Thursday, November 1, 2012

Review: The Clone Wars Season Four Box Set


If there’s one thing the trailer for season 5 (as well as the first few episodes) of Star Wars: The Clone Wars have shown us it is that this season will feature continuations of many of the plot lines we have seen established and fleshed out over the past few seasons, meaning it’s a perfect time to go back and watch past episodes of the series.  And what better way to do so than by watching the recently released Blu-ray/DVD box set season of season 4!

The set features all twenty two episodes (some of which are the director’s cut) as well as 5 video commentaries about each of the major arcs in season 4.  In addition, the Blu-ray set features the Jedi Temple archives which give a more in depth look at the behind the scenes of the series, including several deleted scenes.
The box features Darth Maul on the cover and the Blu-ray set features Asajj Ventress, General Grievous and Pre Vizla on the discs.  For me Darth Maul is the perfect choice for the cover.  Despite the fact he only appeared in two episodes last season, his presence had (and still has) major implications on the series and the rest of the saga as a whole.  Plus it fits in with the “Year of Maul” theme we have seen in 2012.  As for the discs, both Ventress and Grievous are good choices as they both made multiple memorable appearances throughout the season (including their show down in Massacre).  However, Vizla seems a tad out of place.  Vizla’s appearance in A Friend in Need was memorable, don’t get me wrong, and we know he’ll be taking on a larger role in season 5, but I just don’t feel he had enough of a presence in season 4 to merit being on the disc.  A better choice would have been Moralo Eval or Savage Opress, as both played significant roles this season.

A cool feature that the disc includes is a wanted poster that features the bounty hunters from the Bounty Hunter arc (Cad Bane, Moralo Evil, Raako Hardeen and Derrown) and lists the episodes and features that appear on each disc on the back.  While this is a far cry from the concept art books that were included in the first two seasons box set’s, it is a considerable step up from the lack of any physical extras with the season 3 box set.  Plus it makes a really cool collectible!

The video commentaries on the set are extremely cool and insightful.  There’s one for each major arc of the season (Mon Cala, Umbara, Slavers, Bounty Hunters, and Darth Maul returns).  The first four all feature supervising director Dave Filoni as well as members of the production team such as Joel Aron, Killian Plunkett, Jason Tucker, and Keith Kellog.  Writer Henry Gilroy also joins the panel for the Slavers arc commentary.  The commentaries are all very casual discussions that give us a look at the dynamics of the team working on the show as well as fantastic insight into the story and the making of the series.  The fifth commentary, which focuses on the Darth Maul Returns arc, features Dave Filoni being joined by James Arnold Taylor (voice of Obi-Wan Kenobi), Sam Witwer (voice of Darth Maul) and writer Katie Lucas (who also happens to be George Lucas’ daughter) for a fascinating discussion surrounding the Nightsisters, Ventress, Mother Talzin, and of course Darth Maul.  Plus Sam Witwer weighs in on who he thinks won the fight between Grievous and Ventress in Massacre.  This is by far my favourite of the commentaries, my only complaint?  It’s too short!  The other commentaries range from 22 minutes to 26 minutes however, this one is only approximately 18 minutes long.  But, in the words of Master Yoda, “size matters not” and this commentary still features phenomenal discussion and insight despite its length.

The Jedi Temple archives remain consistent with what we have seen in previous seasons, step-by-step break downs of scenes, production models and turn tables, deleted scenes, etc.  There seemed to be more deleted scenes this time around and while there are no stand out ones (such as the Son communing with the ancient Sith Lords on the season 3 set), there are two scenes that are actually completed (the vast majority Clone Wars deleted scenes are still in the animatic stage, most don’t even have proper dialogue recorded).  The first completed scene takes place during the Slavers arc and features Queen Miraj talking to a hologram of Count Dooku.  While this scene provides some insight into their power struggle, I can understand why it was cut as there were more precedent matters to get to in that story.   The second is from the episode Brothers and is a lead-in to what we saw as the beginning of the episode (Savage’s rampage in the diner).  I really wish this scene had have been left in the episode.  It begins with Savage looking at a map of the galaxy in his booth at the diner while waiters (both droid and humanoid) attempt to serve him before he ultimately attacks the waitress we see in the beginning of Brothers.  This scene provided more depth to the scene as instead of it appearing as though Savage just randomly went into a random diner and randomly started attacking people (randomly), we get the sense that he has been searching for Darth Maul for quite some time and has become increasingly frustrated and that poor waitress just happened to be the straw that broke the Zabrak's back.  Other deleted scene highlights include extended fights between Ventress and Grievous, and Ahsoka and Pre Vizla, as well as an alternate ending to Escape from Kadavo, however none of these are completed.

Season 4 was the first time we saw The Clone Wars begin to use longer arcs to tell one big story and with the box set we can now go back and watch these arcs in order all in one go, and boy what a difference that can make!  When the Umbara arc first aired, while enjoyable, it seemed rather clunky and repetitive at times.  However, upon watching all four episodes back-to-back-to-back-to-back on Blu-ray, the story flowed so much better and all of it's issues, seemed to disappear.  Being able to watch entire arcs at once is one of the highlights of the set, as this can provide the viewer with a  new appreciation for certain episodes.

Overall, this is one of my favourite Clone Wars box sets to date (topped only by the season one set) for its phenomenal commentaries, lots of deleted scenes, the cool poster, and for the new appreciations I get for the episodes after having seen them in this format.  The only thing I really wish was included but wasn’t, is the concept art book.  Still, this is an amazing set and a must have for all Clone Wars fans. 9/10.


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