Judge Clark Douglas remains the oldest Padawan in the galaxy.
Our reviews of Star Wars: The Clone Wars (Blu-Ray) (published November 10th, 2008), Star Wars: The Clone Wars: 2-Disc Special Edition (published November 11th, 2008), and Star Wars: The Clone Wars: A Galaxy Divided (published April 3rd, 2009) are also available.
The battle to serve the galaxy reaches new heights of peril!
We live in a society which regards pop culture in increasingly hyperbolic terms. Films are either complete trash or masterpieces. Bands are either brilliant or wretched. Red carpet ensembles are either stunning or embarrassing. There's precious little room for things which are merely okay, fine, adequate, decent, average, or…well, you get the idea. This sort of thing gets even more pronounced when it comes to nerd culture…or rather, what used to be nerd culture before the nerds took the world by storm, enacting federal law stating at least 53.5% of all major Hollywood blockbusters feature spandex or aliens. So it's no surprise the Star Wars franchise would fall prey to this trend. It's difficult to even mention Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace without some angry, 30-something yelling about the unspeakable things George Lucas did to his childhood.
The truth of the matter is the prequels are perfectly adequate pieces of entertainment—none of which come close to the magic of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope or Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back—working well enough as entertainment for those young enough not to have built up unreasonable expectations based on unchecked nostalgia (though I have no doubt e-mails from both sides of the aisle explaining why I am wrong about this will be forthcoming). The same applies to Star Wars: The Clone Wars, an action-packed series originating with the universally-derided animated feature of the same name. Thankfully, the series itself proves surprisingly ambitious and entertaining, in contrast to its big-screen predecessor, and has built a rather loyal fan base over the course of several seasons.
Jumping into this series late in the game is a surprisingly tricky proposition. Despite my strong familiarity with the Star Wars cinematic universe, there are a whole lot of new characters here the series doesn't bother to re-introduce for newcomers. It's rare that an animated show geared at kids demands a comprehensive understanding of long story arcs and series mythology, but this one certainly defies the usual convention. There are very few self-contained episodes, as most of the season is broken up into three-or-four-part chunks. This decision essentially makes the whole thing feel kind of like a collection of six animated movies of varying quality.
Many have argued the show proves equally satisfying for kids and adults, but I can't help but suspect that only applies to adults who are really enthusiastic about the world of Star Wars to begin with. If the prospect of Darth Maul making a brief appearance towards the end of the season makes you salivate, this is the show for you. The action sequences (of which there are plenty) are consistently stellar and well-staged; there's considerably less time devoted to politics and dopey romance. Despite that, the tone feels much closer to the prequels than it does to the original series (though a large part of that may be due to the fact that Anakin Skywalker is the central character and the series takes place between prequel features); polished, slick, sorta fun, kinda stilted, and largely better for youngsters than for grown-ups.
Presented in standard def 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, these transfers are impressive, offering strong detail and vibrant colors throughout. There's a bit of banding at times, but that's the only issue of note. While the Blu-ray release is undoubtedly superior, this is about as exceptional a 480p release is likely to get. The Dolby 5.1 Surround track has a lot of kick (despite the fact the score is a somewhat tiresome, third-rate John Williams imitation). Bonus features include five audio commentaries featuring a smattering of cast and crew members, and a collectible poster.
By this point, fans are undoubtedly well-versed in the pros and cons of this series, but newcomers curious about jumping in late (as I was forced to do) are better off going back to the beginning. Star Wars The Clone Wars: The Complete Season Four isn't earth-shattering stuff, but it's certainly not a detriment to the franchise as a whole.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
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