Star Wars-Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002)
|Year Of Production||2002|
|RSDL / Flipper||
Dual Disc Set
|Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||George Lucas|
Twentieth Century Fox
Samuel L. Jackson
|Case||Soft Brackley-Transp-Dual v2|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
English Dolby Digital 5.1 EX (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||2.35:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||2.35:1||Miscellaneous|
English for the Hearing Impaired
English Audio Commentary
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
I've been asked a number of times why I didn't review the DVD-Video of Attack Of The Clones, and here it is: I decided early on in the year that I would rather spend my October in Queensland, helping my father celebrate his fiftieth birthday, than reviewing a disc. If that sounds offensive to you, then I recommend you stop reading now, because some of the things that I have to say about the recent Star Wars films are not going to be pretty.
At times, I felt as if I was the only one who enjoyed The Phantom Menace and hadn't jumped on the Lucas-bashing bandwagon that had grown up around it. Oh sure, it is far from a perfect film, but George Lucas obviously doesn't give a rat's about things like Oscars or critical praise - he would rather entertain his audience. In spite of the fact that the previous episode gave most viewers a headache with all the location changes, it was a rollicking good time enjoyed by all at the premiere. So what does Attack Of The Clones do to sour the experience of both itself and the previous instalment in the series? In a nutshell, it makes it quite obvious that George Lucas has so far taken in excess of 270 minutes to say what Black Sabbath said in less than six with a song called Iron Man. Or maybe it is because it commits the ultimate sin in my eyes, making promises of revealing much-debated points in its own mythology, and then delivering precisely nothing, in true X-Files style.
The story takes place about ten years after the previous episode, and things have not improved at all within the Galactic Republic - they have gotten worse, if anything. A movement of separatists, led by the mysterious Count Dooku (Christopher Lee) has declared their intentions to leave the Republic, and debate is raging in the Senate as to how to respond. One faction is intent on creating an army, convinced that the separatists will do the same and declare war upon them, while others believe that a more pacifist solution is in order. Senator Padmé Amidala (Natalie Portman) is one of the voices crying out against the creation of the army, and the film begins with an attempt upon her life by the opposing factions. Convinced that Dooku is behind the attempt, Padmé is determined to continue appearing in the Senate and speaking her mind, but shortly after Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and his apprentice, Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) are appointed her bodyguards, the assassins make another attempt.
While Obi-Wan investigates the assassination attempts, Anakin accompanies the Senator back to her homeworld, Naboo. While these two stumble their way through one of the most awkward attempts at romance I have seen in a film, Obi-Wan discovers an army comprised of clones on the planet Kamino. He is told by the powers that be on Kamino that the clones are being created at the behest of a Jedi Master who, oddly enough, has been dead for most of the past decade. More importantly, he meets the bounty hunter that is being used as a template to create this clone army, Jango Fett (Temuera Morrison), who just happens to be the same assassin behind the attempts on Padmé's life. Eventually, Obi-Wan follows Jango and his cloned son, Boba (Daniel Logan), to the planet Geonosis, where the separatists are preparing for war. How it all works out is something I will leave for the viewer to find out.
Director George Lucas is quite honestly off in la-la land, as I don't think he quite realises that the audience is sick of stilted dialogue, and more importantly in this case, bad photography. One of the big bragging points about Attack Of The Clones is that it is the first feature film to be shot using an entirely digital process, in this case a High Definition process called CineAlta. Unfortunately, this process has the same resolution as HDTV (1080), with the only difference being that it is progressive rather than interlaced - it is unfortunate because thirty-five millimeter film is rated at approximately 4000 pixels. The result is that the theatrical exhibition outside of poky little cineplexes using anything other than Texas Instruments' DLP projectors looked like crap, to be frank. I am not making that up - the sequence in which our Jedi heroes pursue Zam Wesell (Leeanna Walsman) was so blurry that I thought I was hypoglycaemic when I saw it, ate too many sweets as a result, and spent much of the rest of the film urinating into a cardboard cup.
Okay, so I am not as enamoured with this film as I might have been when I was in my early twenties, or out of my gourd on stimulating drugs, but that's just the point. George Lucas has emphasised the technical over the dramatic once again ("look, my film has 1500 special effects shots, three times more than Titanic!", "look, I shot this film digitally!"), and it has suffered badly. Considering the subject matter of Episode III (Anakin becoming Darth Vader), I think we would be better served if Lucas handed over the writing and directing assignments to Ed Neumeier and Paul Verhoeven respectively.
You will recall that I spent a lot of the plot synopsis rambling about how poor Attack Of The Clones looked when converted for display in a theatre that isn't digital. This is because it suffers the embarrassment of looking far better on home video than it did in the theatre. About the only medium other than VHS (which goes without saying) I can think of that wouldn't allow it to look better than the thirty-five millimetre monstrosity would be Video CD. You will also recall that the good Doctor did a review of this DVD-Video, which can be read here - you will find that his opinion and mine are not that far apart most of the time.
Attack Of The Clones is presented in its intended aspect ratio of 2.35:1, and it is 16x9 Enhanced.
Another sign of Lucas' inability to come back to the real world, as Natalie Portman so ironically recites at one point, is the sharpness in this transfer, or rather the manner in which it has been manipulated. Edge enhancement has been applied to some degree here, as is evidenced by the aliasing on Yoda's ears in a few scenes, and it still astounds me how Lucas has failed to comprehend that this annoyance is totally unnecessary on a sharper medium such as DVD. The shadow detail of the transfer is good, although it is limited by minor compression artefacting in the darker parts of the transfer, and low-level noise is thankfully completely absent.
The colours of this transfer are also far better than what was experienced theatrically - in place of washed-out, murky blotches in such scenes as anything that happens on Geonosis or Tattooine, we see deep, resonating shades of colour that, aside from the occasional subtle posterization, tease the viewer in a manner that the theatrical exhibition should have done. Needless to say, composite artefacting is nowhere to be found here.
MPEG artefacts were mildly present, with subtle posterization in skin tones, clothes, or backgrounds being the main problems, as well as the odd minor dose of macro-blocking in darker backgrounds. By far the biggest complaint I had about The Phantom Menace's transfer, however, was aliasing, and while I am more sensitive to this artefact than anyone else on this reviewing team, and probably 99.99 percent of the population to boot, my father, who is far less sensitive, noticed this artefact in Attack Of The Clones, too. Jar Jar's classic stab in the guts to democracy, his proof that he does serve a useful purpose in the plot (as I have been saying all along) at 90:00 is one example where aliasing is still running free. The outside shot of Dex's diner at 30:15, however, is where my dad and I came to mutual agreement that Lucas really needs to stop it with the edge enhancement. Film artefacts, on the other hand, are remarkably absent due to the digital nature of the transfer, but this is a miniscule advantage in context of the crappy theatrical exhibition and the aliasing.
Is it as bad as The Phantom Menace? No, but then, The Phantom Menace suffers one of the worst transfers of all time, exceeded only by The Thing in terms of demonstrating how badly we need to rid ourselves of interlacing. However, it is a long way away from being what I call good. Don't get me wrong, it is watchable, but as the recent DVDs of such titles as Antz or The Fellowship Of The Ring show, it should be a hell of a lot more.
The subtitles on this DVD are encoded in much the same way as was done on the previous episode. Seamless branching is used to make the titles appear in the selected subtitle language, so "A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away..." becomes "For lenge siden i en galakse langt, langt borte...", or Attack Of The Clones becomes Klonen Angriper (I think something is lost in the translation) when Norwegian is selected. The English for the Hearing Impaired subtitles are quite accurate and easy to follow, while the subtitles used to translate the alien tongues in the film are much more attractive and easy to read than the burned-in ones of the theatrical exhibition.
This disc is RSDL formatted, with the layer change taking place just before Obi-Wan Kenobi's starfighter appears outside of Geonosis' atmosphere at 63:47. This layer change sticks out like Christopher Lee among the cast, but this is going to be the case no matter where the layer change is placed, so we can let this one slide.
Three soundtracks can be found upon this DVD. The first, and default, soundtrack is the original English dialogue, rendered in Dolby Digital 5.1 EX at 448 kilobits per second. The second soundtrack is a Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded effort at 192 kilobits per second, and I have to applaud Lucas in this case for insisting that a separate stereo-compatible soundtrack be placed on the DVD, rather than the 5.1 effort being optimised for downconversion. The last soundtrack is an audio commentary, also in Dolby Digital 2.0 with surround-encoding and with a bitrate of 192 kilobits per second. I listened primarily to the first and last soundtracks, with a few samplings of the second soundtrack for good measure.
Allow me to borrow a quote from my review of The Phantom Menace and alter it slightly - if you have a setup that is capable of playing back a 5.1 soundtrack with a decent amount of wattage, this DVD will kick you in the butt until your nose bleeds. If you have a setup that is capable of playing back the rear channel matrixed into the EX format, then this is a title worth owning for demonstration purposes.
The dialogue is clear and easy to understand from all human, English-speaking sources. Zam Wesell spits out some unintelligible syllables when she is killed, but this was intentional and nothing to be worried about. Occasionally, dubbed lines sound a little less "there" than other dialogue, with the occasional hiss or very minor distortion occasionally noted on my setup, but this is probably the only complaint anyone will have about this soundtrack.
The minor issues with audio sync from the first film, with dubbed voices, were mostly absent from this one. While the Trade Federation leaders do appear in this film, and their audio sync is still quite hilarious, their role here is a very minor one. The transfer doesn't add audio sync problems of its own.
I was also quite disappointed in the score for Attack Of The Clones. While episodes IV, V, VI, and I have had some very distinct, moving, and powerful examples of leitmotif themes married to the dialogue and action, there just doesn't seem to be anything distinct about this effort. Indeed, the exact same choral phrases used to accompany the three-way duel of The Phantom Menace are used when Anakin is searching for his mother, with no effort at all to build upon them or take them in a new direction. I expected better from John Williams, especially on the basis of the other four Star Wars episodes. It is quite ironic, really, that the score for The Two Towers, which was released in the same year, does a big crap on this effort from an almighty height.
Now, if you recall my review of The Phantom Menace, you'll doubtlessly remember that I found the 5.1 EX transfer to be the exact opposite of many early 5.1 mixes, in that there was scarcely a moment when something wasn't coming out of the surround channels. The same deal applies here - the surround channels are used constantly in order to envelop the viewer in the action to an extent that just isn't possible in theatres. Blasters, lightsabers, passing spacecraft, and even subtle little environmental sounds are spread throughout the field in order to create an audio demonstration the likes of which is rarely seen. On top of all that, one will note that in a properly set up 5.1-channel system, sitting between, and slightly in front of, the rear channels will give the listener a vague sense of the rear centre effects if they don't have a 6.1 (or 5.1 EX) compatible setup.
The subwoofer is also extremely aggressively used by this soundtrack, and there are few moments when it is not being used to augment the on-screen action. The pursuit of Slave I to Geonosis in particular is quite an innovative use of the LFE channel, making me wish it could be made a little more directional.
|Surround Channel Use|
The menu is heavily animated, themed around the various locations of the film (and a different one appears every time the disc is put in, my favourite being the watery Kamino theme), accompanied by Dolby Digital 2.0 audio, and 16x9 Enhanced. I noticed one bug with the Coruscant theme, in which a brief flash of the power couplings appears whenever a choice is made on the subtitles menu.
I don't know why, but I honestly find audio commentaries by George Lucas and his crew to be quite boring, even irritating. Presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 with surround-encoding at 192 kilobits per second, much of this audio commentary concentrates on the artistic considerations behind the story presented in this episode. One good feature of this commentary is the subtitle track that keeps us up to date on who is speaking, something I wish all audio commentaries with more than three participants would incorporate.
Most of this blooper reel is patently unfunny in spite of a few chuckling moments here and there. Running for two minutes and twenty-four seconds, this extra is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 with 16x9 Enhancement and Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded audio. Interlacing artefacts are easily discernable when the transfer is moved through frame-by-frame.
A poor substitute for a proper calibration disc such as Video Essentials, but it is nice to have the option for those who feel that the calibration discs on the market are too expensive.
The 16x9 enhanced menu for disc two also plays a random background sequence for each disc insertion, and lists the following sections, which in turn lead to the following subsections:
Four theatrical trailers presented under their own submenu. All of them are presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 with 16x9 Enhancement and Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded audio. In order, these are:
Teaser 1 - Breathing (1:01)
Teaser 2 - Mystery (1:11)
Teaser 3 - Forbidden Love (1:11)
Theatrical Trailer - Clone War (2:20)
Of these four, I am most impressed with the Theatrical Trailer, which I saw in the local Croydon theatre while waiting to see The Fellowship Of The Ring for the seventh time. Unlike a lot of theatrical trailers, it doesn't make the film out to be more exciting than what it really is (I doubt that is possible with this film).
Clocking in at four minutes and thirty-three seconds, I have to say that the music video format does not work well for John Williams. Repeating far too many samples of the dialogue for its own good, it promotes the feeling that Williams was a little bereft of ideas on this excursion. It is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 with 16x9 Enhancement and Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded audio.
The TV Spots included in this menu are split into two groups, which I will deal with in order.
In the order that they are listed in this submenu, the Character-based campaign consists of spots for Obi-Wan, Anakin, Padmé, Mace, Yoda, Artoo, Jango, and the Clones. Each spot is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, and they are not 16x9 Enhanced. They are accompanied by Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded audio, and collectively run for a total of four minutes.
In the order they are listed, the Action-based campaign consists of spots titled Jedi, Anakin's Story, Biggest Action Hero, and War. Again, each spot is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, and they are not 16x9 Enhanced. They are accompanied by Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded audio, and collectively run for a total of two minutes.
Two lengthy documentaries are presented under this submenu - From Puppets To Pixels: Digital Characters in Episode II, and State Of The Art: The Previsualization of Episode II. The former runs for fifty-two minutes and twenty seconds, while the latter runs for twenty-three minutes and twenty-seven seconds. Both are presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 with 16x9 Enhancement and Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded audio. These are probably the best extras on the disc, as they give a great deal of insight into the processes of making the entire saga, and are not just the propaganda pieces that I was growing used to.
Eight deleted scenes, totalling 11:28 in length (or 20:01 with the introductions), are presented under this menu. In order, these are Padmé Addresses The Senate, Jedi Temple Analysis Room, Obi-Wan And Mace; Jedi Landing Platform, Extended Arrival On Naboo, Padmé's Parents' House, Padmé's Bedroom, Dooku Interrogates Padmé, and Anakin And Padmé On Trial. Each scene is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, with 16x9 Enhancement and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. The introductions are presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, with 16x9 Enhancement and Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded audio.
Unfortunately, George Lucas and his crew blunder enormously by claiming that they didn't work or that they made the film too long. A good example of this are the scenes with Padmé's family on Naboo - these actually add another dimension to the two principal characters. Without them, the "romance" aspect seems very ham-fisted, and I know I am not the only one who wondered why such a strong woman as Padmé would fall in love with such a whiny little t***. These scenes show rare moments when Anakin gives her a genuine reason to love him, so the film suffers without them.
Three featurettes are presented under this sub-menu - in order, they are Story, Love, and Action. Each one is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, with 16x9 Enhancement and Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded audio. Story runs for nine minutes, Love runs for nine minutes and thirty-six seconds, while Action runs for eight minutes and nine seconds.
A dozen documentaries that were featured on the official web site are presented under this menu. Each one is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 with 16x9 Enhancement and Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded audio. Their total running length is sixty minutes and eighteen seconds. To be quite honest, I feel they are little more than advertising fluff, as they only serve to highlight George Lucas' complete disconnection from the real world. Here We Go Again is an excellent example of this, because if Attack Of The Clones is the best that digital cinema has to offer, then the promised revolution is still quite some time away (oddly enough, the difference in actual resolution between digital video and 35mm film is never mentioned).
For those who still give a damn, the documentaries are:
Here We Go Again - The Digital Cinema Revolution Begins (6:25)
Wedgie 'Em Out - Designing the Jedi Starfighter (4:35)
We Didn't Go To The Desert To Get A Tan - Location shooting around the world (6:09)
Trying To Do My Thing - Hayden Christensen Is Anakin Skywalker (4:23)
A Twinkle Beyond Pluto - Extras Fill Out The Star Wars Galaxy (5:36)
It's All Magic - Visual Effects wizardry starts on the set (5:02)
Revvin' It To The Next Level - Sounds from a galaxy far, far, away (5:14)
A Jigsaw Puzzle - Building model Communities (5:10)
Bucket Head - Introducing The Fett Family (5:15)
Good To G.O. - The Jedi Knights In Action (5:10)
P-19 - The Wardrobe Of Padmé Amidala (4:49)
Reel 6 - Creating The Action In The Geonosis Arena (6:30)
Three photo galleries are presented under this menu - Exclusive Production Shots, One-Sheet Posters, and International Outdoor Campaign. They all feature something that every photo gallery ought to have - annotation.
This twenty-five minute and thirty-nine second featurette is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 with film footage in 2.35:1, is 16x9 enhanced, and is accompanied by Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded audio.
This rather interesting-looking three minute and twenty-seven second featurette is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 with 16x9 Enhancement and Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded audio.
This rather hilarious six minute featurette about everyone's favourite little droid is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 with film footage in 2.35:1, 16x9 Enhancement, and Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded audio.
This is a simple, and very small, photo gallery showing a handful of very crude-looking promotional ads that were posted in American universities. It can be accessed by highlighting what looks like a calendar behind Dex in his own little submenu.
A pox on the damned things. If we're going to have this type of content, why not just put the trailers or data that is being linked to in a form that can be read by standalone players?
There is censorship information available for this title. Click here to read it (a new window will open). WARNING: Often these entries contain MAJOR plot spoilers.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
The video transfer is an improvement over The Phantom Menace, but still very disappointing given the potential of the source material. If The AV Channel can do such a great job with Li'l Horrors, why can't a multi-million dollar juggernaut like Lucasfilm do justice to similar source material with their product?
The audio transfer, on the other hand, is very much the same as The Phantom Menace, in that it will push your Dolby Digital decoder to its limits and beyond, giving us yet another good reason to prefer the home theatre, at least sonically.
The extras are rich and comprehensive.
|DVD||Toshiba 2109, using S-Video output|
|Display||Samsung CS-823AMF (80cm). Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL).|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.|
|Amplification||Sony STR DE-835|
|Speakers||Yamaha NS-45 Front Speakers, Yamaha NS-90 Rear Speakers, Yamaha NSC-120 Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Active Subwoofer|