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review added: 10/9/02



Star Wars: Episode II
Attack of the Clones

2002 (2002) - Lucasfilm, Ltd./20th Century Fox (Fox)

review by Bill Hunt, editor of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVsTHX-certified

Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones

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Film Rating: C+

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A+/A+/B+

Specs and Features

Disc One: The Film
142 mins, PG, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, THX-certified, single-sided, dual-layered (layer switch at 1:06:28, in chapter 28), dual-disc Amaray keep case packaging, audio commentary (with writer/director George Lucas, producer Rick McCallum, sound designer Ben Burtt, animation director Rob Coleman and effects supervisors Pablo Helman, John Knoll and Ben Snow), THX Optimizer, DVD-ROM weblink (to exclusive Star Wars DVD website), Easter egg, animated film-themed menu screens with sound effects and music, scene access (50 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1 EX), French and Spanish (DD 2.0 Surround), subtitles: English, Closed Captioned

Disc Two: Supplemental Material
From Puppets to Pixels: Digital Characters in Episode II documentary (52 mins, 5 chapters, 16x9 enhanced, languages: English DD 2.0, subtitles: English), State of the Art: The Previsualization of Episode II documentary (23 mins, 3 chapters, 16x9 enhanced, languages: English DD 2.0, subtitles: English), Films Are Not Released: They Escape documentary (26 mins, 1 chapters, 16x9 enhanced, languages: English DD 2.0, subtitles: English), 8 deleted scenes (with introduction by George Lucas, Rick McCallum and Ben Burtt - approx 20 mins total, 16x9 enhanced, languages: English DD 5.1 EX - Padmé Addresses the Senate, Jedi Temple Analysis Room, Obi-Wan & Mace - Jedi Landing Platform, Extended Arrival on Naboo, Padmé's Parents' House, Padmé's Bedroom, Dooku Interrogates Padmé and Anakin and Padmé on Trial), 12 web documentaries (approx 5 mins each, 16x9 enhanced, languages: English DD 2.0 - Here We Go Again, Wedgie 'Em Out, We Didn't Go to the Desert to Get a Suntan, Trying to Do My Thing, A Twinkle Beyond Pluto, It's All Magic, Revvin' It to The Next Level, A Jigsaw Puzzle, Bucket Head, Good to G.O., P-19 and Reel 6), 3 featurettes (approx 8-9 mins each, 16x9 enhanced - Love, Story and Action), 4 theatrical trailers (16x9, DD 2.0), 12 TV spots (4x3, DD 2.0), Across the Stars music video (16x9, DD 2.0), R2-D2: Beneath the Dome "mocumentary" trailer (6 mins, 16x9, DD 2.0), production photo gallery, poster art gallery, print campaign gallery, Visual Effects Breakdown montage (3 mins, 16x9, DD 2.0), DVD-ROM weblink (to exclusive Star Wars DVD website), Easter egg, animated film-themed menu screens with sound effects and music


"A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away..."

It's ten years after the blockade of Naboo and the events of Episode I. Padmé Amidala (Natalie Portman) is no longer Queen of her people, but now a senator and one of the key figures in a bid to oppose the creation of an army for the Republic. The apparent need for such an army is mounting, because a growing separatist movement of thousands of star systems is threatening to plunge the galaxy into civil war - a threat the limited number of Jedi seem helpless to counteract.

As the film opens, Padmé narrowly escapes an attempt on her life designed to keep her from casting a vote against the army in the Senate. Shortly thereafter, Chancellor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) convinces the Jedi Council to assign Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and his now grown apprentice, Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen), to protect her. The assassins make a second attempt to kill Padmé, but thanks to the Jedi, the attempt fails and instead results in a frantic chase through the streets of Coruscant. When the dust settles, Anakin is ordered to take the young senator back to Naboo to keep her in hiding, while Obi-Wan follows the trail of evidence back to her would-be assassins. The clues soon lead Kenobi to a distant and hidden water planet, where a massive clone army is being secretly created from the DNA of a rough-edged bounty hunter named Jango Fett (Temuera Morrison).

While his master struggles to fit these new pieces of the puzzle together, back on Naboo, Anakin finds that his long-simmering love for Padmé is beginning to overwhelm his commitment to the Jedi Order, which forbids personal attachments. Padmé is reluctant to admit her own feelings for the young Jedi-in-training, but she too feels their inexorable pull. And before all is said and done, a series of tragic events will forge their love at the very flash point of disaster - events orchestrated by the mysterious Sith, that will unleash the legendary Clone Wars, begin the transformation of Republic to Empire and turn young Anakin inevitably down the path to the Dark Side of the Force.

Attack of the Clones is, without doubt, a better film than The Phantom Menace... but it still isn't a great Star Wars film. First of all, Lucas is a slave to the complex plotting of these films, which tends to undermine the drama. As with Phantom, it seems difficult for Clones to build a real sense of jeopardy. There's never those "edge of your seat" moments you got with Star Wars and Empire. And about halfway in, the film starts to drag a bit, nearly grinding to a halt thanks to a few painfully cheesy scenes involving the romance between Anakin and Padmé. The dialogue here is as flat as ever and George's direction makes these two actors look stiff as a board. Unfortunately, once slowed, the momentum doesn't really get going again until pretty late in the last act.

But the things that do work in Episode II tend to work well. Ewan McGregor's mannerisms are getting closer and closer to Alec Guinness' venerable performance in the original Star Wars. There are lots of "connection" moments that fans will appreciate, where events resonate with what we know lies in the future from the original three Star Wars films. Jango Fett gets to mix it up in a really good tangle in the rain with Obi-Wan - a fight scene that makes the whole subplot worthwhile. We're also briefly introduced here to characters that we know will play a major part in the later films - Owen Lars, Beru Whitesun and Senator Bail Organa. Another great orchestral score by composer John Williams is like icing on the cake. And let me just say this... Yoda kicks some SERIOUS ass before this film is over. You've all wanted to see the small green one in action, in his fighting prime, ever since he uttered his first circular sentence in The Empire Strikes Back. And it's everything you could have hoped for. Short stack ROCKS - period.

Now then... as you know, The Phantom Menace was a helluva good DVD release, setting the bar very high for its eventual sequels. So does Clones measure up? Well... to start with, the film as seen on this disc includes a few additional moments newly restored by Lucas. Among these are a slightly extended version of Anakin's breakdown on Tatooine and the shot of Anakin's mechanical hand at the end of the film (previously seen only in digitally projected theatrical showings).

Attack of the Clones is also the first full-length, live action film shot on high-definition video to arrive on DVD with a straight-digital transfer. No film was involved here. The anamorphic widescreen DVD image was created directly from the final digital master of the film. And the result is absolutely spectacular. The pallet here is rich and expansive. From the most lush, vibrant hues to the subtle tones of skin and mist, this is breathtaking color. There's a smooth, natural character to the image that I don't recall seeing theatrically, even in digital projection. Contrast is very good (although not quite as good as you'd get from a film-originated image) and there's sufficient detailing in darker picture areas - again more than I remember seeing in the theater (but again not quite as good as a film print would exhibit). There's almost zero compression artifacting visible and edge-enhancement is non-existent. Being a digitally originated and mastered image, there's not a spec, nick or fleck anywhere - it's absolutely rock solid all the way through. If it's possible for a movie to look better in my home theater, short of high definition, I'll be left babbling and dumbfounded. Simply put, this is the best looking DVD video I have ever seen. And it absolutely demands to be viewed on a high-quality, anamorphic display. If you've been looking for an excuse to buy that new widescreen digital TV... here it is. No kidding. It's THAT good.

As with the Episode I DVD, the audio is also absolutely top-notch. The sonic wizardry of Ben Burtt and Gary Rydstrom is fully evident in this aggressive 5.1 EX mix. The soundstage is nicely wide up front, deep and enveloping front to back and smooth all around. The surround channels deliver terrific ambiance to create the various sonic environments of the film, and are also extremely active with panning and directional effects. The EX rear speakers fill in wonderfully and make a noticeable difference in the listener's experience of the film. Dialogue is always clean, John Williams's score sounds wonderful and the .LFE is very active with low frequency reinforcement. Audio highlights obviously include the speeder and asteroid chases, as well as the end battle. But my favorite sound effect from the film was the sound (or lack thereof) of the seismic charges Jango fires at Obi-Wan's starfighter. The "audio black hole" (as Burtt describes the effect) is immediately striking... and then the blast wave races towards you, envelopes you and then goes groaning away behind you. A really incredible sensation of 3D space is created. Amazing.

I'll say right up front that I'm not quite as impressed with the extras here as I was on the Episode I DVD. But that shouldn't really be taken as a strike against the disc. I'll explain more where appropriate as we go on. On Disc One, you get another full-length audio commentary track with creator/director George Lucas, edited together with several other members of the production team (see the full list above). It's a good track with lots of interesting bits of information, some good story points and fun little pieces of trivia (for example, watch for an X-wing being chased by TIE fighters through the streets of Coruscant - 'nuff said). Everyone has their own unique perspective and contributions to make. But I do wish George had a track all his own to talk more about the story and his thematic ideas. Note that when you're listening to the track, subtitle text appears at the top of your screen to identify each speaker in turn - a nice touch. There's also an Easter egg here (an entertaining blooper/gag reel) and a weblink to the exclusive Star Wars DVD website (where, we have been told, additional full-length audio commentaries may be made available at a later time).

A couple of additional notes to be made on Disc One: the menus are once again available in three distinctive animated "flavors", each representing the major planetary locations in the film - Coruscant, Kamino and Geonosis. They appear randomly (unless specifically selected using the instructions below) and include film images as well as much new animation. For example, watch for a new CG-rendered view of Obi-Wan and Jango's fight on the landing platform on the Kamino "Options" page. Also, the disc includes a THX Optimizer option to properly calibrate your home theater - a must to enjoy the best experience of this DVD.

The extras on Disc Two are patterned very similarly to the Episode I DVD. The thing most of you will be excited about are the 8 deleted scenes that have been completed just for this DVD release. They're presented in anamorphic widescreen video (as are most of the extras on this set) with full Dolby Digital 5.1 EX surround sound. These aren't quite feature film quality in terms of their technical polish, but they're very comparable to the scenes on the Episode I disc. In terms of content, most of these scenes feature additional character background and political detail with Padmé - her speech to the Senate, a longer arrival on Naboo, several nice moments with her family and Anakin, etc. They're great to have, but you can definitely see how having them in the film would really have unnecessarily padded the running time and slowed down the action. Unfortunately, a disappointment here is that one important omitted scene hasn't been included - the Jedi assault on the Droid Control Ship during the end battle. It's known to have been shot and edited, but it's not here, perhaps because of the time and expense that would have been required to complete the effects. There are also a number of other, more interesting deleted scenes we've heard about (the "lost twenty Jedi" discussion, the extended Mace/Jango and Dooku/Yoda fights, Padmé completing the construction of C-3P0, etc) that are also missing. Bummer.

The other major supplemental component of Disc Two are a trio of in-depth, behind-the-scenes documentaries. The most extensive of these is From Puppets to Pixels: Digital Characters in Episode II. It runs some 50 minutes and focuses on the elaborate effort to realistically create the characters of Yoda, Dexter Jetster and others with CGI. The second documentary, State of the Art: The Previsualization of Episode II, runs 23 minutes and shows you in detail the process by which Lucas and company imagine, evaluate and refine the various scenes and sequences in these films. And the final documentary is a 25-minute look at the work of Ben Burtt and his crew of sound designers, called Films Are Not Released: They Escape.

I don't want to tell you too much about these documentaries, because there's lots of fun little moments that you should experience fresh yourself. But I will tell you that they just aren't in the same league as the terrific piece by filmmaker Jon Shenk from the Episode I DVD (The Beginning). There's just something that's wonderfully intimate and revealing about being there with the cast and crew from Day One through to the release of the film, and seeing all of the most fun, important and difficult moments. You don't get that same energy here. I understand why the decision was made to look closer at particular aspects of this production, particularly given the success of the CGI Yoda. But I had really hoped that this DVD would carry on the same documentary experience as Episode I, and the fact that it doesn't is probably going to be a disappointment to some fans. That said, the documentaries you do get are still very good and quite interesting. My favorite of the three is State of the Art, for several reasons. First, it includes several shots from the original Star Wars in anamorphic widescreen, whetting my appetite for eventually having that film on DVD. It also has a funny CGI blooper reel on the end, during the credits. But the best thing about this piece is that it features extensive footage from the original animatics created for the Clone War battle sequence, MUCH of it extremely cool action that was not included in the final film. It's really a treat to see.

The rest of the extras include all 4 theatrical trailers for the film, 12 TV spots (including the Spider-Man spoof with Yoda), the Across the Stars music video that showed on MTV, 3 more short EPK featurettes, the complete 12-part web documentary series, the R2-D2: Beneath the Dome "mocumentary" trailer (very funny!), a gallery of some 75 previously unseen production photos, additional galleries with international posters and print campaign art and an ILM visual effects breakdown montage showing effects shots in various stages of completion. Finally, there's also another DVD-ROM weblink and an additional Easter egg featuring artwork from a promotional campaign for the film that was mounted on college campuses. It's all interesting stuff and well worth a look, particularly for you die-hard fans.

Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones is a reasonably fun and enjoyable film, even if it's still not quite up to the level of the original trilogy. DVD-wise, I wish the deleted footage included some of the lost action bits we've heard about. And as good as these documentaries are, they just don't hold a candle to the Episode I DVD's excellent The Beginning. More is not necessarily better, and I would have been EXTREMELY happy to have just gotten The Middle. Still, if the extras here aren't quite as good as before, they're still ample and welcome. Most importantly, the picture and sound quality here is an unqualified, outta-the-park home run. The film presentation is truly dazzling... arguably the best currently available on any DVD. That alone should justify adding this disc to your collection.

Bill Hunt
billhunt@thedigitalbits.com


Be sure to read all our Star Wars DVD reviews here at The Bits:

Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace
Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones
Star Wars: Clone Wars - Volume One
Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith
The Star Wars Trilogy - A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi


Buy this DVD now at Amazon!



Easter egg Instructions

Disc One

To access the Coruscant menu scheme, press "1" during the FBI warning screen.

To access the Kamino menu scheme, press "2" during the FBI warning screen.

To access the Geonosis menu scheme, press "3" during the FBI warning screen.

To access the outtakes reel, go to the Options menu page. Press "11" and wait for the pause as the player accepts the input (it may be "10+" and "1" depending on your player model). Then press "3" and wait for the pause. Finally, press "8".

Disc Two

To access images of flyers from the Star Wars Want-Ads college campaign, go to the Dex's Kitchen and Still Galleries menu page. Select the "To Dex's Kitchen" option. On the page with Dex, highlight "Main Menu" and select "Left" to highlight a small flyer on the wall of the kitchen behind Dex's head. Press "Enter".

Look also for additional CGI animation outtakes during the credits of the State of the Art: The Previsualization of Episode II documentary. You don't have to do anything to access them other than watch the documentary.
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