Dumb dialogue

Star Wars: Episode II -- Attack of the Clones directed by George Lucas, written by Lucas and Jonathan Hales, produced.

Star Wars: Episode II — Attack of the Clones directed by George Lucas, written by Lucas and Jonathan Hales, produced by Rick McCallum, with Hayden Christensen, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Samuel L. Jackson and Christopher Lee. 142 minutes. A LucasFilm Ltd. production. A 20th Century Fox release. Opens Thursday (May 16). For venues and times, see First-Run Movies, page 75. Rating: NN Rating: NN

ok, here’s the lowdown on starWars. There’s a great high-powered speeder chase, an epic Jedi-vs.-droids battle, and Yoda kicks ass! That’s it. The rest of the film’s 142-minute running time is a god-awful teen romance whose dialogue might have come straight out of a high school play.The problem with Attack Of The Clones is the problem that has plagued the entire Star Wars series — a crappy script.

Granted, the first film was a Saturday matinee romp that in 1977 seemed retro cool, and let’s not forget that Harrison Ford ad libbed some of the film’s best lines and Carrie Fisher made things interesting by playing Princess Leia like a pissed-off, too-smart-for-her-own-good Radcliffe feminist. But you’d think that in the last 25 years Lucas would have evolved as a writer and outgrown stale lines like “Easy, young Padawan!’

He does hire co-writers, but they seem to have no effect on the final product. On Attack Of The Clones he collaborates with Jonathan Hales, whose only other writing credits are on Lucas’s TV series, The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles. He isn’t an outside writer, but someone taken from the Lucas stable, so it’s unlikely he’d go head-to-head with the big guy.

What Attack specifically needed was a scribe who could write romance.

Hayden Christensen stars as Anakin Skywalker, who will go on to become the evil Darth Vader, and Natalie Portman reprises her role as Queen-turned-senator Padme. Anakin, who’s had a thing for Padme since he was a little sprout, is stewing in his juices, hoping for the chance to meet her again. That wish comes true when he and his father figure, Jedi knight master Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor), are sent to protect her from an assassination attempt.

They meet, he directs rude, horny teenage stares her way that are supposed to pass for smouldering romantic glances, and she’s smitten. Nobly, she doesn’t reciprocate, though she knows that Jedi aren’t allowed to fall in love.

It’s compelling stuff, but Lucas flubs it like a grounder headed for Bill Buckner. A scene where Anakin and Padme frolic in a meadow could be an outtake from a 70s tampon ad.

Even more aggravating is the fact that this is the movie that’s supposed to give us clues about why Anakin will eventually turn into the nasty black-helmeted Vader. But Christensen comes across like a petulant baby, whining, “Master doesn’t give me enough to do” or “Master is jealous of me because I’m more powerful.” Can’t he change with some dignity?

But for every Jar Jar Binks, there’s a Yoda. In fact, this is Yoda’s movie call him Crouching Muppet, Hidden Warrior. With the help of special effects, Yoda becomes a little green Bruce Lee, whirling around with a junior-size light sabre. Silly, but it turns out to be the film’s highlight.

I’ve paid approximately $25 to see the first four Star Wars movies. I know that’s small change to fans who’ve seen all the movies over and over, bought the videos, laser discs, books, action figures and magazines. But just like the hardcore fanatics, I’ve invested in the Star Wars franchise. I know I have to see the series through even though I’ll bitch and complain to other sad-eyed fans, and two years from now we’ll all line up to see the next instalment.

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