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Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones
Film: 16 May 2002
By: Matt Wood

The graphics and sound designers at LucasFilm are renowned for their creation of complete virtual worlds populated by amusing (and sinister) creatures, and in this latest installment of the Star Wars epoch, they set a new benchmark for computer graphics and sound in film. From a city-covered planet (Manhattan extrapolated with shades of Blade Runner and The Fifth Element), to an opulent water planet, to a Dune-like desert planet, to a clone-makers' planet of endless drenching rain (why didn't they install a space port or something so their visitors didn't have to get soaked every time they walked from the ship to the front door?); from epic battle scenes, to the subtly shape-shifting face of a hired assassin, to chimeric killer animals in gladiatorial combat, to the graceful momentum-modelling gait of the clone masters, you'll find yourself so mesmerized and impressed with the environments that you almost don't care whether there's a story or not. Thankfully, the story flows familiarly straight out of the collective unconscious, a reassuring amalgam of mythic adventure, Lord of the Rings, Dune, and childhood memories of fairy tales (except the queen in this story is elected and has a two year term limit!). There's even a reference to "federation starships" (no, not the Enterprise) and an uncomfortably prescient invocation of emergency war powers by a powerful democratic leader, lending a post 9/11 uneasy reality to the on-screen violence and intrigue.

Discussion (Descriptions, reviews, discussion):

Actors Ewan McGregor and Christopher Lee stand out as the embodiment of good and evil, respectively, but the real stars of the show are the sound designers (Ben Burtt and Matt Wood) and the army of computer animators who've succeeded in creating the thoroughly immersive and believable environments (that are, technologically speaking, a quantum leap beyond those in Episode I). Sonically memorable moments include: the surprising and powerful sonic"depth charges" in the asteroid belt chase scene, the updated-sounding light sabers, insect-like creatures that have frog voices, the voice of a rickshaw driver on Tatooine, and the voice of the creature from the "Techno Union" when he loses it for moment and has to retune his oscillator. Favorite musical moment: an obvious statement of the Darth Vader theme played just when Anakin shows his darker side caused me to chuckle but drew some angry glares from those seated near me (sorry!!) The tables were turned later on when everyone else was laughing at the antics of R2D2 and 3CPO, and this time I was the one who didn't get the joke.

As for the secret details of how the individuals sounds were created in Kyma, Matt Wood revealed only that "Kyma was used to create ambiences and vocal processing." (To learn more, you have to agree to leave your mom as a slave on a desert planet and undergo "the training" at an undisclosed location near Nicasio, California.)

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