Die Jedi Dogs

“I love Democracy,” says Senator Palpatine through a cruel smile. He’s truthful, of course. Democracy gave him power, manipulative as he was to secure his authoritarian rule. In all George Lucas’ Star Wars lore, that line remains utterly prescient, instilling more fear than Order 66 or the dread felt by the rebellion yet to form. Withered Democracy is the catalyst for everything.

Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) puts on a show, no different than any hyper-Nationalist, authoritarian, or fascist. What they purport to be for the best is only for them. In times of division and anxiety, they strike. Democracy relents.

Attack of the Clones has another frightful line. Mace Windu (Samuel L. Jackson) states the Jedi are, “keepers of the peace, not soldiers.” Yet, the peace they keep is determined by conflict and fighting. On the frontlines, everyone thinks they stand for peace. Even the vaunted Jedi – these pure, heroic figures – fall prey to a fallacy. In utilizing a clone army and allying with the Republic, the Jedi fail to see the fault in their logic. Lucas’ use of clones is a masterstroke rare in the prequel films, creating obedient, subservient troops with no identity and no reason to resist orders. They don’t question why, an ideal force for any corrupt regime.

A clash of futurism, fantasy, and historical drama make Attack of the Clones resistant to criticism

In the finale, Lucas falls back to golden era, sword and sandal epics, only now with laser swords, no sandals, and set in space. That’s leading toward scintillating war scenery, technologically striking in execution as it is in design. A clash of futurism, fantasy, and historical drama make Attack of the Clones resistant to criticism, for the third act supplies all that’s expected of Star Wars.

Where Attack of the Clones falls is at its core. With a co-writing assist from Johnathan Hales, Lucas writes disastrous dialog, hammy, dorky, and embarrassing for a story so crucial to later Star Wars lore. Blame Hayden Christensen’s performance, but finding authenticity in Anakin Skywalker’s whining about sand isn’t possible. Attack of the Clones’ romantic interludes come from the pen of an inexperienced high school kid – except they don’t. Instead, Lucas adheres to that time in his life, where the mushy flirting and gaudy exchanges sounded convincing.

It’s astonishingly awful, enough to brand Attack of the Clones permanently with a negative aura. While not undeserved, Attack of the Clones does offer some Star Wars magic. C-3PO’s comic relief brings the goofy tone back to what is was pre-Jar Jar Binks. Clever foreshadowing suggests what Anakin is to become, playing to fan service as much as the story. Behind the grating romance, Attack of the Clones does use this sci-fi fantasy as a warning to not trust those in power. Politics is often a long game, and small, imperceptible gestures too often change history.

Star Wars- Attack of the Clones 4K UHD screen shot

Video

George Lucas shot Attack of the Clones digitally, a decision with lasting ramifications. Being part of the earliest push toward digital, the images remain at HD resolution – 1080p. That’s it. There’s nothing to rescan. While too many freely utilize the term “fake 4K,” this (and Revenge of the Sith) deserve the term, if to no fault of those who mastered the disc.

This is not a looker. Smudgy definition and waning sharpness sap fidelity. Even with expanded encoding, the UHD doesn’t add detail. Neither does the overall clarity (the benefit to those first-generation digital cameras) becoming costly in the end. Limited 8-bit color recording brings no deep color benefit.

In recent years, technology worked out the kinks. Back in 2002, issues with low light were prominent, and notable here. Black crush is unrelenting in the early scenes, the source unable to cope with shadow detail. HDR gives the images better kick in the highlights, if not enough to offset what’s lost in the black levels.

Severe aliasing appears, part of the upscale and likely the lower resolution CG. Fine lines that make Kamino’s aesthetic work suffer from notable jagged edges. At distance, this only worsens, and that’s everywhere, not only the rain planet. Ringing impedes too, no help in giving Attack of the Clones firmness.

Audio

Given a makeover in Dolby Atmos, the already sensational Attack of the Clones sound mix continues its reference grade run on a new format. No lack of low-end punch here – a seismic charge blasts the room. Ship engines run deep as they pass. Metal presses in Geonisis’ factory slam down, adding to the danger. Even when indoors on Kamino, the dynamics continue as thunder gently rolls across the LFE.

Height effects add to the aggressive soundstage. Ambiance during romantic scenes keeps things lively. The real work, of course, comes during the battles. Lightsabers leap between speakers as they strike. Lasers and ships pan flawlessly. The factory sprint goes all out with mechanical ambiance surrounding Padme and Anakin. Listen to the spectacular rain on Kamino too, an enveloping sheet of falling water. World class stuff.

Extras

On the Blu-ray, George Lucas is joined by Rick McCallum, Ben Burtt, Pablo Helman, Rob Coleman, John Knoll, and Ben Snow for a commentary track. An archival mix brings quotes from 17 different participants, all culled from various interviews.

With the bonus disc, a six minute interview on sound design begins these extras. Costumes come next, focused for four minutes on a tour through the archives. Art is given six minutes. For legacy content, From Puppets to Pixels tracks the production, and runs 52-minutes. For 23-minutes, the digital effects earn their due. Films are Not Released, They Escape spends 25-minutes on audio design. Visual effects breakdowns follow, mixed with insight from the effects team. Twenty-one minutes of interviews come next, nine minutes of deleted scenes after that. Maquettes and models finish the bonus disc.

Star Wars - Episode II: Attack of the Clones
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
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Movie

Overwhelmed by the pitiful romance at its core, it’s easy to miss or undervalue Attack of the Clones for certain storytelling successes.

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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our Patreon-exclusive set of 75 full resolution uncompressed 4K screen shots grabbed directly from the UHD: