Warner Bros. (August 15, 2008), Warner Home Video (November 11, 2008), 2 disc set, 98 mins plus supplements, 2.35:1 original widescreen ratio, Dolby Surround 5.1 EX, Rated PG, Retail: $34.98
There were only brief mentions of the Clone Wars in the first three Star Wars movies. The remark made by Obi Wan Kenobi only fueled speculation among Star Wars fans who kept wondering what had happened in the past to Luke Skywalker’s father and family during the war. This fascination with the history behind the characters in the first three films was finally rewarded with the second trilogy of films that began with The Phantom Menace in 1999. The Clone Wars were a series of battles that took place between separatist star systems and the Galactic Republic. The Separatists (under the name of Confederation of Independent Systems) use battle droids to wage war against the Republic who eventually fights back with an army of cloned soldiers led by Jedi generals. The beginning of the war can be found in the film Attack of the Clones while the grand finale of the war takes place in Revenge of the Sith. This would put this latest film as well as the new TV show between Episodes 2 and 3 of the Star Wars saga.
The Sweatbox Review:
The main aspect of this latest movie and what makes it interesting to even the most casual of Star Wars fans is seeing Anakin Skywalker in his role as hero, long before he became Darth Vader. The story begins, as with most Star Wars films, with a brief introduction about what is happening in this galaxy, a long time ago. However, instead of the usual crawl usually show in the beginning of previous films, a narrator talks about the latest events in the Clone Wars and the relationship between the Republic and the Hutt Clan that controls the Outer Rim, a region of space not under the control of the Republic. Jabba the Hutt’s son has been kidnapped by a rival band of pirates and he puts out a call for help to anyone that can find his son. The Republic, seeing an opportunity to sign a treaty with the Hutt Clan, decides that Anakin and Obi-Wan would be the perfect Jedi for this new mission.
Meanwhile, on the embattled planet of Christophsis, we jump into the middle of the action as Anakin and Obi-Wan Kenobi are battling the Separatists. We quickly learn that the Jedi and the Clone Army are under siege by a group of battle droids and the only way to defeat them is to go behind enemy lines to destroy their shield. They desperately need reinforcements, but instead a young girl arrives with a message from Yoda and the Jedi Council. This is when we are introduced to Ahsoka Tano, a fourteen-year-old Togruta Jedi-in-training who tells them about the kidnapping. We soon also learn that Ahsoka has also arrived as the new Padawan learner to Anakin. Anakin resists the idea, but he is responsible for Ahsoka until he can resolve this matter directly with Yoda. We quickly learn in the beginning of the movie that Jabba’s son was actually kidnapped by Count Dooku’s operatives and is being guarded by a Dark Jedi assassin named Ventress. Eventually, Jabba’s son is found on a monastery on planet Teth and it is up to Anakin and Ahsoka to rescue the kid.
The conclusion to the movie is predictable, but it does leave the story open to be explored throughout the rest of the series. What I enjoyed the most about the movie was the way in which they took some favorite characters from previous Star Wars movies and gave them new dimensions. It was also fun to see characters that we barely knew about in previous films make new appearances in this new movie. One particular plus for me was seeing the way in which the producers and directors handled the Clones. Here, the Clones are given names and become distinct characters. The makers made a smart and intriguing decision in designing the Clones like real soldiers with tattoos, scars, and distinct hair colors. It was fun to see their relationship with the Jedi Generals who lead them. It will be interesting to see how this relationship is expanded upon in the series.
The series is actually the only major flaw in the movie. Because the film is basically setting up the world for the new series, the show does very little in terms of being daring or providing interesting plot turns. Everything just feels like a setup for something else (which was also one of the problems with the three prequels) and in the end we know what happens. The central story for the movie plays out more like an extended television episode for the show. Having Jabba’s son being kidnapped is almost like one of those mystery procedural shows on television (CSI: Star Wars anyone?). Ultimately, the movie does not hold up without the series, which it really isn’t meant to, but I have to judge the movie on its own.
Is This Thing Loaded?
The first disc features an in-depth audio commentary from Director Dave Filoni, Producer Catherine Winder, Writer Henry Gilroy and Editor Jason W. A. Tucker. Overall, they provide interesting insights into their decisions in making the film and also act as a guide to the Star Wars universe. There are many characters and situations that only hard-core fans of Star Wars will understand and the commentary helps the casual viewers sort it out. Overall, this is recommended for fans and for people craving more information about the universe.
The second disc of this two-disc DVD set includes three new featurettes, a gallery of art from the movie, webisodes, deleted scenes and trailers.
First up is Star Wars: The Clone Wars – The Untold Stories (24:51), a mini documentary about the concept behind The Clone Wars and also a neat promo for the new series that is being shown on The Cartoon Network. In this featurette, George Lucas, and the directors and producers behind the movie and the show talk about the idea behind the project and the stories they are going to tell during the first season of the show. They go into detail about the proposed episodes, the expansion of the universe and adding new dimensions to old characters. Overall, this is a neat preview of the new season and a great tool to promote the television show.
The Voices of Star Wars: the Clone Wars (10:00) is another interesting featurette about the voice cast for the movie and for the television show. I thought it was very interesting to note that there are actually several members of the original film cast that make an appearance in the film including Samuel L. Jackson as Mace Windu, Christopher Lee as Count Dooku, and Anthony Daniels as C-3PO. Here, the voice actors talk about their experiences recording the voices and the process of bringing the characters to life. This again is mostly focused on the voice actors of the TV show; although there is an overlap with this film (Christopher Lee does not reprise his role in the series).
A New Score talks about the daunting task for composer Kevin Kiner of updating and recreating John William’s memorable score in the movie and television show. The creators of the movie talk about the search for the perfect composer and about the importance that music has on the universe.
One of the most interesting special features on the disc, and the ones most directly related to the making of the movie are the webisodes. There are seven webisodes in total and these were featured on the Star Wars website prior to the release of the film in theatres. The first webisode is Introducing Star Wars: The Clone Wars (3:39) and it features Dave Filoni, the director, talking about the idea for making the movie and the new show. He talks about exploring the heroic side of Anakin Skywalker, his brotherly relationship with Obi-Wan Kenobi, and the introduction of Ahsoka Tano as Anakin’s padawan. Epic Battles (2:44) talks about the inspiration for the battles featured in the movie, most notably the vertical battle in the invasion of the monastery. The Clones Are Coming (3:26) discusses the visual of the Clone soldiers throughout the movies and how they adapted it for this new version. It also explores the personalities of the new clone characters and their relationship with the Jedi. Heroes (3:26) is about the multitude of heroes in the Star Wars films and the way Anakin Skywalker is being portrayed in the series. It also talks about the other Jedi that will be included in the series. Villains (3:57) discusses the villains found in the movie and the addition of Ventress as the new warrior servant to Count Dooku. Finally, Anakin’s Padawan (3:39) talks about the newest character Ahsoka and her role as Anakin’s padawan. These were my favorite of the featurettes because they were the best at giving us a glimpse into the making of the film.
There are four deleted scenes included in the Deleted Scenes section of the special features. These include “Through the Tanks” (0:49), “Rancor Pit” (4:02), “Platform Droid Fight” (4:12), and “Cargo Bay” (1:44). “Through the Tanks” is a short sequence that takes place when Anakin and Ahsoka are trying to evade the droid army and tanks in the beginning of the film. “Rancor Pit” and “Platform Droid Fight” are two action sequences directly one after the other. The first is a completely abandoned action sequence between Ventress and Anakin that takes place right before exiting the monastery. Directly after that sequence is another action sequence involving a Platform Droid who fights Anakin and Ahsoka right before leaving the monastery and it also includes an extended exchange between Count Dooku and Jabba the Hutt. Finally, the “Cargo Bay” scene takes place in the cargo ship they take to escape the monastery.
Finally, there is a gallery made up of 42 images of concept art for the characters and sets on the movie and a section for previews. There are two Clone Wars trailers included. One is called Launch (2:15) and another Dark (2:08). A third trailer is also included for the Star Wars: Clone Wars videogames for Nintendo consoles (1:09).
The movie has been released in the standard two-disc DVD case with a disc flap for one of the discs. Like many recent releases, there is a 3D slipcase which switches between an image of Anakin with the Clone Army and another one of Ventress and the Battle Droids, both in attack mode. On the inside of the DVD is an instructional insert with instructions on getting your digital copy of the film from the second disc. The cover art for the DVD case (non-slip) features a still of Anakin in his battle position with the Clone army behind him.
There are also special covers available at select retailers.
Ink And Paint:
Unlike the previous mini-episodes that aired on the Cartoon Network in 2003, this new version is being animated in CGI by Lucasfilm Animation studios in Singapore. The character designs have mostly been adapted from the 2D animation, but many things have been enhanced. Overall, the look is great and of course in true Lucasfilm tradition the quality of the print here is excellent. My only problem with the animation style is how the character’s mouths do not open enough for what the characters are saying making the characters look a bit strange in terms of their speech.
I do, however, have to give props to the entire team at Lucasfilm on their design work. The planets and sets look amazing and even the character designs look faithful to their original form. I think that they have done an excellent job at recreating this world and bringing it to this film.
Please note that there are actually two copies of the movie available on this release. There is a regular DVD format in the first disc and the movie is also included as a digital video on the second disc. Instructions on the digital copy are included in the insert and there is a code that must be entered in order to watch the film on your computer.
It is difficult to beat George Lucas and his team in terms of the hard work they put into their soundtracks. The movie is being released with an excellent Dolby Surround 5.1 EX track which really enhances the numerous battle sequences in the film. It also really brings up the score. The audio tracks are included in English, French and Spanish. There are also subtitles available in these languages. French and English subtitles are both included on the second disc for the special features.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars is most recommended for fans of the films and Star Wars completists. It should also appeal to kids of all ages who enjoy science fiction fantasy and who may already be hooked on the new show. While the movie itself is solid and a welcome addition the Star Wars universe, it does not stand up on its own without the subsequent series that has already premiered to high ratings on The Cartoon Network. Without it, the film is all setup and little payoff. However, Lucasfilm and Warner have done a great job with this release by coupling it with some great special features and excellent audio and video quality. In the end, the movie is a long commercial for the animated series and in that aspect it works. I know that I have already personally become much more interested in the show after watching the movie than I was before when it first premiered on cable. The show has great promise and the movie will be a great companion to current and future fans of the show.
Animated Classic or Back To The Drawing Board?