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MOVIE INFO

Director:
Genndy Tartakovsky
Cast:
Corey Burton, Anthony Daniels, John Di Maggio, Nick Jameson, Tom Kane, Mat Lucas, Kevin Michael Richardson, André Sogliuzzo, Cree Summer, James Arnold Taylor
Writing Credits:
Bryan Andrews, Mark Andrews, Darrick Bachman, George Lucas (characters and universe), Paul Rudish, Genndy Tartakovsky

Tagline:
The Revenge Begins.

Synopsis:
The Star Wars saga continues with Volume 1 of Star Wars: Clone Wars. All of the epic adventures from Episode II that lead directly into the amazing events in Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith are retold here. You'll also be introduced to new planets, creatures, ships, villains and Jedi, including the first glimpse of General Grievous, the new super-villain for the next Star Wars movie.

MPAA:
Rated NR

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 1.78:1/16x9
Audio:
English Dolby 2.0
Spanish Dolby 2.0
French Dolby 2.0
Subtitles:
English
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 69 min.
Price: $19.98
Release Date: 3/22/2005

Bonus:
• Director’s Commentary
• Hyperspace Commentary
• “Bridging the Saga” Featurette
• “Behind the Scenes” Featurette
• Sketches and Storyboards
• Posters and Artwork
Episode III Teaser Trailer
Episode III Game Trailer
Star Wars: Republic Commando Game Trailer
Star Wars: Republic Commando XBox Demo
• THX Optimizer


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

EQUIPMENT
Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


Star Wars: Clone Wars - Volume I (2003)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (June 2, 2005)

Although we went three years between the theatrical releases of Star Wars: Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, not all was silent within the Star Wars universe. Starting in the fall of 2003, animated shorts under the banner of Clone Wars ran on the Star Wars website and also on the Cartoon Network. Released over a six-month span, each ran an average of about three and a half minutes and furthered our knowledge of events. Five additional shorts came out in the weeks leading up to the debut of Sith; each of these lasted around 12 minutes each.

According to the official Star Wars website, “Episode II ignited the Clone Wars, exploding on the screen as the Battle of Geonosis, the first engagement of the lengthy conflict. It was the largest ground battle ever depicted in a Star Wars movie to date, with unending legions of clone troopers led into war by heroic Jedi Knights. Their opponents: the soulless droid army of the Confederacy of Independent Systems. Attack of the Clones was just a prologue. In Episode III, viewers will see the climactic finale of the Clone Wars. The stories that take place between the Episodes are now being told, fittingly, between the releases of the films.”

For the first half of those stories, we turn to a DVD called Star Wars: Clone Wars - Volume One. As the title implies, it includes the first half of the Cloneshorts. Presumably the others will soon appear as Volume Two and will lead us right up to the opening sequence of Sith. (These are currently available online, of course.)

Don’t expect a whole lot of plot from Clone. Partially because three-minute shorts don’t lend themselves to rich storytelling, the clips emphasize action. Obviously, we see elements of the titular battles, with a particular emphasis on the work Obi-Wan Kenobi (voiced by James Arnold Taylor) and Anakin Skywalker (Mat Lucas) do to tame the separatists on the Intergalactic Banking Planet. Against his master’s wish, Anakin becomes sidetracked when he encounters an aggressive pilot. She turns out to be Sith wannabe Asajj Ventress (Grey DeLisle), a serious fighter who battles young Skywalker to prove her worth to Count Dooku (Corey Burton).

Most of the other segments more fully stand on their own. We see adventures with Yoda (Tom Kane), Padme Amidala (DeLisle), and Mace Windu (Terrence Carson) as well as many lesser-known Jedi. This means we get to check out folks like Shaak Ti (DeLisle), Luminara Unduli (Cree Summer) and Ki-Adi-Mundi (Daran Norris) in action. We also get a glimpse of robotic General Grievous (John DiMaggio) toward the end; he’ll play a more substantial role in Volume Two as well as in Sith itself.

Although this DVD plopped on my doorstep weeks prior to the release of Sith, I refused to watch it until I saw that flick. I wanted to view it, but so strongly did I desire to avoid any Sith spoilers that I ignored the DVD until after May 19. Did I really have to worry that it’d include spoilers? Probably not, but since I’m the guy who left the theater when any Star Wars trailer appeared and also forbade his girlfriend from making even the most rudimentary remark connected to the film, I figured it was par for the course.

In retrospect, I kind of wish I’d watched these shorts in advance. The story to Sith often makes little sense, and the extra exposition formed by Clones might have made the experience more fulfilling. Of course, I’d also have needed to watch the second half of the cartoons now available online, and maybe those included spoilers, but I still think I might have liked Sith better with the extra expository knowledge.

Not that you get a ton of that. As I mentioned earlier, these shorts heavily emphasize action. Oh my, do they get down and dirty! Clone comes packed with “I wish that were in the movie!” moments. Some segments fare better than others, of course. Windu’s battle against scores of droids is killer, and the lightsaber fight between Anakin and Asajj also sizzles. Virtually all of the battles are quite good, though, with only Fisto’s underwater sequence coming across as a mild disappointment.

Speaking of which, I really like the fact we get to see Jedi other than the usual suspects in action. Sure, we get lots of Anakin, Obi-Wan, Yoda and Windu, but they don’t dominate to the exclusion of all others. We find lots of material with the Jedi I commonly refer to as “Action Figure Fodder”: geeks like myself know their names just because we have their action figures, but no one else has the slightest clue about these “blink and you’ll miss them” characters.

Anyway, I find the scenes with the other Jedi to be a lot of fun, especially when we get a glimpse of another padawan. To date, I think the only times we saw adult Jedi trainees involved Luke in the Original Trilogy, Obi-Wan in Phantom Menace, and Anakin in the other two flicks. Sure, we get shots of the “younglings” in the Jedi Temple, but otherwise I can’t think of a hint of other padawans who should be close to the end of their training.

Clones tosses out some such characters. One provides a strong presence as Luminara’s trainee, while the other doesn’t get much screentime. He seems like a weak personality since he doesn’t act like a Jedi. He looks like Shaggy from Scooby-Doo and displays a level of courage much closer to that of Hudson in Aliens. In general, I think it’s fun to see nother adult padawans.

Fun dominates the exciting and thrilling Clones. No, the animation won’t win any awards, but director Genndy Tartakovsky brings a terrific sense of style to the proceedings anyway. The action really sizzles throughout all the various sequences, and the program displays a surprising level of coherence. Given that all 20 chapters originally needed to fare on their own, one might expect a lot of jerky transitions. A few of those occur; in particular, the shift from the Anakin/Asajj fight fails to flow smoothly into the next scene. Otherwise, however, I think it’s tough to tell that these pieces weren’t meant to fit together. The show blends nicely to feel like a coherent whole.

After the disappointment of Attack of the Clones, the significantly higher quality of Sith helped bring me back into the Star Wars fold, and the excellent collection of shorts called Clone Wars reinforces my renewed interest. These cartoons offer a great deal of action and excitement and help further the Star Wars tale.


The DVD Grades: Picture A-/ Audio B/ Bonus B-

Star Wars: Clone Wars appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this single-sided, single-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Despite some crude animation, the transfer of the shorts always looked great.

Overall, the episodes consistently demonstrated solid sharpness. Occasionally, some shots looked a little soft, but those examples were infrequent. The majority of the scenes seemed nicely detailed and well defined. Virtually no examples of jagged edges and moiré effects appeared, and I noticed no issues connected to edge enhancement. No source defects showed up, as the programs consistently looked clean and fresh.

The programs demonstrated a palette that was quite varied and dynamic. The hues came across smoothly, and they always looked rich and full. At times the colors became quite gorgeous, and the DVDs always replicated them well. Blacks seemed tight and deep, and the few low-light shots were appropriately dense but not overly thick. Clone Wars demonstrated very high quality material and earned an “A-“.

The Dolby Surround 2.0 soundtrack of Clone Wars didn’t dazzle, but it did the job. The front speakers offered the majority of the information. They showed good stereo imaging and meshed together quite well. A lot of useful effects popped up, and these made the front spectrum pretty worthwhile. Ships zoomed across the speakers and battle elements like gunfire and lightsabers zipped from side to side.

Surround usage seemed less exciting. They tended to reinforce the elements from the front and failed to bring a lot of unique material into the show. Given the Star Wars pedigree, the absence of solid surround information came as a disappointment, but when I considered the program’s roots, I thought the limited soundfield made more sense.

I found the audio quality to seem pretty positive. Dialogue demonstrated nicely concise and crisp tones, and I heard no problems connected to intelligibility or edginess. The score came across as full and dynamic, as all the music was bright and rich. Effects seemed fairly accurate and natural. The track exhibited good bass response as a whole, as the mix seemed pretty deep and warm. Overall, Clone Wars presented some satisfying but unexceptional audio.

A smattering of extras pop up on Clone Wars. First we find a director’s commentary with Genndy Tartakovsky. He presents running, screen-specific remarks. Much of the time, Tartakovsky stays painfully screen-specific. For the first few chapters, he does almost nothing more than explain what we see in basic terms. The first 15 minutes or so of this commentary move slowly and tell us little.

However, Tartakovsky gradually gets with the program. As the shorts progress, he starts to relate information about influences and inspirations, visual design, character developments and story points. The commentary still fails to ever become terrific, but it improves quite a bit and becomes reasonably positive.

Tartakovsky pops up again for the Hyperspace commentary. Recorded for fans on the official Star Wars website, this one provides another running, screen-specific track with the director. He covers the same topics touched upon in the first piece but he does so with a greater level of detail. This commentary lacks the feeling of narration and digs much more deeply into the work done to create the cartoons. We even learn what problems he encountered with the folks from Lucas, as Tartakovsky gets into restrictions they imposed on him. Some of the material repeats from the prior track, and Tartakovsky isn’t exactly a dynamic speaker, but he offers enough good information to make this piece worth a listen. It’s definitely superior to the other commentary.

Bridging the Saga lasts seven minutes and 33 seconds. The featurette includes movie shots, behind the scenes elements, and comments from Tartakovsky, George Lucas, storyboard artist/writer Bryan Andrews, and art director Paul Rudish. We learn a little about how the Clone series came to be along with elements of its story and production. The featurette acts as a basic look at various issues but doesn’t give us much depth. In many ways, it feels promotional, as it mostly tells us about what to expect in Volume Two.

Inside the “Videogames” area, we get a few components. This domain includes trailers for both the Episode III game and Star Wars: Republic Commando. For those appropriately equipped, we also get a Commando XBox Demo.

Under “Behind the Scenes”, we start with a featurette. It runs four minutes, four seconds and includes remarks from Tartakovsky, Rudish, This piece offers a simply discussion of what to expect from the series and its story. It also discusses the stylized cartoon versions of the characters, though mostly we just hear the names of the participants. As with “Saga”, not much real information pops up in this fluffy program.

Two Still Galleries also pop up here. We find “Sketches and Storyboards” (27 frames) and “Posters and Artwork” (40). Both offer quality collections of material.

Another ad appears via the Episode III Teaser Trailer. A clever combination of new footage and old, it worked well to promote the new movie.

The DVD also features the THX Optimizer. Also found on many other DVDs, this purports to help you set up your system for the best reproduction of both picture and sound, ala stand-alone programs such as Video Essentials. I’ve never tried the Optimizer since I’m happy with my settings, but if you don’t own something such as Essentials, the Optimizer may help you improve picture and audio quality.

I can’t say I expected a lot from the animated “micro-series” Star Wars: Clone Wars. However, I found a program that achieved an almost shocking level of quality as it told its tales with zest and excitement. The DVD presented excellent visuals with solid audio and a decent set of extras. Clone Wars definitely belongs in the collection of every Star Wars fan.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.0666 Stars Number of Votes: 15
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