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Feature


Here we go again, with another of Warner's interim Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated DVDs. This volume focuses on the cannon fodder of the Republic forces, with four episodes dedicated to the clone troopers. The first episode is a stand-alone tale, while remaining three episodes are part of a larger story depicting the liberation of Ryloth (the third act of which occurs before the final episode of season one).

Star Wars: The Clone Wars - Clone Commandos
In Rookies Captain Rex and Commander Cody must inspire a group of clones while staving off a Droid Commando invasion of a remote outpost near the planet Kamino, birthplace of the Republic troopers. Storm Over Ryloth sees Wat Tambor's Separatist forces invade Ryloth and Anakin Skywalker’s fleet attempting to penetrate the blockade. In Innocents of Ryloth Obi-Wan Kenobi and his clone troopers head to the surface of Ryloth to sabotage a powerful Separatist weapon, and in Liberty on Ryloth Mace Windu bands together with Twi'lek freedom fighter Cham Syndulla to save the planet from the tyranny of the Separatists and their droid army.

My feelings towards Star Wars: The Clone Wars haven't really changed between volume one and two. I still enjoy the show in spite of the criticism and the fact that it's basically aimed at the younger audience. I realise that we know where all of the characters will end up (with the possible exception of Ahsoka), but I'm enjoying the journey. The Star Wars prequels rushed through the Clone Wars out of necessity, but this animated series has the luxury of taking its time and revealing more about characters both familiar and unfamiliar.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars - Clone Commandos
The show isn't completely without fault, at least from an adult perspective, but one has to remember that it's aimed more at kids than bitter thirty-somethings still crying rape over George Lucas' treatment of the childhood. It certainly appears to be more entertaining than a lot of children's television if the stuff I've seen recently is anything to go by, and I'm eagerly awaiting the arrival of the second season premiere.

Video


As with the previous volume of the series, I was actually relatively impressed by the video quality. I watched the episodes on both a 24” widescreen CRT set in the bedroom and a 42” LCD TV in the lounge, and as one would expect the CRT looked slightly crisper. When scaled to 1080p the image still looked pretty good, but the telltale ‘fuzziness’ associated with up-conversion was readily apparent. However, colours are bright and bold, black levels deep and inky, and detail as high as you can expect from 576i, so the DVD is more than a match for the broadcast versions I saw. Episodes are once again presented in anamorphic widescreen at 1.78:1, which I now know is cropped from the OAR of 2.40:1. I really hope the full season boxed sets don’t follow this trend of cropping the image. Even so, Clone Wars is a visually pleasing show on DVD.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars - Clone Commandos

Audio


The disc includes Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks (384Kbps) in both English and German (along with optional subtitles). I can pretty much replicate this audio summary from my review of A Galaxy Divided, because the soundtracks have all of the same strengths and weaknesses. Dialogue is strong and the familiar Star Wars effects are reproduced with clarity, but the surround channels aren't utilised to their full potential (although there does seem to be more ‘rear action’ than the previous volume). Once again bass is a little feeble given the magnitude of some of the explosions, but the lightsabers always sound the part. It’s another competent effort, but it’s not going to win any awards for soundtrack of the year. Oh, and PAL speed-up is still just as noticeable as ever, to the point where you could be forgiven for thinking that the opening narration was performed by a champion speed-reader. If you’re bothered by the speed and pitch increase on PAL DVD and you know Star Wars effects like the back of your hand, prepare to be annoyed.

Extras


As with the previous volume, no bonus material is included.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars - Clone Commandos

Overall


As with much of this review I'm in danger of repeating a lot of the comments I made when I examined volume one of the series. Sure, the show is good fun and the price is relatively cheap, but why would you buy four episodes when the compete season is on the way? The disc might make a decent 'top up' present for Star Wars mad kids on their birthdays, but other than that I can't really recommend it.

While the audio-visual elements are good (by DVD standards), the complete lack of extras only serves to reinforce my belief that this is a quick cash-in from Warner, who are no doubt overjoyed to have a part of the Star Wars cash cow after years of Fox monopolising the franchise. Enough of these four-shot 'volumes'—roll on the complete season one Blu-ray release!


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