Lucasfilm Animation (October 3-17, 2008), Warner Home Video (March 24, 2009), single disc, 90 mins plus supplements, 1.78:1 aspect ratio, Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound, Not Rated, Retail: $19.98
The Star Wars saga continues with The Clone Wars, the latest chapter in the Skywalker family saga. In the first four episodes of the series, Anakin continues to fight for the Republic against Count Dooku and his droid army of Separatists.
The Sweatbox Review:
While the reception to the Clone Wars theatrical release may have been lukewarm, no one can deny that the show’s debut on the Cartoon Network was anything less than explosive. The show became the most watched animated debut in the network’s broadcast history, averaging four million viewers on its debut. When the show finally made its debut on Friday nights, it found its proper audience and format. Many critics of the film had complained that it served no more than to be a long promo for the show, but it was successful in bringing viewers to the actual show. With its successful mix of action, adventure and comedy, the show catered to both traditional Star Wars fans and new younger fans.
One of the reasons why the show works and fits perfectly into the new demographic the Cartoon Network is pursuing is its approach to episodic television. The show broadened the Star Wars universe by giving us a glimpse at new and background characters. Each episode focuses on a specific theme and character, while at the same time giving the viewers continuation on season story arcs. The themes include everything from great leadership to conviction, wisdom, and planning. The themes are always well integrated into the storylines for each episode. Some of the storylines introduced in the first few episodes include the diplomatic battle between the Republic and the Separatists as they vie for different allied worlds. Another one prominently featured in the first few episodes is the development of a destructive secret weapon by the Separatists and their rivalry with General Grievous.
The story is a continuation of the movie and takes place during the Clone Wars, sequentially between Episode II and Episode III of the Star Wars saga. At the beginning of the season, the Galactic Republic is in the middle of the war with the Separatists (the Confederation of Independent Systems) which is under the nominal command of Count Dooku. The Clone Wars introduced fans to the show by showcasing the pivotal battle at Christophsis and the rescue of Jabba the Hutt’s son by Anakin Skywalker and his padawan Ahsoka Tano. The show picks up where the movie ended with the Dark Jedi assassin, Asajj Ventress, still on the loose and working for Count Dooku and the Separatists. The show also continues to develop the relationship between Anakin and Ahsoka, as well as the relationship between different Jedis and the clone soldiers under their command.
The first episode of the show is Ambush and it prominently features Jedi Master Yoda and three clone troopers. Their ship is ambushed on their way to a moon where the Republic hopes to forge a new alliance with the Toydarian Kingdom. There, Ventress tries to persuade the Toydarian King of the Republic’s weakness when she is interrupted by a message from the surviving Yoda. She then challenges Yoda for the king’s allegiance. If she captures Yoda, the king will unite with the separatists. Yoda and his three clone soldiers must then battle the entire droid army led by Ventress. The theme from this episode is “Great leaders inspire greatness in others” and refers to Yoda’s inspiring confidence in the face of the droids. Overall, it is a good episode and my guess is that it was a calculated move to feature Yoda in the first episode. Yoda is always a great character and one that fans of the films will be excited to see in more action sequences, as opposed to fans who hated Anakin in the later films.
The second episode of the series is Rising Malevolence which begins a three-story arc featuring the Separatist battleship Malevolence and its captain, General Grievous. In this episode, Jedi Master Plo Koon investigates the location of a secret Separatist weapon that is rumored to have destroyed dozens of Republic warships in the Abregado System. Anticipating a battle, Plo relays his position to Anakin and Ahsoka and requests their assistance. Unfortunately, they have orders to defend a different area. Ahsoka, sensing that Plo is in danger suggests that they go and save him. The story focuses on Plo and his band of clone soldiers and their battle for survival against General Grievous and his ion cannon. The theme of the episode is “Belief is not a matter of choice, but of conviction” and this relates to both Plo’s belief that they will be rescued as well as Ahsoka’s belief that Plo is still alive. Overall, it is a strong episode and actually better than the premiere episode.
The “Malevolence” saga continues with the third episode of the series, Shadow of Malevolence where Anakin is leading an strike against the Malevolence. He believes that a small force will be able to outmaneuver the ship and strike the bridge, destroying General Grievous in the process. Meanwhile, General Grievous decides that his next target will be a Republic medical station where injured clones are treated for their battle injuries. Anakin then leads the pilots of the Shadow Squadron to intercept the Malevolence before it reaches the station. The theme for this episode is “Easy is the path to wisdom for those not blinded by themselves” which refers to Anakin and his plan to attack the Malevolence. Once again, this is a strong episode with excellent action sequences and suspense. I liked seeing Anakin’s personality and determination being developed into the storyline which is a recurring theme in the series.
The final episode on the disc is Destroy Malevolence, which is also the final episode in the Malevolence three-episode arc. In this episode, which begins shortly after the end of Shadow of Malevolence, General Grievous is dealing with the results of the previous episode. He is soon presented with the opportunity to kidnap Senator Amidala who jumps out of hyperspace right into a battle. Anakin jumps at the task of rescuing Amidala from Grievous and destroying the Malevolence once and for all. It is good to point out that Amidala has never been a helpless heroine and she also gets into the action in this episode. The theme for this episode is “A Plan is only as good as those who see it through” and primarily refers to Anakin’s plans to destroy the ship. Once again, this is a great episode with plenty of great action sequences set inside the Malevolence. I was glad to see Obi Wan get a little piece of the action on the show and it is great to see the interplay between him and Anakin during the battles.
Is This Thing Loaded?
I was surprised to see that no special features were included in this release, if only because the Clone Wars movie was released in a special two-disc edition that featured information about these very episodes. I assume that Warner might be saving content for the intended season release of the show. Most surprising was the lack of trailers in this release. In short, there is nothing.
Warner has released this in a basic one-disc, black keepcase with a cardboard slipcover. The cover features the main characters found in these episodes – Anakin, Yoda, Obi-Wan, Grievous, and Ventress. I was surprised to see no Ahsoka on the cover, but she actually does not have any major role in these episodes. She is however, featured on the back, along with more Yoda and Plo Koon.
Ink And Paint:
Many people have complained about the animation quality of this show, but I think it is good. As far as CG animation goes, this is very standard quality for television. Some of the character designs are a bit boxy and square, but this is a conscious choice by the creators of the show. One, however, cannot deny the quality of the action sequences in the show. These are some of the best on television and there is very little like it out there. Each episode is meticulously detailed and there are many Easter eggs embedded into the background animation that should please hardcore fans of the films. The show is being released in its original television broadcast ratio of 1.78:1, although the show is reportedly animated in the 2.35:1 ratio like the film.
One can never deny that Lucasfilm does an excellent job with their soundtracks. There are so many explosions and battle sounds that it becomes an integral part of the storytelling style. Once again, they do not disappoint with this release and the soundtrack is of excellent quality. The special sound effects are crisp and the musical score is soaring. Warner has released this show with English, French, Spanish and Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround sound tracks.
I think many people had their doubts about this show after seeing the movie, but I always felt that the story would work much better on the small screen. Having seen several episodes of the show I feel the same way and think that it should continue doing well on The Cartoon Network. The show works because it features great action, adventure, and comedy all in one episode. I like the episodic structure of the episodes and enjoy learning more about the less-known characters in the Star Wars universe. I was never a die-hard fan of the films, but I have always enjoyed them. I feel the same way about this show and I think that it has a great appeal with kids and should be entertaining for adults as well.
Animated Classic or Back To The Drawing Board?