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A view from the Blu (-ray) on DVDBeaver by Leonard Norwitz

 

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Star Wars: The Clone Wars [Blu-ray]

 

(Directed by Dave Filoni, 2008)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review by Leonard Norwitz

 

Studio:

Theatrical: Lucasfilm Animation

Blu-ray: Warner Home Video

 

Disc:

Region: A

Runtime: 98 minu

Chapters: 46

Size: 50 GB

Case: Standard Amaray Blu-ray case

Release date: November 11, 2008

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 2.40:1

Resolution: 1080p

Video codec: VC-1

 

Audio:

Dolby True HD English 5.1 EX. Dolby Digital: English, French, Spanish & Portuguese 5.1 EX

 

Subtitles:

English, French, Spanish & Portuguese

 

Extras:

• A Creative Conversation Video Commentary with Director Dave Filoni, Producer Catherine Winder, Writer Henry Gilroy & Editor Jason Tucker. (Exclusive to Blu-ray, but not in HD)

• Featurette: The Clone Wars: The Untold Stories (HD – 30:00)

• Featurette: The Voices of The Clone Wars (HD – 9:41)

• Featurette: A New Score with Composer Kevin Kiner (HD – 10:34)

• A Gallery of Concept & Production Art (HD – 43 images)

• Webisodes: 6 Making of Featurettes (HD – 21:20)

• Take the Hologram Memory Challenge

• Deleted Scenes (2:44)

• Trailers (in HD & SD – 5:30)

• Digital Copy Disc

 

 

The Film: 5
Once again I think we have to give a round of drinks to those responsible for low expectations. Rotten Tomatoes gave this movie a mere 20. My score was much higher, though still only a 5, which is about a point lower than my average score for Episodes 1-3.

The Clone Wars might become the first of a series of Star Wars animated feature films from Lucasfilm Animation, or it mat simply serve as a promo piece for the TV series of the same name that has just gotten underway. Expect to see the characters you have come to know and love, plus some new ones, in new adventures. The Clone Wars takes place roughly between Episode 2 (Attack of the Clones) and Episode 3 (Revenge of the Sith) and fleshes out the relationship of Jabba the Hutt and the Hutts relationship to the war between the Army of the Republic, led by Yoda, Mace-Windu, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker and the Separatists, led by Count Dooku, General Grievous and Asajj Ventress.

It seems that the Hutts have gained control of some important space lanes and both Separatists and the Republic are vying for the Hutt's support. Dooku comes up with a plan to kidnap Jabba's infant son and blame the deed on the Republic. As plans go, it's just complex and neatly thought out enough to hold our interest – not much less so than in the live action episodes, especially given that it's a half hour shorter. The dialogue is no less smart, though it is odd to have the same sort of lines spoken by animated characters instead of live ones. In some instances this works in its favor, in others the loss of facial nuance is a liability.

I have written elsewhere of my preference that animation not try to recreate the illusion of humans. It is one of the things I particularly admire about Pixar: that their humans are metaphorical caricatures in keeping with the art direction of the particular movie in question. Classic Disney, on the other hand, always went for a more representational look for their humans. In traditional anime, characters are drawn with the idea of animating a comic rather than imitating life. This is the art form, and we accept or reject it on those terms. I found The Clone Wars to have, in its own way, got it wrong: All the robots, droids and aliens were great, but the humans had the appearance of moving statues. Adding insult to this state of affairs, the good guys all looked like wimps compared to the bad guys.

An important new character is introduced in the movie/series: Ahsoka Tano, a young Padawan trainer, now apprenticed to Anakin. The idea was to develop the light side of the Jedi, most likely to help set up his fall when tragedy inevitably strikes. (This is just a guess. Ahsoka will be with us for a while yet.) There is a considerable amount of repartee between Anakin and Ahsoka, which is just this side of cloying, but should amuse the younger fanbase. My only complaint about Ahsoka is the way she is drawn: I'm sure it's just me, but her Egyptian pharaoh's daughter headdress drives me crazy: it makes her so top heavy, it's a wonder she moves about without tipping over, let alone with the agility she is granted.

The story, voicing, and characterization – except for Ahsoka and the animation of humans - is all pretty decent, especially the background art direction, which is superb. I had the feeling in many of the action sequences that I've been here before – only with live actors in a more textured CG fabric. The one informed and, to some extent – disparaged the other. It was a very odd sensation.

 


 

Image: 8/9
The first number indicates a relative level of excellence compared to other Blu-ray video discs on a ten-point scale. The second number places this image along the full range of DVD and Blu-ray discs.

For an image with such low bit rates (nominally about 15 MBPS), the image is quite lovely – at least on immediate impression. Of course, there is no excuse, really, for such numbers, given its being a dual layer disc. Warner could have done without the Creative Conversation Video Commentary (see Extras) altogether and awarded the space to the feature film image. Carping aside, the image is very nice, if just a little soft and fuzzy. The main reason it looks so good, however, is really due to the excellent art direction (see caps). Colors are saturated, contrast is strong with good, noiseless blacks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio & Music: 8/6
Much is made of the score by Kevin Kiner in the extra features – a score that owes its life to John Williams. When we are most aware of that fact – as when the Star Wars logo bursts onto the screen, from behind, as it were – Kiner's rewriting suffers most. This is partly because Williams nailed the pulse to begin with and Kiner's dotted rhythm rewrite only makes it seem strangely square. But once into the movie, Kiner's talent begins to shine, whether he is channeling Williams or not. The uncompressed audio mix is quite good: enveloping and dynamic with good directional cues for all the various firepower and crossed swords.

 

Operations: 10
Another excellent menu design from Warner: It's easy to see where you are, where you want to go, and how to get there. A brief description of each destination pops up in the lower right corner, along with a thumbnail and its runtime. I very much liked the option to return to the feature film or the menu when I wanted to exit from a bonus feature.

 

Extras: 6
Aside from the cheaply conceived Creative Conversation Video Commentary and Art Gallery, this Blu-ray sports some informative and entertaining extra features. The problem with the Creative Conversation is that it is simply a picture-in-picture commentary of dudes sitting in a theatre row – unintended associations with Beavis & Butthead - making like talking heads while the feature runs above them. It's all executed in not very high quality SD, when it should have been HD, in which case the talking heads PIP should be smaller. Once we've seen these guys, why should we want to watch them for an hour and a half? There is one plus here: occasionally a third window appears which is an approximate live action movie equivalent of the inspiration for the characters. In any case, the commentary would have been the same as on the audio commentary channel – except that there isn't any! The Gallery of Concept & Production Art is likewise strangely conceived: smallish images against huge wasted space filled with a distracting background.

 

 


The rest is fun to watch, mixing the promotional with the informative: The Clone Wars: The Untold Stories puts the movie in context with the TV series. In case we hadn't been following this line of thought, we learn that the feature film is derived from the television CG animation series titled: Star Wars: The Clone Wars, in which many adventures occur between the live action Episodes 2 & 3. The featurette is chock full of tantalizing bits from the series, all in lovely 1080i. You might think of the animated feature film as a promo for the series, which began just this past October 3, rather than vice-versa. Given how well the TV series are produced, I can see Blu-ray manifestations in their future, possibly in this very galaxy. The six promotional Webisodes, to a degree, repeat some of the stuff from The Untold Stories, but there's new material here, as well – all in HD. Voices of the Clone Wars looks at how the actors behind the masks are directed. The segment about the new composer for the new series is just what you'd expect: a look at the ways Kevin Kiner's music is and isn't John Williams.

 

 

Bottom line: 6
Not nearly as bad as many critics have held, I thought. The art direction is the real star here: very much in keeping with the live action movies, but more intriguing. The good guys look static, but the bad guys are demonic in their way. The image quality is good, though a little soft. Audio is dynamic, if not belly punching, which is appropriate, considering this is really a made-for-TV movie.

Leonard Norwitz

Lensview

November 7th, 2008
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 





 

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