In these eagerly anticipated episodes of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, some of the deepest mysteries of the conflict between the light and the dark sides of the Force are revealed. An intrepid clone trooper discovers a shocking secret, Anakin Skywalker's closest relationship is tested to its limits, and what Master Yoda discovers while investigating the disappearance of a Jedi could forever change the balance of power in the galaxy.
In some ways, my opinion of 'The Clone Wars' isn't too far off from my opinion about George Lucas's Prequel Trilogy - it's visually stunning, there are a number of moments to enjoy, but overall there's a stilted and sanitary feel to the whole affair. Somewhere around 1999, the whole 'Star Wars' franchise forgot that it was supposed to be pure sci-fi fun and got way too convoluted (not to mention political) on us. The thrill, as they say, was gone.
Which is not to say that 'The Clone Wars' hasn't had a number of really good episodes over the years. The creators actually did a pretty good job of trying to answer some of the questions and flesh out many of the characters that Lucas failed to do in his own movies. I particularly liked the way they humanized the Clone Troopers themselves, giving fans individuals we could relate to and care about, rather than the nameless soldiers we saw on the big screen versions. Still, I could never really get passionate about 'The Clone Wars'. I always have had a lukewarm feeling about the series, feeling it was watchable enough, but if I missed episodes (and I missed many over its five-season run), I never felt the need to catch up or binge watch what I had skipped.
Now, finally, we get the 'Lost Missions' release on Blu-ray, which are essentially Season 6 episodes that were finished, but never aired on TV – although they have been available on Netflix prior to this home video release. Viewers are treated to 13 complete episodes on this disc, along with four unfinished (although the stories/dialogue are complete) story reel episodes, which are found in the bonus materials of Disc 2. Like most episodes of the prior seasons, these 'Lost Missions' are broken up into a number of story arcs, with multiple-part episodes covering a larger story. Much like my reaction to the series as a whole, I found this collection to be a mixed bag, with a couple of really good episodes, a number of bad ones, but mostly pretty average entries in all.
'The Lost Missions' starts out with a story arc about a clone trooper who kills a Jedi seemingly because of an undetermined mental illness. However, the next few episodes reveal a much darker reason for the trooper's action, and one that effects all the clones and ties into what we'll see in the feature films. I liked this series of shows (the first four of this set) quite a bit, as 'The Clone Wars' is at its best when it tries to humanize its characters, which it does a very good job of here.
Next up is a rather silly trio of shows involving Padme and an old friend who has a serious crush on her. This, of course, leads to Anakin showing his jealous side in ways that only Anakin can. It's also got a plot about a banking clan…yes, banking! This whole set of episodes plays like a daytime soap opera rather than anything that the name 'Star Wars' should be put on.
Things go from silly to downright stupid in a two-part story that features Mace Windu (good, right…but wait for it!) teaming up with Jar Jar Binks. I can only assume this story was written because the showrunners wanted to take yet another shot at redeeming the Jar Jar character in the eyes of many fans. They shouldn't have bothered. After a few minutes of Binks on-screen, you'll be hoping that Mace turns to the Dark Side just to strike him down.
Thankfully, 'The Lost Missions' wraps up strongly, with a wonderful story arc (four episodes) involving Yoda, that deals very much with how the Jedi Master learned the secret to extending his spiritual life after physical death. This is also one of those instances where 'The Clone Wars' is at its best – taking an unanswered question from the feature films and writing a story around it, while trying to provide an answer. While the final episode here doesn't feel like a definitive conclusion to the series, it's not a bad way for the show to go out, and fans of Yoda should like these final episodes a lot.
From a buyer's standpoint, Disney hasn't done a whole lot to make this 'Lost Missions' set a must-own, even if you're a die-hard fan of the series. Of course, all previous season releases were by Warner Bros., who provided a plethora of extras on their sets. Here, however, Disney seems to have begrudgingly dumped 'The Lost Missions' on home video with little fanfare – and only a short documentary and the aforementioned story reels as bonus materials.
Still, if you're a 'Star Wars' fan, you'll probably want to take a look at these shows, even if you don't want to add them to your collection. That puts 'The Lost Missions' firmly in the rental category, unless you've bought all the prior seasons and want to complete your set (in which case, you may want to hold out for a discount on this release).
The Blu-Ray: Vital Disc Stats
'The Clone Wars: The Lost Missions' blasts its way onto Blu-ray in a Eco-Lite Vortex keepcase, which houses the two 50GB discs, with Disc 1 on the inside left and Disc 2 on the inside right. There are two inserts in the set: one containing the code for Disney's Movie Rewards program; and the other an advertisement for the Disney Movie Club. Despite this being a Disney release, there are zero front-loaded trailers or adverts on either of the discs. The main menu is a still of the box cover art (with the Clone Trooper and Yoda), with menu selections along the bottom of the screen.
This Blu-ray release is region-free.
Although I didn't critically review any of the prior 'Clone Wars' seasons, I am well aware of the series' uneven history when it comes to video quality, with some seasons (particularly the first) looking pretty darn good on Blu-ray, while other seasons had issues with macroblocking, aliasing, banding, and the like. Of course, all the previous seasons were released by Warner Bros., while this series of 'lost' episodes is a Disney release. Although I have some issues with other parts of this title (detailed in the review above and elsewhere), I'm happy to report that picture quality is not one of them.
While this release skimps in other areas – most notably in terms of extras – the transfer here is quite nice, with virtually none of the issues that caused problems in prior Blu-ray releases of 'The Clone Wars'. Both macroblocking and banding are virtually non-existent on this Disney transfer, and black levels are really well done, with an inky-deep quality to them. Color is deep and rich, while detail is excellent throughout – at least as much detail as the animators have provided for each episode, which varies from time to time.
Overall, fans of 'The Clone Wars' should be quite happy with the video quality of this final batch of episodes. They're not quite reference-quality, but they're the best this series has looked since the release of Season 1.
While the video quality is a step up from most of the prior Warner Bros. releases, the audio is a step down, providing fans with a lossy 5.1 Dolby Digital track for each episode, instead of a lossless one. Warner Bros. had provided DTS-HD 5.1 for the past three seasons, although the first two season releases were 5.1 Dolby Digital lossy as well. The results here are somewhat disappointing, although not horrific, as the episodes still sound very nice, with plenty of rear speaker action and clear dialogue. They just lack the kind of low-end and immersive 'oomph' that made the prior three seasons such an entertaining listen. There are no evident glitches or issues with the tracks, but it's a shame that Disney didn't see it fit to provide this final batch of episodes with the audio quality that they deserved.
In addition to the 5.1 English track, 5.1 Dolby Digital tracks are also available in French, Spanish, and German. Subtitles are included in English SDH, English, French, and Spanish.
Much like the overall series itself, 'The Clone Wars: The Lost Missions' is a mixed bag of both good and bad – but mostly average – episodes. While it's certainly nice that Disney released this on home video so fans of the series could complete their collections, the studio seems to have done so without much effort, providing little in terms of bells and whistles when it comes to bonus materials. While the episodes look great and sound decent, most potential buyers may want to wait for a discount before adding this one to their shelves. For now, rent it.