Maybe if George Lucas took an alternate route, one that was obviously not based on greed, Clone Wars would have been acceptable. Instead, the decision was made to dump this thing into theaters so rabid fans will have to pay $10 instead of simply waiting for a release on cable. Sadly, they did, and while not as successful as other Star Wars, movies, it gained a healthy profit at the box office.
It’s hard to see why anyone other than the youngest fans would find any enjoyment in this animated spin-off. The story, that of Anakin and his young apprentice Ahsoka Tano trying to save Jabba the Hutt’s son, is an embarrassment to this great franchise. It divulges nothing in terms of story gaps between Episode II and Episode III. Anakin isn’t the angry Jedi. He’s light hearted, laughing, and far too friendly.
The film is loaded with action. Actually, it’s overloaded. Every possible chance the animators had to create some laser blasts, they took. Explosions are frequent, and rarely add anything to the story. It’s hard to believe Star Wars action could be boring, Clone Wars pulls it off. There’s never any sense of tension or danger. Lightsaber duels are animated in choppy, stiff form, taking away from the usual flow of these battles.
Of course, something originally set to head to TV isn’t going to be able to match up with multi-million dollar feature productions, but the style simply doesn’t work. The original hand animated Clone Wars shorts at least looked unique. Aside from some fine paintings and blocky design, this looks like any other CG animated feature.
Also, the less said about the new characters, the better. The supposedly Truman Capote-inspired Ziro the Hutt is deplorable, not to mention a little disturbing. Tano is there purely for the younger set, and the baby version of Jabba is far too cute to believe it’s actually going to turn into a full-grown Hutt.
At a little over 90 minutes, Clone Wars feels like it’s running over two hours. It’s overly long with little story development, and even drops the usual Star Wars traditions like a text scroll at the start. Since none of John Williams original score is here either, what you’re left with is a shameful dud not worthy of the Star Wars legacy.
With a digital source, one should expect Clone Wars to translate beautifully to Blu-ray. For the most part, that’s true. Obviously the digital source is pristine with no blemishes. Colors carry beautifully, and the contrast has been set flawlessly. The edgy textures are maintained perfectly. The issue here is color banding, noticeable early and often against the backgrounds. It’s especially apparent during the third act on Tatooine. It doesn’t destroy this transfer, but knocks it down a notch from the high expectations compared to other CG animated efforts.
Warner thankfully offers a TrueHD mix, going against their usual trend of offering lossy audio. As expected with the constant action, this is an aggressive, bass-filled mix, but inconsistent. It seems mixed lower than the usual tracks, so it will likely need to be turned up past your normal levels. Lightsabers provide an adequate LFE effect as do the explosions, although the latter seems to work when it wants to. Lasers usually fill the sound field, while the soundtrack is lost behind the action (sometimes for the better).
Extras are led by an irritating video commentary that sadly puts the movie into 480p and simply intercuts with the crew talking about the movie. It’s not a true picture-in-picture Blu-ray experience. Granted, director Dave Filoni, producer Catherine Winder, writer Henry Gilroy, and editor Jason Tucker do point out some interesting facts, it’s a shame it’s done in this manner (and almost all members are separated from each other instead of being in the same room).
Untold Stories is an extended 25 minute promo for the TV series. Voices of the Clone Wars is a 10 minute look at the voice talent. A New Score is a rather long 11 minute piece on the new, disappointing soundtrack. Deleted scenes (all finished) include a Rancor fight that’s interesting, but adds nothing to the plot like much of the action. A selection of six webisodes dive into various making of aspects of the film, while promoting it. A small set of trailers and memory match game round off a simple set of extras.