Boasting visual effects stunning in their detail and imagination, Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones continues to display both the familiar artistic strengths and weaknesses of director George Lucas. On the plus side, Ewan McGregor's delightful Alec Guinness impersonation is delivered with spot-on technical acuity and an ironic, subtle wink. Add to that the breathtaking vistas of completely digital imagery as seemingly real as anything ever put to film -- particularly eye-popping sequences involving an asteroid chase and a final battle between clone soldiers and droid robots. On the minus, there is bad writing, as evidenced by wooden, even immature dialogue and a dizzyingly complex plot line unlikely to be comprehended by the filmmaker's oft-stated target audience of young kids (a speciously revisionist argument from someone whose work once appealed to the kid in everybody). Lucas' touch with actors is not much more impressive than his screenwriting abilities, particularly in the laughably silly and strained love story unfolding between Anakin (Hayden Christensen, getting an "A" for effort in a whiny, unsympathetic role) and Padme (Natalie Portman, utterly devoid of personality and more robotic by a long shot than either C-3PO or R2-D2). Even the music from composer John Williams lacks the punch and scope of his career-high masterpiece score for The Empire Strikes Back, when he literally crafted a memorably rousing new theme for every one of the film's sequences. Both the best and worst moment is one in which ex-Muppet Yoda, formerly stiff as a two-by-four, comes to dazzling life as a whirling Tasmanian Devil of Jedi light saber-rattling payback. It's an audacious moment of heart-stopping frisson that stands as the prequels' high-water mark -- but it's also a reminder that gone forever are those days long, long ago, in movie theaters far, far away, when such genuine thrills arrived fast and furious.