Star Wars Episode II
Attack Of The Clones
Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
Film Length: 143 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 16X9 Enhanced Widescreen (2.35:1)
A Jedi Shall Not Know Anger.
Nor Hatred. Nor Love.
It's sort of funny how your perspective on a film
changes the more you see it. Many of you may
remember that I had posted one of the very first
internet reviews of Attack Of The Clones.
In that review I stated that Clones was "the
Empire Strikes Back of this new saga" and "it goes
back to the formula that made everyone fall in love
with the series in the first place."
While all of that may be true, time and repeated
viewing have made me feel lesser of this film.
Certainly, Lucas has improved upon The Phantom
Menace, probably the most over hyped motion
picture of the last decade whose inability to
satisfy Star Wars fans ruined the reputation of
the entire series.
Attack of the Clones opens approximately ten years
after the events of The Phantom Menace. Anakin
Skywalker (Hayden Christensen), having spent a
decade under the supervision of his mentor, Obi-Wan
Kenobi (Ewan McGregor), is anxious to become a
full-fledged Jedi. A large group of systems
have openly rebelled against the Republic, forming
a Separatists movement within the Senate, all
marshaled behind a man known only as Count Dooku
(Christopher Lee). After an assassination attempt
on senator Amidala (Natalie Portman), Anakin and
Obi-Wan are assigned to protect her. Anakin's reunion
with Padmé has sparked long-standing feelings within
the young Padawan, and both begin to form a sensual
bond with each other, making them look like two
horny celibates. Amidala stands at the vanguard of
two movements within the Senate -- the loyalist
faction, in favor of holding the Republic together;
and the anti-army faction, who sees the concept of
an Army of the Republic as a dangerous way to keep
that Republic together.
Filled with awesome new and unique panoramic
landscapes, Clones is a visual treat. The
root of the problem is, the more I watch AOTC,
the more I am bothered with Lucas's writing ability.
The film is filled with redundant and sappy dialogue.
Even worse, for nearly its entire length, we are
subjected to the whining and grating of pre-Vader
Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) who not only
complains about everything, but has to deliver some
of the most poorly written romantic dialogue,
latching onto Padme (Natalie Portman) as if he was
some sort of galactic stalker.
As always, the effects and locales are visually
stunning. Thrilling 'car' chases through the
Blade Runner-esque streets of Coruscant. Detailed
battle sequences. Light sabers 'thrumming' through
the air. And while the story is a bit sluggish
throughout its first half (mostly concentrating
on the love story), Attack of the Clones is
entertaining when it shifts into high gear such
as the climatic battle featuring a digitally
reinvented Yoda and a towering Darth Tyranus.
How is the transfer?
There has been much debate over the past few
years whether film should be replaced by the new
digital medium. No matter what your personal
thoughts are on this matter, there is no denying
that digital filmmaking has a direct impact on
DVD transfer presentation.
Never before have I seen a film look this
incredible on any format. This DVD will be the
benchmark that all other DVDs are compared to.
The transfer looks so absolutely clear and defined
that it comes just short of looking high-def.
This is what a direct digital to digital transfer
does for DVD. It gives you a picture that is
virtually flawless in every aspect. What you have
is absolute picture purity with no underlying film
grain or noise. You have sharpness and detail that
is unprecedented. The perfect example of this can be
seen on the planet Geonosis where grains of sand on
the desert floor are seen with uttermost detail that
would otherwise look blotchy on film. Colors
throughout this transfer are not only solid and
stable, but practically leap off the screen. There
are two visual highlights on this DVD. The first
involves the car chase across Coruscant in which
the depth and texture of the scene is nothing short
of eye-popping. It almost looks 3D. Then there's
the final battle between Anakin and Dokuu. For
almost thirty seconds the two characters become
invisible, represented only by their red and blue
light sabers that glow with such intensity that
has to be seen to believed.
The 5.1 Dolby digital mix is not as aggressive nor
hot as The Phantom menace mix was, but far more
balanced with sounds being more accurately placed
through your speaker array. The LFE channel
response is particularly strong, accenting starship
crossovers, speeding racers, and effect explosions.
John William's fabulous score so wonderfully envelopes
the sound area. I have to go back and once again
rave about the car chase across Curuscant. The sonic
support is just as impressive as the visual. You
really get a sense of how masterfully sounds are
placed in each individual channel making you feel
as if you were taking part in the chase itself.
There is no doubt that the dynamics of this soundtrack
are perhaps the best of any DVD to date.
Attack of the Clones arrives in a 2-disc
widescreen edition. A separate full-frame edition
is available to those who prefer portions of their
picture lopped off.
As you pop in the DVD, you are immediately treated
to an exciting menu sequence that begins with a
starfield and the STAR WARS logo. The transparent
letters of the logo contain individual scenes from
the film. The logo is suddenly overshadowed by
an EPISODE II logo which then dissolves back into
the starfield as we are led through an asteroid
belt and onto the planet of Geonosis where the
great arena becomes the backdrop for the MAIN MENU.
All of this was wonderfully created by designer
Van Ling, whose work is impeccable throughout this
Disc One contains the entire film that
has the option of being played in Dolby Digital
5.1 surround EX or in Spanish or French
2.0 Dolby Surround.
Feature length commentary by George Lucas,
Rick McCallum, Ben Burtt. Rob Coleman, Pablo Helman,
John Knoll and Ben Snow. Other than Lucas and
McCullum, it's very hard to distinguish many of
the unfamiliar voices, so I'll just generalize
some of the information given. George Lucas begins
by saying that the purpose of the first film was
to introduce all the politics of the story. Now, he's
happy that he can finally get into the demise of
the Jedi order and the ultimate rise of the Empire.
Right off the bat, the filmmakers talk about the
importance of taking the leap and creating a digital
Yoda. Actually, there were two shots in Phantom
Menace that featured the digital character. Now
was the time to take it one step further. During
the entire car chase through Coruscant, we learn
how all the bits and pieces of digital effects were
put together including the challenges of creating
a city with buildings that don't look the same.
As the film progresses and heads over to the Jedi
temple, we learn how many of the background plates
used in Episode I were re-used here. Lucas
points out that the diner scene was a homage to
his "American Graffiti" film. We also learn that
the library scene was added as a prelude to the
next film where we will learn more about the person
who erased the archival tapes. During the chase
into the asteroid field, the filmmakers give us a
pretty good idea of where we are at -- a audio black
hole where all sound gets pulled in for an instant,
holds it, and then lets it snap back. Cool! The
filmmakers tried not to go too over-the-top in
the violence portrayed in the great arena battle
(George is sensitive to those issues), but all
agreed that a lot of what is shown is the kind of
stuff a 9-year old would love to see! Rick McCullum
explains that the entire sequence was a nightmare
to shoot, getting the lighting just right, building
the miniatures, and pulling the entire sequence
together with very little use of storyboards.
The commentary remains for the most part very
low-key and technical. There's no sense of anyone
having a lot of fun here, but the information is
Disc Two is where you'll find your meat
and potatoes worth of supplemental features. There
is a lot of material to go through here, and I am
more than happy to break it down for you as best
Once again, the DVD begins with a very impressive
animated menu by designer Van Ling. As the faces
of each of our characters dissolve in and out of
a revolving table, we are led through the doors
and into the halls of the great library. This
will be the setting for our Main Menu. I will
take you through each of the selections in order
of their appearance here.
First up is Theatrical Trailers and TV Spots
that take us to the beautiful neon-lit heights of
Curuscant. The first screen gives us 4 neon-lit
choices of trailers. The first are the original
teaser trailers that we all so fondly remember.
The fourth is the film's final original
theatrical trailer. It is also here that you
will find the music video, "Across The
Stars" that features John William's orchestra
performing highlights of the film's score on
a huge scoring stage, intertwined with clips from
the film. When you click on TV Spots you
are whizzed from balcony heights into the cantina
below where you stop at a new menu that gives you
a selection of 12 spots to choose from. These spots
are broken down by character and action sequences.
Let's move on to the Documentaries area....
There are two Documentaries presented
on this DVD. The first is a very impressive
documentary called From Puppets to Pixels
that I originally saw out at Fox studios last month.
This 56-minute documentary features animation
director Rob Coleman and his team at LucasFilm.
Most prominent in this feature is the creation
of an all-new Yoda. For the first time, this
beloved creature has gone from puppet to digital.
While the team at LucasFilm were able to create
a much more refined character, they were ultimately
afraid that their new creation would look vastly
superior to the original puppet. Therefor, flaws
were intentionally placed in the new digital
character to make Yoda like his old self. There's
an interesting moment here when Christopher Lee
comments how his entire film career has been
focused on performance. However, in this new age
of digitally superimposing your co-stars, that
performance becomes more difficult, heavily relying
on imagination. This documentary gives you a
terrific perspective of how Lucas sits down with
his people, reviews their ideas and makes his
final decisions. Funny...judging by his movies as
of late, I thought he didn't listen to anybody
State of the art: the previsualization of
Episode II is a 23-minute documentary that
takes us away from ordinary storyboards as we
learn how AOTC as well as the earlier
Star Wars films were visualized prior to shooting.
I was floored by watching side-by-side windows
that showed how World War II dogfight scenes were
almost exactly synched with the tie-fighter scenes
of the original Star Wars film. Dolls
and models on sticks were used to previsualize
the speed bike race through the forest trees.
By the time Phantom Menace came around,
computer animation became the norm for virtual
filming in real time that gave Lucas a better idea
of what he was shooting. There is lots of raw
footage of the actors working amongst blue-screen
sets and how matte paintings were added afterwards.
It's interesting to learn that the Clone War
sequences bypassed storyboards and went right into
animatics where thousands of characters were drawn
into this highly complex sequence. The animators
were given a lot of free reign by the director as
they introduced some unique camera angles and zoom
shots not ordinarily associated with this type of
There are 8 deleted scenes that include...
* Padme addressing the Senate giving a passionate
speech against the Republic raising an army. The
scene was obviously a little too long, thus
warranting its removal.
* Obi-Wan brings the poison dart to the Jedi
analysis room to see if the source of the dart
can be identified. It was one of the first
sequences finished for the film, and it looks
great, but the scene became an unnecessary
* This is my favorite deleted scene which I
strongly argue should never have been removed, or
better yet, used in place of another scene. Here
Obi-Wan and Mace talk against a beautifully
detailed landing platform. Amongst the things
discussed is Obi-Wan admitting to Mace that his
young Padawan has emotional connections to the
Senator and may not be ready to be on his own.
* An extended arrival on Naboo has a nice grand
location and some extended dialogue between
Anakin and Padme (some of it political), but
overall it was a bit too long and information was
presented here that no significance on the film.
* Here's another great sequence that had to be
removed for time restraints. Padme visits her
parents on Naboo. The scene explores some of
Padme's problems including her denial of Anakin's
affections. It's a great opportunity not only to
see her relationship with her parents, but the
introducing of Anakin as a sort of protective
* Be careful -- you aren't going to see the
action you want (dirty boys), but there's a scene
in Padme's bedroom where Anakin learns a little
more of her personal history. Look on the walls
for a set of 5 picture frames that contain live
* An interrogation scene with Count Dooku and
Padme. Padme demands the release of Obi-Wan
Kenobi, but it falls to deaf ears.
* Dooku pronounces sentence while Anakin and
Padme stand trial. The scene was removed as it
presented Dooku as a bad guy too early on.
It's interesting to note that all of these
sequences were finished exclusively for this
DVD. They look absolutely terrific here.
All of these scenes can be played with optional
introductions by Director George Lucas, Producer
Ric McCullum, and Editor/Sound Designer Ben Burtt.
I strongly suggest playing the introductions prior
to watching the scenes.
In the Featurettes area we find three
segments devoted to different aspects of the
film. These are mostly dull production pieces
that give us no information that we don't know
already. Story brings up up-to-date on
the last 10 years, telling us where Anakin is
at in this point of his life and where this
story in the saga is going to lead him.
filmmakers and actors such as Samuel L. Jackson
Natalie Portman and Ewan McGregor gloss over
the story that is to be told in Episode II.
Love primarily features actors Natalie
Portman and Hayden Christensen who talk about
character attractions. George Lucas compares
their attraction to that of Han and Leia. Costume
Designer Trisha Biggar talks about bringing a
softer side to Padme in this film by dressing
her in more skin revealing clothes, showing her
tummy for the first time. Action concentrates
on the action-filled magical world of Star Wars,
as cast members talk about the things that make
this film so enjoyable. Samuel L. Jackson talks
about how happy he is to finally wield a light
saber as we see some brief blue-screen Jedi
light-saber action being filmed. Unfortunately,
the only thing that Natalie Portman got to wield
was a hairdryer.
These entire three sequences run nearly 26
minutes in total. An easily skippable portion
of the disc as I found it to suffer from pure
promotional hype and little substance
Let's move on to Web Documentaries....
Web Documentaries presents us with no less
than 12 documentaries that are shorter and precisely
to the point. I'll give you a short summary of
some of the material included here. Here
we go again looks at the ongoing debate of
using digital film vs. traditional film. Fortunately
we get both sides of view here from both George
Lucas as well as the film purists. We didn't
go to the desert to get a suntan brings us
back to Star Wars and Empire as
we visit the hot desert location of Tatooine and
the icy location of Hoth (filmed in Norway). In
the old days, all the props and houses had to be
built. Now in the digital era, there is so much
more flexibility. A twinkle beyond Pluto
takes a look at the human extras that make up
the aliens of the films. Casting Director Ros
Breden talks about the huge response they get at
casting calls due to the fact these extras are also
fans. It's a nice personal look at the people who
fill the frame. Look for a hidden secret from
Episode I, where two unlikely extras are
revealed. Good to G.O. takes us to the
heyday of the Jedi Knights as Samuel L. Jackson
talks about the weapon of choice -- the light saber.
With every new Star Wars film comes an entirely
new style of fighting. To add to that, every Jedi
has their own unique style of fighting that
represents a bit of their personality. Stunt
Coordinator Nick Gillard is seen on the set giving
some pointers to Hayden Christensen. It is pointed
out that in order to do the aggressive light saber
fights, one must have a good sense of balance as
well as keen hand-eye coordination.
These documentaries run about 5-7 minutes each,
and touch on other topics such as Padme's wardrobe,
sound effects and meeting the Fett family.
Let's go to Dex's Kitchen and still galleries...
The still galleries area has many pictures
for you to browse through. Exclusive production
photos lets you look through nearly 90 personal
photos from the set. Each of these photos includes
text that gives information on the content. Next
is a gallery of one-sheet posters that give
us an idea of how the film was promoted from teaser
banners through posters that were made for the
International markets. Finally, International
outdoor campaign presents us with many of the
outdoor character shots (against sky), some of
which were cleverly used to promote the 2002 World
Cup Football Tournament.
Now let's go to Dex's kitchen and see what
he has cooked up for us....
Films are not released: they escape takes
us through one of the most important elements of
this film: sound. Enter Editor and Sound Designer
Ben Burtt who has been recording sounds since 1975.
There are now 5,000 of these recordings stored in
the Star Wars sound library. You'll have a smile
on your face as you see where many of the sound
elements from the film originated from. The sound
of a bi-plane was used for the fighters on the
planet Geonosis. The sounds of real machinery were
used in the film's pressing plant sequence. The
sounds had to be recomposed, however, to give it a
more alien-like quality. There's a wonderful moment
where we see Frank Oz at the studio mike providing
voice to his new digital alter-ego. Of course no
documentary would be complete without talking about
the Foley artists who use ordinary props to make
sound effects, acting the film out as if it were a
radio show. What really turned me off was
watching how kissing noises were added to Padme and
Anakin's most intimate moments. Really, folks, some
things should never be revealed.
(length: approx. 25 minutes)
You will love this! Episode II visual effects
breakdown montage gives us the skinny on all
the layering of the ILM effects that were added
to raw footage. With a techno beat as its base,
this becomes an uplifting, fun and revealing look
at creating digital magic.
(length: approx 3.5 minutes)
For those of you that read about our visit to
Fox studios last month, you are probably aware
of how much we enjoyed R2-D2: Beneath the Dome.
This 6-minute mockumentary promo chronicles the
rise and fall of our droid friend. Did you know
that R2D2 used to hang out with Richard Dreyfuss
in his early years, only to snub the actor after
becoming jealous of Richard's success? How about
the years where R2D2 performed in dance recitals
and stage shows? You'll be amazed as Francis Ford
Coppola talks about how he begged R2D2 to play
Michael Corleone in The Godfather, only to
be turned down by the droid. Of course, fame
comes with a price, as we see a down-and-out R2D2
on skid row living beneath newspapers. This will
certainly be a feature of the DVD that will be
talked about for months to come.
DVD-ROM content connects you to a website
only available to owners of this disc. The site
has a tremendous amount of content ranging from
unpublished photos as well as inside information
on the making of both The Phantom Menace and
Episode II DVDs.
Despite its flaws Episode II is still
the best Star Wars film since The Empire
Strikes Back. Do I really have to twist
your arm to buy this DVD? Star Wars fan or not,
you really need to experience this film in your
own home as it will truly test the limits of
your home theater system. The transfer of this
DVD looks unlike anything you have seen before.
It's a reference disc that will be hard to beat
since everything else is just...well...film.
Release Date: November 12, 2002
*** My thanks to Steven Simon who contributed
some remarks on audio and video transfer quality to this review