Star Wars: Clone Wars Season 1 Blu-ray Review

Star Wars: Clone Wars Season 1 Blu-ray Review Must not make “The Force in Strong with This One” Joke.

What They Say:
The “Clone Wars” goes back to the original Star Wars film when Obi-Wan Kenobi tells Luke Skywalker that he was once a Jedi knight the same as your father and that they fought together in the Clone Wars. Since that moment fans have been obsessed with what the clone wars were. This new TV series takes place immediately after the events of Star Wars-Episode II: Attack of the Clones. The series follows Obi-Wan Kenobi and his apprentice Anakin Skywalker and introduces us to some new characters such as Ahsoka Tano a girl Jedi knight as well as characters we already know.

The Review:
Audio:
For this viewing I listened to the English language track in Dolby Digital 5.1. There are also French and Spanish language tracks in Stereo and English, Spanish and French subtitles provided. There were no issues with the audio quality as everything sounded fine.

Video:
Each episode was presented in 16:9 aspect ratio and everything looked crisp and clear with no discernable problems whatsoever.

Packaging:
This is a very nice package made from thick, sturdy cardboard. The front cover features the clone trooper Commander Cody against a red background streaked with black lines, making it look almost like cherrywood. The Clone Wars logo and “The Complete Series One” are just to Cody’s left. The spine is simple, continuing the same red-black color scheme. The show’s name and the season are written on there and nothing else. The back cover also continues the color scheme and five screenshots are featured with no text.

The discs are housed on the front and back covers and are overlayed—which is my only complaint with this package. The center of the case contains a booklet full of character and scene sketches along with a brief guide to the episodes. It’s a very nice touch that I quite enjoyed and almost makes up for the overlaying discs.

Menu:
The menu for Season one is nice and dynamic. The various disk options are listed on a dark gray, metallic line at the bottom of the screen while various scenes from the season play on the top third. The Clone Wars logo is superimposed over the scenes, but do not get in the way of the action. The show’s main theme plays on a ten-second loop timed with the scenes and given how much I enjoy the Star Wars theme overall, this is not a bad thing. Overall it is a fun, clean design that I quite enjoyed.

Extras:
The bonus features are quite nice on this work. I especially enjoyed watching the behind-the-scenes featurettes discussing the making of each episode. Typically I don’t care much for that sort of thing, but these were actually quite interesting and entertaining. I also like that several of the episodes were director’s cuts, featuring more content than what was originally aired.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
In many ways, The Clone Wars series is what we were promised when George Lucas first announced the prequels: the rise and fall of Anakin Skywalker, the death of the Republic, and the opportunity to witness fully-trained Jedi Knights. While many—such as myself—were disappointed with the prequels, the animated series rarely disappoints.

I was actually surprised at how much I enjoyed this series. I’m not a huge fan of computer animation and the prequels left me cold, so the combination of the two should have spelled death for this show, but they didn’t. Clone Wars Season One turned out to be a lively and engaging show that really dove into the Star Wars universe to tell stories of loss, betrayal, brotherhood, and hope. It does so with gorgeous, energetic animation and excellent writing and it has done what I thought impossible: make me like Anakin.

In the prequels, Anakin was whiny, selfish, spoiled, and oddly dull. In the animated series, he is smart, witty, brave, and selfless. This is the Anakin I pictured all those years ago when I first heard Obi Wan describe him to Luke back in his home on Tatooine, and it’s a pleasure to see him in action. His interactions with Obi Wan indicate a deep and abiding friendship built upon mutual respect and admiration, and his relationship with his Padawan Ashoka is playful and full of affection.

In fact, Clone Wars does such a good job of making Anakin likable that it’s hard to believe that he will eventually side with the Sith and slaughter his fellow Jedi. However, since this is obviously early in his story, I have faith that it will pan out and the seeds for his turn will slowly be planted.

Moving on from Anakin, one of the more surprising aspects of the Clone Wars was how much the series focuses on the clones (this may seem silly in hindsight, but that is, as they say, 20-20). This is perhaps the smartest move on the part of the writers, because it holds so much potential for story. After all, what must it be like to know that you are a copy of someone else? Not just that, but one of a hundred thousand copies? How does one form an identity knowing all of that? Where does programming end and the soul begins? These are all questions that the clones must face, and they provide excellent material for episodes.

Of course, this is not to say that every episode is a winner. The show really took some time to find its footing. While I enjoyed the episodes well enough, the show’s potential didn’t truly shine until episode five: Rookies. This episode focused on a group of rookie clone troopers that had to fend for themselves against an invasion of droid commandos. That episode illustrated that Clone Wars had more to it than just fun scenes of Jedi fighting, that it had a heart and sense of purpose. Still, many of the episodes are a bit hit-or-miss, especially if they starred Jar-Jar, so while the ultimate experience was enjoyable, you definitely had to wade through some clunkers to get to the good stuff.

In Summary:
Star Wars: The Clone Wars Season One really surprised me. I went in expecting it to be more-or-less like the prequels, but found a fun, intelligent show that had a sense of purpose. While the show did take some time to find its footing, the strength of the writing and the narrative choices made make this a real treat for Star Wars fans. Recommended.

Features:
English Dolby Digital 5.1 Language, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 Language, French Dolby Digital 5.1 Language, GermanDolby Digital 5.1 Language, Seven Director’s Cut Episodes: Rising Malevolence, Shadow of Malevolence, Lair of Greivous, Storm over Ryloth, Innocents of Ryloth, and Liberty on Ryloth, 22 Episodic Featurettes, 64-page Production Journal, The Jedi Temple Archives

Content Grade: B-
Audio Grade: A
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: A+
Menu Grade: A
Extras Grade: A

Released By: Warner
Release Date: September 13, 2011
MSRP: $44.98
Running Time: 484 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p VC-1
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Panasonic Viera TH42PX50U 42” Plasma HDTV, Sony BPD-S3050 BluRay Player w/HDMI Connection

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