As if discrepancies between the films, novels, and comics weren't enough, 'Star Wars' has increased the problems with the official canon with almost every one of its new ventures. Each new sourcebook, it seems, has to rewrite the history of some background character or another, while future adaptations keep the entire universe in a sense of flux that cannot be doing wonders for the legacy of the series, convoluted as it is becoming. Even the events in the wonderful Genndy Tartovsky 'Star Wars: Clone Wars' cartoon series (which aired in two volumes, directly tying into 'Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith), which isn't even a decade old, have become completely defunct (for example: Grievous' hacking and wheezing may well be from being a former smoker, apparently, instead of due to a force choke from Mace Windu).
With 22 new episodes in the new Cartoon Network CG 'Star Wars: The Clone Wars' series, it seems more and more of the history of the franchise is being rewritten, with the three year gap between the second and third prequel film being so stuffed with stories that it seems almost inevitable that another entire line of Star Wars product will become obsolete and officially redacted in the near future. A continuation of the disjointed, episodic first season, this new set of episodes reminds us that, in this worldwide fan-favorite series, nothing can stay fresh. To quote a certain little green icon, "The future (of all Jedi), uncertain is. Move forward cautiously, we must."
The war between the Republic and the Separatists is growing more heated, as battles become more dire and personal. The Jedi Knights are spread thin throughout the galaxy, fighting to retain positions, repel droid armies, and maintain diplomatic relations with systems they wish to bring into their fold. The Separatists are retaking planets that have already been liberated by the Republic and its clone trooper army, giving the sense that this is a war that may never end. As the warriors wage their wars, the politicians in the Galactic Senate are fighting, as well, oftentimes in their own ranks, against traitors to the cause, as well as motions that may only prolong the devastation. New technology is creating big wins for both sides of the battle, while numerous small wins are being achieved by those hiring nefarious bounty hunters to infiltrate ranks and do their bidding.
Star Wars fans, you know there are countless stories you would die to see unfold that couldn't have been explored in the films. The universe is loaded to the brim with side plots and hidden connections, and every character seen on screen, even if they never speak a word, or only get a second's worth of time in the background of a shot, has such an extensive backstory that one has to wonder how long it will be until we have an entire television series dedicated to characters like Yarna d'al Gargon, Ben Quadrinaros, Dead Ewok (I so hope that's its name), or Jek Porkins, also known as fat X-Wing pilot guy. The possibilities are endless, particularly with the Clone Wars saga, considering how many Jedi are around, as well as the numerous Separatist leaders and their various droids (which are starting to be too various for their own good).
I mention this because there's no way in bloody hell that I ever, ever needed to see some of the crap I saw in the second season of this show. It flies so amazingly high in some episodes, though they are more sparse this second time around, that the failures hit you in the face all that much harder, reminding you that perhaps expounding upon the trilogy that most fans absolutely hate isn't exactly the best idea. The number of times I started to wonder what in the hell I was truly watching in this 22 episode arc was just ridiculous. Keep in mind, that this season was to be known for the one featuring the bounty hunters, following the great introduction of new villain Cad Bane, and the first real use of Aurra Sing in motion, outside of a silly single background sequence in 'The Phantom Menace.'
Case in point: Jocasta Nu. Who's that, you ask? Possibly one of the only characters in the series to have speaking lines and not (yet) have an action figure (even ICMG- Ice Cream Maker Guy has one!), this proud, arrogant librarian Jedi is best known for telling Obi-Wan Kenobi that if something isn't in the Jedi Archives, then it simply doesn't exist. That, and she's really, really old, though not as sun-worn as Jira, Tattooine's worst fruit salesman. Anyways, why spend an entire paragraph discussing this throwaway character? Simply put: lightsaber battle. We see more of this damn worthless character than we do of many, many Jedi, including some fan favorites, this season, including a sequence where a shapeshifter under her appearance engages Ahsoka Tano (also known as the new Jar-Jar, the go-to for an annoying hero character) in a duel, using lightsabers. What. The. Fuck. Sure, the fight is so amazingly laid out that one can't help but be impressed with the imaginations of the men and women who made the series, but whoever was loaded up on peyote and elected to give this worthless character screen time really needs to go the way of the Gungans and just get the hell away before they ruin the series even more.
This second season has a problem with tone, as well. It can't maintain a single running theme. The season is very heavy on the politics, with an entire anti-war multi-episode story arc that slows the story to an absolute crawl, giving us less chances to see the war, as we instead focus on the various treacheries and duplicities found in the Senators and their guards. We saw this last season already, so to retread this ground, only with an extreme pacifist ideal, it's pretty annoying. Even worse still, this is the very story they chose to reintroduce Mandalorians (and Mandalore, the planet) into the series. The name may not mean much to some, but this is the race best known for its distinct suits of armor and a few bounty hunters you may have heard of: Boba and Jango Fett.
We do finally get to see Boba, though. An abandoned character after witnessing his father's death at the hands of Mace Windu in 'Attack of the (CG) Clones,' the future galactic bad-ass is on his road to being the greatest living bounty hunter here, running alongside the likes of Aurra Sing and Bossk (the Trandoshan bounty hunter found in 'The Empire Strikes Back') in his father's Slave I. Unfortunately, though, we don't get to see much of the young Fett, as a three episode arc at the very tail end of the season is our only glimpse at him. It's very much like how Cad Bane was handled in this show, appearing at the end of the first season, and a few episodes at the start of the second, before dropping off the map completely, much like Asajj Ventress, the bald Sith-wannabe who wields two red lightsabers, found often in the various Clone Wars incarnations. Even Count Dooku doesn't appear much this time around, as he doesn't even get into a single duel. General Grievous? Nope, just a few episodes for the snidely mechanical foe. It's a bit ridiculous how we can't have an entire season arc dedicated to any one villain, to help craft them into a deep character, rather than one with no clear objective other than to eat up screen time and appease fans with a random ass appearance.
'Star Wars: The Clone Wars' retreads its steps too often here to go unnoticed, like \the countless number of times we see a vehicle exploding only after a docked craft escapes with our heroes. It's a crying shame, too, because this show does have a good heart. The sense of humor, found mostly in the dialogue of the Jedi-fodder Battle Droids, is absolutely amazing, the few times it gets to come out. Hell, even Seth Green (yes, that Seth Green) has a comedic role this season, but it ends as soon as it begins, because we need more time for the awful stories. You know, ones where Anakin Skywalker acts like a controlling dick towards his secret wife, Padme. Speaking of Padme, this season attempts to make her look sexy, but instead gives her an awkward baby bulge (without the baby inside), as well as the awkward look of a teenage girl at prom.
This season feels like it's stuck in neutral, despite visiting eleven planets, though this may be in part due to the fact that some planets are revisited, while others have been seen in this show before. There are numerous multi-episode arcs that drag and drag on, and really don't have a good enough reason to exist for a single episode, let alone the three to four they receive. The show loses its breeziness, and tries to take on a serious tone, but fails miserably. And again, it's a crying shame. This season was modeled after Sergio Leone's 'The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly,' and has entire episode pay homage to some of the greatest films ever, like the 'Seven Samurai' nod, the lightsaber in a cane so reminiscent of the blade in 'A Clockwork Orange,' or the absolutely amazing 'King Kong' meets 'Godzilla' story arc concerning a creature known as a Zillo Beast. When it works, it really, really works and is quite fun to watch. Sadly, this season doesn't work very often, in my eyes. Fans will want to pick this up, as, after all, it's freakin' Star Wars, and there are so many references to the films (including a few lifted lines and background characters) that there is always that geeky feeling reminding you why you love the Star Wars universe, even if this season is a mess.
The Disc: Vital Stats
The second season of 'The Clone Wars' is packaged in a similar fashion to the first season, in a thick digibook-style package. The booklet included in this release is removable, held in place by a pocket that folds back and forth, covering either the first disc, or the second and third. Don't worry, collectors: the stacked packaging used here is nowhere near as ridiculous or awful as the 'Back to the Future' trilogy. The three disc set is comprised of three BD50 discs, with no pre-menu content. Each menu is static and silent.
Like the first season, 'Star Wars: The Clone Wars' arrives on Blu-ray with a series of VC-1 1080p encodes at 2.40:1. Like the first season and the horrible CG film, it is quite impressive. However, this release is less consistent than those that came before it.
Same as before, this set of 22 episodes feels like a moving painting, so full of wonderful, wonderful textures and extreme detail that in scenes not featuring characters, one could almost wonder if they were watching one of the "live action" prequel trilogy films. Colors are superbly bright, though oftentimes this season hides in the shadows and low lighting, so the brilliance is often intentionally muted. The picture is very deep, which helps the infinitesimal amount of wear and tear on the clone armor, Republic craft, and random architecture in the foreground to truly shine. Detail in the darkness isn't as superb as it is in well "lit" sequences, but shadow detail is appropriate, as are black levels. I cannot even begin to comment on how much I enjoyed watching the transitions in metal sliced by a lightsaber, as it went from a glowing molten feel to a faded, cooled, ugly grey mess.
My gripes on this release, they're not infrequent, even if they are minor. Aliasing is very light, but pops up more than I'd like, with a few shimmers and plenty of random jaggies. Noise is a problem in a handful of sequences, while color banding was a bear. The way this show portrays light in darkness, one can't help but think there are some thick bands, despite being part of the production, but in dark moments, particularly in dark corridors in spacecraft or in the ventilation shafts found early in the series, the improper shading transitions stand out. I don't know if it is an artifact of the production or not, but the Coruscant lightsaber chase sequence had a few very brief spots of blurriness, the only such time said issue appears in this release. Artifacts aren't frequent, but sometimes make a surprised appearance. Lastly, I have to call into question the edges on this release. While not the fault of edge enhancement, and almost as unlikely ringing, there are many sequences that have a strong halo, as if some excessive sharpening was done. No matter the actual cause, it was distracting. I cannot in good confidence give this release the same score that 'Season One' earned. It's still quite good, but a step backwards, and a release that could easily be argued to be deserving of a lower score.
Each and every episode of this second season of 'Star Wars: The Clone Wars' is given the same treatment that they got the last time around, the same treatment that seems the norm for Warner Bros. television Blu-ray releases: Dolby Digital 5.1, with higher bit rates than the DVD release of the show. Yeah, not a very good consolation prize, that.
Dialogue isn't problematic, but that is about the only portion of the audio that doesn't falter at some point. Movement and localization are used in large amounts, but they're hardly impressive. Surround use is fairly consistent, with lots of random background ambience, a none-too-subtle score bleed, and as much vehicular or blaster rifle activity as the show can throw at the rear speakers, but they never truly feel immersive. Dialogue stays front and center throughout, never venturing to the outer rim, as it were.
Range, well, it's not exactly uninhibited, as highs and lows feel somewhat middling, with underwhelming bass elements to boot. Explosions lack the thump that engine movement packs, and sometimes the most massive of explosions have less thump than a speeder. Action-packed sequences fail to truly "get loud," and the score can often find itself getting buried far too deep in any sequence that has a fairly constant ambient noise and random dialogue. It's just not an impressive mix, and that's too bad. Like most fans, I'd prefer my 'Star Wars' to be a bit more lively and powerful, particularly for a series still in production.
The extras for this release are spread out evenly across all three discs.
Perhaps one could call the second season of 'The Clone Wars' a more cerebral take on the show, more focused on the intricacies and casualties of war, instead of the actual war itself. I call it a missed opportunity. We don't have the incredibly heavy focus on Obi-Wan and Anakin (and, unfortunately, Ahsoka), which is a good thing, but there really isn't much in this season for the rest of the Jedi order to do. Short on Grievous, incredibly lacking on Sidious and Dooku, and even short on Cad Bane, this one doesn't give fans what they want. That continues with the video qualities, a step back from the prior 'Clone Wars' releases, and the same old lossy audio mix. Fans do get a wealth of extras, but that just isn't enough. Fans, I recommend a purchase, but I also recommend lowered expectations.