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Star Wars: Episode II——Attack Of The Clones is a tedious and numbing experience

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In many ways, George Lucas has only his success to blame. As one of the leading lights of the digital movement, Lucas and his effects wizards at Industrial Light & Magic have made miracles look a little more commonplace with every passing year, by turning out CGI worlds so awesome that awe alone is beginning to show its limitations. In Attack Of The Clones, a turgid and uninspired entry in the diminishing Star Wars pantheon, virtually every shot has been designed to introduce jaws to the pavement, with dense cityscapes that stretch to infinity in all directions and breathtaking panoramas that put nature’s best to shame. But without the mythical power or giddy adventurousness of the first two Star Wars movies, the impact is strangely numbing, like watching a two-and-a-half-hour ILM show reel in search of moneyed investors. Though a marginal improvement over 1999's The Phantom Menace—if only because it pushes infamous clearance-bin sidekick Jar-Jar Binks to the margins—Attack Of The Clones runs into a similar set of problems, mainly caused by characters opening their mouths to speak. Never a competent director of actors, who often look stiff and disoriented against the blue-screen backdrops, Lucas gets little help from Hayden Christensen, his choice to bring young Anakin Skywalker from precocious childhood into petulant adolescence. As a gifted Jedi under the strict tutelage of Ewan McGregor’s Obi-Wan Kenobi, Christensen pouts and glowers at the camera every time the Dark Side tempts him, which happens a lot when he oversteps his bounds to stop a faction of separatists that threatens the stability of the Republic. Assigned to protect Natalie Portman, former Queen and now Senator of the peace-loving planet Naboo, Christensen breaks the Jedi code by falling in love with her, though no amount of frolicking and flowery dialogue can get those feelings across. Away from their square courtship, McGregor looks far more comfortable and commanding this time as Kenobi, whose investigation of an attempt on Portman’s life leads him to a larger plot involving a bounty hunter (Temuera Morrison), a former Jedi (Christopher Lee), and a massive clone army. Lucas and his technicians sweat heavily over the eye candy, crafting amazingly detailed worlds and opulent interior spaces that wouldn’t have been possible before the digital age. But save for a crowd-pleasing moment with Yoda, the movie remains pretty and inert, with no authentic emotion, no cumulative power, and no sense of physicality and danger in the action sequences. In lieu of a proper climax, Attack Of The Clones ends with a tantalizing cliffhanger for the next episode, but Lucas’ lumbering series is presenting fewer and fewer reasons to tune in.