Star Wars: it’s the epic science fiction franchise that no home theater should be without. Attack of the Clones is the second film in the series (or fifth, depending on how you count), marking the transition from young Anakin Skywalker in the first movie to a new rebellious teenage Anakin. In this outing, Anakin and his master, Jedi Obi-Wan Kenobi, are sent to investigate an assassination attempt on Senator Padme Amidala – but little do they know that what they find will change the structure of the Republic forever.
As one of the first big-budget movies filmed using all-digital technology, Attack of the Clones nevertheless needed to be converted back to an analog format for mass release in theaters. Unfortunately, the transfer didn’t always appear to work smoothly. Many theatergoers complained of a hazy, grainy image that just didn’t seem as crisp as other, more traditional movies. Theaters selected to show the movie via digital projectors faired better, but there were still complaints of digital projection artifacts.
Despite its big-screen shortcomings, I’m pleased to say that the video transfer on this DVD is nothing short of stunning. The original Phantom Menace DVD release also sported a quality video transfer, but suffered from excessive edge enhancement. Edge enhancement is a process that bolsters the illusion of sharp images, but causes light “halos” around objects. With Attack of the Clones, there simply isn’t any of that bothersome edge enhancement, even when checking a greatly enlarged image. The quality is positively fantastic, with detail and texture to spare. Colors are vibrant and rich, black levels are solid. Some scenes do appear slightly on the dark side, but grain is minimal and there’s plenty of shadow detail to work with. I observed no pronounced artifacting or other visual nuisances such as dust or scratches – working entirely in the digital realm really pays off!
The movie occupies just shy of 8.2 gigabytes of space on the dual-layered disc, with the layer change occurring at a good point during chapter 28, at 01:06.26 into the film. The video bitrate often reaches above 9 megabits.
The DVD release of Phantom Menace proved once and for all that Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtracks could sound just as good as the best DTS mix. Attack of the Clones continues this lead, with a reference level sound mix that truly pushes the envelope. Audio is crisp and clear, dialogue is always easily heard over John Williams’ immersive music and the abundant sound effects, and bass is there in spades – indeed, at levels more reminiscent of a DTS track. Surround channels are used often and effectively, enveloping you completely in the Star Wars world. No distortions, static or peaking could be heard throughout the duration of the film.
Attack of the Clones is encoded in Dolby Digital EX, so if you have a center rear speaker you’ll be able to make use of it. Also available on the disc are lower quality Dolby Digital 2.0 surround tracks with Spanish and French dialogue. Subtitles and closed captioning are only available in English.
Although this is a dual-disc release, one of the main extras isn’t contained on the second disc. The first DVD includes an interesting full-length commentary track with director George Lucas, producer Rick McCallum, editor Ben Burtt, animation director Rob Coleman, visual effects supervisors Pablo Helman and John Knoll, plus ILM visual effects supervisor Ben Snow. You’ll also find animated chapter previews – for all 50 of them. The animated menu system is surprisingly quick to operate, with no excessively long transition screens.
Need loads of production information to keep you truly satisfied? The second disc includes a full 8.1 gigabytes of data and promises to occupy no less than six hours of your time. To start with, there’s a section entitled “Theatrical Trailers and TV Spots”. This includes three teaser trailers, the original theatrical trailer and the “Across the Stars” music video with John Williams, all in anamorphic 1.66:1 widescreen video and Dolby 2.0 surround audio. The “TV Spots” section holds 12 spots, appropriately in 4:3 video and Dolby 2.0 surround audio.
Under the “Documentaries” header are two longer features. The first, “From Puppets to Pixels”, details the changeover from hand-operated props to fully digital actors. Especially chronicling Yoda’s transformation, this 52-minute documentary (divided into 5 chapters) delves behind the scenes with in-production footage at how they worked to make the computer animated Yoda look exactly like the old puppet. Hmmm. The second is entitled “State of the Art: the Previsualization of Episode II” and looks at how much of the work in the film was done entirely in the digital realm – even before real filming began. This one is 24 minutes long, divided into 4 chapters, and includes fun “bloopers” during the end credits. Both are presented in anamorphic widescreen video and Dolby 2.0 surround audio.
The next area is possibly one of the most interesting – “Deleted Scenes”. The DVD includes eight removed sequences completed especially for this release. All eight can be shown with introduction videos and are presented in widescreen anamorphic video and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, although visual quality is lower than that of the actual movie.
Continuing onwards, there’s a “Featurettes” section that holds three short documentaries, titled “Story”, “Love” and “Action”, covering that trio of thematic elements in the finished film. All three are eight or nine minutes long and are shown in anamorphic video and 2.0 audio. Along the same vein are “Web Featurettes”, which includes twelve short videos ranging from 4 to 6 minutes in length, originally presented on the StarWars.com website. Naturally, they’re of higher quality here – anamorphic video and 2.0 audio, like most of the extras so far.
The “Stills Gallery” holds numerous photographs sorted into three categories: “Production Photos”, “One-sheet Posters” and “International Outdoor Campaign”. That last category only includes artwork, not photographs of the huge posters on famous buildings. “Dex’s Kitchen” holds a mishmash of extras. First is “Films are Not Released; they Escape”, a very interesting 25-minute documentary on Star Wars’ sound design, from engine roars to soft kisses to alien dialogue. Next is the short 3-minute “Episode II Visual Effects Breakdown Montage” which provides before-and-after views of various effects-laden scenes. Finally, there’s “R2-D2: Beneath the Dome”, a 6-minute mocumentary trailer recounting R2-D2’s “rise to fame”.
Although there’s a lot of stuff here – and very little free room on the disc – I still would have liked to see more material on actual before, during and after special effects. Otherwise, the extras complement is quite complete and should answer a lot of questions you never knew you had.
Star Wars has always been known for its magnificent action scenes and cutting-edge special effects – and Attack of the Clones more than delivers on those counts. With reference quality audio and video and loads of extras, what we have here may very well be described as the ultimate DVD demo disc!
- Reviewed by Daniel Tonks on November 8, 2002.
1-Poor 2-Fair 3-Good 4-Excellent
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