(Downloaded, May 2002) Take five die-hard Star Wars geeks, give them a big-screen TV, sugared drinks and a VCD copy of Episode II downloaded a full week before it hits theaters, and you have an instant nerd-MST3K party! Then watch with amazement as said five geeks start shouting back at the screen with reckless abandon, jeering Jar-Jar, cheering Samuel L. Jackson, pointing out the parade of stupid logical holes and screaming like little girls at the Yoda light-saber duel! Awful sound and even lousier picture quality ensures at least one subsequent trip to the theater, but the ghastly dialogue, appalling romance subplot and lackluster pacing can’t be corrected by a big screen and big sound. But oh, the laughs they had…
(Second viewing, In theaters, May 2002) Big Screen! Big Sound! Even after seeing Episode II on VCD-rip, a trip to the theater screen is mandatory to extract all the audiovisual goodness from this ILM demo reel. Story, you say? Blah; Lucas can’t be bothered to write a good script from even the most exciting elements, as he amply shows here. There’s a romance. A godawful romance. A romance starring aliens, because no humans act like that. A romance by George Lucas. Be afraid. Or close your eyes and hum loudly until the last forty minutes, which are impressive from an action standpoint. The visual polish of the film is astonishing, and it better be, because most of the actors don’t seem to know what they’re doing. The lead couple is especially bad, which is a surprise given that both Hayden Christianssen and Natalie Portman have proven to be good thespians elsewhere. Oh no; is that more proof that George Lucas can’t direct actors? Well, he can’t think logically either, because the film is filled with logical stupidities that even the dullest viewer can spot. That it, if they’re not wowed by the Yoda-Dooku fight (Yay!) and the spectacular combat scenes… am I starting to repeat myself? Hm. Think so, I do.
(Third viewing, In theaters, May 2002) I’m not a card-carrying Star Wars geek, but that’s going to be hard to prove after seeing the film for a third time the month of its initial release. Hey, I plead the usual extenuating circumstances (workplace outing, pretty girl at my side, etc.) but it still doesn’t change the fact that I’m seeing the damn film for a third time in as many weeks. The bad points still stick out; the atrocious romance subplot, weak dialogues, simplistic politics and bad plotting are worse than ever. On the other hand, the really good sequences of the film still hold up; the asteroid battle is a joy, as is the final land war, the Yoda fight sequences and the arena Jedi/droid battle. There is enough eye-candy to maintain interest, which is something of an achievement for such a poorly-written film. I think I now have my fill of the film, at least until the DVD hits the bargain bins.
(Fourth viewing, On DVD, February 2003) Some movies just aren’t meant to be seen four times in a single year. While the action sequences of this “Episode II” still hold up under scrutiny, the rest of the movie simply grates. At least the DVD contains an informative commentary track, though it predictably focuses more on the technical aspect of the film than the story. In fact, any attempts by Lucas and al to give some legitimacy to the plot are a bit amusing. (Though, to George’s credit, at least he’s aware of Kevin Smith’s work.) The rest of this double-DVD edition is packed with extras, so at least the fans of the film can it knowing that it’ll do until the super-duper-mega enhanced one Lucasfilm is liable to release in a few years. Not that I’ll need to see the film again until then.