Star Wars: The Clone Wars
Release Date: November 11, 2008
Studio: Warner Home Video
Packaging/Materials: Single-disc Blu-Ray case
Running Time: 1h38m
|MAIN FEATURE||SPECIAL FEATURES|
|Video||1080p high definition 16x9 2.40:1||May be in standard definition|
|Audio||Dolby TrueHD: English 5.1 EX / Dolby Digital: English 5.1 EX, French 5.1 EX (dubbed in Quebec), Spanish 5.1 EX, Portuguese 5.1 EX||Audio standards my vary|
|Subtitles||English, French, Spanish and Portuguese (movie and select bonus materials)|
The Feature: 3.5/5
Outer Rim mob boss Jabba the Hutt has an important role to play in the Clone Wars. His control of the trade routes in that sector could determine the victor in the war between the Alliance and the Separatists, depending on who he sides with. When Jabba's son is kidnapped, it seems one side has decided to force his hand. While the most obvious agenda for the kidnappers would be extortion, there's no doubt anyone who saves the larval Hutt child would win Jabba's gratitude and allegiance. Which begs the question - is the kidnapping as simple as it looks or part of some grand manipulation?
To find out one way or another, Yoda (Tom Kane) sends Obi-Wan (James Arnold Taylor) and Anakin (Matt Lanter) to follow the trail, but he also assigns a Padawan Learner named Ahsoka (Ashley Eckstein) to Anakin. Though she has obvious gifts, her recklessnes and impetuousness make for a challenge, though those sometimes-warring qualities also make it clear that Anakin is probably the best person to be her mentor. She'll certainly get no better first-hand experience either as the trio clear one combat-filled obstacle after another on their way to rescuing Jabba's son. But winning the battles is only part of it; the real fight will be avoiding their enemy's machinations that could ultimately put them in a no-win situation.
With the CG-animated "Star Wars: The Clone Wars," George Lucas and company continue building upon the casual reference Obi-Wan Kenobi made to the event in "Star Wars" some 30 years ago. Though the prequel trilogy showed how the war began and some of its early skirmishes, the story was really about Anakin's rise and fall with the Clone War as a backdrop. In this feature film, the TV series that picks up where it leaves off, and even the Genndy Tartakovsky-animated shorts from a few years ago, it's all about the untold tales of the war. Though the Clone War once had quite a mystique about it, the ongoing Star Wars franchise has seen fit to eliminate much of it, replacing fan speculation and wonder with thunderous battle sequences, energetic lightsaber duels and convoluted Sith schemes. That's not all bad though - there's something to be said about the fine work and effort put into the endeavor, even if the now-told stories leave a little to be desired so far.
This most recent treatment plays to a bit more juvenile audience, though thankfully it never reaches the level of insufferability found in the prequels. The Ahsoka character is generally likeable, though certainly not as endearing as the creators wanted her to be or think she is. And whether live action or animated, Anakin is just Anakin - ultimately less interesting than the entity he will become. Though some have written off "The Clone Wars" as yet another unnecessary capitalization, those who are willing to overlook the obvious and temper their expectations will no doubt have a good time.
Video Quality: 4.5/5
The film is accurately framed at 2.40:1, encoded with the VC-1 codec and devoid of blemishes (due to what I assume is a direct-to-digital process). Black levels and shadow detail are very good, though it's not until about the middle of the film that we get a scene that would be considered dark and can show off the quality. Detail is equally excellent, starfields being the most obvious example with their clarity and pinpoint definition, though the close-ups of characters also can exhibit nice features with some surprisingly detailed texture maps. Colors are deep and saturated without signs of banding; even though there's no reference for what is "realistic," colors seem appropriate and natural for the content. Overall the transfer is clean and detailed and shows off the animation with great depth and clarity.
Audio Quality: 4/5
I found the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 EX audio mix surpisingly subdued in the first act - an act that consisted almost entirely of battle scenes. Though the surrounds are fairly active and LFE is present, the mix sounded kind of flat overall, explosions in particular lacking any "oomph" and the overall soundfield missing some dynamic range. Perhaps the new THX "flower power" demo was still ringing in my ears? Whatever the reason, things seem to improve in the second and third acts - with LFE especially, though surround activity seems to perk up too, providing a greater sense of immersion to the experience. Dialogue is consistently clear and intelligible and suitably balanced with the rest of the channels.
The 640 kbps Dolby Digital 5.1 EX audio sounds more constrained and less detailed by comparison, but most would be hard-pressed to differentiate the two tracks without aggressive A-B switching. Those with lossless playback will obviously choose the former, but those without it shouldn't feel short-changed.
Special Features: 4/5
The special features items are uniformly interesting and thorough, with most in high definition.
"A Creative Conversation" Video Commentary: Exclusive to the Blu-Ray release, the commentary features Director Dave Filoni, Producer Catherine Winder, Writer Henry Gilroy and Editor Jason W.A. Tucker and blends talking-head interviews with behind-the-scenes footage. Interestingly, this feature does not use Blu-Ray's picture-in-picture (aka "Bonus View") capability, but instead is an entirely independent, 480p video track. While this approach makes the feature accessible to a wider audience (as not everyone has Bonus View capable players), it also means settling for a lower resolution presentation of the feature in order to experience it. As a commentary it has plenty of background detail and insights that should hold most viewers' attention.
"The Clone Wars: The Untold Stories" (24h53m): Filoni and Gilroy take the lead in discussing (and giving a preview of) several episodes from the Cartoon Network animated series. This is a nice feature for those who don't have access to the show, though likely filled with spoilers for those who are regular viewers. In high definition with stereo audio.
"The Voices of the Clone Wars" (10m00s): An introduction to the faces behind the voices with behind-the-scenes footage from the recording sessions. In high definition with stereo audio.
"A New Score" (10m45s): An interesting look at the animated project's music, featuring Composer Kevin Kiner. In high definition with stereo audio.
Gallery: Over 40 concept drawings created for the film.
Deleted Scenes: Four scenes totaling 10m50s, presented in standard definition with stereo audio. The highlight is a fourway battle involving Ahsoka, Anakin, Ventress and Jabba's Rancor Monster.
Webisodes: Filoni hosts six episodes totaling over 20 minutes, which provide an introduction and behind-the-scenes look at the "Clone Wars" project. The pieces cover the inital concepts, staging battles, clone customization and design, and character design and story arcs. Presented in high definition with stereo audio
Trailers: Two theatrical trailers for the feature film (2m16s and 2m09s) and one for the "Clone Wars" video game (1m10s). The theatrical trailers are in high definition with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio while the video game trailer is in standard definition with stereo audio.
"The Hologram Memory Challenge" Game: Complete a classic game of memory to get sneak peeks to various "Clone Wars" episodes, each in high definition with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio.
Digital Copy: Download a digital copy for playback on computer or portable video device. Compatible with both Mac and Windows.
The Feature: 3.5/5
Video Quality: 4.5/5
Audio Quality: 4/5
Special Features: 4/5
Overall Score (not an average): 4/5
Though the next installment in the Star Wars franchise holds few surprises, it gets very good audio and video treatment and a thoroughly interesting set of special features.