PictureThe Clone Wars in HD, it's what Blu-ray was made for. Presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 widescreen, it really looks amazing in 1080p High Definition. The animation definitely lends itself to the format and, as I've stated, it gets upgraded about 15 episodes in, which makes it even more special. The detail is fantastic - look at the skin textures of the men who hold Dooku and the two Jedis for ransom - and the high standards set are maintained throughout. This is a totally digital creation, obviously perfect for Blu-ray, but it still sometimes leaves you gobsmacked by how superior it looks. The skin tones, the colour palette, the shadow detail, it looks truly amazing. This is picture-perfect stuff, with none of the digital defects you sometimes get with even the most recent live-action stuff. The landscapes look breathtaking, from the sunny desert-styled settings to the icy planets where there is a contrast sheen of falling snow. Tremendous. Black levels are solid, and colour look rich and deep throughout and this is too good a presentation not to warrant a resounding top score.
SoundTo accompany the series each episode comes with a decent enough Dolby Digital 5.1 mix. Dialogue is never less than clear and coherent throughout, largely dominating the fronts and centre channels where appropriate. The effects are very commonplace - as you can very well expect from this ever-expanding sci-fi/fantasy universe - and you get everything from massive land skirmishes to raging space battles to liven up the surrounds. Oddly the more busy-looking setpieces do not create quite the all-enveloping surround experience that you might hope for, and instead the highlights come from a few standout moments: Dooku's ship racing away with Anakin and Obi in hot pursuit, the scuttling of Grievous as he crawls along like a mechanical scorpion, and of course the lightsabre-hissing duels. The score is fairly generic, a little too enthusiastic and patriotic sometimes (as you could only expect from the standard Star Wars style) and occasionally extremely out of place with its effort to be more 'modern'. Still, nothing really to love or hate here, and it all comes across reasonably well from the surrounds. Bass is fairly limited, but whilst this is an unexceptional aural accompaniment, it is by no means bad - perfectly engaging and decent for this enjoyable series.
ExtrasEvery single episode comes complete with a Behind the Scenes Featurette, each lasting 5-10 minutes and featuring background details into the landscape designs, discussions on character motivations (including individualising the Clones), animation work, story arc plotting and character design sketches. Beyond that (and accessible separately) each Behind the Scenes Featurette is linked to the Jedi Temple Archives option, which enables you to select - when prompted - further background detail as you 'explore the holocron vault's extensive collection of artist renderings, character designs, animatics, early models and more.' Both options allow for plenty of background into how they put each episode together, from the concept art to the 3D animation rendering and test animations, as well as some information on the overall structure of the stories and the characters therein.
VerdictStar Wars: The Clone Wars makes good use of this pinnacle in the Star Wars timeline, taking advantage of the wealth of conflicts that arise during these all-important years, the treachery, political machinations and deaths along the way as planets are conquered and battles are waged. With plenty of Jedi action and the Jar-Jar Binks factor kept to a relative minimum, this collection of the first 22 episodes is a quality offering, with plenty of action, adventure and peril for fans, young and old. On Blu-ray it is difficult to know how anything could look much better than this digitally animated show, and the soundtrack offers up a decent enough aural accompaniment. Individual behind the scenes Featurettes for every single episode mark a nice touch and overall this is a superb First Season Box Set. And Region Free too. Highly recommended for fans of the Star Wars Universe, particularly those disappointed with the way the prequel trilogy seemed to skip this, the best bit. Quality.
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