"Somebody needs to be honest with Mr. Lucas about his writing skills..."
No fewer than four people have asked what I thought of Episode two in the time since I saw it, a little over a week ago. With one exception they all go more than they were probably looking for. Well it's a loaded question dammit. Any time you spend fifteen-odd years waiting for something you will have a goodly amount of ideas for exactly what you want to see. And therein, at least to my mind, is where many of the troubles with the first three chapters of the Star Wars saga come from. We of the faithful have had ample time to make these movies in our heads.So, now that itās out and we've got lots of time on our hands till we all queue up for Episode III we begin to look at what we were offered as a second chapter. It seems to me that there are really two questions here: How good a movie is it? and How good a Star Wars movie is it? To the second I would say it falls third in my favorites list (Following Empire, and A New Hope) it is a solid outing in the pantheon.
As a movie the answer is a little more complex. Clearly none of the five movies to date are by any stretch of the imagination art films. However I feel I have to say that much of the writing here is decidedly sub par. This is troubling for a couple of reasons, it can at times hijack you concentration when the dialog is bad enough to bring the story to a screeching halt. In a larger sense I worry that in more emotionally important moments in Episode III are going to sound like bad Spanish soap opera. In the love scenes particularly we are given the idea that while Jedis can't know fear, pain or love. They are at no time discouraged from speaking entirely in cliches.
The special effects are predictably amazing, as we have come to expect particularly the centerpiece battle that is head and shoulders above the Gungan/Battledroid skirmish at the end of Episode I. Yoda gets more to do in this outing, including a stand up and cheer sequence worth the price of admission alone. I think that one of the most positive things is the more active role of the Jedi council. I remember feeling a little cheated when the Jedi council just sat around and argued. I mean I know they are essentially holy men, but an adventure film needs a healthy ass kicking to quasi-eastern religious meditations quotient. If the balance is off, you run into trouble. In Episode II we get to see some tantalizing glimpses of what day-to-day life as a Jedi is like.
In terms of acting, most everybody here does a pretty damned good job, considering what they had to work with script-wise. Hayden Christensen comes off much better than I was expecting based on the trailers. There is a flatness to the performances overall, I'm not sure why this is. It's almost like a kind of sterility owing to the fact that everybody involved is being SO careful as to not bruise the existing Cannon. That or they are having serious troubles getting their eye-lines to match those of their cgi co-stars.On the whole this movie is more stirring than many people had expected. I'm looking forward whole-heartedly to Episode III.