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“Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones”

Films, from the classic masterpiece “The Godfather” to the exemplary contemporary film “A Simple Plan,” have dealt with the breakdown of moral character. The lesson of all of those films is that the journey toward evil usually begins with small steps.

George Lucas has said that he believes the message of his new “Star Wars” trilogy, the prequels to his astronomically successful original series, is that the journey toward evil is often a gradual one.

Anakin Skywalker, who was just a boy in “Episode I: The Phantom Menace,” is destined to become one of the most evil characters in film history, Darth Vader. With the outcome already determined, the thrill of the prequels is discovering the journey.

What are the influences and temptations that transform Skywalker, Jedi Knight and defender of all things true and righteous, into the Dark Lord of the Sith, custodian of evil throughout the galaxy? 

In the new film, Lucas begins to offer some ideas of those influences. In “Clones,” young Skywalker becomes angry, frustrated and aggressive in several situations. All of these are emotions that Jedi are trained to suppress.

Skywalker’s future is foreshadowed in “Phantom Menace” when Yoda comments on young Skywalker’s thoughts of his mother. “I miss her,” he tells Yoda. It is that love for his mother, among several things, which allows other characters, and moviegoers alike, to see a different side of Skywalker.

The “Star Wars” films will always be, first and foremost, great entertainment. “Attack of the Clones,” though not a perfect film, is a worthy addition to the canon.

Some of the dialogue could have seen a rewrite or two. A couple of digital shots could have been clearer. Ultimately, no film will ever produce the sense of awe that the first “Star Wars” gave audiences in 1977. But for even marginal fans of the series, most will be satisfied by the story of this latest chapter.

For the Christian viewers there is also the reminder that the potential to sin is very close to the story of Skywalker. Emotions can lead to bad moral decisions. The descent toward immorality is not often a sudden thing, but comes through gradual concessions. Each sin can lead to another, and makes the next one more palatable.

Throughout “Attack of the Clones,” and very likely in the yet untitled “Episode III,” every step toward the Dark Side is a free choice that Skywalker makes. So also it is for all God’s children.  Many things, even pure things like love for family, can open one up to a choice between good and evil.

Only time will reveal if “Attack of the Clones” will be remembered and revered as fondly as the original trilogy. As for the message that good people can end up on the path to evil by taking small steps toward temptation, that is a truth which is timeless.

Roger Thomas is pastor of Northeast Baptist Church in Atlanta, Ga.

MPAA Rating: PG for sustained sequences of sci-fi action/violence

Director: George Lucas

Cast: Annakin Skywalker/Hayden Christensen; Obi-Wan Kenobi/Ewan McGregor; Queen Padme Amidala/Natalie Portman; Count Dooku/Christopher Lee; Mace Windu/Samuel L. Jackson