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Hot on the heels of the feature-length 'movie' and ahead of this winter's complete series release, Warner Home Video has chosen to release a teaser of the animated Star Wars: The Clone Wars television series entitled A Galaxy Divided. The disc includes four episodes from the series (the first four, coincidentally enough), which focus more on the larger conflict and space battles than the personal trials and political struggles found in some of the later episodes. The first episode is a standalone tale that focuses mostly on Yoda’s efforts to recruit a planet to the Republic’s cause, but the remaining three are part of a larger story involving multiple characters and a Confederacy ‘super weapon’.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars - A Galaxy Divided
Ambush: Jedi Master Yoda and three clone troopers have travelled to a remote moon in order to meet with the King of Toydaria, hoping to secure permission to build a Republic base in his system. Upon their arrival they are ambushed by the CIS and must face off against a massive army of droids led by none other than Count Dooku's Sith assassin, Asajj Ventress.

Rising Malevolence: After an attack by a devastating new Confederate weapon, Jedi Master Plo Koon and his clone troopers are left stranded in a remote sector of space. There, they must survive the CIS raiding parties long enough for Anakin Skywalker and his Padawan Ahsoka Tano to rescue them.

Shadow of Malevolence: With the assistance of his Padawan Ahsoka Tano and Jedi Master Plo Koon, Anakin Skywalker leads an attack on General Grievous' new warship, the Malevolence, in a new class of long-range bomber: the Y-wing. Can they succeed before the ship’s deadly weaponry annihilates the Republic fleet?

Star Wars: The Clone Wars - A Galaxy Divided
Destroy Malevolence: Senator Padmé Amidala and her droid C-3PO are captured by General Grievous and held hostage aboard the Malevolence. Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi mount a daring attempt to save the Senator and destroy the warship once and for all.

I've read a number of reviews that have blasted the quality of the show's animation, unfavourably comparing it to films from Pixar and DreamWorks. To put it bluntly, I find these comparisons utterly brainless. You simply cannot compare a feature film with a multi-million dollar budget and a mass-produced television series and expect the latter to compete. Personally I really like the animation and character design. I also rate the voice acting, with certain characters sounding better here than they do in the film (*cough* Anakin Skywalker *cough*).

Of course there are still more than a few 'roger roger' moments in a series filled with battle droids, but one has to remember that this is a show aimed at the younger generation of Star Wars fan, not middle-aged fanboys just waiting to bash George Lucas' next project with accusations of rape. I'm the first to admit that the guy has his faults as a film-maker, but he really doesn't deserve some of the flack he's getting for this series, which is generally pleasing if you take it for what it is: children's entertainment.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars - A Galaxy Divided

Video


Okay, I’ll admit it, I’ve been spoiled by high-definition. The Blu-ray edition of the feature-length Clone Wars ‘movie’ looked sensational, so I wasn’t really expecting to be blown away by the quality of this disc. With that said, I watched the series in standard definition, so as long as the quality was at least comparable to that I figured I’d be happy. Well, the quality is easily a match for the broadcast version, so consider me satisfied.

Episodes are presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen and generally look excellent. There seems to be some debate over the OAR of the episodes, as some stations broadcast them in 1.78:1, while others went with 2.40:1. Unfortunately I've no idea if the episodes were cropped or simply opened up for this release, so I can't comment on which is correct. I'm a little out of practice with my DVD reviews, what with converting to high-definition some time ago, but I'd have to say that the quality of the episodes is such that they rank among the better animated standard-definition transfers I've seen. Colours are bright and accurate, black levels are surprisingly good and detail is impressive for DVD. It's not going to fool anyone familiar with HD, but I was pleasantly surprised by how good the episodes looked when scaled to 1080p and it should please fans of the show.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars - A Galaxy Divided

Audio


The disc includes Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks (384Kbps) in both English and German (along with optional subtitles). Dialogue is nice and clear and the familiar Star Wars effects are reproduced with clarity, but the surround channels just aren't utilised to their full potential. For the majority of the runtime the only thing you'll hear in the rears is the score, which is nice enough, but I would have liked more of the effects to make their way back there for a more 'enveloping' experience. Bass is a little anaemic given the many explosions found throughout the episodes, but at least the lightsabers sound cool. I think the best way to describe this track is competent, but it's unlikely to impress in the way that the live-action films do.

Unfortunately a side effect of buying only Blu-ray titles for the past year or so (and before that having a predominantly NTSC DVD collection) is that I really (and I mean really) notice the effects of PAL speed-up. Music, voices and sound effects just don’t sound ‘right’, which was evident in everything from the narrator’s squeaky introduction in the first episode through to the unnaturally up-tempo end credits of the last episode. Now this isn’t a fault per se, but it is annoying, so it’s something to bear in mind if you are also susceptible to the effects of PAL speed-up.

Extras


Nothing to see here I’m afraid. Move along. Move along.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars - A Galaxy Divided

Overall


As much as I’m a huge Star Wars fan who enjoyed the series when it aired on television, it’s pretty hard for me to recommend this disc knowing that a full series release will arrive at some point this year. It might be worth picking it up if you missed the series on TV and are after a sampler, but to be perfectly honest it kind of smacks of Warner trying to squeeze a few extra pounds out of the Star Wars franchise. The audio-visual elements are good (by DVD standards), but the complete lack of extras only serves to reinforce my belief that this is a quick cash-in. It is available for under eight pounds from a number of retailers, but the question you have to ask your self is whether you’d be better off saving that money to put towards the full series in November.


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