This film's not very good. But at least it's better than the execrable Episode I.
Like everybody else, I'm happy that George Lucas got smart enough to cut Jar Jar Binks out of most of the action, and we don't have to deal with the insufferable Jake Lloyd running around saying "Yippee!" left and right. But Episode II is a joyless film, not so much because of its darker storyline, but because Lucas has succeeded in making a film so sterile and prefabricated that there is a complete absence of wonder. It's like a two-hour-plus effects reel. And though the effects are, as expected, pretty flawless, they feel empty. Even the sand on Tattooine - which was, presumably, real sand in Tunisia - doesn't feel as gritty as it did in the past films.
So the only thing audiences can really respond to - forget Hayden Christensen's bland Anakin Skywalker - is the fun fight scene where a CGI Yoda opens up his can of marketing-campaign-friendly whoop-ass on Christopher Lee (who I'm happy to see getting such high-profile work so late in his long career). Unless you are also the sort to go for Natalie Portman getting her shirt ripped half off by ravenous dino-creatures, and who isn't?
In fact, Lucas almost suggests an awareness of his own material's campy qualities in these scenes, but even though he injects much more life into Episode II than its disappointing (to say the least) predecessor, substituting lots of chase scenes and Perils of Pauline-style derring-do, the magic is gone. The trash compactor scene in the original Star Wars still packs more tension and excitement than Episode II's flashy, video-game-like struggle on a conveyor belt, with pots of molten steel and limb-crushing chunks of machinery. More creative, too.
Well, at least I will have my memories of being 7 years old and being thrilled by the first and only true Star Wars (all you Empire Strikes Back nuts will never convince me that that is the better film). I suppose it's better in the long run that George Lucas has lost his sense of fun; at least it helped put his entire saga in perspective - the man didn't create a myth, he made a few science fiction movies. Some were good and some were bad. Now let's get on with our lives.