A blu ray film review of Star Wars: Episode II – Attack Of The Clones.
The Tatooine garage in which Luke kept R2D2 and C3PO in the original film was rebuilt for the movie, although only the foreground was rebuilt, the background was digitally added later, you can also spot Lukes landspeeder sitting in the garage.
Attack Of The Clones was the first film to have an on location film shown once a week, this feature was a success and other films went on to do the same thing. The Jedi archives are modelled on the Trinity college library in Dublin, Ireland.
Samuel L Jackson who plays Mace Windu asked for a purple lightsaber in the film as it's his favourite colour and George Lucas agreed to the suggestion. This was the first Star Wars film to feature a fully CGI generated Yoda. In the execution arena fight scenes, Padme's gun makes the sound of a .44 Magnum, this is a direct reference to a sound effect accidentally left in the original movie when Princess Leia shoots over a chasm.
There is a scene where Anakin has a conversation with Padmé just before he goes in search of his mother, the camera pans to their shadows as they talk and Anakin's shadow resembles that of Darth Vader, this was not a special effect but rather a coincidence. Katie Lucas ( George's daughter ) appears as a purple Twi'lek in a nightclub scene.
The character Aayla Secura was not written by George Lucas, she first appeared in the nineteenth issue of the Dark Horse comics Star Wars: Republic series in part one of Star Wars: Twilight. The scene in which Jango Fett bangs his head on a partially open door ( after his fight with Ob-Wan ) was intentional and a reference to a scene from the original Star Wars film where a stormtrooper accidentally bangs his head on a door.
The clone troopers rifle design is based on the German MG-42 machine gun.
Every single clone trooper in the film is computer generated, motion capture was used to effectively enable this to be done. The planet Geonosis is taken from the Greek word used in ancient times 'gnosis' and means knowledge. The only Star Wars film to be released the same year as a Star Trek film, in this case, Star Trek: Nemesis.
When Anakin is slaughtering the Tusken Raiders you can hear Qiu-Gon's voice in the background meant to be a sign that he tried to stop Anakin but failed.
According to Star Wars canon, the Tusken Raiders who kidnapped Anakin's mum did so after being paid by Count Dooku, Dooku did so on the orders of Darth Sidious who was trying to push Anakin towards the dark side of the force. Obi-Wan stares at a bronze bust in the Jedi archives library, the bust is Qui-Gon Jinn.
An assassination attempt on Senator Padmé Amidala's life leads to Jedi Knight, Obi-Wan Kenobi, investigating and discovering the creation of a clone army and a bounty hunter called Jango Fett who seems keen to not stick around and talk to Kenobi, elsewhere his apprentice young Anakin Skywalker is protecting Padmé but he is troubled by his forbidden love for her and visions of his dying mother. On Coruscant the senate debates ever more wider powers for Chancellor Palpatine and the Jedi council led by Yoda fear the Sith have returned and that the dark side is clouding their powers of vision.
The shroud of the dark side has fallen…….Begun the clone war has.
This film has some very effective action sequences, the speeder chase at the beginning of the film is superb and the asteroid minefield chase is also exciting and edited together perfectly, the latter doesn't rely on music but has some nice deep bass, an inspired decision, it would have been all too easy to just have John Williams compose a piece of his wonderful music for the scene in question, i also enjoyed seeing the Jedi in a full scale battle at the end of the film.
Yoda finally uses his lightsaber, i enjoyed some of this but check out a negative below, still overall it was great to see little Yoda kicking some ass and showing us why he is a Jedi master.
I thought Natalie Portman had more to do in this film and she seemed to be more relaxed in her role, i'm probably one of the few people around who enjoyed the romantic moments and bought into it, i think she got better dialogue to speak and was having a lot more fun with the role. Christopher Lee was superb, he brought real authority to the role of Count Dooku and the delivery of his lines was excellent, his lightsaber duelling scenes were a real highlight of this film.
Ewan McGregor takes centre stage as Ob-Wan Kenobi and i thought, just like Natalie, that he looked to be having a lot of fun, i think he delivers his lines perfectly and has studied Alec Guinness well, he was a huge fan of the original trilogy and you can see he relishes the opportunity to be a part of Star Wars folklore.
As with the previous film i also thought Ian McDiarmid played his part to perfection, he made me believe in the character and he epitomizes the less is more philosophy with his acting.
I wish they had shot this on 35mm film as they had the previous film, i feel from a technical standpoint that they have made a mistake, to tie in with the original trilogy they should have used 35mm camera's for all the prequels, as is stands they are now lumbered with a 2K maximum resolution and should any future 4K format take off then this film will not benefit from it, oh for sure it could be upscaled and may appear slightly better but it won't be real detail, the film will forever be stuck with a lower resolution.
I feel at times that so much CGI during the end battle scenes makes the film resemble a video game, maybe if they had built full sized sets and had real stormtroopers it would have helped for those scenes, i just think that George Lucas should have been thinking more about how to tie the films in with the originals and how they were filmed, advancing the technology is fine, just do not do so at the expense of previously shot movies.
The Yoda lightsaber duel with Count Dooku was entertaining but some of Yoda's movements seemed to be a little too inspired by Sonic The Hedgehog, probably just a limitation of the CGI technology used at the time they made the movie, just a minor negative as i mostly found the scene fun and enjoyable.
I wish during the final moments of the film they had kept the bassy noise of the spaceships departing lower in the mix, the music score is effective and should dominate that particular moment instead of the other way around, its a small niggle but i feel its worth mentioning.
This is a huge improvement over The Phantom Menace, i did not detect any excessive use of DNR on this transfer, this movie was shot with Sony CineAlta HDW-F900 digital cameras, George Lucas worked with Sony to develop these cameras, i think what we have with this blu ray transfer is representative of the look the film makers were going for, for sure its smoother than if they had shot on 35mm film, bear in mind when watching this on blu ray that these cameras have a built in feature which allows for softening of the image, i believe they used this when making the film, i still felt i saw lots of fine detail, obviously closeups fare better than long distance camera shots but i was impressed by what i saw here.
There is a scene where Padmé and Anakin are on the transport ship to Naboo and the headscarf she is wearing has lots of fine detail that is clearly visible on this transfer, you can look at some very similar scenes in The Phantom Menace which are in my opinion poor and undetailed. For those reading this review and just wanting to know if its an upgrade over the DVD edition, its a massive upgrade.
I thought i saw a few shots with very minor edge halos, this could just be a result of green screen work and digital compositing the scenes with the backgrounds or maybe it's minor sharpening being applied because the scene was considered too soft because of a limitation of the camera lens that they used, as an example a brief shot where we see Anakin and Padme standing next to a stone wall and looking out across the lake, i really didn't consider this to be that much of a problem and as long as your display has the sharpness turned down and calibrated correctly then it will unlikely bother you that much. I have decided to put this on the reference list since i believe it looks as good as the cameras used allow.
I felt colours were accurate, no issues with lightsabers in this film, they look as they should, but thats the case with all the prequels. I have seen mention of a blue haze to some parts of the image, thats intentional and you see that around orbit of the planets and the outer hull of Obi-Wans spacecraft, thats not an issue as far as my eyes are concerned.
I have read some reports about the contrast being off in this film, it looks as it should, for example clouds are still present in one scene and if the contrast was raised they would be lost, if it was too little it would affect the brightness of the images, it looked correct to me, its worth remembering that sometimes people have pre-conceived idea's on things like contrast/brightness, some people think every film should have perfect black levels or colours, well film making is not like that, sometimes directors deliberately raise or lower the contrast, the brightness or the colours, especially in the digital age and not everything is supposed to look the same, skin tones would be affected if the contrast was off and i felt skin tones were fine, i think they are basing their opinion on the DVD edition, bad idea as that edition is too bright and skin tones are affected, check below for a quick comparison of one scene from the DVD and Blu Ray versions and note the clouds and blue sky on the blu ray edition, it is wrong on the DVD edition, too bright, the blu ray versions contrast looks correct to me.
Note in the contrast example above that the blue sky background is slightly lost in the DVD and clouds are also slightly lost and skintones are affected, then note in the colour comparison how the saturation is too high on the DVD, likely due to the contrast being wrong, check out the billboard advertising and see how it blooms and then look at the speeder lights, its clear to me the blu ray contrast and colours are correct. I will have blu ray screencaps from all six Star Wars movies posted over the course of the next few weeks.
I used to consider The Phantom Menace to have the superior sound mix of all the prequels, i now have to change my mind, i think the sound mix on Attack Of The Clones is a little more refined, i felt this soundtrack had better discrete surround effects and the music score sounded slightly better to me, during the speeder chase i could hear individual instruments across the front channels and there was also some very good surround sound, the bass was very deep, the opening moments of this film as the spaceship comes into land is one i often use for demo purposes, i'm glad to say they have not altered the mix in any negative way, the bass is still very powerful during those opening moments and indeed throughout the film.
Lightsabers also retain their bass and sound great during the end battle scenes on Geonosis, i felt this was an exciting and powerful sound mix, it really aided the visual look of the film, the music score by John Williams can be fully appreciated with this release of the film and i think this is a very dynamic track that will give your speakers a great workout.
I was playing at near reference levels and i had no issues with hearing speech, this is at times an aggressive mix but its always well controlled, i recommend subwoofer calibration for films like this because if you make the mistake of having the sub volume too high then it will dominate your soundstage and your neighbours will likely come around and kill you.
I enjoyed re-visiting this movie on blu ray, i was more than a little concerned that the image quality would be poor and the sound mix might be downgraded, my fears were thankfully unfounded, i am pleased that there has been no excessive digital tinkering to the image, well apart from all the CGI effects work but that's a part of the movie and if you hate the prequels then you will likely complain about that particular side of them, its true that i often yearn for film makers to use more modelwork and less CGI, indeed in my opinion a combination of both tends to produce the best results, having said that i can easily get wrapped up in a film like this no matter how much CGI there is and it did not take me out of the movie, i enjoyed it immensely.
Do not read my review and think there is anything seriously wrong with this transfer, i believe its as good as the digital camera technology they used allows and as for the edge halos i mention, well they are very minor and do not affect the entire transfer, indeed its just a few scenes and the reason they are there is unknown and i have speculated some reasons, i think this release looks very good and especially so if you are viewing on a large projection screen as i do, this is actually one of my favourite Star Wars films, i think its better than The Phantom Menace, better than Return Of The Jedi and better than Sith, maybe even more entertaining than the original Star Wars, don't let people know i said that but its how i feel and i am always honest with my opinions and i never follow the crowd.
I just cannot understand the hatred some people have for the Star Wars prequels, i think that maybe they have rose tinted glasses with regards to the originals, to me the scripts for the prequels are probably as good and in places possibly even better than the originals, that includes The Empire Strikes Back, of course some people dislike the romance in this film, have they never experienced love and affection and feelings for someone or do they just want non-stop explosions and action scenes, who knows, i think taken as a whole you need all of it, you need the romance for what is to follow, action on its own would make the film less effective.
I am just so glad that this release looks as good as it can, my hopes are now raised for episode III and the original trilogy.