Star Wars: Episode II: Attack of the Clones
Considering the backlash Episode I: The Phantom Menace endured on its 1999 release, Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002) is a decidedly mixed bag. While it's hardly the home run director George Lucas needed to bring everyone back into church singing hosannas, it's certainly a base hit. Clones sort of sputters to life, with occasional action set pieces punctuating a series of deadly-dull meetings and needless exposition until, with about 45 minutes to go, the future Darth Vader pokes his big black head into the frame and the film suddenly plays to the Star Wars equivalent of the cheap seats, embracing its pulp roots and becoming a very big, very violent, kind-of-dumb monster movie all the way to its slam-bang conclusion. We join our story in progress: Ten years have passed since The Phantom Menace. Obi-Wan (Ewan McGregor) and Anakin (Hayden Christensen) have been assigned to Senator Padmé's (Natalie Portman's) security detail; someone's been trying to kill her ever since she decided to vote against the creation of a galactic army. A new assassination attempt splits up our heroes and sends them skulking across the galaxy Obi-Wan flies off to see who's behind the assassination attempts, and uncovers a vast conspiracy, while Anakin and Padmé go into hiding, and abruptly fall in love. Attack of the Clones has its entertaining moments, but there is no escaping the fact that George Lucas has forgotten how to strip down his films for maximum impact. Again and again and again, Clones feels the need to follow up a clever sequence with one that basically re-states what just happened, as if the director didn't trust the viewer to follow along. And then there's that love story, an expository, sophomoric romance plagued by bad dialogue and unclear motivations. While Portman could still stand to freshen up her vocal life a bit more, Christensen does have a fine glower, and he uses it to good effect more than once. And praise must be extended to ILM: The action set-pieces and art direction are just ridiculously generous in terms of production design and effects detail. Fox's two-disc Episode II: Attack of the Clones has been released in both anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) and pan-and-scan versions with a strong digital transfer and audio in Dolby Digital 5.1 EX. Features include a commentary from George Lucas, producer Rick McCallum, editor and sound designer Ben Burtt, plus ILM creative masterminds Rob Coleman, Pablo Hellman, John Knoll and Ben Snow; the documentary "From Puppets to Pixels: Digital Characters in Episode II"; the documentary "State of the Art: The Previsualization of Episode II"; eight deleted scenes with newly completed effects; three featurettes; 12 Web documentaries; production photos; One-sheet posters and international outdoor campaign stills; the documentary "Films Are Not Released; They Escape: Creating A Universe of Sounds for Episode II"; theatrical trailers and TV spots; an "Across the Stars" music video; an "Episode II Visual Effects Breakdown Montage"; a look at the mockumentary "R2-D2: Beneath the Dome"; and two Easter eggs. Dual-DVD slimline keep-case.