Shadows of the Empire

With Episode II, George Lucas reclaims his lost glory... kinda

Coscreenwriter Jonathan Hales (The Scorpion King) seems to have had a good influence on Lucas's dialogue. There's still the odd bit of patently obvious exposition ("That's Anakin's signal. It's coming from Tatooine. What in the blazes is he doing there?" Obi-Wan says to his non-English-speaking droid) and silliness (pod racer Sebulba, or a look-alike, shows up briefly to say "Jedi poo-doo!"), but some of it is actually witty, like Obi-Wan's reference to the Jedi Temple as the old folks' home. C-3PO's comedy bits, as in all the movies, can be a bit overbearing, but at least he's a familiar nitwit and unlikely to actually offend anyone but prissy Britons.

There is one significant misfire in the script, however, and it undoubtedly has to do with Lucas's allowing his kids to come up with character names, as they did for Episode I. Dexter Jettster, Kit Fisto, Poggle the Lesser, and Elan Sleazebaggano can duke it out for dumbest name that remains safely unspoken in full, but the grand champion has to be the name of the film's major adversary: Count Dooku. Yes, it's pronounced exactly as you'd imagine, and yes, it makes any line of dialogue sound stupid -- even McGregor can't make "I'll never join you, Doo-koo!" sound properly defiant. Though it helps that Dooku is played by the dignified Christopher Lee in a standout performance and gets a name-change at the last minute, it's hard to be too afraid of a man whose moniker sounds like something Jar Jar stepped in.

I've got a bad feeling about this...
I've got a bad feeling about this...


Rated PG

Lee isn't used anywhere near enough -- he's sort of this movie's Colonel Kurtz, a renegade frequently talked about and eventually found in a dark corner of space with the tribes that are now under his command. Once he does appear, he owns the screen, taunting during light-saber battles in the manner we wished Darth Maul would have done. And when another master hits the battle -- call it Crouching Yoda, Hidden Saber -- you'll laugh or cheer or most likely both. Some of the CGI still looks bad: Yoda's ears, for example, properly bounce like the old puppet's, but his digital facial expressions are often unconvincing. The film itself follows suit -- sometimes it bounces along; other times, it feels forced. Kids and hardcore fans will love it regardless, and those who don't will still be talking about it for the next three years.

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