Well, except for the ass-beasts. I don't think I've seen anyone else comment on the dreaded ass-beasts of Naboo.
Let me preface this with a caveat – I am a Star Wars fan. I have enjoyed Lucas’ vision as long as I can remember and have been one of the many people who have waited 25 years to see what a battle involving a large number of saber-wielding Jedi would look like. This is not to say that I’m going to be gushing endlessly about the series’ brilliance or am unable to find fault with Lucas’ work. I’m sharing this so that you have some idea of where I’m coming from.
The next thing I’ll say is I'm growing bored with comments made by people who would rather be sitting through the torment that is a Peter Greenaway film than just having some fun. GET OVER THE HANGUPS ABOUT THE LACK OF PROFOUND DIALOGUE AND POOR CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT! Episode II is not an art-house flick. It is a space opera. A melodrama. As such, the villains will be the rough equivalents of Snidely Whiplash in space, heroes will strike poses to demonstrate their magnificence, and the action and dialogue is calculated to be at least partially campy. It's part of the genre. I mean, didn't any of you see the 1930's Flash Gordon serials??
Ok, now that that’s out of the way: As far as I'm concerned, the film is worth spending the money on. It was fun, engaging, and advanced the story in an incredibly satisfying way. It was rich in detail, visually stunning, and for the most part not plagued with the “I’ve got new toys” schtick that made Menace painful in parts. I continue to enjoy McGregor’s portrayal of young Obi-wan, and delighted in the sheer glee that Samuel L. Jackson seems to take in playing a Jedi on screen. Even Christensen as the tortured Anakin worked. It’s easily seen how this brash, impertinant youth with what has to be bipolar disorder could have his impulses harnessed and turned inwards to create the creature that became Darth Vader. Yes, I’ll concede that his character is being painted with a rather broad brush, but subtlety doesn’t seem to work in the genre. Remember, Palpatine’s development was subtle in the last film. In that case, no one really got a clear sense of just how sinister he was and most reviewers had a difficult time following what was going on.
As expected, the courtship between Anakin and Padmé was a little on the stilted side. A large part of this can be ascribed to the conventions already discussed by alex_victory here, and another significant piece can certainly be chalked up to the awkwardness of a stormy 18y.o. with little experience in relationships trying to convince an important woman who’s supposed to be about 10 years his senior of the urgency of his feelings. It was certainly no more embarrassing than many of the relations that have been scripted into Buffy. As a necessary background piece, I don’t think I’d say that it either added or detracted much from the film... well, except for Anakin riding the gentle ass-beast barebacked. I think we all could have done without that.
Oh, last word on the subject - Yoda rocks. His kung fu is strong (I’m pretty sure that his fighting style borrowed heavily from some of the Chinese soft styles), and his fight scene might be worth the price of admission alone. Honestly, I’ve not seen a movie crowd get so excited since the Death Star blew up in A New Hope. When Yoda pulled aside his robe to reveal his saber, even my normally overly reserved roommate shouted "YEAH!" with the rest of the room.
So anyway, IF this is your bag, go see it, and let me know when you go because I’d see it again.