Ewan McGregor: © & TM Keith Hamshere/Lucasfilm Ltd.
Jeff Jensen
May 13, 2002 AT 04:00 AM EDT

It has been 10 years since the events of ”Episode I.” Anakin’s gotten older. Amidala has transitioned from queen to senator of Naboo. And Obi-Wan has grown into a savvy Jedi — and grown out his hair. ”I don’t know if anyone has ever sported a mullet and beard with as much panache as myself,” jokes Ewan McGregor. George Lucas can boil ”Episode II” down to three words: ”The plot thickens.” But for those fuzzy on the state of the Force, here’s the story so far:

IS THE REPUBLIC AN EMPIRE YET? Not yet — but it is falling apart. Corruption and greed — embodied by the Trade Federation, whose blockade of tax-resistant Naboo drove the conflict in ”Episode I” — continue unabated, despite promises of reform by Chancellor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid). A growing separatist movement, led by mysterious Count Dooku, is threatening the republic’s stability. As ”Episode II” begins, Palpatine has proposed creating an army to quell the unrest, a plan resisted by pacifist Amidala.

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