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Douglas Pratt

By Douglas Pratt

Star Wars: The Clone Wars

It is said that flaws can be tolerated in friends and strangers, but not in one’s parents, and that definitely seems to be everybody’s opinion when it comes to the father of Star Wars, George Lucas. It is because the first movie was so good that the other films became so frustrating and their flaws so obsessively glaring (if only, in Phantom Menace, he had shown the mother killed, like Bambi’s mother, the entire series might have been taken more seriously…). Lucas doesn’t help matters, though. When he decides to move the franchise into a TV cartoon series, he then gets the impulse to put out the pilot episode as a feature film, which is now available from Warner Home Video asStar Wars The Clone Wars. Did his idea backfire? It is probably too early to tell, but critics and fans, especially those who didn’t realize that all they were seeing was a TV pilot, felt burned by the film’s superficiality and simplified animation (the film is essentially on par, and only on par, in both narrative and animation, with the admirable Roughnecks Starship Troopers Chronicles series), and rather than making potential viewers more excited to see the show, it may have turned them off.

The 2008 film, which runs 98 minutes, has lots of action (the heroes have to rescue a kidnapped child creature, while the villains pretend it is the heroes that have done the kidnapping), a few interesting designs, and characters that are reasonably well developed. It is purposefully reminiscent of the cliffhanger serials of the past, so a certain amount of dumbing down is fully acceptable, but why does the evil count, who has immensely developed Jedi powers, not immediately sense that the backpack contains rocks and not a lifeform? Such an error betrays the internal logic of the Star Wars world and is exactly the kind of flaw that cannot be forgiven.

The picture is presented in letterboxed format only, with an aspect ratio of about 2.35:1 and an accommodation for enhanced 16:9 playback. The cheapness of the animation is only emphasized by the precision of the color transfer. The 5.1-channel Dolby Digital sound with EX-encoding, on the other hand, is a wonder to behold. The audio has such a distinctive dimensionality and such marvelous directional and bass effects that the sound designers of some major blockbuster films ought to be lining up to take lessons from the movie’s sound editors. There are alternate French and Spanish tracks in 5.1 Dolby EX and optional English, French and Spanish subtitles. There is a commentary track featuring director Dave Filoni and others, some speaking together and some providing inserted individual comments. Filoni talks a lot and in what one can only call subservient terms about Lucas and what he wanted from the project. Among his more beneficial ideas was to have the animators use discarded drawing and concepts from the development of the films for ‘new’ creatures, ships and so on. On the whole, the talk is reasonably informative and worthwhile as the speakers explain how various ideas were generated for the narrative and the designs, as well as inadvertently leaving hints as to where they might have gone astray. “We really wanted to develop the clones, as well, as, like, individuals.”

Warner has also released a Two-Disc Special Edition. The first platter is identical to the single platter release. The second platter has 11 minutes of deleted scenes, including some interesting action sequences, and a very nice collection of developmental artwork in still frame. There is also a 25-minute promotional featurette for the series that systemically presents teasers for every episode, a 10-minute segment on the voice talent, an 11-minute piece on the music, a 21-minute collection of promotional featurettes about different aspects of the film that were originally created for broadcast on the Internet (“As you make the clones more individual, you should, hopefully as an audience, care about them more.”), and two trailers.

– by Douglas Pratt

Douglas Pratt’s DVD-Laser Disc Newsletter is published monthly.
For a free sample, call (516)594-9304 or go to his website at

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