By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated May 10, 2002 10:43 AM

The Force is back with George Lucas — the critical force, that is. Reviews for his “Star Wars: Episode II — Attack of the Clones” in the movie industry’s two trade papers, Variety and the Hollywood Reporter, are generally positive, notes Reuters, and in the latest issue of PEOPLE (hitting newsstands Friday), the magazine’s film critic chimes in with her words of approbation as well. The reviews say that this latest adventure, which opens nationally May 16 but which premieres this Sunday at New York’s Tribeca Film Festival, is a marked improvement over the last “Star Wars” movie, 1999’s “Episode I — The Phantom Menace.” “Virtually everything that went wrong in ‘Menace’ has been fixed, or at least improved upon,” wrote Daily Variety chief film critic Todd McCarthy in what appears to be a sharp jab at Jar Jar Binks (who delivers a much smaller, subdued role in “Clones”). The Hollywood Reporter’s Kirk Honeycutt approved of the action scenes in “Clones,” which, he said, are “pumped with lightning-quick effects and choreography . . . the whole thing feels more adult than ‘Phantom Menace.'” Rozen, in her review, cited “a spectacular final third with a string of scenes that rank among the best moments — silly, wild, visually rich — in the entire series.” Yet there are also discouraging words for the film. The New York Times critic A.O. Scott clearly did not have a very good time watching the movie. “While ‘Attack of the Clones’ is many things — a two-hour-and-12-minute action-figure commercial, a demo reel heralding the latest advances in digital filmmaking, a chance for gifted actors to be handsomely paid for delivering the worst line readings of their careers — it is not really much of a movie at all.” On to “Episode III.”