Monday, November 10, 2014

Review: 'The Clone Wars: The Lost Missions' Box Set

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By: Dominic Jones

On Tuesday November 11th, 2014 (tomorrow) Star Wars: The Clone Wars 'The Lost Missions' will hit blu-ray and DVD, bringing to an end an incredible era of Star Wars story telling.  'The Lost Missions' is a reminder of why we loved this show so much and, while it wasn't the ending we hoped for, it certainly told some of the most important Star Wars stories to date.  From the sinister origins of Order 66 to the great mystery that is the Force, the 13 episode sixth season dealt with some of the biggest topics of the entire saga.  This box set is a must own for every Star Wars fan, even if you didn't follow the series (thankfully it's all on Netflix should you decide you want to catch up - which you should!)

The box set includes all thirteen episodes from this season, as well as the four "story reel" episodes that make up the "Crystal Crisis on Utapau" arc that were released on StarWars.com earlier this year.  In addition, the box set includes a sixteen minute documentary titled The Clone Wars: Declassified.  But more on those later, let's take a look at the look of the box set.

Overall, the look of the box set is solid.  Much like the season itself, the cover art for 'The Lost Missions' is different in design from the previous seasons.  The cover features both Master Yoda and a Kamino Clone Trooper (previous seasons had featured only one character) in a nod to the two arcs that had the biggest impact.  I think it was a nice touch that they included both.  It would have felt wrong to leave Master Yoda off the cover, considering the adventure we undertook with him this season, and the clone represents the way this season, in ways we had never seen before, explored the clone troopers and their creation.

The discs feature Anakin and Obi-Wan.  Both characters played significant roles in various arcs this season, including the unfinished Utapau arc.  They, along with Ahsoka (who is mostly absent from this season) and Rex, were the main characters for this series and using them on the discs almost seems to be more a reference to the fact that we have, for the most part, been following their adventures for the past six years.   

But enough about the look of the box set, let's talk about the episodes!  Season 6 was a solid run of episodes from beginning to end and you'd be hard pressed to find a "bad" episode.  Below are my mini, spoiler-free, reviews of all four arcs from this season. 

The "Order 66" arc:
This arc answered one of the biggest questions of the series and the prequel trilogy.  How did the clones go from being friends with Jedi, as we saw in the series, to trying to kill them, as we saw in Revenge of the Sith.  The arc focuses in on ARC Trooper Fives, who we had followed since season one and seen grown from a clone cadet to a ARC Trooper and whom we had experienced much joy and heartbreak with, along the way.  Fives finds himself in the midst of the ultimate conspiracy and finds out the truth about his existence.  Dee Bradley Baker turns in an Emmy-worthy performance as the clone in this arc, conveying various emotions and stages of insanity in several clones.  The arc is filled with great action, humor, intrigue, and heartbreak, and is truly one of the best and most important arcs of the series.

The "Clovis" arc:
Originally intended as part of Season 5, the Clovis arc is one we had seen previews of going as far back as Summer 2012.  When it was finally released as part of 'The Lost Missions' it demonstrated one of the areas in which the series had grown the most: political episodes.  The arc deals with the return of Padme's ex Rush Clovis as he enlists her help in exposing the war profiteering going on within the Banking Clan.  Of course Anakin gets jealous and lets his dark side take control, leading to one of the most tense moments of the season, as he physically beats Rush Clovis in front of Padme.  The arc also gave us one last taste of the late Ian Abercrombie as Palpatine and featured the final appearance of the bounty hunter Embo.  Filled with action, intrigue, and romance, this arc provides fascinating insights in the politics of the republic and the unhealthy relationship of Anakin and Padme.

The "Jar Jar Binks/Mace Windu" arc:
If you're not a fan of Jar Jar then this will probably be your least favourite arc, though I wouldn't recommend skipping it.  The arc puts Jar Jar Binks and Mace Windu on a mission together and, well, hilarity ensues (I still think there is potential for a spin off series here).  When Jar Jar is the only person who can save the people of Bardotta (due to his romantic past with their queen), we see him and Mace in a race against the clock to stop a cult from stealing the living Force from within the Bardottan people.  An appearance from Mother Talzin adds to the intrigue of this arc, as we get another glimpse into her plot.  While this arc isn't as ground breaking as others, it is still a fun ride even if Jar Jar isn't usually your cup of tea.

The "Yoda" Arc:
I would not be surprised if this arc doesn't turn out to be the most important story told in the entire run of The Clone Wars.  This arc features an exploration of the Force like we have never seen.  We are introduced to new concepts, like the relationship between the living and cosmic Force, and, for the first time, really explore what it takes to exist after death.  The arc takes us all around the galaxy to explore these concepts, from the temple on Coruscant, to the swamps of Dagobah, to the temples of the Sith homeworld Morriband, to place in the universe where life itself begins.  It also tackles the questions of how Syfo-Dias died, midi-chlorians, and Yoda's desire to find out the identity of the Sith Lord.  The arc features stellar performances by Tom Kane as Yoda and Jamie King as the Force priestesses and features guest stars Liam Neeson, reprising his role as Qui-Gon Jinn, and Mark Hamill as Darth Bane.   The story is dense and holds up well on multiple viewings.  If nothing else, I strongly encourage everyone to watch this arc.

The arcs of season six were stellar, but you may have already known that!  Let's move on and talk about the bonus features. 

The Clone Wars: Declassified:
This documentary is truly a stand out on the box set.  Covering everything from the moment George Lucas announced the series back at Celebration III in 2005 to the shows abrupt end in 2013, this documentary takes you behind the scenes in ways no documentary had done prior.  If you are looking for discussion about specific story arcs or insight on how the show was made from a technical stand point, then this is not the documentary you are looking for.  However, what this documentary does so beautifully is take inside the culture that existed among those who made the show.  From the very early days of Lucasfilm Animation to funny holiday memories to the big Emmy win, the documentary shows the people that made this series so special.  It shows how much fun it was for the crew and how that translated into amazing episodes for us fans to enjoy.  A warning: this documentary will make you want to work at Lucasfilm with these incredible people.  And yes, it will make you cry (or, at least, it made me cry!)  It is a truly wonderful tribute to the incredible people that made this show happen.

The "Crystal Crisis on Utapau" Story Reels:
This was a cool inclusion on the box set.  While in a perfect world this would have been fully animated and released on Cartoon Network or Netflix, it is interesting to get a look at the process of how the series was made.  The story reels are episodes of the show that feature unfinished animation and would have been shown to people like George Lucas and Dave Filoni for approval before being fully animated.  The episodes do feature a complete voice cast, including great performances by James Arnold Taylor and Matt Lanter as Obi-Wan and Anakin respectively.  The story of this arc is also fascinating and deals with something crucial to the original trilogy: the Death Star!  In addition, we get to see Anakin struggling with the decision Ahsoka made and the end of Season 5.  There's also some great banter and cool action (although it would have looked even better animated!)

If I had one criticism to make about this box set it's that it did not include a Jedi Temple Archives.  For those unfamiliar, the previous five seasons had included a feature where you could "go into the archives" of each episode and see concept art, production models, deleted scenes and early animation of certain sequences (much like the story reels).  The lack of these features was disappointing as I would have loved to go behind the scenes of these episodes.  That being said, this is a fairly minor criticism.

And here we are.  At the end of the last release of finished episodes of Star Wars: The Clone Wars.  It's amazing to think back on where we've come from and the adventures we have been on over six seasons and a movie.  The stories that were told captured the spirit of what we loved about Star Wars and were ground breaking achievements in the animation world.  The series was loved by so many and it was sad to see it end the way it did, but 'The Lost Missions' was more than up to challenge of providing a fitting ending, given the circumstances.  As I said at the beginning, 'The Lost Missions' embodies everything we loved about The Clone Wars.  From the way it dealt with issues the films didn't have time for, to its willingness to push the boundaries on what we perceive as Star Wars and go to places that were unexpected.  All in all, this box set is a must own for every fan of The Clone Wars and, dare I say it, every Star Wars fan out there.  Simply Amazing.

Score: 9.5/10

This article is an opinion piece and represents the views of the writer, and not the entire Star Wars Underworld organization.

Follow The Star Wars Underworld on Twitter @TheSWU for more updates about this story and other breaking Star Wars news.

2 comments:

Steven Glenn said...

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