Warner Bros. // 2008 // 90 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Dan Mancini (Retired) // April 3rd, 2009
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away...
After all of the nerdtastic "death of Star Wars" rhetoric precipitated by the theatrical release of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, a mediocre pilot for the computer animated, kid-friendly television series of the same name, the show itself ended up being impressive...most impressive. The Clone Wars is sometimes corny, often times silly, but it also delivers a general sense of whimsy and rollicking adventure that calls to mind that old school Star Wars flick about the farm boy, the pirate, the old codger, and the walking dog who went on a mission to rescue a princess.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars: A Galaxy Divided is a single-disc release that collects the first four episodes of the series' first season. Though their storylines and pacing are superior to the feature-length pilot, these aren't the best episodes the show has to offer. The writers and crew are still finding their footing. Later episodes maintain their appeal to children while striking a tone more to the liking of Jedi-loving thirtysomethings.
Great leaders inspire greatness in others.
Master Yoda is secretly negotiating with the Toydarians for the establishment of a supply base on their home word. The negotiations are interrupted by Count Dooku's sinister apprentice Asajj Ventress, who sets a trap for Yoda in order to win Toydarian support for the Separatists. But everyone's favorite green Jedi opts to spring the trap rather than avoid it.
"Ambush" is a decent episode slightly undermined by the silly slapstick and wordplay of inept battle droids. Despite the introductory nonsense about negotiations and supply bases, the plot is simple, linear, and effective. Yoda's brief mid-battle pretense of senile insanity and the use of John Williams' "Yoda's Theme" are nods to the original trilogy that add to the episode's charm. It comes as no surprise that Asajj Ventress is no match for the diminutive Jedi, but the ease with which Yoda takes her down is sure to satisfy Star Wars geeks of all ages.
The remaining episodes make up a trilogy of sorts about Anakin and his small band of Jedi facing off against Separatist cyborg General Grievous.
* "Rising Malevolence"
Belief is not a matter of choice, but of conviction.
Jedi Master Plo Koon is sent to hunt down the Malevolence, a Separatist warship equipped with an Ion cannon that is laying waste to the Republic fleet. General Grievous ambushes and destroys Plo Koon's fleet, but the Jedi and a small team of clones survive in an escape pod. Along with his padawan Ahsoka Tano and in defiance of the Jedi Council, Anakin Skywalker abandons his fleet and goes on a rescue mission.
"Rising Malevolence" is the most unconventional of the four episodes on this disc. Practically a chamber drama, it features calm and confident Plo Koon reassuring his nervous clone troopers while they're all trapped in an escape pod vulnerable to Grievous' massive warship. The other half of the episode is more conventional but links the series thematically to the feature film prequel trilogy as Anakin once again puts loyalty ahead of duty and orders, much to the chagrin of Yoda, Mace Windu, and the other Jedi Masters.
* "Shadow of Malevolence"
Easy is the path to wisdom for those not blinded by themselves.
Anakin, Ahsoka, and Plo Koon plan a massive strike against Malevolence that will take out its bridge and General Grievous along with it. Meanwhile, the evil cyborg plans to destroy a Republic medical station near Naboo.
"Shadow of Malevolence" is a naked homage to the original Star Wars as Anakin leads a squadron of Y-Wing fighters in a daring assault on the Separatist warship (the fighter pilots even announce their call signs before entering the battle, just like Luke Skywalker and crew before the Death Star assault). The combat is fast-paced, exciting, and just plain fun.
* "Destroy Malevolence"
A plan is only as good as those who see it through.
As Obi-Wan Kenobi's fleet pursues the wounded Malevolence, Senator Amidala and C-3PO -- en route to negotiations with the Banking Clan -- are captured by Grievous. Anakin and Obi-Wan halt the ship-to-ship battle in order to mount a rescue mission and take the fight directly to Malevolence's decks.
"Destroy Malevolence" is the weakest of the four episodes on the disc, though it still has its moments. The Padme subplot is undermined by a bunch of Banking Clan rigmarole that calls to mind the clunkiest aspects of The Phantom Menace. But Anakin and Obi-Wan's infiltration of Malevolence is exciting and entertaining, particularly since it involves a decent duel between Obi-Wan and Grievous designed to be a precursor to their final showdown in Revenge of the Sith.
The Clone Wars' computer animation is top-notch for a television production. The scope of the show is massive, propelling viewers all over the galaxy from episode to episode. The environments, ships, droids, and aliens are gorgeously modeled and rendered. The only thing cartoonish about the series is the human characters and some of the dialogue. The action is quick and kinetic. Unfortunately, all of that beauty and grandeur is wasted in a 1.78:1 non-anamorphic transfer that has reasonable detail and accurate colors but is still non-anamorphic...in 2009. The Dolby 5.1 audio track is respectable.
The disc contains no extras.
Let me be blunt: Star Wars: The Clone Wars: A Galaxy Divided is about as unnecessary as a DVD release can be. Shortly after this slim, budget-friendly release was announced, Lucasfilm let fans know that the series' entire first season will be released on both DVD and Blu-ray later in the year. Perhaps this explains the shoddy transfer and dearth of extras. If you're a fan of the show, wait for the box.
Guilty as charged.
Review content copyright © 2009 Dan Mancini; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Portuguese)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Official Site