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Star Wars: The Clone Wars Season 4 Blu-ray Review

The fourth season of “Clone Wars” will please “Star Wars” fans of all ages.

If you were as enthralled by the first 3 seasons of “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” as I was, you will be happy to know that the 22 episode fourth season is just as exciting. So, without further adieu, let me break down the season for you.

The season kicks off with an underwater 3 parter that brings Anakin, Ahsoka, Padme and Kit Fisto to Mon Calimari in “Water War,” “Gungan Attack,” and “Prisoners.” The Jedi (with the help of of the Gungans) must help Mon Calimari King Lee-Char and his people from the Quarren and the Separatist forces. Having seen many battles on land and in space, this arc was a refreshing change of pace for ‘Clone.’ As an added bonus, we get to see a young Ackbar!

As we all know, Gungans are a sore subject with some Star Wars fans, but the Gungan episode “Shadow Warrior” might be the best Gungan story to date. I won’t spoil it for you, but it’s a surprisingly dark story that ends with an intense battle between the Gungans vs. General Grievous.

R2-D2 and C3PO get their own 2 part adventure in “Mercy Mission” and “Nomad Droids.” Unfortunately, these two filler episodes are unquestionably the weak links in an otherwise impressive season. The two droids mainly just travel around getting into all sorts of mini adventures. It’s kiddy stuff and it detracts from all of the great arcs going on in this series.

“Clone Wars” bounces back with an epic Clone trooper 4 parter (“Darkness On Umbara,” “The General,” “Plan Of Dissent,” and “Carnage Of Krell”). Rex and the clones are under the command of a shady, cruel Jedi General named Pong Krell as they attempt to take the planet of Umbara. This is a great turning point for the show in terms of tone. It’s clear now that the show is now a long way from the generally light season 1 and is getting closer in tone (and in the timeline) to “Revenge Of The Sith.” The arc also boasts a deeper exploration of the war and the Clone troopers themselves.

Next up is a so-so 3 parter in which Anakin, Obi-Wan and Ahsoka investigate a disappearing colony and encounter Zygerrian slave traders. At 3 episodes (comprised of “Kidnapped,” “Slaves Of The Republic,” and “Escape From Kadavo”), the arc feels too long. The only aspect of real interest here is Anakin’s emotion state with him encountering slavery again (having been a slave himself as a young child).

Next up is a solo episode that is hands down one of the best of the entire series. “A Friend In Need,” which sees the return of Death Watch and Lux Bonteri is a fast paced, dark, intense story. My only complaint is that this wasn’t a 3 parter! I can’t wait til Death Watch show up again because this will definitely whet your appetite for their return.

Following ‘Friend’ is another stand-out story arc involving Obi-Wan going deep undercover as a bounty hunter named Rako Hardeen in order to discover more about an assassination attempt on Chancellor Palpatine. If you love bounty hunters,”Deception,” “Friends And Enemies,” “The Box,” and “Crisis On Naboo” are the episodes for you. Not only do you get to see more of fan favorites such as Cad Bane and Embo, but you get see some new faces as well (such as the memorable baddie Moralo Eval).

The following 2 episodes can be considered a mini-arc for Asajj Ventress. The first part (“Massacre”) involves Count Dooku commanding General Grievous to wipe out the Nightsisters and Asajj Ventress. Once again, this is a truly dark and violent episode but personally, the series is at its best when it gets dark and more adult as it raises the intensity and storytelling unpredictability. We may know the fate of some characters, but we don’t know what will happen to characters like Asajj. After “Massacre,” Asajj works with a group of bounty hunters on a heist job in the aptly named “Bounty.” If you are an original trilogy bounty hunter fan, this episode will certainly make you geek-out as you get to see Boba Fett, Bossk and Dengar work together. It’s as cool as it sounds.

Finally, the season concludes with the two parter fans have been waiting for- the return of Darth Maul (and Savage Opress) in “Brothers” and “Revenge.” While the snake in “Brothers” and Maul’s unstable behavior are a bit odd to say the least at first, things level out in “Revenge.” Plus, the implications of his return hold great promise (and great lightsaber duels) for the future of the series.

Summary: Despite a few mediocre, the fourth season is definitely strong with the force. Buy it now.

Video/Audio

Having seen episodes in standard definition and hi-def broadcasts (and on the official SW site), the picture quality simply can’t compare to the Blu-ray transfers. From the murky water of Mon Calimari to the breathtaking planet of Umbara, the animation is both stunning and groundbreaking for an animated television program. Note: The series is presented in 2.4:1 1080p.

The 5.1 DTS-HD audio tracks contain excellent award winning voice work, excellent scores, and excellent action sound f/x. In other words, the tracks are excellent.

Extras:
* A booklet that unfolds into a small bounty hunter poster.
* “Jedi Temple Archives”- As with the past 3 season Blu-ray releases, the Archives contain tons of concept art, deleted and extended scenes, animatics, animation renders, character and vehicle turntables, animation and lighting tests, and more for the 22 episodes.
* One of the complaints about the extras for the first 3 season sets is the lack of commentary tracks. Thankfully, that has been corrected this time around. The fourth set contains 5 video commentary tracks on the “Battle Of Mon Cala,” “Slaves Of Zygerria,” “Darkened World Of Umbara,” “Obi-Wan Undercover,” and “Darth Maul Returns” story arcs. The commentary tracks aren’t for the entire episodes mind you, but rather scenes, technical aspects, and moments. On ‘Cala,’ Dave Filoni, Joel Aron, Keith Kellogg and Kilian Plunkett joke around, talk about animation, lighting, action set pieces, etc. On ‘Umbara,’ Dave Filoni, Jason Tucker, Kilian Plunkett and Keith Kellogg talk about the Umbara environment, Walter Murch, Pong Krell, Clone trooper armor, and so on. ‘Zygerria’ features Dave Filoni, Henry Gilrot, Jason Tucker, and Kilian Punkett chatting about the comic mini-series the Zygerria arc was based on and design work for the most part. ‘Undercover’ features commentary by the same crew who provided comments on ‘Cala’ (Dave Filoni, Joel Aron, Keith Kellogg and Kilian Plunkett). Expect more of the same as the first video commentary. The ‘Maul’ commentary spices things up as two of the voice cast members (James Arnold Tyalor and Sam Witwer) join Dave Filoni and Katie Lucas. Lucas talks about characters and story inspirations, Clare Grant, Asajj Ventress, Witwer’s acting, etc.

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November 12, 2012 - Posted by | Blu-Ray review | , , , , , , , , , , ,

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