Directed by George Lucas.
Running Time: 152 mins
George Lucas is a strong Christian. His Star Wars films have always had a
parabolic nature to them, exploring Christian themes through stories set in
worlds and times far from now. Lucas admits that his famous line 'May the
Force be with you,' "was my way of talking about spirituality, or at least of getting another generation to be interested in spiritual things."
Since the first Star Wars film appeared in 1977, Lucas has developed his
spiritual themes in a huge science fiction allegory, supported by the latest animation breakthroughs.
Padme (Portman) is a Senator for Naboo. After an assassination attempt on her, Obi-Wan Kenobi (McGregor) and his Jedi Knight apprentice, Anakin
Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) are appointed to look after her. Obi-Wan
goes in search of Count Dooku (Lee) who ordered the assassination. Anakin
accompanies Padme back to her home planet. In the end Obi-Wan, Padme and
Anakin all end up confronting the Count and his clone army while Yoda (Frank Oz) and Mace Windu (Samuel L. Jackson) come to their rescue at the
If you saw Episode I, the story in this film is much clearer and more accessible. In Episode II Lucas is more focused on what he wants from his
narrative and where he needs it to go in preparation for the next, and final, prequel due in 2004.
This story is a meditation on good and evil. The figure of Darth Vader looms large here, or at least we start to see the context out of which he emerges. We know that Anakin Skywalker later becomes Darth Vader, the master of the dark force. It's all an allegory on the fall of Satan.
This film shows us why Anakin falls, why he cannot live out the poverty, chastity and obedience of the Jedi Order and what drives his anger and hate. Lucas tells us that the hallmarks of the dark force are lies, deceit and the creation of mistrust. This is all classic stuff in Christian spirituality.
Lucas also reminds us that even though the dark forces may weigh down the
forces of light, in the end justice, love and peace will never be overwhelmed. This film is a visual homily.
The problem with all of Lucas' films is not the story, it's the screenplay and his direction. The dialogue he and Jonathan Hales give to their actors is appalling. It also leads the audience to laugh in all the wrong spots. The other problem is that Lucas seems to be able to direct his animatic scenes with flair and energy, but under his direction fine human actors, like McGregor, are as wooden as posts.
The special effects, however, are spectacular. There are seven fights and
four long chases during which we can see what the latest gadgetry can do.
The complex sound design is very loud, and along with the violence in the
simulated fight scenes, will frighten younger children.
Set design, costumes, make-up and John Williams' score are all up to the
high mark we have come to know and admire. Indeed in the last gladiatorial
scene the shells of the Sydney Opera House are fused into the design, paying homage to the city within which some of the film was made. Ridley Scott's "Gladiator" is parodied everywhere in this final showdown. Lucas is having fun.
If you've never seen any of the Star Wars films you can happily approach
Episode II and see what all the fuss has been about. But be prepared for the sublime and the banal, and values that delightfully border on the evangelical.
Richard Leonard SJ