HAL9000's tour-de-force continues with this improvement of Part II.
Editing remains outstanding. Trims continue to tighten the story without causing the feeling that you're missing something.
Does this make the Prequels a great story? Nope. Does this make a *better* story? Yes! HAL9000's Prequel trilogy is the only one you need.
Though I consider Labyrinth of Evil to be the best movie in Hal9000's prequel trilogy, I consider this to be his greatest achievement with the prequels. Attack of the Clones is by and far, my least favorite Star Wars movie. It dissapoints basically throughout the entire runtime. At least the Phantom Menace had Qui-Gon, the pod race, and Duel of the Fates. But boy oh boy did Hal improve the hell out of this film. First things first, the BEST thing about his edit is how much he improves the character of Anakin. No longer is he a whiny and unlikable protagonist. In The Approaching Storm Anakin is a honorable and compassionate person who you come to care for. The relationship between him and Obi-Wan is improved a ton. Hal accomplishes this by trimming all the bickering between the two. And the romance is soooooo much better. I can't say enough how much better it is. It used to be so cringeworthy but with the addition of some deleted scenes, the removal of entire scenes, and narrative restructuring, the romance is now believable and well executed. Everything just works so much better in this version of the film. I give this fanedit the HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION.
Like it's predecessor, this is technically flawless. My main two thoughts are that the love affair between Anakin and Amidala feels so much more natural now. It used to be cartoonish and now it's smooth. The other thing is a kind of missed Yoda jumping around like some crazy... something. All the small fixes work well. My only problem is the original has so much cheesy dialogue and weak story that I was kind of bored. I had been hoping for a more dramatic editing, I guess, and it's pretty much the same old same old -better, but still not worth additional watches for my part.
Right off the bat, let me just say Attack of the Clones is by far my least favourite of the Prequel Trilogy. I'm a big fan of the period in the lore - I love the Clone Wars shorts and The Clone Wars series - but AotC is just so full of BLARG awkward Christensen and/or McGregor I can barely stand to watch it. Which brings us to this very welcome reason to revisit Episode II.
AV QUALITY, VISUAL & AUDIO EDITING
Nigh faultless. If HAL9000's third objective is to shroud his editor's hand and convince the audience they're watching a theatrical cut, from a technical perspective: job done. The wipes and cuts are all extremely in-universe, the replaced audio fits beautifully, the score is seamless - I really struggle to find anything wrong with any of it. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that I found it far less all-over-the-place than the version I saw in the cinema all those years ago.
I almost docked one point off A/V Quality because I was specifically looking for any kind of artifacting or drop in quality on the 720p m4v, and thought perhaps I saw some on one of the re-inserted deleted scenes (part of the replacement for the factory sequence) - but in the end, I decided that if there was any, it was so minor as to be negligible.
Finally, I thought it worth noting that I'd have liked to have heard the audio on the gladiatorial scene worked up a bit - some sound effects added or replaced, maybe some score; much in the vein HAL9000 improved the pod race from Episode I - but it was still weird and disconnected in a couple of notable instances. It is in the original, so this is by no means a criticism of the edit. More, a note to the editor in case he decides to (re-)revisit it.
Despite the extreme technical prowess on display here, the crafting of the narrative is undoubtedly where the magic of this fan edit lies.
The new crawl sets the scene perfectly. The action is pacier and the story flows far more naturally. The Jedi Order comes across less like a bunch of pious monks. Obi-Wan is less preachy. Yoda is the calm, collected legend of the force he should be - instead of that angry green chipmunk thing. Jar Jar is (almost entirely absent!) the simple-minded everyman, instead of a complete idiot. The clones are more autonomous (like their spin-off series equivalents). There's no droid factory craziness.
And as for Anakin... well, Anakin is still annoying. But well within the realms of being tolerable, if not out-and-out likeable. I felt I could actually get behind his decisions and behaviour in this cut, where in the original I'd like to see him crushed to death by that giant Nabooan flea. And the love story, although it moves at a whirlwind clip which neither party seems wont to comment on (even more so in this edit), works pretty well. It's not perfect but with less laboring over it, you can imagine now that for them it is just that: a whirlwind affair in an insane time. Top marks for ridding this movie of its worst source of angsty/saccharine nonsense.
That said, the cut to the conversation at the picnic was just this side of jarring... but I reflected even as I watched it that the reason was because it genuinely gave me a sense that we'd joined them in the middle of a conversation, (and Padme's statement therefore seemed unprovoked), which is exactly what we did - so it kind of works. And it's certainly a fine trade-off for cutting the guff there.
Overall, I found myself making connections which had been lost in the noise before: Anakin's ridiculous flea-ride parallels his taming of the rhino-thing in the arena; the little back and forth between Anakin and Padme about diplomacy fondly echoes shared memories of conversations they'd had earlier. It was the same, but different. Really good job.
The only cut I was sad to see (so far there's been precisely one cut I'd prefer to have seen left in, if edited, in each of HAL9000's Prequel Trilogy edits) was the Death Star plans. I know it's unnecessary, I know it's universe-shrinking, I know it's just fan service - but I liked it. If HAL9000 does a re-(re-)edit here, I'd like to see part of that scene, however brief, re-integrated.
(Finally, another note to the editor: if there's a way to splice the scene where Anakin says, "I have a bad feeling about this," so that it occurs before the beasts are released, but after Poggle gives the command, it will sound MUCH less forced. As it is, it sticks out as a series catchphrase like there's a big neon sign pointing to it.)
Probably goes without saying that I actually enjoyed this movie this time around. Quite a lot, in fact.
It was still full of little moments of annoyance - Shmi's Oscar-attempt death, Anakin and Padme rolling in the fields, Jango's abrupt demise, EVERYTHING GREENSCREEN ALL THE TIME - but in the round I felt the rest of the movie bore up those moments well. And hey, the Original Trilogy weren't perfect - there were a couple of moments there which don't stand up as well on rewatching - so this sits for me as a fine addition to the series.
I can actually imagine watching it again, which really says something!