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Star Wars: The Clone Wars - The Complete Season Four(TV) (2011-2012)
As the Clone Wars sweep through the galaxy, the heroic Jedi Knights – including Anakin Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Jedi Master Yoda and padawan Ahsoka Tano – struggle to maintain order and restore peace. But despite the best efforts of these brave protectors, more and more planets are falling prey to the sinister forces of the dark side…
For more about Star Wars: The Clone Wars - The Complete Season Four and the Star Wars: The Clone Wars - The Complete Season Four Blu-ray release, see Star Wars: The Clone Wars - The Complete Season Four Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on October 25, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: André Sogliuzzo, Mat Lucas, James Arnold Taylor, Grey DeLisle, Corey Burton, Ashley Eckstein
Narrator: Tom Kane
» See full cast & crew
Star Wars: The Clone Wars - The Complete Season Four Blu-ray Review
The fourth season is an improvement on the third, and its Blu-ray release is excellent all around...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, October 25, 2012
There are two series battling for supremacy in Star Wars: The Clone Wars: a light, action-packed cartoon for the kiddie set, let's call it SW! Jr., and an ever-darkening mythos expansion and saga deconstruction that caters to lifelong franchise fanboys weened on the Original Trilogy and entrenched in the Star Wars Expanded Universe. Let's call that series Star Wars: Stop Asking Questions and Cover Your Eyes, Son. The first two seasons of The Clone Wars managed to establish a reasonably balanced middle ground, giving fans of all ages a show everyone could enjoy. Together. Season Three wasn't so successful, though, hopping in the ball pit with Jar Jar, Space Pirates and Prequel Era C3PO and, worse, serving up throwaway Star Wars stories with sidelined Jedi and Sith right alongside infinitely stronger, far more satisfying arcs a la the "Nightsisters" and "Mortis" episodes. Thankfully, showrunner Dave Filoni and his talented team of animators and Lucas-blessed storytellers address that disparity and disjointedness in the fourth season... although only in part. There are still woefully weak episodes, just not as many. There are still disappointments to be had, just not as often. And the battle between SW! Jr. and Cover Your Eyes, Son rages on. It's just more clear which series is gaining the upper hand, and it isn't the one your kids are rooting for.
Time is passing in The Clone Wars and Revenge of the Sith is quickly approaching. Anakin (voiced by Matt Lanter) is inching ever closer to the dark side, Obi-Wan (James Arnold Taylor) is getting a bit grayer in the beard, the clones (Dee Bradley Baker) are becoming less enamored with war and more jaded toward the Jedi, Count Dooku (Corey Burton) and the Separatist forces are strengthening and spreading across the galaxy, all manner of Sith are on the march and the ultimate betrayal looms on the Episode III horizon. It's safe to say the fourth season doesn't play it safe by any means, even if it keeps its not-so-kid-friendly sensibilities in check to a degree. Anakin begins to see cracks in the Jedi's galactic standing and self-prescribed righteousness, Ahsoka (Ashley Eckstein) has to strike out on her own more often and brave the shadows, Obi- Wan has to sacrifice things he holds dear, the clones have to deal with dissension in the ranks, Asajj Ventress (Nika Futterman) is untethered, Savage Opress (Clancy Brown) is on the prowl, Dooku and Chancellor Palpatine (the late Ian Abercrombie) are making bolder moves, and Darth Maul (Sam Witwer) returns from the grave more vicious than ever, swearing vengeance against the Jedi who robbed him not only of his legs, but his spirit and sanity.
Whereas Season Three weebled and wobbled somewhat wildly from start to finish, Season Four exorcises its dullest demons early on and sets about creating thrills and building momentum. So patience is of the utmost importance, young Padawan. The first six episodes of the season will fill even the most dutiful Clone Wars fan with doubts. The Battle of Mon Cala ("Water War," "Gungan Attack" and "Prisoners") should have been an EU standout. The watery planet of Mon Cala, an appearance from a certain Mon Calamari captain by the name of Ackbar, a deep-sea war with more clashing characters than any other episode before it, underwater lightsaber action... all the makings of new Star Wars memories. Instead, the Mon Cala arc sinks and sinks and sinks still lower under the weight of its uninspired villains, indecisive Prince, watered down Ackbar antics, Gungan reinforcement armies and grade-school politicking. It has its moments -- kids will be particularly fond of the opening episodes -- but everyone else will need to hunker down. Standalone Jar Jar spy- adventure "Shadow Warrior" follows and fails miserably, something C3PO/R2D2 team-up "Mercy Mission" and "Nomad Droids" emulates to mind-numbing ends. The SW! Jr. crowd will again be delighted. The moms and dads forced to endure Season Four's opening six-episode volley? Not so much.
Season Four unofficially kicks off with the four-episode Darkened World of Umbara arc ("Darkness on Umbara," "The General," "Plan of Dissent" and "Carnage of Krell"), which focuses on the series' other bread-n-butter, the clone troopers, and pits them against overwhelming odds and a mad Jedi who sees them as little more than pawns to use in battle as he sees fit. It's terrific stuff all around, with great character beats and mounting conflicts, both internal and external, the clone- centric episodes have become known for. From there, fan-favorite clone Rex joins Anakin, Ob-Wan and Ahsoka for three episodes ("Kidnapped," "Slaves of the Republic" and "Escape from Kadavo") as the Jedi attempt to infiltrate the Zygerrian slave trade and rescue a group of colonists from Kiros. It's a decent little story, most notable for its glimpse into Anakin's hatred of slavery and the tragic irony that, one day very soon, he will be responsible for helping the Republic's future Emperor enslave an entire galaxy, while becoming a slave once again, this time to Palpatine. It doesn't resonate as much as it should, though, and the writers' hesitance to pull Anakin's trigger too tightly shows through. "A Friend in Need" trails closely behind -- Death Watch returns, leaving Ahsoka with little choice but to intervene -- and suffers the same fate.
While the fourth season's first six episodes are its worst, its last eight are without a doubt its finest. Up first is Obi-Wan Undercover, a well-executed run of four diverse but interlocked episodes ("Deception," "Friends and Enemies," "The Box" and "Crisis on Naboo") in which Obi-Wan fakes his death, changes his identity and appearance, and goes undercover as a bounty hunter in the employ of Cad Bane (Burton) and, eventually, Dooku himself. Like the best the series has to offer, the Obi-Wan arc is layered and complex. There's the infiltration mission itself, tricky and tense. The proving grounds, deadly and exciting. The plot to kidnap the Chancellor, with twists and turns aplenty. And, most importantly, Anakin's response to Obi-Wan's death and then to the revelation that his friend and mentor is actually alive. Seeds of Anakin's distrust of the Jedi are cultivated (you'll never watch Episode III the same way again), a fracture forms between the brothers in arms, and startling surprises await, especially when Anakin faces Dooku in "Crisis on Naboo."
But Undercover is a mere appetizer compared to Darth Maul Returns ("Massacre," "Bounty," "Brothers" and "Revenge"). Asajj? Betrayed, on the run and searching for new purpose. The Nightsisters? Back, growing more powerful and itching for vengeance. Savage Opress? Bigger, badder and on the hunt for his long-lost brother, who's apparently alive somewhere on the Outer Rim. And the tease-turned-triumph of the season, Darth Maul? Startling, frightening, frothing at the mouth and out of his mind. Witwer is nothing short of magnificent, the animation and design of Maul is masterful, and the episodes... there are only so many ways to avoid spoilers, so it's best I keep quiet. Suffice it to say, Season Four ends with a two-part finale to end all Clone Wars two-part finales. If it weren't for those pesky opening episodes (six in a row no less), I'd say the series was back on target. Instead, the show's consistency is still a bit too up in the air to declare the fourth season a full return to form.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars - The Complete Season Four Blu-ray, Video Quality
Season Four's 1080p/AVC-encoded 2.35:1 video presentation is eerily comparable to its predecessors, right down to the slight macroblocking and banding it sometimes exhibits. Thankfully, neither appears very often or for very long, and neither one amounts to a debilitating issue or deal-breaker, especially when weighed against the aspects of the encode that excel. Each episode -- even the bleakest bounty hunter mission, most desaturated ground assault, most frightening Force Witch feud, or darkest Sith grudge match -- is awash with splashes of color, blazing primaries (oh the reds), painterly alien-earthtones and bottomless black levels, all bolstered by carefully balanced contrast and excellent clarity. The ever-evolving animation has never looked better than it does here, and the presentation captures any and every nuance the animators commit to the screen. Edges are crisp and clean, the series' brushstroke textures are rendered within a parsec of perfection, and the expanded aspect ratio only reveals that much more to gush over. Yes, the limitations of the animation are more apparent in high definition, but so too are all the subtleties that make The Clone Wars' style and aesthetic one of the more unique animated productions on television. Moreover, aside from the aforementioned anomalies (the worst instances of which pop up underwater during the Battle of Mon Cala arc and in the smoke and dust of the Darth Maul Returns arc), there isn't really anything to complain about. And I suspect much of what does invade the encode traces back to the series' source a la many of the minor eyesores in Warner's animated DC Universe releases. All in all, The Clone Wars' fourth season looks great. Not flawless by any means, mind you, but worthy of measured praise.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars - The Complete Season Four Blu-ray, Audio Quality
As if Season Four's 2.35:1 aspect ratio hadn't already upped the cinematic ante, Warner's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track nudges The Clone Wars even farther into the big screen Star Wars universe. Lightsaber clashes (of which there are many this season) crackle menacingly, the deadly traps in a bounty hunter proving ground attack from every direction, Umbaran engines and shields surge and hum, explosions roar, ground assaults pack weight, blasters split the night air, malicious vines snake along the ground, Dark Side magic spills across the floor, and the Sith make their presence known in every regard. (The Darth Maul Returns arc is a sonic show-stopper that even surpasses Season Three's Nightsisters and Mortis episodes.) Low-end output infuses real force in every Force push, lends power wherever devastation or destruction is needed, and the full support of the LFE channel at all times. The rear speakers deliver an immersive experience too, even if it isn't quite as consistently enveloping as it could be. Still, starships bank along the edge of the soundfield, alien beasties lurk nearby then lunge from behind, and whirring, whirling lightsaber blades echo all around. All the while, dialogue is nicely grounded, perfectly intelligible and neatly prioritized, directionality is often as surgical as a Clone assault, pans are as stealthy as a master assassin, and dynamics are as exacting as Obi-Wan's swordsmanship. No complaints here.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars - The Complete Season Four Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Star Wars: The Clone Wars - The Complete Season Four Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The Clone Wars struggles in trying to please two vastly different audiences -- grade school younglings and veteran Star Wars masters -- and tends to favor one camp over the other to sometimes lackluster, sometimes satisfying, sometimes epic, game-changing ends. (Be warned: for every episode that's clearly geared for children, there's at least one other that will quite literally send young kids running from the room screaming.) Even so, Season Four is stronger and more consistent than Season Three, and three of its main story arcs are terrific. Darkened World of Umbara is expertly crafted, Obi-Wan Undercover will change the way you view Anakin's plunge into the dark side in Revenge of the Sith, and Darth Maul Returns is as thrilling and dark a vengeance plot as Star Wars has ever given us. The two-part season finale and Sam Witwer's startling, dare I say brilliant performance as Maul are especially mesmerizing and promise a fifth season villain that will put others to shame. Fortunately, the Blu-ray release of Season Four is even better thanks to a striking video presentation, a terrific DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track, and more than six-and-a-half hours of special features (among them five video commentaries). If you have any love of The Clone Wars series, this will be one of the easiest BD purchases you make this month.
Star Wars The Clone Wars: Other Seasons
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