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By Josh Griffin
"Attack of the Clones has never looked better."
Not in DLP, not in your local theater, not at the elusive Skywalker Ranch in Marin County, California. What you will watch coming from your DVD player this November is exactly what George Lucas wants you to see - his digital vision for Star Wars. For the first time in history, a live-action major motion picture shot, edited and mastered digitally in its entirety is available on DVD. And the results are outstanding.
From the moment the speeder chase sequence appeared on the Sony HDTV I was blown away. Some nudges from friends sitting around me assured me that they also had never seen anything like this before. The sound from the THX-certified Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround EX screamed from the speakers, rumbling us to the inner core.
Prepare yourself for an Attack of the Clones again this fall. While not nearly as innovative at the time as the DVD release of Star Wars - Episode I: The Phantom Menace, the DVD standard is clearly been elevated once again. An extremely solid offering from Lucasfilm and 20th Century Fox, not to be missed.
Digital Film to Digital Disc
The transfer of the movie itself is stunning, regardless of what you?re watching it on. The disc supports all of the bells and whistles of the most advanced home theater options, and the picture quality is without fault. The digital version of the film may appear differently than what you saw in the theater - but it is better, and correct as it was intended. For the assurance you?re getting what you bargained for, quickly adjust your screen and sound settings using the THX Optimizer under the Options menu - then look out for color and clarity like you?re never witnessed before.
Even if you?re the kind of person that has already made the move to DVD and won?t rent ever again on video, you?re going to be impressed. And if you?ve yet to find reason to make the switch to the digital technology, prepare to be taken to the next level by Force
The movie itself remains largely unchanged, but if you know anything about Lucas it is that he cannot seem to leave well enough alone. Thus there are a few subtle additions to the movie including one scene in Lars? garage and quick corrections and cleanups to other parts. But the movie feels changed in more ways than this; because of the clarity the backgrounds are alive and teeming with life. Witness the characters literally blocks away in the background of the diner sequence, look at the detail of the millions of the Genosians winging to life inside the coliseum.
Nothing Sounds Better
The sound as we mentioned finds no rival in the DVD standard thus far. The speeder chase sequence thrills like never before and you will appreciate the nuance of sound design once again in the start of the Clone War. My favorite sound remains the "pock" when a laser hits the sand of the Genosian planet, kicking dirt up into the air.
Your rear channels will be fully tested, and the subwoofer (LFE) is particularly active as well. You?ll literally turn your head to look at the sound - and one moment not quickly forgotten is the Black Hole effect when Jango fires at Obi-Wan among the asteroids. Impressive, most impressive.
"The second disc is full of extras that are sure to be enjoyed by fans everywhere."
Lucasfilm again follows the model of their first release including deleted scenes, documentaries, and a host of other bonus material to enjoy.
The movie?s feature commentary features director George Lucas, producer Rick McCallum, sound design and editor Ben Burtt, and visual effects mavens Rob Coleman, Pablo Helman, Ben Snow and John Knoll. The commentary is rich and satisfying giving new tidbits of insight on stormtroopers as clones, and choices on many levels are explained. Lucas focuses most of his time on story and character, where Burtt discusses sound choices in great detail and Rick chats about the on set antics. Here is where someone should have made the decision to have multiple audio commentaries instead of one massive one, bit rate issues aside.
The documentary features of the second disc will be one of the first choices for fans. Two new ones include "From Puppets to Pixels" and "State of the Art" are both equally spectacular. While not on the level with the overtly honest "The Beginning" behind the scenes feature from the Episode I DVD, you?ll be pleasantly surprised with the frank look behind making Yoda come to life and witness how the animatics support the final film. In fact, the "Previsualization of Episode II" leaves you wanting Lucasfilm to release the entire movie in this early concept form. You can see some great shots here that weren?t used in the final film, including Clones shooting Genosians out of the sky and the Troopers shooting around on speeder bikes with sticky grenades. Absolutely remarkable, one could only wish for even more.
The deleted scenes are definitely the hit and miss of the disc. While there were ample possibilities for inclusions in this section, Lucas and Co. chose eight of varying potential to be seen by the fans. They are all alive in their completed form now, though none are actually included in the movie like we witnessed in Episode I.
It seems that Lucasfilm has overlooked the best of the deleted scenes (see TFN?s Deleted Scene Database) for more scenes with back-story to the characters. Each of the deleted scenes it seems feature some amount of back-story to the film, each deleted for that reason and for slowing the film down.
Each has its own merits; I particularly liked the one with Windu and Kenobi discussing Anakin on the Jedi Starfigther platform. Also included in that particular scene is the Starfigther streaking up to the hyperdrive engine, attaching and jumping to hyperspace. The others range from interesting (Padme?s family) to completely bland (The Trial). Really what should have been the major hit of the disc ends up being somewhat of a miss. Still though, you?ll make this your first stop and you know it.
There?s a pile of other little features on the disc, including tons of web documentaries, trailers and featurettes on the prequel-sequel. The caption option on the new exclusive picture gallery is innovative for now but will quickly be eclipsed by upcoming narrated ones on other discs this month.
The Episode II Visual Effects Breakdown is absolutely brilliant and one already can speculate on what Lucasfilm may give us on the DVD-exclusive weblink. Time will tell, though we?ve got to suggest new and complete audio commentaries, and more comprehensive deleted scenes information. One other side note is to look out for the fun outtakes and other fun Easter eggs on the DVD.
All in all, the Episode II DVD is truly astounding. Unfortunately, it falls just short of absolute brilliance because we simply get the feeling we?ve done this before. And while I?m all for consistency in the franchise releases I still aspire for innovation, spurning what we know to be safe.
Nevertheless the team at Lucasfilm has put together an amazing array of extras and extends an utterly flawless copy of the movie to the fans. But the lack of innovation within the DVD genre leaves me wanting more despite being such a dependable release.
The film looks and sounds brilliant, reason enough to buy this disc alone. Get it for that at the very least, and enjoy the remarkable value-added material as well to round out a great and timely effort this 4th quarter from Lucasfilm and 20th Century Fox.