Star Wars: The Clone Wars - The Complete Season Two (UK - BD)
Chris takes a look at the second series of the animated Star Wars show on BD
I’ve already reviewed the Star Wars: The Clone Wars theatrical movie and the first Blu-ray volume (both linked below) and I don’t have a whole lot to say beyond reiterating my earlier thoughts. I’ll be the first to admit that the show has its faults, most of them humour based, but they are entirely forgivable when you look them in the context of an animated television show aimed at a younger audience. Although initially grating, the interplay between Anakin Skywalker and Ahsoka Tano has really progressed throughout the course of the first two seasons to the point where the youngling has lost much of her attitude and become a strong character in her own right (I really like the Ahsoka-centric episodes now). Even the battle droids don’t seem as annoying any more!
Other than that, this rabid Star Wars fan still loves all the things that made the first season so great. The animation and voice acting are excellent, there’re a lot of cool action scenes, some deep character-driven episodes, and a place for the often-overlooked characters to have their moment in the sun. This season focuses more on the bounty hunters, who have always been an integral part of the Star Wars universe, but have never really had all that much screen time ( Attack of the Clones excepted). Cad Bane in particular is the focus of many episodes, and while I do find the ease with which he overpowers Jedi a tad annoying I still like the character on the whole. The tail end of the season also sees the introduction of one Boba Fett, admittedly a rather young version of the character, but still, it’s the Fett! Add to this the continued presence of references to the classic trilogy and prequels and some excellent multi-part episode arcs and you have the same great show that’s been entertaining audiences for the last couple of years. Episodes like 'Holocron Heist', 'Landing at Point Rain' and 'The Zillo Beast' are as good as anything that's come before and even give the live-action movies a run for their money!
If you own the first season of the show on Blu-ray you’ll know exactly what to expect from this release. Like its predecessor, season two is presented in the correct aspect ratio of 2.35:1 (1080/24p VC-1) rather than the cropped 16:9 used for some TV broadcasts. With the show now well into its third season I still love the carved look of the CGI characters, and season two introduces a whole host of new and exotic designs that really look the part.
The quality of the visual presentation itself is just as impressive as the previous volume, with fantastic detail, wonderful, bold colours and superb contrast. Once again the direct digital-to-digital transfer ensures a near-flawless presentation, free from film artefacts and largely free of digital nastiness. The odd bit of posterisation is visible from time to time, but it looks like it's inherent to the source and it’s nothing that will seriously hinder your enjoyment. Honestly, there really isn't anything particularly negative to say about the show’s visual presentation, so I won’t sit here nit-picking. Fans of the show and quality transfers rejoice because Warner has done it again!
Episode audio is once again presented in lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 (640Kbps). I’m not going to repeat my lengthy rant about the lack of lossless audio from my review of the first season, but suffice to say I think it’s a shame that the show doesn’t benefit from high-definition sound. Even so, the quality of the Dolby Digital tracks is nothing to be sniffed at, especially given that Star Wars is one of the richest audio environments around. Directionality is good, with plenty of starships swooping overhead and blaster bolts zipping past your ears, and the familiar hum of the lightsabers elicit a reassuring growl from the sub-woofer. All-important dialogue is never anything but crystal clear and the whilst the score lacks the iconic cues it still sounds like Star Wars and has a prominent place in the mix. Like the first season before it the audio doesn’t quite live up to the standards set by the video, but there’s still much to enjoy.
Unfortunately I only received check discs for this review, so I didn’t get the sixty-four page production booklet that’s included with the full retail release. However, once I realised that season two had fewer bonus features than the first season the lack of a booklet wasn’t the only disappointment. For some reason the production featurettes from the first season have been ditched in favour on a few longer featurettes than focus on specific elements rather than individual episodes. It’s a shame, but the content is still reasonably good. Here’s a breakdown.
Magic of the Holocron Episodes (12:44 HD): This featurette goes behind-the-scenes of the three 'holocron' episodes with director Dave Filoni and the rest of the crew. There's a lot of discussion about the influences, designs, voice acting, editing and all of the other staples of this sort of feature. There are even some very brief HD shots from Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith.
Return to Geonosis (17:11 HD): This featurette explains how the team approached the four episodes set on the barren world of Geonosis. These episodes feature some of the biggest battles in the series and the incredible complexity of the scenes is explored particularly well. Some of the imagery in these episodes is so close to the film that there are times when you could be forgiven for thinking that you're watching Attack of the Clones. There's also an HD shot from The Phantom Menace in this piece, but I seriously hope the eventual Blu-ray release looks better!
Creating Mandalore (18:42 HD): This featurette deals with the team's efforts to bring everyone's favourite 'super-commandos' to life on the small screen. We learn how George Lucas directed Dave Filoni to bring them into the series, how they researched all the expanded universe material, and how they designed Mandalore itself. As sad as it is, the highlight for me was seeing the HD versions of the bounty hunter scene from The Empire Strikes Back ('no disintegrations') and the skiff rescue from Retun of the Jedi ('Boba Fett? Where?'). Can we just have the damn Blu-rays already?
Attack of the Zillo Beast (15:33 HD): The final featurette deals with the creation of the enormous creature faced by the Republic forces on Malastare. Dave Filoni explains how Lucas wanted to continue the various genre stories (noir, mystery, body-snatcher, zombie etc) with a pair of Godzilla-like monster movie episodes. Again there's plenty of story discussion (including comparisons to King Kong) and design footage, along with the now-customary HD footage from the live-action features (of beasts like the Rancor etc).
The Jedi Temple Archives: The archives offer 2D and 3D artwork for all twenty-two episodes. This takes the form of concept sketches, animatics, development scenes, finial designs and even fully-rendered extended/deleted scenes. They're a nice little addition to the set.
Easter Eggs: Yes, the set includes more hidden features. Details of how to access the ones I've found are available by clicking the link on the right of this page.
What can I say? Season two really picks up where season one left off, with the same stunning visuals, the same impressive audio, and (largely) the same selection of interesting bonus material. It might be a TV show aimed at younger viewers, and I should probably know better, but I still watch this show religiously on TV (even if there have been a few boring episodes in the third season). As a Star Wars nut I can’t be expected to offer an unbiased view, so those of you who aren’t into the ‘ Wars’ might want to try before you buy, but for fellow fans Star Wars: The Clone Wars – The Complete Season Two is a must-buy!
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Chris Gould
General viewing, but some scenes may be unsuitable for young children
Release Date: 15th November 2010
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English, Dolby Digital 5.1 Danish, Dolby Digital 5.1 Dutch, Dolby Digital 5.1 French, Dolby Digital 5.1 Norwegian, Dolby Digital 5.1 Swedish
Subtitles: English, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, Norwegian, Swedish
Extras: Featurettes, Jedi Temple Archives
Easter Egg: Yes
Cast: Matt Lanter, Ashley Eckstein, James Arnold Taylor, Corey Burton, Catherine Taber, Ian Abercrombie, Terrence 'T.C.' Carson, Anthony Daniels, Dee Bradley Baker, Matthew Wood, Tom Kane
Genre: Action, Adventure, Animation, Sci-Fi and War
Length: 500 minutes
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