Okay, it’s “Star Wars,” everyone. So don’t be surprised if the plot is murky, the dialogue is stiff, and the performances look like the only direction the actors received was “Look over there! When we put in the effects, it’s going to be something really scary!” Instead, go in looking for expertly staged action sequences and eye-popping special effects, and you’ll be very happy.
Yes, the dialogue is so wooden that you can use it for batting practice. I’m not even going to try to give examples – it would be even more painful to type them than it was to hear the actors say them. And if you want to enjoy the movie, I advise you to do what I did and not think too hard about the plot, something about parts of the big galactic alliance crumbling as some bad guys are trying to secede from the union. Just sit back and let your eyes feast on the wonderfully imaginative visuals — the glowing colors, the fantastic creatures, and the marvelous technology.
Natalie Portman returns as Padme Amidala, now promoted from Queen to Senator. Anakin Skywalker has now grown up into a very talented but impatient and sulky teenager and is played by Canadian actor Hayden Christensen, who did a much better job as a sulky teenager in “Life as a House.” Both are in important jobs that require them to forego romantic entanglements, but while they are hiding out in a remote and idyllic part of her planet together they feel a powerful attraction. Anakin thinks that his mentor, Obi-Wan Kenobi is unfairly holding him back and that things in general move too slowly. If only he were in charge….
When Anakin dreams that his mother is in trouble he returns to his home planet of Tatooine to rescue her. But he arrives in time only to say goodbye to her and return her body to her husband and step-son at the below-ground home Luke Skywalker will live in when we meet him in what is now Episode 4. Meanwhile, Obi-Wan is on a mission to see whether an army of clones will help the Federation protect itself from insurgents.
Fans of the series will enjoy the way this movie puts some of the puzzle pieces together and introduces us to characters who will become more important later on, like bounty hunter Bobba Fett and Luke’s Uncle Owen. And there is some real acting by Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan, who manages to suggest that he just might turn into Alec Guinness by Episode 4 and by horror movie veteran Christopher Lee as the very evil Count Dooku. But mostly, it is just a chance to enjoy the fabulously inventive visual and action effects.
Parents should know that like the other “Star Wars” movies, there is a lot of peril and violence, though it is not explicit or graphic. A massive slaughter is described, but not shown. There are onscreen deaths, including a parent and a friend who intercepts an assassin. There are some sweet kisses.
Families who see this movie should talk about the temptations of dictatorship and why Anakin and Padme have different views about the ability and integrity of politicians. They may also enjoy talking about which of the technologies used by the characters in the movie they would enjoy, and which technologies we have now that might be of interest to the characters.
Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the other movies in the series, and might also like to see some of the parodies, like “Spaceballs.”