Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones
Almost every culture has created a mythological world. The Greeks, Romans and Norse all had their pantheon of gods and mortals entwined in epic battles, love, betrayal and trust. For the American culture one of the most popular mythological universes is the Star Wars universe, created and populated by George Lucas. Since 1977 this series of films has provided this mythology with status few films have dared to reach. When reviewing a release like Star Wars: Episode 2: Attack of the Clones, I must look at the release in two distinct sections, the film and the features. Normally I try to concentrate on the merits of the movie over that of the bells and whistles attached to the DVD but in this case the extras are so much a part of the release that they warrant extended consideration. Unless you have lived in the most remote place on the earth you most likely know the prerequisite background of the story. The Galactic Republic is in dire danger. There are separatist bent upon the dissolution of the governing body, a growing push towards imperialism and a rising danger from the evil counter parts to the Jedi, the Sith Lords. About the first hour of the film is devoted to high-speed chases through fantastic computer generated scenery. Queen Amidala (Natalie Portman) has finished her elected reign as queen of Naboo and now represents her planet as its senator. She replaces the previous Senator Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) who now serves as the Supreme Chancellor. Bounty hunter Jango Fett (Temuera Morrison) is used by those that oppose the republic to create a clone army, determined, unstoppable and on single-minded purpose. As with many myths the actual stories here are simple enough. Popular mythological themes such as forbidden love, an apprentice growing in ability and pride challenges his master and the gods (represented here by the Jedi Council) are forced into a battle that might lead to the destruction of the way of life held dear for thousands of years. While dialogue has never been a strong suit with Lucas the words spoken here are little more than a string of rehashed lines from more films than I can remember. Anakins comparison of the rough sand to the smooth skin of Padme is reduced to almost a Frankenstein like fire bad feel. Still, when viewed as a modern myth this is not as important as otherwise it may have been. Myths are by their nature narratives where the interaction is more important than what is said or how it is said.
The cast here is excellent. I guess anyone involved with the film industry would chew off a limb to be associated with the Star Wars franchise. People may complain about the films but they move in the box office. Portman in a strange way has lived a parallel life to Padme. Her first film Leon, at age thirteen provided her with professionalism early in life much as the young queen had to take on the responsibilities of her office. This dedication to her craft at such a young age really shows here with her sense opposite Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker. While they are about the same age she plays her role with such grace and style we can readily accept the difference in age the story demands. Ewan McGregor makes the screen transition from student in the last film to master in this one well. He projects a sense that Obi-Wan was thrust into the role of master before he was ready. I really enjoyed Samuel L. Jackson as Mace. He creates a Jedi master in the mold of a sight saber wielding, intergalactic Shaft. Whos the meanest Jedi around Mace!
Okay, time to discuss the director George Lucas. He is as a professional a man of apparent contradictions. While he is at the forefront of digital technology he has refrained from releasing the first trilogy on DVD. He has come under fire for his constant tweaking of the released film, much to the chagrin fo die hard fans that have memorized every aspect of each movie. Here he employed digital photography and the movie was intended for digital presentation. As such DVD is a prefect media to see this film. His need to push the envelope has created the need for completely digital characters. In this film the beloved puppet that was Yoda has been replaced by a CGI version. To be fair, this incarnation of Yoda was able to display emotional response in scenes and do things the animatronics never could. The fight scene with Yoda is one of the best in the film and this was the only way to go with it.
The two-disc set is bound to be one of the staples of almost every DVD collection. More attention was paid to the animated menus than on most DVDs. The fact that it was created digitally, mastered digitally ad presented digitally really shows. The Dolby ES sound track will blow you away. Invite your neighbors to watch this with you they will hear it anyway. The sound field is so full and rich I doubt any normal theater could do better. With audio commentaries, numerous featurettes and extras this DVD will keep you entertained for days. Among the many extras are explanations of every aspect of the film. There is a from puppets to pixels feature that shows how much effort is required to make the slightest movement realistic. The crew associated with this film is the best and they deserve the attention this disc provides. The new computer stunt man technology is explored showing just how digital effects have grown over the decades. Unlike a magician that guards his secrets the creators of this film proudly show off their skills to the amazement of the audience. Say what you will about Lucas constantly changing the movies, about Greedo shooting first or changes in dialogue, he knows how to make a DVD that gives bang for the buck. This set provides a necessary portion of the myth we all love with an almost degree level course in digital movie making. Many of us have invested a quarter of century into this story and while we wait for episode three this disc will keep us busy and entertained. Weve come a long way from myths told over an open fire but the sense of escape from reality is still there.