Lego Star Wars: Padawan Menace, all 22-minutes of it, still squeezes in a running gag. George Lucas -Lego’fied- must repeatedly rush on set to remove an excluded Darth Vader who is utter disbelief that he doesn’t have a part.
With an target audience aged in the single digits, maybe the hulking Vader would be a bit much anyway. Instead, the oddly titled Padawan Menace (which insinuates that a youngling goes on some sort of intergalactic rampage) focuses on the Jedi-in-training and their experiences within the Senate, on Tatooine, and Hoth.
Events of the main series of films work their way in, going so far as to feature clips from A New Hope. A cute twist finishes the piece off, observant Star Wars fans clearly aware of what’s happening. The whole thing is charming, arguably more appealing than Clone Wars the animated series, although the animation is bland and the pacing is so expedient it’s hard to latch onto anything.
It’s not a total wash, C-3PO witnessing the death of Jar Jar Binks, exploded by a laser blast to the midsection. The protocol droid waves it off and keeps going about his business. This one is full of those little ideas even if they’re never strung together in any pattern. There’s more imagination in the trilogy recaps in actual Lego form on the disc than there is within the main feature, but for kids just getting into the mix (and parent who will have to endure it ad nauseum), you can do far worse. [xrr rating=3/5 label=Movie]
With a running time that amounts to a pittance, there would be little excuse not to spread this encode out as far as it will reach, and it does well enough. There’s little complexity here to strain the compression short of some hectic pod brawling in the Galactic Senate and maybe a lightsaber duel or two.
Models are rotund and limited in texture, short of say C-3PO and his glossy, gold finish. Animators have added small dents and scrapes, just enough to give him character. The Lego pieces have a slightly coarse textures, generally only visible when the virtual camera swerves in close. Most of the time, it would appear Yoda has no skin at all, just a smooth plastic facade. It’s simple because it’s designed to be.
Padawan Menace isn’t trying to compete with the likes of a Pixar or Dreamworks, or even a Fox Animation. It’s meant for quick digestion, not close scrutiny. That razor-like sharpness simply isn’t here, and color is a little muted, the latter rather odd. Most kid’s fare these days saturates until nothing else can be saturated. A light glaze of noise is evident, although almost impossible to detect in motion.
Black levels and contrast reach par, giving these Lego animated creations a little bit of dimensionality. It’s not what you can call a visually punchy piece, but merely enough to create a licensed world within the capabilities of another licensed world. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Video]
While it may offer up John William’s score for the taking, this uncompressed DTS-HD mix clearly doesn’t have the spectacle of multi-million dollar Hollywood sound design. Disappointed? No, you couldn’t be. It’s not possible.
Everything here is basic if fun. Lego pieces scatter over the head of the listener, laser blasts travel a bit, and dialogue will split the stereos. Yoda uses the Force to rebuild a ship at 16:53, rumbling the low-end even if the effect is a bit shaky. Ships pan to the sides or into the rears, while some spacing is created in the soundfield.
It’s a hectic 22-minutes if nothing else, and when the score breaches the highs, it doesn’t sound any worse for the wear. What it lacks in booming impact and wider imaging it makes up for with fidelity that can match the main features this is all being sourced from. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Audio]
It’s a mystery as to why Fox wouldn’t turn this into a multi-feature piece considering these extras. The Quest for R2-D2 and Bombad Bounty are merely shorter “episodes,” a little past five minutes each. With a little better mastering and a 5.1 mix (they’re in stereo) the deed would be done.
Star Wars in Two Minutes has two parts, the original trilogy and prequels. These have been around for a while but the style and energy is well above the CG material. Lastly, The Clone Wars: Animated Comic isn’t so much a motion comic as it is a cheaper animated version of Lego Star Wars, windowboxed, in SD, and stuffy stereo. [xrr rating=2/5 label=Extras]