Star Wars: Episode II DVD Review

A new film for a new decade, Attack of the Clones tosses everything Star Wars into a blender, adding in doses of insane action and mundane dialogue to flesh out the story of Darth Vader. It's a movie that's better in parts than a whole, but as a middle film in this new trilogy, it does what it needs to do. Whether or not it's what you expected is an entirely different situation.

The special effects sequences are of course the highlight, especially the simply stunning finale. You can imagine what the original trilogy would look like if this technology were available in 1977. This is one mans vision, perfectly brought to life inside a computer. While a few minor effect shots don't quite go as planned, for the most part, this is one of the most visually stunning movies of all time.

It's what surrounds all of that that causes a problem. The cheap, poorly written, and unbearably acted love saga between Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman kills the movie early on and it's lucky to recover at all. It's a necessary part of the story and it has to be included, just not in this way. Any memorable quotes that come from this film are spoken by these two, and that's not a good thing.

There are more minor nuances strewn around, particularly the decision to create Yoda entirely with CG. You have to laugh when you watch these documentaries and see the animators struggle just to make sure the ears wiggle properly. Why wouldn't you just use the puppet for shots like these? Now when all the films are finished, there's going to be a problem with the old and new styles clashing. Then, late in the film, it seems that the animators go completely overboard as he fights Count Dooku. While the other battles occurring simultaneously try to be epic and serious, Yoda's acrobatics are far too absurd to be taken seriously.

However, for a middle film of a trilogy, Clones does almost everything else right. Its use of foreshadowing is outstanding (Anakin's shadow), it leaves a sense of dread in the viewer which will work regardless if you've seen the entire series, and it drops in a cliffhanger to make sure the next film can get off to a proper start. The use of music is also deserving of note, the Darth Vader theme slowly creeping in as Anakin slowly descends towards the Dark Side. It's a great set-up film, and one that rightfully starts the adrenaline flow for the next film. (**** out of *****)

Taken entirely from the digital source, the transfer of Clones is a marked improvement over Phantom Menace. It's still not perfect, and in fact, the newly restored masters of the original films are better. Facial detail is great here, if a bit soft in spots. Flickering is still a problem, but nowhere near as bad as it once was.

The biggest complaint is the compression, something that even a pristine transfer cannot avoid. With plenty of red backdrops throughout the movie, you should expect it. It should not be this bad however. At the very least, the edge enhancement debacle of the first film has all but been forgotten, as it's only noticeable a few times here. (***)

Staying in the form of the other films in the series on DVD, Clones provides a booming, loud, and powerful 5.1 EX mix. For some people this track is probably a bigger selling point than the movie itself. You could easily get a complaint or two from close-by neighbors. The bass is truly that brutal. The surround work captures the movement of the digital creations as if they were actually on set. There's even excellent separation work in the stereo channels. There's not a single scene that you pick out as a favorite since every action sequence provides the pounding audio home theater enthusiasts expect. (*****)

Just like Episode I, the set of extras included on this 2-disc set are actually informative and engaging which is far better than most discs that list a lot, but barely deliver. Disc 1 contains a long, talkative commentary track with George Lucas in the lead.

Disc 2 is where the extras take off, starting with From Puppets to Pixels, a 52-minute long documentary on how so many of the characters were created in the computer. Looking at people sitting a computer all day should hardly be this fascinating, but it's Lucas' strive for perfection and nitpicking that make it worth watching. The Previsualization of Episode II looks at how work started on the film, and even goes back to what they did in the original trilogy when they didn't have the aid of software. Watch it through the credits to see some animation mistakes.

Eight deleted scenes follow, with or without introductions from Lucas and his staff. Three featurettes cover love, action, and story, digging deep into each respective part of the film. The dozen web documentaries are probably the most interesting thing on the disc as they follow the making of the film as it happens.

Films are not Released; They Escape is buried in a deep section of the disc along with some visual effect breakdowns. It's a shame too since it's easily glanced over even though it covers one of the best things about the film. The disc ends with photo galleries, a music video exclusive to this disc, and trailers, including one for the hilarious R2-D2: Beneath the Dome. (*****)

Regardless of how the series finally pans out, Episode II still works just fine as an all-out popcorn movie. It has the right pieces to make it enjoyable and part of the series. It's a shame one of the most important aspects of the series (Anakin falling in love) is all handled so poorly. That really could have elevated this to classic status.

Comments (1)

Ben:

Yeah, sometimes the bass is almost scary! I keep expecting my speaker to fall asunder, or some such.

:)

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