A long time ago in a galaxy far,
far away...

...I saw a film called Star Wars. The year before, I'd seen Jenny Agutter prancing around in a skimpy green dress in Logan's Run. I knew that that would take some beating. But even Agutter's thighs couldn't stand a chance against Star Wars. Well perhaps if she'd been cast as Leia, things might've been even better, but you get what you're given and make do. And I don't just watch these films for sexual gratification, horny as R2D2 can be.
A few years later I saw Empire, and was very impressed. Jedi was less good. By the time of the Special Editions I'd sorted out my relationships with these pictures, and all was well until the last one. Anyway, the rankings stand something like this:

Star Wars     9½ (±½ dependent on mood)
Empire...       7½ (±½ dependent on mood)
...Jedi             6
TPM               4½ (±½ dependent on mood)

Yesterday, I wandered into Meadowhall for the first time in about two years (you don't have to go outside again after the flyover now you know) and paid my money to see Episode II: Attack of the Clones. I was terrified. Mark Kermode had shattered every hope I had that this film would be any good. The woman gave me my ticket and my change, and I set off to HMV and WHSmiths to kill three-quarters-of-an-hour.

Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope: Special Edition
Well forget the Special Edition bit (just wanted to get the three colons in), the Special Edition did some very naughty things (Jabba; Greedo shoots first, etc).
Star Wars is a very good film. The effects shots in Logan's Run were quite funny really - that holographic card stuff they used for the buildings; the little model cars... (Logan's Run is, of course, not far removed (plotwise) from THX1138 (which is a good film)). Star Wars was the best looking sci-fi picture since "2001" (which is better than Star Wars). That first few minutes is as good as anything in "2001" too.
The worst thing about Star Wars is some very dodgy line delivery (just about everything Vader says sounds dodgy / Han's "It is for me, sister" sounds amazingly bad). The Tatooine sequence can drag a bit too. This is all off-set by lightsabres, the Millennium Falcon, a "rescue the princess" cliché, a compacting chamber, damp stormtroopers, a chasm leap, and a bloke in a gasmask and a black ribbed jump-suit. Rather than the somewhat wet character Agutter played in Logan's Run, we have a headstrong leading lady who questions and ridicules everything our heroes have done. They haven't rescued some helpless, simpering princess but a seemingly more intelligent (and perhaps a little obnoxious) rebel brat. The whole story is near-perfectly executed: from R2D2 activating the hologram, to Luke finding Ben, to Ben taking Luke to a bar to find a pirate, to the extended sequence on the Death Star (aka the best bit).
Another major positive is the comedy. Han's radio conversation (boring conversation anyway) being the greatest example. The two stormtroopers nattering away during Ben's skulking is a nice set-piece too.
And then, after a quick disappearing trick and a space-invaders routine, we get the Dambusters bit. Dambusters is great enough. Dambusters in space is, well... about as good. All done, Tarkin blown to bits, and Vader stored away for a potential sequel, we get the Railway Children style ending (which brings us back, yet again, to Jenny Agutter).

The Empire Strikes Back
Starts badly. All that abominable snowman business. My first worry comes with the discovery that Luke has telekinetic powers. Where did that come from? Hmm. Well, we go with it, and a quick pink bath later, and it's on with the action. The Hoth battle is (surely indisputably) great. It's in the snow for a start (always a dramatic setting), and it has big robot dog things. Yup. Plus the snowspeeders are probably the best Rebellion space-ships.
After all this, the narrative splits.
Fork 1: the muppet:
Luke lands in a swamp and is tormented by a muppet which turns out to be a jedi master. Of course, we (like Luke) are just prejudiced. Why can't something that looks like Kermit be a jedi? There is no reason. We are being sizist, froggist and muppetist. Still, Yoda is quite irritating. He is also clearly a baddy (or at least very misguided - you wait for E3). Why is the dark side bad? It just is. Oh. Don't ask difficult questions. Go in this tree. So he goes in a tree, wherein is a corridor, and Darth Vader. Only Darth Vader is Luke. Very confusing for a small child. Still. Nevermind. All very clever and deep. And Yoda is irritating. I'm sorry, but he just gets on my nerves. I should be more tolerant.
Fork 2: the MF / Cloud City:
Well handled romantic interest coupled with C3P0 at his most irritating yet (if he quotes another statistic I'm going to scream). Nice to see Mr Bronson getting his just deserts at the hands of Lord Vader. The quality of jokes in this episode is inferior to Star Wars. I blame Lawrence Kasdan.
Then we get to Cloud City, which is fine if not a little dull. And then we get the carbon-freezing, and things get more interesting.
And then there's Luke v Vader, and Luke loses a hand but gains a father. Very good. Very dramatic. Very Dallas.
Empire is not as good as Star Wars. It's not as funny. The script is rather bad. The middle is very saggy and rather dull. It's only saved by the Hoth battle and the fight with Vader.
Don't get me wrong, it's still a very good film. But it's not as good as Star Wars for the reasons I just gave. The unhappy ending is a plus point, but it's let down by the fact that you know it'll all be resolved in three years time.

Return of the Jedi
A film in two halves. The first half (on Tatooine) is simply boring. It only livens up when Luke gets his lightsabre. End of Part One. Half the film written off as a bad job, it's time for the speeder-bike chase. This is the greatest moment in cinema. By that, I don't mean that it's the greatest moment in film history, but rather that... well, this is what the big screen and the big speakers are for. Fantastic. It almost makes up for all that crap with Jabba. Time then for another diverging narrative:
Fork 1: teddy-bears:
Again, the prejudices. But aside from their cuteness (actually, I find them rather menacing) the theory here is neolithic v hi-tech. The flaw is that it's a silly theory. It'd be a silly army that'd make their armour and tanks vulnerable to rocks and twigs. Yes, we can trip up the AT-STs, but I'm not really convinced about the treetrunks in the face. And it'd take a great amount of luck and skill to get arrows in the rubber bits of a stormtrooper. In short, especially given sheer numbers, there is no way the Ewoks and Rebels could win, even with a great strategy. This is supposed to be an allegory on Vietnam, but the Vietcong were armed to the teeth with Soviet weaponry, and while it was technically  inferior hardware to that of the US, we're talking in terms of decades rather than centuries. A large and organised army with blasters is not going to be defeated by a handful of rebel scouts and a few hundred teddy-bears brandishing sticks and spears. It's silly. And it's not very good.
Fork 2: the big space-battle:
It looks great, but it is technically and aesthetically flawed. The military tactics are questionable. The rebel fleet is skimpy and samey in contract with the thing we saw at the end of Empire (where are all those other makes of ship?). That said, it's still quite pretty and exciting. Then we have the Death Star run, and the Millennium Falcon manages to fly faster than an explosion. It clearly should've got blown up. Half marks.
Fork 3: the throne room battle:
The saving grace of the entire film. Top marks to Ian McDiarmid, who delivers the best lines since Star Wars. Nice, menacing mind-games, and a decent fight. ROTJ's points are generated from this, the speeder-bikes and (to a certain extent) the space-battle.
Then Vader dies. Then the Death Star blows up creating a nuclear winter and wiping out the Ewoks. The End.

The Phantom Menace
Brr. Warm cosy feeling at the start soon begins to dwindle. Jar Jar is more annoying than C3P0. We have a totally pointless (and very crap) underwater sequence. We have a decent enough scene in the square on Naboo. We are introduced to R2D2 (difficult to do well really). Then it's off to Tatooine (groan), to see little orphan Annie (Yippee). Then there's a lot of pissing about before we get to the chariot race, which is nothing compared to the speeder-bikes, but which is the saving grace of this film. Hmm. Anyway. Then it's off to Coruscant. Dull. Then it's back to Naboo. Still quite dull. Then the plot diverges:
Fork 1: big fight outside:
Gungans v Robots. Not very compelling. Jar Jar gets in the way a lot, having watched too many Buster Keaton films. Thing about Keaton was that he was really doing it, which made it quite exciting. Jar Jar is doing it in a computer, and is just irritating. Jar Jar's main problem is that he is over-animated. His quips and actions are filling in for C3P0. But his cartoonish demeanour highlights these failings and makes him almost universally hated. This is Star Wars, not Roger Rabbit.
Fork 2: big fight in space:
Cringe-inducingly nasty. Little Annie accidentally flies the ship to the Control thingy, blows it up (what sort of hangar has a reactor core in it anyway?) and goes home having saved the day. Please. And that ship clearly has no room for R2. Pathetic.
Fork 3: big fight over a reactor shaft:
Dust off the SW clichés for a big fight over a sheer drop. This time, it's quite exciting. Obi-Wan has his chance to kill Maul and fluffs it with a flourish, earning a kick in the teeth. But how does Maul not chop his own legs off. Maul is, of course, very silly-looking, and rightfully got laughed in the cinema.
The Phantom Menace is, let's face it, a bit crap.

Attack of the Clones
Don't care about the title. Beats Phantom Menace in that category anyway. But is it any good? Hmm? Hmm.
I came to this film heavily spoiled. I'd even read the script. From this I knew the film could go either way. Then Mark Kermode had come along, and had really not been keen on it. Well, at least everyone agreed it was better than TPM. I sat through the trailers. They ended. The screen resized. I'm ready.
Then there's some irritating Warner Bros. animation telling us that the film's coming on. I don't know why they do this. It's just irritating. I know that the film starts after the trailers, and after the card that says Attack of the Clones is rated PG or whatever. I don't need Bugs Bunny to tell me. I hate Bugs Bunny. This cartoon had all of the major Warner Bros. cartoon characters in except the best one (the coyote). It even had that bloody Tasmanian Devil thing that Bugs Bunny sometimes met. And Porky Fucking Pig. I was irritated.
And then the certification card.
And then we're in. Not as magical an experience as it was for TPM, but still quite good. AN ARMY OF THE REPUBLIC. Why's that capitalised? Hmm. Anyway. Could be here all day if I take this Evan Paris approach to things. So I won't.
We start with a spaceship blowing up. The spaceship has one of Padmé's lookalikes on it, while Padmé is in a different ship altogether. Why, I don't know. This is very convoluted. They should've done a better job of it than that. They could've had an assassination attempt that was unsuccessful rather than this daft doppelganger tripe. But anyway... We'll let it go for now.
Dodgy over-animated Yoda, and dodgy dialogue come next. Then the deliberately uncomfortable "grown more beautiful I mean" line. All very icky. But after this, things pick up. Ewan's delivery is fine, and Obi-Wan and Anakin's banter is by no means awful. The whole bed-chamber stuff is pleasant enough and this leads to the big Fifth Element style speeder chase.
The best part of this sequence is the dialogue. Obi-Wan's cynicism is back to the standards of the original Star Wars. As a replacement for Han Solo, he will just about do. To say he was under-used in TPM would be an under-statement (What was Qui-Gon for, really?). So yes, then we go to a night-club. The dialogue keeps it's standard. Choppy choppy hand on floor, very good... And then we're off. Not sure why Zam was a "changeling" but who cares...
We fork:
Fork 1: Anakin & Padmé:
The least appealing of the two forks. The dialogue is dodgy to say the least, but then so was Shakespeare's. We get the drift of things from the actions. I don't really have a problem with that. For me, the lines are better than in Empire on the whole. That said, the romantic sub-plot in Empire was superior, if only because it was pride-ridden and therefore funnier. The romantic stuff in this film is slushier because they're both admitting their feelings for each other, but that's ok. There isn't any over-kill really. It's uncomfortable at times, but it's uncomfortable for them too, so that's fair enough. It could've been done better, but it wasn't done particularly badly.
So after the slush comes Tatooine (please no). But it's done well. We go back to the Lars homestead (from the original film), and that's done very well. And then we're treated to Anakin massacring some sand people, which is equally well and good. This is really good in fact. Not sure what they were doing with his mum really, but anyway... Maybe it was a big Sith set-up. Or maybe they just wanted to use her as an ornament. Ho hum. More powerful than the massacre itself is Anakin's teenage tantrum in the garage. I really thought that was quite good really. Yes. I can see why some might not like it, but I thought it was fine.
Then we have the Alien sequence, the Star Wars chasm sequence (quite nice) and the Indiana Jones production line sequence. This latter bit is perhaps a little surplus to requirements (but hey, why not?) and C3P0 proves as irritating as ever, while R2 gets the job done (not sure about the jet packs though).
Fork 2: Obi-Wan, super-cop:
Looks like one of the scenes from Obi-Wan's detective-work wound up on the cutting-room floor (Obi puts the dart in the Jedi scanner) but it was cuttable, I suppose. What we have here is the clichéd cop uncovers high-level corruption story. All done to a sufficient standard I thought. Not sure why we had the kiddy section. That seemed to work better in the script, but never mind. Cos off we go to Kamino, home to the sexiest aliens in the galaxy. They're very raunchy (in an anorexic kind of way). and this sequence is all very good. I enjoyed it. Not sure about the bloke on a whale. Seemed a bit gratuitous, like they wanted to fit the flying whales in somewhere, and thought this'll do. Hmm.
Then Obi fights with Jango Fett in the rain. It's very pretty. Not entirely sure why they bothered to have a fight, but they did and it was nice, and a headbutt was cut from the UK release apparently. But yes, there you go.
So then there's a quick homage to Empire in the form of an asteroid field and a park up on an object, before we go down to Geonosis.
And meet Christopher Lee. Whose politics should've been more ambiguous, but never mind.
Time then for the Gladiator sequence (including the best line of dialogue since Star Wars ("good job")(though it's lost a bit of its impact since the trailer)). This is the Rancor all over again. I wasn't too bothered about all this. It was alright, but I could take it or leave it.
Anyway... then the Jedi turn up and it's action time. Flashy flashy bang bang. I liked the fact that Jango turns out to be as crap as all his progeny. That was a nice touch I thought.
And then...
So the final battle beats Hoth. Great stuff. Novel camerawork (for Star Wars), Yoda looking really rather good (surprisingly) and being a compelling military leader. I found this sequence very enjoyable. Great.
And then...
Lightsabre time. It's ok. Nothing to really wet yourself about, but it does its job. Then comes Yoda. Now, muppet prejudices, I'm afraid, rise again. Much as I would've liked to keep a straight face, I found the Sonic the Hedgehog approach a little amusing. That said, it was way above my expectations (I think everybody has had the same sort of reaction with that). But in the end, it's a no-score draw, and Christopher Lee flies off with the Death Star plans, to see Darth Sideous.
And that's essentially it. End is pretty much the same as Empire, except with no carbonite-encased loose ends to worry about. Rather, there's fifty other loose ends from II and IV which need knotting together somehow, which means the next episode will have to be either very long or very rushed.
But let's not get ahead of ourselves.
Overall. I don't see how any of the negatives levelled at this film can't be levelled at Empire. It seems to me to be no more disjointed. C3P0 is about as irritating. Kamino beats Bespin (though Empire has Hoth, and Geonosis is not massively different from Tatooine). The Geonosis Battle beats Hoth. The Lightsabre battle might not be as good as that of Empire though, really. I mean, as a lightshow, it's better, but impact wise... The middle of this film seems firmer to me than that of Empire too, thanks to the Kamino section, and the Tusken massacre. So does all this add up to Attack of the Clones being better than Empire Strikes Back? Is that what I'm saying? You know, I think it might be.
But I've only seen this film once, and I've seen Empire too many times. So maybe the fight could be cleaner. And the euphoria needs to settle too. Certainly this is better than Return of the Jedi.
Having sat here for a few minutes, I have decided to give this film a provisional score of . In the future (having seen it again) this score may, on a very very good day, rise to 8. It is more likely that it won't, and indeed, it may fall to 7. Empire Strikes Back is currently also on 7½, but may also fall if it's not careful. I need to watch both again, but at the moment, Attack of the Clones has the slight edge, making it the second best Star Wars film. We shall see.

Ivan Methuselah.