Release Date(s)2002 (March 31, 2020)
Studio(s)Lucasfilm/20th Century Fox (Walt Disney Studios)
- Film/Program Grade: D
- Video Grade: C+
- Audio Grade: A+
- Extras Grade: B
“There is unrest in the Galactic Senate. Several thousand solar systems have declared their intentions to leave the Republic…”
When an attempt is made to kill the former queen turned senator from Naboo, Padmé Amidala (Natalie Portman) is placed under the protection of Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and his apprentice of ten years, Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen). But once reunited, romantic feelings begin to develop between Padmé and Anakin, who’s now an ambitious but impatient young man. After a second attempt on her life, Anakin takes Padmé to Naboo for safety while Obi-Wan hunts down the assassin, a trail that leads him to the discovery of a massive clone army created for the Republic at the request of a deceased Jedi. Obi-Wan also learns that another former Jedi, Count Dooku (Christopher Lee), is leading the dreaded Separatist movement and building a massive droid army to destroy the Republic. When all of these forces finally collide, young Anakin’s dreams of becoming a Jedi himself will be tested by pain, love, and the powerful dark side of the Force.
While The Phantom Menace was disappointing but at least watchable, the same unfortunately cannot be said of its sequel, Attack of the Clones. Not only does the story continue to be a muddle of politics, its dialogue is woefully clichéd, and its pacing is languid at best. McGregor certainly rises to the occasion, but the rest of the cast is wooden and lifeless. Taking over for young Jake Lloyd, Christensen’s teenaged Anakin is petulant and unlikable—and in the midst of a love story no less. We’re supposed to empathize with his character above all, so that when his inevitable fall from grace occurs, it’s painful. Given that Christensen’s acting skills are apparent in more recent films, the obvious conclusion is that Lucas’ writing and direction—not to mention a ridiculous scene in which Anakin rides a tick-like cow—let the actor down. Inspired by hard-boiled detective novels, the film’s B-story follows Obi-Wan through the criminal underworld, but the digital photography and sanitized CG environments never even look real, much less seedy. Even the film’s climactic battle plays out more like a videogame than anything with urgent, real-life stakes. John Williams delivers another superb score at least, complete with ominous marches and an evocative love theme. But beyond the music, a brief chase through an asteroid field, and a few seconds of CG Yoda fighting a CG villain with a CG lightsaber, Episode II is a flat-out dud.
By the time Attack of the Clones was produced, digital film production had evolved to the point that Lucas felt comfortable fully embracing it. As such, Clones was captured entirely digitally in HDCAM format (at 1080/24p) using Sony’s new CineAlta HDW-F900 camera with Panavision Primo anamorphic lenses. VFX were produced in sub-2K resolution and the film was finished as a 2K Digital Intermediate at the 2.39:1 aspect ratio. This source was used for both the previous DVD and Blu-ray releases, with mastering by Lowry Digital. Following Disney’s purchase of the Star Wars franchise in 2012, the decision was made to produce new 4K Digital Intermediates of each film. In a process supervised by Reliance MediaWorks (formerly Lowry Digital), the 2K DI was upsampled. For this new Ultra HD release (and for Disney+), a new high dynamic range color grade was completed as well (HDR10 is available on the disc, with Dolby Vision available on the Digital version).
So… how best to describe this 4K disc presentation. Imagine the previous Blu-ray image, processed with a pretty sophisticated upsampling algorithm, along with state-of-the-art “film look” processing. Then add HDR, which deepens the blacks and brightens the highlights just a tiny bit (peak brightness is 1000 nits per the disc’s metadata). That’s it. It’s important to note here that HDCAM was only capable of 8-bit color (with 3:1:1 chroma subsampling), so there’s really no room for color improvement in this presentation. I will say that I actually prefer this image to that of The Phantom Menace in 4K, simply for the fact that the all-digital nature of this production means the image is more uniformly consistent (there’s no need for DNR to be added, there’s less edge enhancement baked in, etc). Yet the film processing actually makes it look less digital as well—a little more cinematic. The result is acceptable; let’s put it like that. The average datarate is in the 50-60 Mbps range, so the image also looks a better than the Disney+ presentation (of 15-25 Mbps), but only just. I should add, fans will be pleased to know that the 20th Century Fox logo still appears at the start of the film, as it should.
The good news is, Attack of the Clones is a sonic tour de force. Primary audio on the 4K disc is included in English Dolby Atmos. Additional options include English 2.0 Descriptive Audio, Japanese 7.1 Dolby Digital Plus, and French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, with subtitles available in English for the Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish, and Japanese. The opening sequence, as Padmé’s starship lands on Coruscant, offers muscular engines growls and robust bass when the ship ultimately explodes. The soundstage is big and wide, with the surrounds and height channels employed constantly for atmospheric effects. Dialogue is clean and natural, while Williams’ score (with its sweeping Across the Stars love theme) is presented with fine fidelity. The film’s various setpieces stand out with smooth and aggressive panning and movement. A highlight is Obi-Wan’s pursuit of Jango Fett through an asteroid field—the sound of the seismic charges going off is spectacular and blaster fire swirls all around the listening space. The opening battle of the Clone Wars impresses too. As was the case with the Blu-ray edition before it, this is a reference quality audio experience on disc. Note that the included movie Blu-ray offers 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English 2.0 Descriptive Audio, and French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, with optional subtitles in English for the Hearing Impaired, French, and Spanish.
Disney’s Ultra HD package is a 3-disc set that includes the film in both 4K on UHD and 1080p HD on Blu-ray (the latter is mastered from the new 4K source, as the grading is less candy-colored than the previous BD). The package also includes a separate Blu-ray Disc of bonus material, but there’s nothing new here—all of it is curated from previously-available content. (Both Blu-rays are coded for Regions A, B & C.) Here’s a breakdown of what’s included:
DISC ONE – 4K MOVIE
There are no extras on the 4K disc.
DISC TWO – BLU-RAY MOVIE
- Audio Commentary (with George Lucas, Rick McCallum, Ben Burtt, Rob Coleman, Pablo Helman, John Knoll, and Ben Snow) – from the 2002 DVD
- Audio Commentary from Archival Interviews with the Cast and Crew (including Ben Burtt, Hayden Christensen, Rob Coleman, Nick Gillard, Pablo Helman, Samuel L. Jackson, John Knoll, Christopher Lee, George Lucas, Rick McCallum, Ian McDiarmid, Ewan McGregor, Temura Morrison, Natalie Portman, Jimmy Smits, Ben Snow, and John Williams) – from the 2011 Blu-ray
DISC THREE – BLU-RAY EXTRAS
- Conversations: Sounds in Space (HD – 6:19)
- Discoveries from Inside: Costumes Revealed (HD – 4:34)
- The Art of Attack of the Clones (HD – 6:07)
- From Puppets to Pixels: Digital Characters in Episode II (SD – 52:21)
- State of the Art: The Previsualization of Episode II (SD – 23:28)
- Films Are Not Released, They Escape (SD – 25:39)
- Episode II Visual Effects Breakdown Montage (Siggraph Reel) (SD – 3:32)
- Coruscant Overview (HD – 3:56)
- Ewan McGregor Interview (HD – 1:12)
- Naboo Overview (HD – 3:09)
- Tatooine Overview (HD – 3:55)
- Geonosis Overview (HD – 3:35)
- Hayden Christensen Interview (HD – 1:29)
- Blue Screen Acting (HD – 3:38)
- Deleted Scene: Extended Speeder Chase (SD – 1:02)
- Deleted Scene: Jedi Temple Analysis Room (SD – 1:03)
- Deleted Scene: The Lost Twenty (SD – :57)
- Deleted Scene: Anakin’s Nightmares (SD – :59)
- Deleted Scene: Padmé’s Parents’ House (SD – 2:18)
- Deleted Scene: Anakin and Ruwee (SD – :45)
- Deleted Scene: Obi-Wan & Mace: Jedi Landing Platform (SD – 1:51)
- Deleted Scene: Dooku Interrogates Padmé (SD – 1:00)
- Deleted Scene: Raid on the Droid Control Ship & Extended Arena Fight (SD – 3:54)
- The Collection: Dexter Jettster Maquette (360° Turnaround – HD – 3:02)
- The Collection: Zam Wesell Speeder Concept Model (360° Turnaround – HD – 2:30)
- The Collection: Youngling Outfit & Helmet Costume (360° Turnaround – HD – 1:59)
- The Collection: Zam Wesell Costume (360° Turnaround – HD – 2:41)
- The Collection: Shaak Maquette (360° Turnaround – HD – 2:38)
- The Collection: Anakin Outland Peasant Costume (with Cloak) (360° Turnaround – HD – :39)
- The Collection: Anakin Outland Peasant Costume (without Cloak) (360° Turnaround – HD – :44)
- The Collection: Padmé Outland Peasant Costume (with Cloak) (360° Turnaround – HD – :44)
- The Collection: Padmé Outland Peasant Costume (without Cloak) (360° Turnaround – HD – :44)
- The Collection: C-3PO Costume (360° Turnaround – HD – 3:28)
- The Collection: Tusken Raider Woman Costume (360° Turnaround – HD – 3:08)
- The Collection: Tusken Raider Child Costume (360° Turnaround – HD – 3:08)
- The Collection: Geonosian Maquette (360° Turnaround – HD – 2:37)
- The Collection: Acklay Maquette (360° Turnaround – HD – 2:31)
- The Collection: Nexu Maquette (360° Turnaround – HD – 3:33)
- The Collection: Reek Maquette (360° Turnaround – HD – 2:28)
- The Collection: Padmé Trip to Geonosis Costume (with Unused Headdress) (360° Turnaround – HD – 2:06)
- The Collection: Jango Fett Costume (360° Turnaround – HD – 2:54)
- The Collection: Super Battle Droid Maquette (360° Turnaround – HD – 2:29)
- The Collection: Geonosis Arena Maquette (360° Turnaround – HD – 3:10)
- The Collection: Republic Gunship Model (360° Turnaround – HD – 2:49)
- The Collection: Clone Trooper Maquette (360° Turnaround – HD – 2:52)
Conversations: Sounds in Space, Discoveries from Inside: Costumes Revealed, The Art of Attack of the Clones and a few of the deleted scenes are all from the 2015 Digital Collection. The rest is a mix of content found on the original 2002 DVD release and the 2011 Prequel Trilogy Blu-ray Bonus Disc. Note that the overall presentation is HD, but the actual featurettes are a mix of HD and upsampled SD (as most of them were originally produced in SD). The deleted scenes are missing the brief text introductions they had on Blu-ray, but that’s all. The Interviews, Overviews, and Collection 360° Turnarounds all still have stylized windowbox framing. The Turnarounds include some of the enhanced video material too (comments and interview clips). The Bonus Disc also has optional subtitles available in English for the Hearing Impaired, French, French (Québécois), Castilian Spanish, Spanish, German, Italian, Dutch, and Japanese. As you would expect, there is a code for a Movies Anywhere Digital copy on a paper insert in the package.
As was the case with The Phantom Menace 4K extras, this is a nice collection of bonus content that represents everything from the 2015 Digital Collection, nearly everything from 2011 Original Trilogy Blu-ray Bonus Disc, and some of the 2002 DVD extras. So… what’s missing? None of the Concept Art Galleries from the 2011 Blu-ray release are here. I don’t believe any of the Blu-ray or DVD Easter eggs are included. Nor are the DVD Web Documentaries, the other DVD featurettes (Story, Love, Action, and R2-D2: Beneath the Dome), the trailers, TV spots, the Across the Stars music video, etc. A couple of the DVD deleted scenes appear to be missing as well. It’s therefore important to keep your previous disc editions if you want to retain all of the available bonus content.
Arguably the worst film in the Star Wars franchise to date, Attack of the Clones is also the least improved film on 4K Ultra HD. The decision to purchase this release (or not) should thus separate the diehard fans from the Padawans. If you like Episode II, though, this is likely the best it will ever look and sound (and probably the last time you’ll be able to buy it on disc). So make your plans accordingly.
- Bill Hunt