weird to walk down the street at three in the morning and hear the words "Star Wars" on the lips of everyone you pass - which is exactly what I experienced last night after going to the midnight preview of Stars Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones.
The experience itself was fun. Nothing beats sitting in a movie theater at midnight, surrounded by people waving lightsabers and wielding "blasters." There was even a guy done up in full Stormtrooper regalia (I should have said, "Aren’t you a little short for a Stormtrooper?" as I passed him, but I didn’t think fast enough…). An impromptu lightsaber duel took place on the stage at the front of the theater between two guys dressed in Jedi robes, to the great amusement of all present. There were some hardcore fans there, not least my husband , who sat next to me and channeled lines of Star Wars dialogue in time with the soundtrack they played before the movie started.
Before I go on, maybe I should mention that I, too, am a Star Wars fan - not to the extent that Jeremy is, perhaps, but a fan nonetheless. I was completely obsessed with the movies as a kid. I compulsively collected Star Wars toys, I had enormous sections of dialogue memorized, I ran around pretending I was an Ewok with my brother and my best friend, and I think the best cake I ever had was the Return of the Jedi cake that my parents had made specially for me on my 10th birthday (black and red icing - cool!). So I’ve got the creds.
If I had seen Attack of the Clones as a kid, it probably would have blown me away. It’s got some superb elements to it, some of those deep, mythic aspects that made the original movies such classics: the relationship between parent and child, the destructive power of anger and the poisonous nature of revenge, the tragedy of doomed love… Whether all these elements actually come together to make a great movie is another matter. At this point, I’m not so sure.
Attack of the Clones is certainly better than The Phantom Menace. Ewan MacGregor is excellent, and I was pleasantly surprised at how good Hayden Christensen is. The story is solid, even though I wasn’t always convinced by its execution - a problem which I think can be attributed to some really clunky dialogue.
The special effects are flawless, which is maybe why I felt they often somehow lacked heart. I’m still more impressed by the star destroyers in the original three movies than I am by the computer-generated ships of these latest ones, and as far as computer-generated monsters go, I still think the Balrog from The Fellowship of the Ring has got everything else beat. But maybe I’m just too stuck in the 20th century to be completely convinced by masses of CG effects.
The moments where it all comes together in the movie - particularly the scene in which Hayden Christensen/Anakin reveals the first real glimpse of the darker side of his nature, and the very last scene in the movie, which I found shockingly poignant in light of everything you know is to come in the following movies - are fantastic. These are the moments where the mythic nature shines through and reminds me of why Star Wars captured the imagination of so many people - myself included - in the first place.
There are also some lovely, and chilling, moments where scenes in this movie perfectly echo (well, foreshadow) scenes in the original three films. And for real Star Wars geeks (I include myself in this category), the attention that has been paid to the logical progression of ship and costume design from this movie to the "later" ones is, as Darth Vader would say, "Impressive…most impressive."
All in all, I wasn’t as blown away by the film as I had hoped I would be. I have to remind myself, though, that I also wasn’t too impressed by The Fellowship of the Ring until I had seen it three times, by which time I was a rabid fan. It’s difficult to say whether the same thing will happen with this new Star Wars film. Maybe I was just in too analytical a frame of mind to have been completely swept away by Attack of the Clones - or maybe, more depressingly, the time in which Star Wars could totally consume my imagination has simply passed.
Having said that, I don’t have to be completely consumed by a movie to like it, and I did like Attack of the Clones. I look forward to seeing it again knowing what to expect, so that I can sit back, stop analyzing and just enjoy the ride.