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Star Wars: The Clone Wars - The Complete Season Three(TV) (2010-2011)
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 Three and the Star Wars: The Clone Wars - The Complete Season Three Blu-ray release, see Star Wars: The Clone Wars - The Complete Season Three Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on October 21, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Directors: Dave Filoni, Walter Murch
Writers: Paul Dini, Henry Gilroy
Starring: André Sogliuzzo, James Arnold Taylor, Grey DeLisle, Corey Burton, Ashley Eckstein, Matt Lanter
» See full cast & crew
Star Wars: The Clone Wars - The Complete Season Three Blu-ray Review
The Force is with the third season's AV presentation...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, October 21, 2011
When it first dropped out of hyperspace, The Cartoon Network's animated Star Wars series seemed destined to appeal to the kiddies, little more. It's misguided theatrical debut earned a critical drubbing and tanked at the box office, and hopes dwindled as it appeared nothing could save Uncle George's prequel galaxy from being dismissed for good. But then came a small miracle. An intervention of the Force, if you will. The Clone Wars stormed television and did the unthinkable: make Star Wars worth watching again, over and over, week in and week out, battle after glorious planet-hopping battle. For two seasons, the series rode its creative wave to the bank, tinkering with Uncle George's far, far away galaxy, doing more for its heroes than all three prequel movies combined, and expanding upon all the things Star Wars geeks have begged for since The Phantom Menace materialized. Oh, there were missteps along the way -- misguided episodes and some less-than-thrilling misfires -- but, on the whole, the first two seasons delivered the goods. Season Three, though, is a season of spectacular highs and spectacular lows; a devastating hit or flank-exposing miss of a 22-episode jaunt across the prequel galaxy that isn't as consistent, clever or exhilarating as previous outings.
For a season dubbed "Secrets Revealed," the Clone Wars' third season doesn't reveal very much. It starts out well enough, though, with "Clone Cadets" and "ARC Troopers," a two-part return to Kamino that does everything The Clone Wars does best: transform the clones (voiced by Dee Bradley Baker) into real, battle-worn grunts and dust off the Jedi and Sith for a bit of lightsaber on lightsaber action. But then everything strays off course as Anakin Skywalker (Matt Lanter) and Obi Wan Kenobi (James Arnold Taylor) disappear for the better part of six episodes. Jar Jar Binks (Ahmed Best) and Senator Organa (Phil LaMarr) jet off on a diplomatic mission, Ahsoka Tano (Ashley Eckstein) and the Chairman of Pantora track a familiar Original Trilogy bounty hunter to Tatooine, Padmé (Catherine Taber) takes Ahsoka to Mandalore to help Obi Wan's former flame, the Duchess Satine, Ahsoka races to thwart an assassination plot Aurra Sing sets into motion, and C-3PO (of all people... er, droids) is kidnapped by Season Two villain Cad Bane (Corey Burton). Anakin shows up -- briefly -- and tackles one of his most dangerous assignments to date: helping Padmé prepare a diplomatic dinner. Even when Obi Wan returns, it's to track down series pariah Ziro the Hutt (Burton); the same Ziro who made portions of The Clone Wars feature film so unbearable. He has a fling with Return of the Jedi's lippy Sy Snootles, but Snootles isn't exactly a fan-favorite (or very bearable herself), so it's a complete failure. Meanwhile, Obi Wan teams up with roguish Jedi Quinlan Vos (Al Rodrigo), but they're shortchanged, again and again, as Ziro hogs the spotlight.
Soon thereafter, it's two more episodes of political intrigue. (Or political drudgery as it were.) Ahsoka accompanies Padmé on a doomed attempt to strike a truce with the Separatists and Padmé and Senator Organa try to get a tricky bill passed in the Senate. All the while, kids and adults spent the first half of Season Three's broadcast run wondering where all the Jedi and Clones had gone. It isn't just a "Secrets" wasteland, it's a lightsaber wasteland as well. Don't get me wrong, Ahsoka has really come into her own; enough to make the occasional solo mission work. But Senators? Politics? Droid-nappings? Ziro the Hutt? Fifth-tier Original Trilogy characters? Dinner prep? The series' first two seasons pushed into exciting new territory, but Season Three spends eleven episodes pulling away from everything that could make it great. When was the last time Yoda (Tom Kane) stole the show? When was the last time Mace Windu (Terrence C. Carson) put his boots on the ground? When did politics trump The Clone Wars' namesake? And what of long-awaited stories? The Mandalorians are squandered yet again, Cad Bane and other Season Two inductees are hung out to dry, and General Grievous (Matthew Wood), Count Dooku (Burton) and the once-and-future Emperor Palpatine (Ian Abercrombie) sit the bench. It's infuriating; established villains are relegated to the shadows and newer villains make single-serving appearances. So the Jedi are off on important business, the Sith are off on important business and the Clones are off on important business. Why aren't we following them?
Thankfully, that all changes over the course of the next nine episodes. In "Nightsisters," "Monster" and "Witches of the Mist," one of the series' finest story arcs to date, Dooku and Asajj Ventress (Nika Futterman) have a falling out (if that's what you call wanting to decapitate one another), inspiring a group of Force Witches to intervene and unleash a fantastic baddie on the galaxy, dual-blading behemoth Savage Opress (Clancy Brown). The Jedi and Clones are still in relatively short supply (even if Anakin and Obi Wan are central to "Witches of the Mist"), but this is how it should be handled: with intelligence, self-sufficient storytelling, precision pacing, excellent character development and a perfect mix of old and new. From there, The Clone Wars goes Meta in a bizarre but arguably brilliant three-episode followup that finds Anakin, Obi Wan and Ahsoka trapped on a strange, supernatural planet ruled by three incredibly powerful entities: the benevolent Father, the Force-wielding Daughter and the Dark Sided Son. The arc not only explores the nature of the Force and the origins and meaning of the Prophecy the Jedi are so fond of referring to (but never explaining) in the Prequel films, it delves into Anakin's present and future to a degree that even George Lucas didn't dare. Liam Neeson voices the ghost of Qui-Gon Jinn, Ahsoka sees a vision of the woman she'll become, warnings are issued, revelations come in volleys (for once), and the whole thing just so happens to come in the form of three of the most beautifully designed and animated episodes yet. Granted, by the end, the "Mortis" arc tosses out ambiguity like candy at a parade and leaves a lot of unanswered questions in its wake, but I'm not complaining. After Anakin leaves Mortis, we're treated to another solid three episodes in a Jedi rescue that introduces Skywalker to Republic Navy captain Wilhuff Tarkin (Stephen Stanton), the same Tarkin he'll one day join on the bridge of the Death Star.
The much-touted season finale -- featuring Chewbacca! -- doesn't feel like a full-blown finale (its tale could, and perhaps should, have been shifted to an earlier point in the season), but it's a great little two-parter that maintains the second half of the season's upward momentum. (And marks a milestone in Anakin and Ahsoka's relationship.) Fortunately, even when Season Three strikes out, it still has quite a few things going for it. The animation continues to evolve and, aside from some woodenness, impresses time and time again. There's no woodenness in the voice acting either. Lanter and the showrunners treat Anakin as the Han Solo of the Prequel galaxy (if only Lucas had come to the same conclusion), guest voice actors are cast to near-perfection, and Taylor, Eckstein and Baker, as always, deliver terrific performances. I could do without the opening Kane narration, but it's growing on me. And I wouldn't miss the random-alien-race-of-the-week gimmick, but it doesn't take any serious toll. I get what supervising director Dave Filoni and his team are doing, I do. Exploring, examining and expanding every nook of the Star Wars universe. I even appreciate it... to an extent. But there has to be more grounding elements in each episode; Anakin, Obi Wan and the Clones can't be summarily dismissed for such large chunks of a season, and things like "Secrets Revealed" needs to mean what it implies. Here's hoping Season Four strikes a more exacting balance, ups the Jedi vs. Sith ante, shelves some of the politics, continues to dissect the Clones, and makes its "Battle Lines" moniker a bit more meaningful.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars - The Complete Season Three Blu-ray, Video Quality
The third season of The Clone Wars storms Blu-ray with an at-times gorgeous 1080p/AVC-encoded presentation that does justice to the series' animation, design and spectacle. While Season Three is much darker than previous seasons (visually and thematically), colors are lovely, lightsaber blades and blaster bolts light up the screen with fitting brilliance, black levels evoke the endless abyss of space, contrast is consistent and satisfying, and every last detail is delivered with the utmost clarity. (When filmic softness isn't being employed by the animators, that is.) Edge definition is crisp and refined (without any ringing to speak of), the show's patented brush-stroke textures are nicely resolved, and the planets and creatures of the animated Star Wars universe look better than ever. (The technical presentation may be comparable to that of earlier seasons, but the environments and lighting have dramatically improved.) Better still, each episode is once again presented at an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, as opposed to its broadcast ratio of 1.78:1. It not only creates more cinematic vistas and visuals, it gives Clone Wars fans more of everything they love. Literally. The encode isn't without its issues, though. Like previous-season releases, intermittent banding and artifacting invade the image from time to time (the worst of which appears early in the second episode, "ARC Troopers," as Ventress looks out the window of an underwater war machine). But the instances I noticed were minor and fleeting, and none of the problems that crept in amounted to anything disconcerting. Far more often than not, Season Three's presentation nestled somewhere between strong and stunning. Series fans will be pleased.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars - The Complete Season Three Blu-ray, Audio Quality
It wasn't so long ago that The Clone Wars was tromping across the galaxy with lossy audio. The Complete Season Three changes all that, though, with a hull-splitting, shield-crippling, bridge-blasting DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track that sounds every bit as good as I imagined it would. LFE output is forceful, lending power, weight and support again and again. The rear speakers are quite engaging as well, providing a level of cinematic immersion many animated television series' forgo. Directionality isn't always as precise as it could be, but there's plenty of movement to keep things hurtling from channel to channel. Moreover, pans are smooth, dynamics are terrific, and voices are always bright, clean and clear, even when chaos descends and our heroes are in peril. All in all, the series' latest release delivers the full high definition/lossless combo fans have been clamoring for.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars - The Complete Season Three Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Star Wars: The Clone Wars - The Complete Season Three Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The third season of The Clone Wars is the series' weakest and most inconsistent, but there's still a number of excellent story arcs to be found, particularly in the last eleven episodes. That said, I'm happy to report that Warner's Blu-ray release isn't so unwieldy. With a strong video presentation, an excellent DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track and more than three hours of behind-the-scenes materials, the 3-disc release of The Complete Season Three will a worthy addition to your ever-expanding Star Wars Blu-ray collection.
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