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Star Wars : The Clone Wars (2008) artwork

Star Wars : The Clone Wars (2008)

21st December 2008

The heroic Jedi Knights are struggling to maintain order and restore peace. More and more systems are falling prey to the forces of the dark side as the Galactic Republic slips further and further under the sway of the Separatists and their never-ending droid army.
Matt Lanter, Ashley Eckstein, James Arnold Taylor, Anthony Daniels, Christopher Lee, Tom Kane, Catherine Taber, Kevin Michael Richardson
Science Fiction, Fantasy, Action/Adventure
2
1 Hour 38 Minutes
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The heroic Jedi Knights are struggling to maintain order and restore peace. With more and more systems falling prey to the forces of the dark side, the Galactic Republic is slipping further and further under the sway of the Separatists and their never-ending droid army. Anakin Skywalker and his Padawan learner Ahsoka Tano find themselves on a mission with far-reaching consequences, and a mission that brings them face-to-face with crime lord, and all round slime ball, Jabba the Hutt and his equally bad associates.

But Count Dooku and his sinister agents, including the nefarious Asajj Ventress, will stop at nothing to ensure that Anakin and Ahsoka fail at their quest and bring Jabba the Hutt into their clutches and allow the empire to use the hyper-lines to expand their domain unimpeded. Kidnapping Jabba's son, Count Dooku tries to place the blame on the Jedi knights and offers to rescue his son. However, Jabba is still not convinced that the Jedi are to blame for the kidnapping of his son, so Count Dooku is forced to fabricate some evidence and accuse the Jedi's of killing Jabba's son.

Meanwhile, on the front lines of the Clone Wars, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Master Yoda lead the massive clone army in a valiant effort to resist the forces of the dark side with a mammoth planetary and space battle on Christophis that will keep the galactic scrap metal dealers busy for a million years. After the final victory for the Republic on Christophsis, Yoda arrives and brings the Jedi up to date on the situation concerning Jabba's son. The Republic needs Jabba on their side to ensure they can use Jabba's trade routes so Anakin and Ahsoka are urgently tasked with finding and retrieving the child before it's too late. Who will win, and will good triumph over evil and the ever creeping dark side?

Picture wise, this is why computer animation and Blu-Ray go so well together. The 1080p transfer is pixel perfect and with a clarity that only Blu-Ray and a Hi-Def screen can offer. The colours are wonderfully rich and diverse and, whilst there's no escaping the fact you're watching CGI animation, it's worth while buying the disc to simply enjoy the on screen images. Naturally, originating in the digital domain, it was a simple manner of transferring the material from one media to another, so there are no issues with dust specks or print damage. Even the myriad of colours and fast motions are handled with ease and as the film progresses, and the battles intensify, it can drag you right into the action. However, although Clone Wars was originally released at the cinema, it's obvious that its true place was always going to be at home on a shiny silver disc. All in all, you couldn't ask for anything more.

The audio is provided by a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtracks. Whilst I am unable to fully review the audio, still relying on a trusty Yamaha 5.1 decoder, the only audio score available to me is the standard 5.1 mix. Never the less, it still manages to be excellent - but not outstanding. Sure, the front, rear and the LFE channels are packed full of explosions, laser blasts and a general sound field melee that is expected from the Star Wars universe, but I was still expecting that little something more. Never the less, don't let this put you off, as you can happily crank up the volume without annoying the neighbours.

One of the big bonuses of Blu-Ray is that its 50 GB capacity - 40 GB more than our humble standard definition DVD - offers plenty of space for those all important extras. Sure, that hi-def picture and sound will eat into that capacity, but film fans are wanting more and more out their champion shiny format (although I wonder whether the BD-Live feature is a bit of a flash in the pan). With Java based menus there's plenty of scope for imaginative and challenging menu systems (albeit a challenge to some Blu-Ray players that still annoyingly exhibit compatibility issues) so it's a bit disappointing to find a menu system that's not going to win any design awards. Sure, it's animated with scenes from the film and scored with the main theme but, come on guys, this is Star Wars! Let's just hope that the extras offer something special.

Unlike the standard DVD edition, which only offers an audio commentary, The Clone Wars is packed with a good selection of extras that will ensure that there will be quite a few jealous fans out there who are yet to upgrade to Blu-Ray. Offering a superb Picture-in-Picture Video Commentary, Web Casts, Deleted Scenes and a scattering of Trailers for the film, there's plenty of material to plough through. It's only slightly spoilt by having the 3D holographic sleeve covered in stickers saying how wonderful Blu-Ray is and that it will only play in a PS3 or Blu-Ray player. Unfortunately, peel these stickers off and you're left with a sticky residue that refuses to come off.

First off is the feature length Creative Video Commentary. Expanding on a standard audio commentary usually seen on standard DVD, director Dave Filoni, Producer Catherine Winder, Writer Henry Gilroy and Editor Jason W.A. Tucker are on hand to provide a rather good Picture-in-Picture commentary track. As the film progresses a number of box-out style windows appear that expand and contract as the commentators talk about the various scenes in the film. Also, in a nice touch, whenever someone makes a reference to something from the Star Wars universe the related artwork or film clip also appears on the screen. If this is the future of commentaries on Blu-Ray then I'll look forward to many more interesting commentaries such as this.

Next up is the twenty-five minute The Clone Wars : The Untold Stories featurette. Rather than concentrating on the film, it expands things further by looking at the Star Wars universe and turns into a teaser for the stories that are due to follow. With plenty of clips from the new series, with the same style animation on show as already seen in the film, it offers an interesting look at what is expected from the series. However, my only concern is the apparent amount of violence. I already thought that the violence in The Clone Wars film was a little close to its PG certification for its intended audience, but for something to be broadcast on television, I wouldn't mind betting that the censors will ensure the full story is only ever shown on DVD.

The ten minute The Voice of the Clone Wars featurette does exactly what it says on the tin and looks at the people behind the voices. With plenty of behind-the-scenes clips plus the final scenes, it's a reasonable featurette that helps uncover how the recording process takes places. Without musical score a film can be rather uninvolving, so the eleven minute A New Score featurette looks at the new musical identity for the series. Without the amazing John Williams score, composer Kevin Kiner offers his own interpretation on the classic theme. However, he's not allowed a total free reign and George Lucas is on hand to ensure that the soundtrack for his baby is nudged in the right direction. Naturally, a Star Wars score wouldn't be Star Wars score without a view of the orchestra in action, and this featurette doesn't disappoint.

Next up are the four Deleted Scenes. Running for eleven minutes, and fully rendered (albeit not in high-definition), the Cargo Bay, Platform Droid Fight, Rancor Pit and Through the Tanks scenes are all action packed and worthy of a look in. However, as usual, there's no explanation as to why they were removed from the film, but the usual cut for pacing and timing purposes seems the most plausible. I find Galleries one of the most disappointing features, and one usually associated with padding material. So, again, the over supply of concept artwork, designs and backdrops in the Gallery of Concept and Production Art fails to impress. It's a feature reserved for the fans and purists.

Fans of the film will have probably already followed developments very closely on the Internet, but for those of us that didn't, the extras include the six behind-the-scenes webisodes. Running for a total of twenty-one minutes and introduced by director David Filoni, the episodes can either be individually selected or viewed in one sitting. Each episode looks at the various characters seen in the film and the collection manages to provide an interesting insight into the character personalities that you may not have not noticed during the film. Rounding the extras off nicely are a collection of Trailers (some in Hi-Def) for the film and, naturally, the all important video game cash, err I mean, tie in.

Like Galleries, I'm not a fan on games on DVD - even with the expanded possibilities of Blu-Ray on hand to liven things up somewhat. So, the The Hologram Memory Challenge game invites you to test your skill and memory to unlock three high definition sneak peaks at the television series. Needless to say, I soon got bored, and I'm sure the younger viewers will do too. All in all, it's a good collection of extras that add a great deal of value to the package. It's just a shame about those annoying stickers that the Blu-Ray manufactures insist on sticking over everything. Please stop, they're simply not needed!

There's no doubting that this film is aimed at a younger audience - mind you, that didn't stop teenagers and pretty much every adult on the planet enjoying the original Star Wars films. Whilst the action, and violence, is none-stop to the point of being thoroughly confusing, the animation is done in a manner so similar to a video game that I kept on thinking I was watching an introduction scene for the latest Playstation 3 game. But, then again, the Star Wars universe wouldn't be Star Wars without a video game, so the cash will surely continue on all console formats (coming to a store near you soon...).

Yes, the dialogue is cheesy and the storyline in the film is pretty dire (but then again, George Lucas did subject us to Jar Jar Binks and those extremely annoying, and furry, Ewoks) but it's the fact that the disc is packed full with extras, plus the animation and picture quality is stunning, ensures that The Clone Wars as one of those "our little secret" discs that you can break out whenever you fancy being amazed by the quality of Blu-Ray and your big screen Hi-Def television. I've always said, and still stick by it, that I will only ever purchase "big" movies and computer animation on Blu-Ray. The Clone Wars is one of those titles.

Whilst The Clone Wars will always appeal to younger members of the family (who'll soon be begging for yet more merchandising of the plastic toy variety), the film at least attempts to fill in a few gaps in the Star Wars saga storyline (I always felt that Lucas appeared to be making things up as he went along) and, judging by the quality of the animation here, the spin off television series is bound to be popular (and destined for a future DVD release) with a younger audience given a tempting glimpse into the Star Wars world that pretty much redefined the science fiction genre.

Given that the film received mixed reviews on its cinematic release, this release is probably only going to be snapped up by animation fans and/or fans of the Star Wars franchise (which they'll be plenty of around the world). Also, if you shop on-line, the price of the Blu-Ray disc isn't going to break the bank either (especially since the RRP is a mere £5 more than the standard definition DVD edition) so it should be a bit of a no-brainer purchase for fans and Blu-Ray owners.

  • Audio Commentary
  • The Clone Wars : The Untold Stories - Sneak peek into Season One of Star Wars: The Clone Wars
  • The Voices of The Clone Wars - Recording sessions, for the feature film and selected episodes of the TV series, with the actors of Star Wars: The Clone Wars
  • A New Score - Scoring Star Wars: The Clone Wars with a 90 piece orchestra in Prague
  • Gallery
  • Webisodes - Introducing The Clone Wars, Epic Battles, The Clones are Coming, Heroes, Villains, Anakin's Padwan
  • Deleted Scenes - Through the Tanks (Anakin and Ahsoka navigate through enemy lines), Rancor Pit (Anakin and Ahsoka battle Asaaj Ventress in a Rancor Pit), Platform Droid Fight (Anakin and Ahsoka battle Droids on a landing platform), Cargo Bay (Ahsoka empties the Twilight's cargo bay)
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars Trailers - Launch Trailer, Dark Trailer, Clone Wars, Videogame Trailer, THX Amazing Life Trailer
  • Hologram Memory Challenge - Memory game; winner unlocks 3 sneak peeks from upcoming TV series
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