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Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones DVD
Reviewed by Kevin Pezzano, © 2002

Format: Movie
By:   Lucasfilm
Genre:   Sci/Fi
Released:   November 12, 2002
Review Date:   November 21, 2002
Audience Rating:   PG
RevSF Rating:   9/10 (What Is This?)
This is not a review of "Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones". I think we've all pretty much beaten that puppy into the ground by thos point. No, this is a review of the "Episode II" DVD, all by itself, as a DVD.

And here's my review: Buy this DVD.

No, I mean it. Whatever you may think of the Star Wars prequels as movies, they're still remarkable pieces of filmmaking. This 2-disc DVD set, if nothing else, makes that blatantly clear. While the film itself shows off Lucasfilm's technical mastery (supposedly, since "Episode II" was made entirely by digital means, transferring it to DVD doesn't result in the same degradation that taking a movie from 35mm to DVD would), that's not the main draw here. Perhaps if you're the sort with a giant plasma big-screen TV and a top-of-the-line player you may think that something like direct digital transfer is important, but I have a ten year old TV with a 25-inch screen and a crappy Taiwanese knockoff DVD player. Crystal clear digital perfection is not exactly an issue for me, and I don't imagine that I'm alone in this.

So what makes the "Episode II" DVD worth getting? Well, as it often is with DVDs, it's the extras. It's not that this 2-disc set is overly burdened with bonus material or anything (no matter what the ads claim); it's that what's there is just so damn cool! You get your standard running commentary (always a good thing), some deleted scenes that make you glad they were deleted, every trailer and TV spot EVER produced for this flick, some pretty damn funny bloopers (in a hidden section) that show Hayden Christiansen landing smack on his kisser and Jango Fett tap-dancing with an umbrella on the rain-soaked Kamino set, and a whole slew of documentaries. And it's those documentaries that make this DVD worth every single penny you'll shell out for it.

Most of the documentaries here are pretty interesting, but are obviously tailored puff pieces. The trilogy of shorts about the storyline, action, and love story in "Episode II", for instance, are pretty much what you'd expect from George "I MEANT to do that" Lucas. The "R2D2: Beneath the Dome" mockumentary is a pretty good parody, but is mostly empty calories. The bit about the "previsualization" (shorthand for storyboards and computer-generated animatics used to determine the layout of every effects shot beforehand to save time and money for the final deal) was fascinating and even a little amusing, though much too short.

But the single coolest thing about the "Episode II" DVD, the thing that makes me strongly urge any Star Wars fan to run out and grab this disc RIGHT NOW, is "From Puppets to Pixels". Unlike the other documentaries on this disc, this one is full length, and more importantly, it has no narration. It's just a collection of raw footage, dealing with the development of the digital characters in "Episode II", from selecting designs on maquette to the laborious animation process and everything in between. While the various steps of this process are interesting (especially for the intimate looks at the people and places at ILM that pioneer this sort of work), the really fascinating thing about this documentary is the peek it provides into George Lucas' head.

I may be lynched for saying this (or at the very least called mildly insane), but I now have a new respect for the man, both as a visionary and as a director. It's trendy these days to bash George Lucas for churning out shoddy, slapass work on the prequels, but after watching this documentary I know that this isn't true. You may disagree with the direction he's taking the Star Wars saga, you may think his style of writing and directing is flat and stodgy, and you may even think that he's totally out of touch with the very fanbase that made him the filthy rich, overly hirsute man he is today.

But you definitely can't accuse him of not caring. "Puppets to Pixels" is filled with scene after scene of Lucas fiddling and tinkering with every minute detail of his movie, from selecting the design of Dexter Jettster, to making sure that the team working on the digital Yoda makes him look EXACTLY like the puppet in "Empire Strikes Back" via exhaustive research, to pulling the best line reading out of Frank Oz through repeated takes until he gets just the right one, to driving the animators to redo a scene over and over and over (they jokingly term it "the widowmaker") until they get it to match the version he has in his head, to worrying about the way fans might react to the very-potentially-goofy Yoda fight. Perhaps Lucas is too much of a perfectionist, caring TOO much about the minutiae of his world to the detriment of the audience's enjoyment factor. But you simply cannot, after watching this documentary, accuse him of not giving a damn about the movies he's making. Everything you see on screen is there because Lucas wanted it there, and wanted it to look and sound and feel exactly the way it is.

That's why I enthusiastically recommend this DVD to Star Wars fans. It's okay if you still don't think "Episode II" is all that great of a flick (I know I kept skipping past the wretched love scenes when rewatching this movie to get to the good bits -- God bless DVD). But don't pass up the chance to watch Lucas at work here, as he molds and sculpts the Star Wars saga to suit the very specific vision he has. The final product may be something you're not all that interested in, but the process of creating it is undeniably fascinating, and the "Episode II" DVD gives you a front-row seat for that.
Anime Editor Kevin Pezzano thinks that female Kaminoan was pretty hot.

 
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