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The Force is strong with "Star Wars: The Clone Wars - Season One"

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Star Wars: The Clone Wars - The Complete Season One

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Star Wars: The Clone Wars - The Complete Season One

Though I was not impressed when I saw "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" as a theatrical release in August 2008, I did eventually accept it as the pilot episode of the Cartoon Network's new computer animated series of the same name. Indeed, when watched as a DVD on TV and in that context it actually works better than it did in theaters.

Executive produced by creator George Lucas and overseen by producer Catherine Winder and series director Dave Filoni, "Star Wars: The Clone Wars: The Complete Season One" consists of 22 episodes. Each episode is a stand-alone 22-minute story, although many of them form complex two- or three-episode story arcs.

The series, which ended its five-season run on Cartoon Network last spring, loosely follows the continuing adventures of Anakin Skywalker (Matt Lanter), now a fully-fledged Jedi Knight, and his Padawan learner Ahsoka Tano (Ashley Eckstein) as they lead the 501st Legion during the Clone Wars.

Anakin's former Master, Obi-Wan Kenobi (James Arnold Taylor) and other major "Star Wars" Prequel Trilogy characters (Palpatine, Padme Amidala, C-3PO [Anthony Daniels], R2-D2, Mace Windu and Yoda [Tom Kane]) also appear frequently in the first season; the series' first regular episode, Ambush, is Star Wars' first Yoda-centered video adventure.

But because Lucas, Filoni, Winder and story editor Henry Gilroy know that fans want to know more about other characters such as Jedi Masters Plo Koon and Kit Fisto or villains General Grievous and Assajj Ventress, "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" includes episodes that spotlight them and not the "usual suspects" of the Skywalker-Kenobi crowd.

Another thing that stands out is that the series is, like its live action Lucasfilm forerunner "The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles," an anthology that doesn't follow a set chronological order.

One example is the episode "The Hidden Enemy," in which Anakin, Obi-Wan and the clones under their command have to deal with a potential traitor in their midst.

Though it was the 16th episode of the series, it takes place shortly before the events of The Clone Wars movie and prior to Ahsoka's first meeting with "Skyguy."

And although the series aired on kid-friendly Cartoon Network, it is rated TV-PG for good reason; unlike most "cartoons" where characters can go through battles and other nasty situations virtually unharmed (as in the 1980s' GI Joe series), "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" features many episodes in which clone troopers and even Jedi Knights are injured or even die.

For first-time viewers, the animation (which was inspired by the British animated series "The Thunderbirds") does take some getting used to. It's rendered in three-dimensional computer style and done in a slightly exaggerated style (Count Dooku, for instance, has a decidedly knife-like look in his face-and-beard) reminiscent of both the 2003-2005 "Clone Wars" series and even Japanese TV styled anime.

Once the viewer gets used to the visual style, though, the strength of the writing will win over almost all "Star Wars" fans.

Sure, the stories' tone is not always as "serious" as any of the live-action films' writing is supposed to be (at least in the eyes of the too-dedicated Star Warriors), but Lucas, Filoni, Winder and Gilroy infuse The Clone Wars' 22 episodes with enough of the magic that made the Classic "Star Wars" Trilogy, well, classic.

Lines such as "I have a bad feeling about this" and in-jokes such as numbering an escape pod One Nine Seven Seven (a tip of the hat to the year "Star Wars" premiered) are little touches that make this grizzled fan really enjoy "Star Wars: The Clone Wars."

The First Season sets:

Both the DVD and Blu-ray sets come in a booklet-like case which holds the discs (four DVDs or three Blu-rays) in the flaps, with a 68-page "Production Journal" with original sketches and designs for the series.

They also have all 22 first season episodes, including seven Director's Cut versions.

The 22 episodes contained in the First Complete Season sets are:

  • "Ambush"
  • "Rising Malevolence"
  • "Shadow of Malevolence"
  • "Destroy Malevolence"
  • "Rookies"
  • "Downfall of a Droid"
  • "Duel of the Droids"
  • "Bombad Jedi"
  • "Cloak of Darkness"
  • "Lair of Grievous"
  • "Dooku Captured"
  • "The Gungan General"
  • "Jedi Crash"
  • "Defenders of Peace"
  • "Trespass"
  • "The Hidden Enemy"
  • "Blue Shadow Virus"
  • "Mystery of a Thousand Moons"
  • "Storm Over Ryloth"
  • "Innocents of Ryloth"
  • "Liberty on Ryloth"
  • "Hostage Crisis"

On both DVD and Blu-ray, each episode is accompanied by an optional behind-the-scenes featurette.

On the Blu-ray edition, there are a few additional extras, such as The Jedi Temple Archives, touted on the package as "an extensive database of early test animation, concept art, and 3-D turnarounds." This is only of interest to really geeky fans and a disappointing one for me; I would have preferred a trivia track along the lines of Mike and Denise Okuda's text commentary for Paramount Home Entertainment "Star Trek Collector's Edition" DVDs.

Also, on the Blu-ray edition, if you don't hit the STOP button at the tail end of an episode, the next one will automatically act as though you selected Play All Episodes. The DVD edition, thankfully, does not do this unless you do select the Play All feature.

Blu-ray Set Specifications:

Format: AC-3, Animated, Color, Dolby, Dubbed, Widescreen, Subtitled

Language: German (Dolby Digital 5.1), English (Dolby Digital 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1)
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French, German
Dubbed: French, Spanish
Region: All Regions
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Number of discs: 3
Rated: Unrated
Studio: Warner Home Video
DVD Release Date: November 3, 2009
Run Time: 502 minutes

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