Thanks to the nice people at Play.com, the first volume of Genndy Tartakovsky's Clone Wars mini series dropped onto the doormat a few days before its release in the US. This was a DVD that was purchased with some degree of reserve, as the third series of the animated shorts were yet to be broadcast and I was never sure if there would eventually be one collected version of the series released in the near future. Judging by the volume one packaging, this is not likely to be the case.
Chapters 1 - 10 | Chapters 11 - 20
Right, onto the packaging. The exterior art, a front cover picture nicely showing Anakin balanced between light and dark sides of the conflict (though leaning more to the dark side), promises quality within.
There's a thin bit of paper inside showing a charging Anakin on one side and chapter images on the other. The DVD has a split picture of Anakin dueling Ventress and Obi-Wan about to skewer Durge. All of the images are dynamic and colourful. If you don't like these, you're not likely to enjoy the series on the disc.
The disc itself is fairly packed. As well as the twenty episodes, which run together with varying success as an hour-and-a-bit mini-movie, you get:
Bridging the Saga: From Clone Wars to Revenge of the Sith, which is a wee featurette which discusses the relationship between the new series of the animated shorts and Revenge of the Sith. There are clips from both, and you'd need to be pretty hard-skinned to not get a little excited by both the plot hints, the clips of the film, and the glimpse of the slightly re-designed 'cartoon' characters from what is being billed as Volume Two of the Clone Wars. Looking forward to seeing what the stuff between a young Anakin and Qui-Gon is all about – was that Dagobah…?
Behind-the-Scenes Featurette, which has been shown on Cartoon Network. The fun to be had is watching this first and then the 'Bridging the Saga' short just to see how far Paul Rudish's beard has come along…
Directors Commentaries, of which there are two flavours, one of which is the same as the ones given away for Hyperspace members to download from StarWars.com
Galleries, and again there are two. These are great for those of you who like to know the names of every obscure background character. Otherwise, they are of only limited appeal to be honest. They aren't hugely well populated either, considering this is an animated series.
Episode III Teaser Trailer, nice to have this on something other than a ropey download.
Episode III Game Trailer, looks reasonably promising. Not much given away, though, about the new film that isn't in the latest trailer.
Republic Commando Game Trailer, which is fine, but verges on the pointless because of the inclusion of the X-Box demo. Of more interest might have been the Ash music video which turns up on the game disk. Never mind – I'm being picky, I know.
X-Box Playable Demo of Republic Commando, which should hopefully allow you to make your mind up about the game before you buy it. Wish I'd played this before I made a mistake and bought the blummin' game…
In the technical department, the speaker-crushing THX intro will confirm the sound is of the highest standard Dolby 2.0 Surround can manage, though I was a little disappointed by the lack of power in the sound for the 'earthquake-cannon' in the two Mace Windu episodes (chapters twelve and thirteen, trivia fans). The whole Yavin IV sequence is particularly fantastic.
Visually, this is clear and crisp and a joy to behold. Being a big Samurai Jack fan, Tartakovsky and his team can do no wrong as far as I am concerned. I am so glad they didn't try for a manga/anime look and just did their own thing. It's easy to forget you're watching a cartoon, oddly enough, though 'Super-Ninja Windu' can bring the suspended disbelief crashing down. General Grievous could have no better introduction (he is genuinely a bit scary), and I found myself looking forward to Episode III more than I had been.
There are captions for the episodes but not for the commentaries or any of the special features. I am still looking forward to the day when this becomes an executable offence. I have no idea if there is an Easter egg hidden away on the disk, as I couldn't find one. There are two 'themes' to the options menu, one featuring Separatist characters and one their Republic foes, and both are animated.
Now I've got the first volume in my hand, I'm generally content with the purchase. It would have been easy to just throw on the series and leave it at that – hey, it's 'just a cartoon' after all. The extras are pretty good, though a little more discussion on character design and the writing process away from the commentaries would have been nice, as would larger galleries. Still, I'm looking forward now to the second volume of the animated series, and the PR work Tartakovsky has done for the final Star Wars film should earn him some kind of marketing award.
Review score: 8.5 out of 10
The Clone Wars Cartoons fill in a lot of the background around Anakin’s journey to the Dark Side and RotS connects just so much better when you do have that baggage.
Therefore, for the unfortunate fans that didn't have the opportunity to actually buy the Clone Wars DVD or watch them on the Cartoon Network TV shows, we have concocted a page summarizing the content of the first 20 Chapters, including a fair amount of screen shots on the next page …
- Chapters 1 through 10 - - Chapters 11 through 20 -