Star Wars: The Clone Wars Blu-ray Review
The disc presents a theatrically correct 2.35:1 1080p transfer using the VC-1 codec. Being a purely digital creation you would expect nothing less than a pristine picture but boy you need to be prepared for just how breathtakingly good this picture really is.
The artist pen, or in the case the computers pixel make up the detail level and a painstaking approach has been taken to give as much detail to the frame as possible, from battle damaged clone armour to intricate designs on weapons, from internal droid mechanisms to sweeping land and cityscapes. Being computer animation there is plenty to see and edges are pristine. There is a three dimensionality to the characters; they have weight and presence on the screen, aided admirably by the lighting.
Colours are bold and striking as well as subtle and subdued when called for. All the primaries fair very well, greens of the jungle, reds of the deserts and blues of the skies are all defiant and grade with no hint of bleed, wash or posterization. The bold blues and reds of the laser shots, or lightsabres are gloriously vibrant with plenty of ambient lighting effects.
Brightness is set to give deep true blacks giving plenty of depth to the frame, there isn't much in the way of shadow detail, but then there probably isn't any rendered. Contrast is set to give some beautiful whites, dirty with the clone armour, pristine with clouds or metallic sheens with absolutely no hint of boosting.
Digitally there are no problems at all; no banding, blocking, posterization or edge enhancement. I never give a perfect ten since theoretically that should be unreachable as you never know how good the next title might be, but if ever there was a case for such a score this would be it.
There are five sound tracks to choose from English, French, Portuguese and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 EX and English Dolby TrueHD 5.1, for this review I concentrate on the latter. After the spiffy new THX intro that accompanies the disc as you pop it into your player I was expecting good things from the sound track and that is exactly what I got. As the film starts up Kiner's score bursts through, reverberating around the room; there is good tonal range and good use of the speakers to give a wide and expansive sound. Once we move into the battle scenes again the stage makes good use of the speakers with laser shots and other effects having decent directionality and matching well with the on screen action. Dialogue is clear and precise, natural sounding and given some directionality when needed. There is good bass and the sub does get a few decent rumbles from explosions, tank and ship engines and Jabba's guttural talking. But it is never as deep as one might expect and there are cases when its use is positively missing, crashing buildings for example.
The track can also be quite subtle with discreet effects and not the surround bombast one might expect with an all out action adventure. In all, whist the separation gives a wide expanse to the front, it is the front where most of the weight lays and though it is true there is plenty of surround action, the track didn't have that all encompassing experience as some of the best fair out there. Don't get me wrong this is an excellent sound track but with the bar being moved all the time this one fails to reach the lofty heights of reference material by a greater margin that I anticipated.
- Picture in Picture Commentary
Not profile 1.1 but rather an independent SD feature that plays in the top left of the screen while the commentators and other goodies appear bottom right; it is a novel approach and one that means it is accessible to everyone, but does highlight just how good the HD transfer is over its SD counterpart. The commentators are director Dave Filoni, producer Catherine Winder, writer Henry Gilroy and editor Jason W.A. Tucker with only Filoni and Gilroy being together on screen this being all separate recordings and edited down to make one commentary. Even though there is plenty discussed from all the participants, because of the nature of the recording it does tend to become rather scene specific with little embellishment, does also suffer from a little repetition with other extras on the disc. What is nice is the concept art and pre-viz material that pops up to help explain some of the idea being discussed. Hits the entertaining mark.
- The Clone Wars: The Untold Stories - 0.24.53
What starts off as an explanation into the thinking behind bringing this film to the screen, the processes and development, quickly becomes an advert for the TV series with plot descriptions and footage. However when it is on track there are some decent enough interviews with the director, producer and Lucas himself.
- The Voices of the Clone Wars - 0.10.00
A brief introduction to the voice actors that play the various characters of the film, some split screen work to see both at the same time. It's all pretty light and fluffy, a little back slappy too, but entertaining enough for its short run time.
- A New Score - 0.10.45
Discussions with Composer Kevin Kiner as he goes through his thinking and homage's to John William's iconic score. Not in depth enough to be properly insightful but is a good enough feature to get across what he was trying to do, he does like his Ahsoka score though.
Concept drawing for characters, ships and places for the film.
- Deleted Scenes - 0.10.50
Four scenes that can be played individually or all together with play all. Adding very little to the finished product apart from cluttering and disrupting the narrative it is easy to see why these particular scenes were excised, even if there is no reason given.
- Webisodes - 0.16.14
Six behind the scenes featurettes that can be played individually or all together with play all. With titles such as Introducing 'Star Wars: The Clone Wars', Epic Battles, The Clones are Coming, Heroes, Villains and Anakin's Padawan it is easy to see exactly what each one is about and gives Filoni ample opportunity to plug his new series with plenty of film material to pad it out. Far to light and ad heavy to be of any significance.
- Hologram Memory Challenge game
Remember the position of two objects, clear the board and be rewarded with excerpts from the TV series.
Rounding off the extra features are three trailers
A decent enough set of extras that while pretty light give just enough depth to see behind the scenes before descending into selling itself territory. Comes with a very nice slip case with an embossed picture that shows Anakin from one angle and Asajj Ventress from the other. But perhaps the best thing is that there are a few snippets of Star Wars presented in glorious 1080 providing a tantalising glimpse into what we might expect once these films come to Blu-ray.
When I first saw the posters advertising Star Wars: The Clone Wars, knowing how good the original animated series was, I immediately checked the writer and director and seeing that Lucas' name was only as producer I was expecting good things. However, as producer, Lucas' hand is all over the film, adding unnecessary characters, daft jokes and plot contrivances. However, as a piece of Star Wars lore the film works incredibly well, it contains all the essential ingredients from epic battles, lightsabre duels, manages the right tone and even musically. It's just unfortunate that it fails to be a particularly good film. Watching it in the right frame of mind though will yield some decent entertainment.
As a Blu-ray package Warner have put together a pretty good package, visually it is a stunning looking film, aurally it is good but not exceptional and the extras package while a little light is reasonably concise and forth coming; the lack of up to date profiles is also a bonus. This one will probably not have difficulty in finding a home, those that live and breath Star Wars will get it anyway, then bitch, those of a less stanch nature ought to get something out of it.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £22.31
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- Picture in Picture Commentary