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Tuesday, 13 August 2013

CLASSIC REVIEW (2009): 'STAR WARS - THE CLONE WARS: CLONE COMMANDOS' DVD



STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS

CLONE COMMANDOS (DVD)


Released in the UK by WARNER HOME VIDEO/LUCASFILM ANIMATION


Reviewed by Scott Weller


Its liberation day for the Twi-leks, and Republic Clone hero Captain Rex gets to flex his blaster muscles in this new DVD release of THE CLONE WARS from WARNER BROS., quickly initiated into their release schedule so as to make the most of the Xmas shopping period for the teenage animation buying market, and to equally capitalize on the upcoming wave of publicity soon approaching with the November release of their epic complete Season One box set. Jettisoning the previous idea of having individual DVDs of four adventures in story/transmission order, as the first budget release did a few months back, CLONE COMMANDOS specifically highlights a select of group of characters, the actual Clone Troopers themselves, already highly popular with fans of all ages for their kick –ass action and cool design style-for this second release, in a selection of four wisely chosen episodes that truly showcase them and their pivotal role within the Prequel Saga’s animated adventures. And they don’t get much bigger, at least so far, than the action packed Ryloth trilogy, which sees the much heralded STAR WARS equivalent of the D-DAY landings, as the Republic begins its three stage mission of courage and dug in heroics to restore freedom to the Twi-lek population of that world, now enslaved by the greedy and emotion-less Wat Tambor and his Separatist droid forces. Whilst Anakin leads the air/space attack in his own inimitable improvised bravery, Obi-Wan and his first wave Clone battalions have to knock out the enemy ground defenses, whilst Jedi Master and all-round ultra cool dude with a purple lightsaber, Mace Windu, leads the final ambitious battle to secure the planets capital city, Lessu, and its single plasma shield bridge, in the process involving the help of Twi-lek insurgents led by the charismatic Cham Syndulla. But can they make it in time, before the planet is laid waste by the airborne Separatist bombers?

Though I was expecting something with a little more dramatic weight- darker and tougher in tone story and character wise (perhaps due to my anticipation from the way that the series story editor, Henry Gilroy, had talked about the story arc in the previous DVD documentary on THE CLONE WARS movie disc), with perhaps a bit more on the personal ramifications of the battle on both the Jedi (Ahsoka’s guilt at the of her squadron in battle during Storm Over Ryloth comes and goes a bit too quickly) and the Twi-lek people, the overall story, despite my personal disappointment on how much more to it there could have been, is still well plotted, rattling along at a fine pace as a high-quality adventure yarn homage to epic war films of the past like THE GUNS OF NAVARONE and A BRIDGE TOO FAR. Best seen in one big go rather than as separate episodes, it will nonetheless delight STAR WARS animation fans, especially in the younger ages (and that is where the series is primarily targeted anyway), and, despite a lack of strong villains, proves a noteworthy success for LUCAS ANIMATION, ending the first season in deserved style. Showcased on DVD, the Ryloth trilogy is a wise choice to release separately, and is packed with exciting incidents, wondrous visuals and gusto action deserving of the STAR WARS name. There’s also some nice quieter moments in there, too (like Innocents of Ryloth, where two Clone Troopers, part of the larger forces totally immersed within the story, encounter a little girl Twi-lek survivor who, at first a cute annoyance, ultimately helps them gain their first significant victory planet-side), and some intriguing story building for the future. Another plus is that Mace Windu, who had previously only made a few cameo appearances in Season One, now comes to the fore in the trilogy’s finale episode and, as seen in the numerous well edited trailers on STARWARS.COM, lives up to his promise in kicking serious droid butt of all kinds and in all varieties of location- a finale episode that’s the best of the three, strongly-directed, with much visual flair and with a good eye for action, from directorial powerhouse/ live-action Prequel veteran, Rob Coleman.

Though smaller in scale, the single episode of the disc, Rookies, particularly noteworthy for being one of the very first episodes to be transmitted for the series, also remains one of Season One’s most noteworthy, warmly regarded by fans and critics alike, and highlighting a group of Clone Troopers known as “Shinies” (because, being newly created, they have not yet had any battle experience, hence their still shiny un-dented armour) facing up to an onslaught of deadly camouflage skilled droid commandos who sneak invade their listening post station, based in the Rishi maze, in order to make way for a further sneak attack by General Grievous and his forces on the cloning home planet Kamino. Rookies has a great story from Steven Melching, whose script develops its small cast well and gives the Clone Troopers their own unique personalities despite their visual same-ness, and giving the story’s guest characters, Clone Captains Rex and Commander Cody, both excellent dialogue interplay and some classic action (Rex’s “Roger, Roger” battle speech being a particular highlight!). This tough little episode also sees some more firsts introduced to the animated series (including the debut of the aforementioned dangerous new commando droids, that prove a little more difficult to take out than the normal ones), the usual smart continuity references linking to other STAR WARS films that we always enjoy noticing, and some fine animation direction from Justin Ridge- all ingredients that make this an excellent addition to the range and completes the overall disc to a satisfying whole.

Wiht their unequalled high standards, the DVD picture and sound quality cannot be faulted, excellent as ever from the ever reliable LUCASFILM/THX gangs immersed in their Skywalker Ranch quality control battle bunkers. Though there are no special features at all on the disc-a shame as I thought there could have been at least a five minute behind the scenes featurette to make it worth the while for the die-hard collectors to have!!- CLONE COMMANDOS will, like the titular animated soldiers, effectively serve its duty, primarily as a DVD that parents will snap up and use to endlessly keep their children, and their friends, entertained through the weekend and days and after school/ before nap time periods. If its action they want, CLONE COMMANDOS delivers!
  

AFICIONADO RATING: Like the previous A GALAXY DIVIDED, this is another nice, littler appetizer DVD release before the main course of the extras-heavy Season One box set blows our minds. A fine group of episodes has been selected, primarily aimed at the general family buying public rather than the die-hard fans. However, as a STAR WARS fan, if you can afford to get it, it is still a nice addition to your CLONE WARS collection. Overall rating for episodes: 8.5 out of 10

With thanks to Chris Baker for the above image composition.

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