Star Wars: The Clone Wars 
Blu-ray Animation
Written by Noah Fleming   
Wednesday, 05 November 2008

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Lucas and company can't help but capitalize on the Star Wars saga.  Now that the saga is complete, a new production has slipped through the cracks.  "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" pretty much bombed at the box office.  It is being released on Blu-ray and DVD a little less than just three months after being released in theaters.  But that will not stop the Lucas gang from pushing forward.

"Clone Wars" serves as the precursor to the "Clone Wars" TV series.  Although, after the unsuccessful film, I'm not sure where the TV series stands.  "The Clone Wars" is the first feature length production to come out of the Lucasfilm Animation division.  Hopefully the next venture will be better.

It is unclear where the film is supposed to fit within the true Star Wars saga.  Theoretically, it is supposed to fall in between Episodes II and III.  However, there are certain plot lines that don't match.

Anakin Skywalker now has a Padawan learner, Ahsoka Tano.  Tano will remind anyone that is even the slightest bit Star Wars savvy of Skywalker himself.  She is reckless and doesn't take direction too terribly well.  However, she has a lot of skill.

The battle rages on with the Separatists.  The Jedi Council has instructed Anakin and his new apprentice to track down and rescue the kidnapped son of Jabba the Hut.  The end goal of this assignment is goodwill in order to get the Hutts to sign a treaty, allowing use of the outer rim as a trade route.

Count Dooku is back (yet to be killed by Anakin) as the mastermind behind a plot to kill the son of Jabba the Hut and insight more war.  The whole film is basically about Anakin's and Tano's struggles to get the kidnapped son back to Jabba.  That's it.

Many of the familiar Star Wars' characters have returned in this animated adventure.  Yoda, Obi-Wan, Anakin, Jabba, even Master Windu and Padme are all present.  However, for the most part, the characters are not voiced by the original actors.  Samuel L. Jackson does return to voice Master Windu and Christopher Lee as Count Dooku.  Anthony Daniels also returns as C-3PO.

In the end, "Clone Wars" is just a money-maker.  There is nothing truly outstanding about the film.  The acting is decent, the animation is on par, and the story is simple and traditional Star Wars.  What bothers me most that the film doesn't fit with the original storylines of the Star Wars saga.

The music is based on the original score for Star Wars, composed by John Williams.  However, it is now Kevin Kiner that takes the reigns for scoring this Star Wars spin-off.  For the most part the score is relevant to the animated feature.  Sometimes is takes off into some rock, rap and jazz styles, which is odd.  Overall though, for me the score was the best part of the film.

The video is presented in a 2.40:1 aspect ratio and 1080p.  Having been fully produced and animated in the digital realm, I was expecting some terrific video quality.  For the most part, the video is decent.  The printmaster is absolutely flawless, as to be expected.  There is no compression or motion artifacts, edge enhancement or banding.  However, there are a couple main problems.  First, the colors and depth suffer from so-so black levels.  The colors are not vibrant, but can be classified as fine.  The depth however, is very weak.  Nothing pops off the screen.  It all appears flat.  The second problem is that the animation appears blocky.  This is mostly intentional.  The blocky structure also makes the lack of texture apparent.  Everything is a straightedge with smooth, flat designs.  Only occasionally is texture on clothes noticeable.  Other animated films like "Shrek" and "Tinker Bell" thrive in this area,  It is not a fault of the transfer, just of the animation.  While it is not a horrible video presentation by any means, I expected more from a digitally animated film.  Especially with the recent release of such great looking animated films.

The audio is presented in a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track.  The audio is fairly accurate to the original.  However, the original audio was not super great.  Ben Burtt, the original Star Wars sound designer has been replaced by understudy Matthew Wood.  The sound effects are not quite representative of the original Star Wars sound.  The surround channels are used well for the most part.  At some points the audio in the rear channels lacks some discrete effects.  But again, not the fault of the transfer.  Dialogue is crisp and audible.  The bass is warm and present during the battle sequences.  My only issue with the sound is the original design is very compressed.  It is not compressed in terms of artifacts.  It lacks dynamic range.  The battle sequences are only slightly louder than the dialogue scenes.  This constant barrage of sounds makes the ears tired at the end of an hour and a half.

The Blu-ray is packed with some interesting bonus materials.  First there is a video commentary with director Dave Filoni, Producer Catherine Winder, Writer Henry Gilroy and Editor Jason W.A. Tucker.  "The Clone Wars: The Untold Stories" is a collection of materials that introduces you to the Clone Wars TV Series that will start airing on the Cartoon Network.  "The Voices of the Clone Wars" goes behind the scenes with the voice talents.  "A New Score" examine Kevin Kiner's new music score for the Clone Wars.  "Webisodes" is a collection of six featurettes on the making of the animated feature.  There is also a collection of deleted scenes, trailers and a photo gallery.  Lastly, there is a Hologram Memory Challenge BD-Java game.  If you unlock three of the clues then you get some more special sneak peeks at the Clone Wars TV Series.  There is also a separate disc with a Digital Copy.

"Star Wars: The Clone Wars" is a fair attempt at continuing the Star Wars saga.  However, in stead of the animated route it would be much more interesting if Lucas would put his efforts toward telling the after story, the last three episodes to the Star Wars saga (Episodes VII, VIII and IX).  The video is decent but far from animated reference material.  The audio is solid, but a bit to sustaining.  If you have children, they will probably enjoy this feature.  But, if you are a Star Wars fan, I make no guarantees.
Studio Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
MPAA Rating PG
Starring Matt Lanter, Ashley Eckstein, James Arnold Taylor, Dee Bradley Baker, Samuel L. Jackson, Matthew Wood, Anthony Daniels, Christopher Lee
Director Dave Filoni
Film Release Year 2008
Release Year 2008
Resolution(s) 1080p (main feature) • 1080p (supplements)
Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
Running Time 1 hr. 38 mins.
Sound Formats English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 • English Dolby Digital EX • French Dolby Digital 5.1 • Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1 • Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles English • French • Portuguese • Spanish
Special Features Director/Writer/Editor/Producer Video Commentary; "The Clone Wars: The Untold stories"; "The Voices of the Clone Wars"; "A New Score"; Webisodes; Deleted Scenes; Trailers; Gallery of Concept and Production Art; Hologram Memory Challenge; Digital Copy
Forum Link
Reviewer Noah Fleming

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