U.S. Release Date: November 1, 2002
Distributor: Fox
Running Time: 2 hours
MPAA Rating: PG (sustained sequences of sci-fi action/violence)

For a Fan's Eyes Only
by Billy Reeves

For a Star Wars fan, Attack of the Clones: The IMAX Experience is an essential. The second prequel of the famed franchise has been enhanced to larger-than-life, "in your face" entertainment. One gets the sense that this is the way George Lucas meant the movie to be seen in a strictly visual sense. However, scenes cut from the original version seem to gut some of the more necessary elements of the story and make it an unacceptable alternative for a first-time viewing.

To recap Attack of the Clones for those who haven't seen it, the story takes place ten years after the events in The Phantom Menace. Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) is now the accomplished Jedi apprentice of Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor). The two have been assigned to protect the former Queen of Naboo Senator Padmé Amidala (Natalie Portman) at all costs from dangerous assassins who find her political views dangerous to their cause—mainly her opposition of a military creation act that would empower the Republic with a grand army. At the same time, they must unravel the mystery of a secret clone army. Anakin and Padmé begin to fall in love and must decide whether to embrace their feelings or suppress them for the good of their chosen destinies.

Attack of the Clones has been hailed as a vast improvement over its predecessor, but I see it as only a slight improvement. Unlike most fans I enjoyed the Phantom Menace, and Attack of the Clones is even more enjoyable with a slightly darker, more mature tone. The action sequences are breathtaking, and the CGI worlds brought to life by Lucas are awe-inspiring. To put it bluntly, this is a beautiful movie. The dialogue is campy in some places, and the script isn't likely to win an Oscar, but who sees a Star Wars movie for dialogue?

The IMAX version is even more beautiful than the original, brought to life with groundbreaking clarity and incredible sound. You can literally feel the rumble of the seismic charges Jango Fett deploys in the asteroid field outside of Geonosis, and the speeder chase through Coruscant is so exhilarating and real it can feel dizzying at times.

The price for such thrills comes unfortunately at the expense of important story elements. There are several major differences in the two versions, and many smaller adjustments that would be difficult to spot even by the most avid fan.

Here they are, for better or worse:

The Jedi Council Meets with Palpatine

This scene was undeservedly cut from the very beginning. Here Amidala introduces the idea of Count Dooku's involvement in the threats on her life, and it is here that Chancellor Palpatine suggests to the Jedi Council that Obi-Wan protect her. This is important exposition, and the absence of it causes the first few scenes to feel choppy. I also love the shot of Yoda looking suspicious when Palpatine makes his suggestion. Excellent foreshadowing put to waste.

The Archives

The Archives scene is necessary exposition that helps build tension and interest. "If an item does not appear in our records, it does not exist." The fact that both the archives computer and the librarian deny the existence of the Kamino star system make it more mysterious when Obi-Wan consults Yoda and the younglings about it later on. This was also the scene that featured Lucas' son Jett as the uncredited padawan learner. In the scheme of things, this cut is only minutely offensive to the story.

"It's not fair!"

Hallelujah, this line was cut. Anakin says it to Padmé about Obi-Wan's oppressive mentorship skills. This is one of several dialogue cuts made with the probable intention of painting Anakin as a bit more mature. It is hard to see him as an object of romantic interest when he is whining and pouting like a child.

The Throne Room

In this scene, Padmé consults with Queen Jamillia (Ayesha Dharker) of the Naboo on the increasing threat of the separatist movement and the fate of the Republic. Unfortunately for Dharker, it was her only scene, but it is unnecessary to the plot and involves some painfully poor dialogue between Anakin and Padmé.

The Meadow Picnic

Despite what people say about this scene, it was a huge mistake to cut it. It is visually one of the most breathtaking scenes in the movie. Another case of good foreshadowing wasted. Anakin's comment about the functionality of a dictatorship and the brief darkness of the score is just fantastic. "The Meadow Picnic" is one of the best tracks on the soundtrack and it's a shame that IMAX audiences will be robbed of such a beautiful theme.

The Shaak Ride

The most deserving cut out of all of them. Anakin riding the shaak is simply bad CGI, and for those of you who have seen it, who but Padmé really fell for Anakin playing dead when the shaak threw him off?

The main problem with the rest of the minor cuts is that they all seem to subtract from the romantic elements. The audience is taken from point A to point B with no explanation, no feeling and no passion. How can you have a theme as brilliant as John Williams' "Across the Stars" without a love story equally as brilliant to accompany it?

Attack of the Clones: The IMAX Experience is a thrill ride that any fan will get a kick out of. I advise audiences to see the original version first, because trying to follow the spliced storyline of the IMAX version for the first time will distract your attention from the intended fun.

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