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That's No Moon, It's a Blu-ray Review: Star Wars: The Clone Wars: The Lost Missions

November 18, 2014Ben Mk


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A farewell to galactic arms...

With Star Wars Rebels now midway through its first season and a slew of new Star Wars feature films on the horizon, one thing's for certain — fans of George Lucas' space saga won't be left wanting for new content anytime soon. It makes you wonder: how did we ever survive the 16-year gap between the original and prequel trilogies? Granted, Episode I wasn't perfect, but you can't deny how it rejuvenated the franchise. For without it, we would have never gotten Star Wars: The Clone Wars. And now, the show's sixth and final season — dubbed The Lost Missions — has landed on Blu-ray.

   

The Show Set in the 3-year time period between Episode II and Episode III, Star Wars: The Clone Wars was a landmark show that ran five seasons — for a total of 108 episodes — before being abruptly cancelled, leaving fans of the Cartoon Network series in limbo about the fates of their favorite characters. A strong showing of support by the series' fanbase did nothing to reverse the decision, but it likely played a key role in earning the show a reprieve of sorts — a truncated sixth season that began streaming on Netflix earlier this year.

This final season of The Clone Wars adopts the format of character-centric multi-episode story arcs for the entirety of its thirteen-episode run. Its first four episodes ("The Unknown", "Conspiracy", "Fugitive" and "Orders") focus on ARC Trooper 5555 (better known as "Fives"); its next three ("An Old Friend", "The Rise of Clovis" and "Crisis at the Heart") turn viewers' attention to Padmé Amidala; the next two ("The Disappeared: Part 1" and "The Disappeared: Part 2") deal with Jar Jar Binks and Mace Windu; and the final four ("The Lost One", "Voices", "Destiny" and "Sacrifice") are all about Jedi Master Yoda.

Fives' arc has him investigating a mystery on Kamino, in the wake of a bizarre incident that sees his close friend, Clone Trooper "Tups", compelled to kill Jedi. General Anakin Skywalker has Fives and Captain Rex escort Tups to the clones' planet-of-origin for further examination. However, when Fives learns of Kaminoan scientist Nala Se's intent to terminate Tups, he's forced to take matters into this own hands. Teaming up with a comical medical droid named AZI-3, he uncovers the seeds of a conspiracy — having to do with Order 66 itself — and must contend with agents of the Kaminoan government acting at the behest of Supreme Chancellor Palpatine, who will stop at nothing to prevent the Jedi from discovering his ultimate plan for the clones.

Padmé's arc takes viewers to the planet Scipio, headquarters of the Galactic Banking Clan. It's a world that has so far managed to avoid becoming embroiled in the bloody war betwen the Republic and the Separatists — on account of the fact that both sides find themselves having to engage in monetary transactions with the Clan — but all that is about to change. When Padmé arrives on the planet's surface to expedite a bank transfer, she ends up doing something she never expected to again: working with a former lover (and known traitor to the Republic) named Rush Clovis, who asks for her help in rooting out corruption at the bank. Little do either of them realize, however, just how far up the corruption goes. And when Palpatine and Count Dooku become involved, Padmé and Rush soon find themselves in over their heads.

A somewhat similar situation awaits Jar Jar Binks in his and Mace Windu's arc. Like Padmé's tale, this story arc unfolds on a neutral planet — one called Bardotta — where the Bardottan people's top mystics, the Dagoyan Masters, have been vanishing one by one. After reaching out to the Republic for assistance, Queen Julia of Bardotta receives help from her trusted friend, Jar Jar, and Jedi Master Mace. They soon discover that the disappearances appear to echo the ancient prophecy of the Frangawl Clan, whose shrine is situated deep below the Bardottan temple. And when Queen Julia herself suddenly vanishes, Jar Jar and Mace venture into the shrine's depths in pursuit of the Frangawl cultists who have been kidnapping and sacrificing the Dagoyans as per the directives of their mysterious "Queen Mother".

The season's final arc has to do with a question that has long since puzzled Star Wars fans: namely, how is it that Obi-Wan, Yoda and Anakin can appear as "Force ghosts" in the original trilogy, whereas no Jedi are able to do so in the prequel trilogy? Yoda learns the answer when — while meditating on the unexpected discovery of long-lost Jedi Master Sifo-Dyas' lightsaber — he is contacted by the spirit of Qui-Gon Jinn, who urges him to travel to Dagobah for enlightenment. There, Qui-Gon tells Yoda that he can teach him how to preserve his life Force after death, in order to communicate with the living. However, to prove himself worthy, Yoda must journey to the very birthplace of the Force, where he is tested by five Force-wielding Priestesses who then send him to the Sith homeworld of Moraband for his final grueling trial.

All in all, there's plenty to like about The Lost Missions, especially with the way the first and last story arcs tie into the greater Star Wars mythos. But if you're expecting a definitive conclusion to the series, don't hold your breath. You won't find, for example, the season's final episode leading directly into Episode III (that was, after all, the job of the "other" Star Wars: Clone Wars animated series by Genndy Tartakovsky), nor will you find answers to all of the show's dangling questions. What you will find, however, is a series of eminently watchable tales that uphold the cinematic vision the show has come to be known for during the latter half of its television run, quelling any fears the season six is a mere hodgepodge of leftover episodes.

Audio/Visual Fidelity The Lost Missions jumps out of hyperspace and onto Blu-ray with a pristine, near-perfect A/V presentation. Picture-wise, there's not a fault to be found in Disney's hi-def transfers, as the show's stylized, computer-generated imagery — which at times rivals the lavish visuals of the prequel trilogy — is brilliantly reproduced in crystal-clear, sharp-as-a-tack fashion, with no noticeable signs of aliasing, macroblocking or banding (whether we're knee deep in the fog-ridden swamps of Dagobah or fumbling around the fire-lit tunnels of a Frangawl shrine). Likewise, blacks and contrast levels are equally impressive. But it's the colors that will really floor viewers. From the sunset hues and neon lights of Coruscant to the glowing purple, green, blue and red lightsabers, there's no shortage of eye-candy to keep Star Wars fans entranced.

Less mesmerizing is the lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack that accompanies each episode. Although it does quite a commendable job reproducing the series' always-active soundstage — which is constantly buzzing with the familiar sounds of ricocheting laser blasts, droid chatter, ship fly-bys and lightsabers being ignited and wielded — one can't help but wonder how much more impressive it would be with a lossless track (especially when it comes to the lower end of the frequency range). Still, dialogue is nevertheless intelligible, and clear channel separation ensures that composer Kevin Kiner's score (which enthusiastically incorporates themes from composer John Williams' original theatrical score) is as rousing as ever.

Special Features Disney's 2-disc Blu-ray release includes 108 minutes of HD bonus features, all of which can be found on the set's second disc. The first bonus feature is a 16-minute featurette entitled The Clone Wars Declassified, which is a look at the Lucasfilm Animation team that spent the better part of the last decade bringing the series to the small screen. It's a relatively short piece, but it's chock-full of behind-the-scenes footage, photos and interviews from supervising director Dave Filoni and his staff, as they not only share stories about the show's production, but also about their camaraderie with one another.

However, the crown jewel of the bonus features has to be the 91-minute Story Reel: Utapau Arc, a collection of four never-before-seen, unfinished episodes ("A Death on Utapau", "In Search of the Crystal", "Crystal Crisis" and "The Big Bang") that tell of Obi-Wan and Anakin's adventures on the planet, as their investigation into the mysterious death of a fellow Jedi leads them to try and put a halt to a secret arms deal between local pirates and General Grievous, in which the weapon in question is a massive Kyber crystal — the kind that could be put to use in the laser assembly of a massive space station. Even in animatic form (with completed voicework, music and sound effects), this collection of episodes is one of the more compelling arcs of the season, with ample intrigue and action set-pieces to rival the completed episodes.


The Bottom Line With much of the team behind Star Wars: The Clone Wars now working on Star Wars Rebels, it's some consolation to know that the animated future of Star Wars is at least in good hands. Still, it's sad to bid goodbye to these characters, for as The Lost Missions shows, there's still plenty of stories to be told in the Clone Wars timeline. As for Disney's Blu-ray release, the video is spectacular, the audio could be a bit better and the bonus features definitely merit watching, making Star Wars: The Clone Wars: The Lost Missions on Blu-ray a worthy addition to any Star Wars fan's library and a must-own for The Clone Wars completists.  Ben Mk

Disc Breakdown
The Show  —  
Audio/Visual Fidelity  —  
Special Features  —  








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