Star Wars: The Clone Wars series 4 DVD review

Star Wars: The Clone Wars series 4 DVD review

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Star Wars Clone Wars series 4 pack shot 585x585 Star Wars: The Clone Wars series 4 DVD reviewStar Wars: The Clone Wars is the computer animated spin-off made-for-TV series born out of the Star Wars cinematic saga. Already into its fifth series on TV this DVD release of series four  continues its “Saturday morning action-style” format and superb cartoon graphics to draw in the younger viewer while at the same time have enough things in it to keep adults entertained, particularly those with a love of the Star Wars universe.

Back come the recognisable good guys such as Obi-Wan, Anakin Skywalker, Yoda, Mace Windu and Clone Wars series addition Ahsoka Tano and from the original films come the distinctive voice talents of Anthony Daniels as C-3PO and Ahmed Best as Jar Jar Binks. The 22 episodes cover a huge amount of territory from the invasion of Mon Cala in the first three episodes through to the much awaited reappearance of arguably Star Wars’ greatest evil character, Darth Maul at the end.

It’s known that George Lucas, creator of the Star Wars films and Executive Producer of the Clone Wars series, was heavily influenced by the Buck Rogers sci-fi series of the 1930’s and this Clone Wars series is probably more akin to his original vision of developing stories with a series of short, punchy episodes than expanding them into the feature film format. The storylines range from the epic through to the comedic and there’s lots to love about it, as it’s still clearly identifiable as the Star Wars universe richly filled with daring Jedi, evil Sith, scores of faceless troopers, the cantina in Mos Eisley and fabulous planet environment. Admiral Ackbar makes a youthful entrance as Captain Ackbar, R2-D2 and C-3PO make a welcome reappearance and much of the voice talent is very effective with the voices of Padme and Mace Windu in particular seeming to capture the original voices in a creditable way.

If you’re a long time Star Wars fan like I am then what you might really be wanting from the Star Wars franchise is the full on cinematic releases of episodes 7, 8 and 9 of the saga and (I wrote this before the LucasArts/Disney news broke… be careful what you wish for eh? ) there’s a temptation to be underwhelmed at the prospect of an extension of the animated series rather but actually there’s so much Star Wars packed into it that there’s enough to interest, and dare I say please, almost any Star Wars fan. Probably.

Star Wars Clone Wars 4 episode 6 nomad droids 3 220x150 Star Wars: The Clone Wars series 4 DVD reviewOne small example of that was that my teenage daughter, veteran of many years exposure to all things Star Wars, walked in while I was watching the DVDs and rolled her eyes when she saw what was on (“Cartoons?!?!”) but having flopped down onto the sofa at my suggestion she then proceeded to stick around and watch the last three episodes through with me back-to-back with an increasing level of engagement and conversation. By the end we were happily chatting about Star Wars comparing the voice talents, plot lines, graphics, droids and the whole caboodle, helping reinforce my feeling that there’s more here than merely looking at the pack photo might suggest.
It’s not all kids stuff either and some of the story lines are quite dark and they’re not afraid to lose some of the goodies along the way and there are some genocidal moments and also some disturbing actions from a Jedi who really doesn’t seem to care about those under his command. This is streets away from the Disney Channel or Nickelodeon which is presumably why it has its PG rating.

Star Wars Clone Wars 4 episode 7 darkness on umbara 1 220x150 Star Wars: The Clone Wars series 4 DVD reviewSay what you will about George Lucas you’d be hard-pressed to claim that he’s not afraid of challenging dearly held values and there’s some not so great stuff too and fans of the Star Wars films will know that not everything that George Lucas touches turns to gold. While much of the voice characterisation is great I didn’t find that the voice for Count Dooku’s massive shark-like minion Riff Tamson was deep enough or resonant enough to inspire appropriate levels of belief of his badness.

Even Ahmed Best, who played Jar Jar Binks in the Episode 1 movie sounds like an unconvincing version of himself at points. I’ve never been able to do more than tolerate the Gungans but possibly even worse than seeing Jar Jar again is the snake-thing in Brothers (episode 21) who sounds like Po’s father from Kung Fu Panda having some kind of psychotic episode.

The whole series is supported by the score from Kevin Kiner, based on the John Williams original, and while the original Star Wars theme has been altered it’s still happily close enough to the original though the changes help serve to further distinguish this Clone Wars series from the films

[Rating:4/5]

Extras
There are fewer extras here than on previous releases and on the DVD copy I had the specials disk contained a selection of commentaries and one thing that comes out through them is that it’s a series that’s produced on the equivalent of a shoestring and in the commentary they jokingly refer to things such as the “bubble budget” and talk about “the big explosion” in episode 3 as using up most of the episode’s SFX budget. The blu-ray version also contains “The Jedi Temple Archives”:
“An extensive database exploring special effects footage, early concept art, 3D character and object turnarounds, early animation and more than 20 deleted/extended scenes. The Archives is a rare look at the assets in various stages of creation for The Clone Wars, with a wealth of surprises and never-before seen moments sprinkled throughout.”
The set does contain over eight hours of video though which will occupy a fair few evenings (or a couple of sickies) so I think there’s plenty to be going on with though some “making of” videos wouldn’t have gone amiss.

[Rating:3/5]

Star Wars: The Clone Wars series 4 is available now