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Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008)

Warner Home Video
DVD Released: 11/11/2008

All Ratings out of
Movie: 1/2
Extras: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 11/7/2008

Halloween has just come and gone and while at some neighborhood parties and when out Trick or Treating with my kids, I noticed several youngsters in Star Wars costumes. I'm a member of the original Star Wars generation, so I remember the excitement over that film as a kid, and I also remember the year that I went Trick or Treating dressed as a Stormtrooper. But, these kids were like 6 or 7 years old; What do they have to do with Star Wars? Did they see the prequels? Did they actually like them? Are they crazy? Then I realized that it may have something to do with the recent animated film Star Wars: The Clone Wars, which has just come to DVD.

The story of Star Wars: The Clone Wars takes place between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. As the movie opens, Obi-Wan Kenobi (voiced by James Arnold Taylor) and Anakin Skywalker (voiced by Matt Lanter) are fighting along-side a battalion of clone soldiers to defend a beleaguered city against an assault by Separatists forces. During the battle, a ship lands delivering Ahsoka Tano (voiced by Ashley Eckstein) into the fray. Kenobi assumes that she is his new Padawan (pupil), but she has actually been assigned to Anakin, who is reluctant to assume the role of teacher. Despite this, the three charge, light sabers in hand. Meanwhile, Chancellor Palpatine (voiced by Ian Abercrombie) learns that Jabba the Hutt’s son has been kidnapped, and that Jabba is asking for help. Knowing that the Hutts control important shipping lanes, Palpatine and Yoda (voiced by Tom Kane) assign Kenobi and Anakin to the rescue mission. Little do they know that they are walking into a trap set by Count Dooku (voiced by Christopher Lee).

Full disclosure time: I've seen The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones, and I really didn't enjoy either one. Due to this, I never got around to see Revenge of the Sith. So, one can easily deduce that I'm not a big fan of the "new" Star Wars movies. As for the "classic" films, I loved them upon their initial release when I was a pre-adolescent, but seeing them as an adult, I don't think that they're very well-made, especially the first entry. However, I always try to have an open mind and I was willing to give Star Wars: The Clone Wars a shot.

As the opening of the film doesn't give a timeline (I learned from the extras that the story occurs between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith), and the action begins immediately, I quickly realized that I had absolutely no idea what was happening. Sure, I knew who Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker were, and I remembered the clone soldiers, but everything else was a blur. So, that's the movie's first mistake. You know how the Star Wars movies always begin with the text crawl which has become a cliche? Star Wars: The Clone Wars really needed one.

Once I got up to speed on who everyone was and what was happening, I slowly began to realize that I didn't care. There's no doubt that Star Wars: The Clone Wars is chock full of action, one battle scene bleeds into the next one, but there's not much story here. The movie is not only assuming that you know exactly what is happening at the beginning, it's assuming that you know all of the characters and their backstories as well. There is no character development here, for either the established characters, such as Kenobi, or the new ones like Ahsoka Tano. For example, when Anakin must go to Tattooine, it mentioned that he had a rough time there as a child. Sure, I sort of remember the pod race from The Phantom Menace, but would it have killed them to have taken two seconds to refresh my memory.

It's clear that Star Wars: The Clone Wars is aimed squarely at a younger, and presumably, less discerning, audience. The movie is filled with spaceships which whiz by, battling robots, and sassy aliens. Again, the movie is populated with familiar characters, such as Mace Windu (voiced by Samuel L. Jackson), in addition to those listed above. While I didn't miss the obtuse dialogue about politics which plagued the feature films, the lack of any in-depth story really pulled me out of the movie. Truth be told, the only thing that I really liked about the film were the two stupid Imperial droids who kept asking dumb questions. They didn't really fit into the movie, but at least they weren't boring.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars comes out of hyperspace on DVD courtesy of Warner Home Video. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image here looks very good, as it's very sharp and clear. The picture shows no grain and no defects from the source material. The colors look very good, even though some scenes have muted tones. The image is never too dark or bright. I did note some occasional stuttering in the animation and some minor video noise. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 EX audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are good, as the sound of spaceships moving from one side of the screen to the other creates some excellent effects with impressive speaker separation. The subwoofer effects are good, as the battles offer many explosions. The surround effects are somewhat weak, however.

The Star Wars: The Clone Wars DVD carries several extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director Dave Filoni, Producer Catherine Winder, Writer Henry Gilroy, and Editor Jason W.A. Tucker. This group discusses the making of the film, the voice actors, and what they did to pay homage to the classic movies and some new things that they added. "Star Wars: The Clone Wars - The Untold Stories" (25 minutes) contains comments from George Lucas and other creators involved with the film. However, this piece actually focuses on the Cartoon Network TV show. It examines episodes of the show...as if we've just finished watching them. But, at no point does it stop and acknowledge the fact that they are talking about the show and if you haven't seen these episodes, like me, this will be full of spoilers. "The Voices of Star Wars: The Clone Wars" (10 minutes) shows the actors at work in the studio and working with Director Dave Filoni. There is a lot of talk about the characters and how the actors work. Seth Green was in this? In "A New Score" (11 minutes), composer Kevin Kiner talks about his work on the film and we get to see him conducuting the orchestra. The DVD contains a GALLERY of concept art, design plans, and maquettes. The DVD contains four DELETED SCENES which run about 11 minutes. These are fully animated and the longest one contains an appearance by a monster who will be familiar to long-time fans. Three of these are from the middle-part of the film. We get six WEBISODES which run 21 minutes. These give an overview of The Clone Wars and introduce us to the characters and ideas of the series. Finally, we have two TRAILERS for the movie.

Warner Home Video has also brought Star Wars: The Clone Wars to Blu-ray Disc. The film is letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains a VC-1 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 25 Mbps. The picture here is very impressive, as it's very sharp and clear. There is no grain or defects from the source material and the animation stuttering and video noise seen on the DVD is nowhere to be found here. The colors look great and they are never oversaturated, nor do they bleed into one another. The image is very detailed, allowing us to see minute parts of the animation and several shots show very good depth. The Disc offers a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 2.0 Mbps. This track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are very good here and they are very detailed. We can hear every laser blast and the footfalls of every clone soldiers. The stereo separation is very good as well, and the spaceships sound great. There are some nice subwoofer effects as well. But, as with the DVD, the surround is weak. The effects are there, but they seem to be mirroring the front channels and we never get that "there's something behind me" feeling.

The Blu-ray Disc contains all of the extras found on the DVD, but instead of having an AUDIO COMMENTARY, we get a VIDEO COMMENTARY where we can see the group as they discuss the film. This isn't just the average feature where we watch the movie and hear the commentary -- the sceen changes in size so that we can see the various speakers. This is an interesting approach, but I would venture to guess that most viewers would like for the screen to remain 16 x 9 while they watch the movie.

Review Copyright 2008 by Mike Long