Much of the cast from Menace is back. Unfortunately none of the major actors manage to pull of a standout performance. Anakin is little improved from menace. I know he's supposed to be full of anger and angst, but mostly he just comes off as constipated and bitchy. Amidala seems to be taking a bit of a nap. Their romantic scenes together are the Jar Jar binks scenes of this movie: It just pauses the action, and the acting is so bad that the movie stalls until something interesting happened.
The rest of the cast is much better. Ewan McGregor has finally grabbed onto the role of Obi Wan. He's a bit preachy, but it works. Samuel L Jackson is the badass Jedi we want him to be. Senator Palpatine is pretty much the same guy as last time around. And Dooku, the flick's major bad guy is pretty excellent too. Its nice having villians with faces since they actually get to act a bit. The Fett family felt a little forced, but it was interesting.
Most notable this time around is the CGI characters. Episode I of course had Jar Jar, Watto, and many other CG chars, but Menace is literally crammed full of them. And the technology and animators have improved substantially since the last showing. No longer do they stick out like sore thumbs- now they merely stick out like a thumb with a little bit of a sliver. Yoda is of course the most important of the CG chars- everyone probably remembers the horrible animation on his one CG scene in Menance, but in Clones he is CG all the way. This is a huge deal since unlike most of the CG chars we've seen so far, this one works almost perfectly. There are a couple of shots where it doesn't seem quite right... but those are the exception, and not the rule.
What I'm saying is that CG characters have finally come into their own. In Menace, all I could think about is the fact that they were CG. The fact that they didn't looke quite right. This time around they are just part of the show. Another cast member delivering mediocre dialog. Ironically enough, several of the CG chars outshine their human counterparts.
The movie as a whole looks great. Many of the costumes look a lot more like Star Wars. From the clone army, to Amidala wearing a white costume for the last act, things just look like I would expect them to. We get to see some sets familiar from A New Hope as well as Menace, and that all really contributes to making the movie feel like a Star Wars flick. It also helps that the CG has continued to improve.
I'd also like to note that I didn't get to see it on the digital screen. I plan on seeing it digital in the next week or 2... I figured I'd see it at the local theater and make sure it didn't suck before I bothered driving to Southfield to see it in full digital splendor.
The rest of the review will focus a little more on plot. You've been warned. The story is of course largely a love story. There has been a threat on Amidala's life, and her old friends Anakin and Obi-Wan have been assigned by the Jedi Council to protect her. Investigating the asassination attempt leads Obi-Wan to a far away planet where he discovered a clone army being constructed, and a conspiracy to suppress information about it. Anakin and Amidala spend time together and get closer through a series of awkward pseudo romantic scenes where they both look like they would rather have been in different movies. Their utter lack of chemistry is almost amusing.
Obi-Wan gets into some smack, and so Anakin and Amidala go to rescue him, only to end up compounding the level of smack around for the good guys. Meanwhile the Senate does its thing and a major shift in power occurs. We learn who is responsible for the clone army, and what the plan for it is.
The last hour of Clones is the Payoff. A battle worthy of the original trilogy. I'm not going to go into it becuase that might spoil it, but let make the following points. First, we finally have enough light saber action. The massive jedi fight that we all knew these prequels could offer us. And my god was it ever worth the wait. But we also have Mace Windu kicking ass, and at long last, Yoda gets his chance to prove why he is so highly regarded.
The parallels to other movies in the SW Series, especially Empire Strikes Back are many. I'm avoiding mentioning them here, but I will say that the film tries to end on a dark note which is cool.
The packed theater that I saw this really seemed to feel the same way as me. A few awkward laughs during the romance scenes- even snickers during the sound-of-music picnic sequence. But when the final battles came around there were cheers around.
And that really sums it up. It took 3.5 hours of prequel film to get us to the payoff. For some it might not have been worth the wait... but for me, I'm just happy to finally to see most of what was promised delievered. And I'm reinvigorated towards Star Wars. If Episode III can pick up where II left off, III should finally be the Star Wars Prequel that we've been waiting for.