Thursday, April 2, 2009

Star Wars: The Clone Wars - A Galaxy Divided DVD Review

UPDATE 4 9 2009!!! (see bottom of the post)

I've taken it upon myself to shell out $15 for this bare bones DVD in order to let all you Clone Wars fans out there know the deal. Obviously, Lucas Animation made it absolutely clear in their press release about this DVD that it 1) contains nothing that won't be released later 2) is entirely bare-bones and 3) the full season set will come out later this year with plenty of extras.

If you're like me, though, George Lucas can use you has his personal ATM machine. Just because Lucas Animation says "Don't buy this DVD! It's for parents looking to entertain their kids trapped in a minivan in the summertime!" that's really so they don't have a guilty conscience. Walking into a roomful of alcoholics with Jack Daniels and saying "Drinking is bad for you!" doesn't mean you're no longer holding a friggin' bottle.


So... what can you actually expect from the DVD? If you have to own it because, God Help You, you must own everything that says Lucasfilm on it? Maybe there's a nifty menu screen? Maybe they tacked on a trailer for Season 2?


The DVD menu screen looks very much like it was made hastily with Photoshop. Your options include watch all four episodes in a row or pick an episode. You can also watch these episodes with French, Spanish or Portuguese subtitles. Should you choose to do so. The episodes are presented in the aspect ratio and letterboxing that was used for the Cartoon Network showings. Oddly, the menu screens have a 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio, and the actual episodes do not.

To be fair, the episodes themselves aren't any less fun than the original viewings. If you, for some reason, didn't record them, don't much care for haphazard reruns, or don't feel like downloading them on iTunes... and/or are terribly impatient like me...these are great little episodes that I've grown to like more with each viewing. For those who want to see my original reviews (some of which may be revised when I do a full recap of the full season release...) here they are:

Ambush *** 1/2

Rising Malevolence ***

Shadow of Malevolence ***

Destroy Malevolence **** 1/2

So... that's not bad at all. And, obviously, on DVD they all look great. The colors are, at least for me, far better looking than they were when I was watching the episodes on cable. It portends a really fantastic looking release for these episodes on Blu-Ray. Shadow of Malevolence looks especially terrific.

If there's anything that belies the laziness of the release, it's that Ambush is included here. Essentially, the Malevolence Trilogy hangs together well on its own, and if they edited them together as one 70 minute feature, it would easily compare favorably to the original "theatrical" release. All three Malevolence episodes, back to back, are a treat. Ambush is a stand-alone episode, and an excellent one. It's simply not next to these other episodes for any reason other than it was televised alongside them in this order.

So... it's $15. You can spend that buying dinner for two at McDonalds. So if you don't have these in any other format, or you're just a weak-willed fanboy like me, the damage won't be too severe. Still, there's nothing here you won't get in a far better format if you can wait. I mean, heck, they didn't even give you a menu screen with animation for this one. And they best stuff in the series is later on. There's no Lair of Grevious or Trespass here.

So... the episodes average *** 1/2 stars or so. The animation (as far as the series has progressed) varies from exceptional to feeling "early." No stars for extras (because there are none) and about one star for effort, because the actual DVD case looks okay and will look nice on your shelf. Even if it fills you with shame.

Should you buy it? Probably not.

But I did.

So you didn't have to!


Well...according to "The Numbers" this double dipper DVD with no extras and four episodes sold 68,722 units in its first week of release. That's not going to win any awards, but I'd bet this DVD release pulls in around $3 million is sales in about a month. That's, let's face it, amazing considering that all of these episodes were shown on free TV, are available to download on iTunes for grand total of $8, and that people can replicate this release entirely by using their DVR.