After the longueurs of 'The Phantom Menace', George Lucas was taking no chances: ten minutes in, Obi-Wan Kenobi is diving through an 800th-floor window on a thrilling aerial chase after an assassin. Sub-'Dune' galactic politics take a back seat to torrid tales of teen lust (with dialogue to match), as trainee Jedi Anakin Skywalker (later to succumb to the Dark Side of the Force and become Darth Vader - keep up at the back there) develops a forbidden pash for Senator Amidala (Natalie Portman).
Hayden Christensen is a winning mix of sultry and sulky as the now older Anakin, while Ewan McGregor is finally beginning to relax as the mentor who understandably refuses to treat his moody pupil like a grown-up. On the debit side, the film is designed to bridge episodes 1 and 3, and to foreshadow the original trilogy, and is thus pregnant with exposition - but without many twists or insights.
Until the last half-hour, that is. Then here comes Christopher Lee, in enlivening Saruman mode, as chief goodie gone bad. After an astonishing 'Gladiator' scene, Samuel Jackson finally gets to kick some ass - 'This party is over!' - and old Yoda moseys into the kind of showdown likely to get the faithful leaping from their seats.