After the Blu-ray debut of the 'Family Guy Star Wars Trilogy,' there were just two holes in my collection waiting to be filled: the actual 'Star Wars' films themselves, and what I consider the better parody series, featuring a familiar voice: the 'Robot Chicken: Star Wars' mini-features. Operating in the same fashion as the Adult Swim non-sequitur show that has four seasons to its credit, the animated action figures that I grew up with come to life on screen, with random behind-the-scenes explanations, running gags, and no lack whatsoever of farcical irreverence, all at the expense of some very familiar characters and settings.
The third film in this "saga" is a bit less scattershot than your traditional 'Robot Chicken' episode, as Emperor Palpatine reflects on his life while plummeting to his death aboard the Death Star II. As he ponders why exactly he chose a sniveling snot-nosed slave boy to be his apprentice, we see what made the man go into politics, how he feels about important moments in his life, and his role as the ruler of the galaxy. At the same time, witness Gary the Stormtrooper's ascent through the ranks, as he, much like Forrest Gump, finds himself in important places and times as the Rebellion aims to take down the Empire.
Sure, there's more to this third installment than just a Stormtrooper, Darth Vader, and Palpatine, but they're the recurring threads, the constant fallbacks. 'Robot Chicken' proves, unlike that other parody series, how much love the creators of the show have for 'Star Wars,' with their constant attention to detail putting the focus on some of the lesser known characters in the saga. Ever wonder what happened to Max Rebo and his band when Jabba's barge went down? What about Boba Fett, why was his assault on Luke and Han aboard that Skiff so unsuccessful, and what happened to him after he fell into the Sarlaac pit? What exactly was the prophecy, what does it say?!? What in the hell is a Prune Face, and what languages does C-3PO not count among his six million forms of communication?
It's a pleasure to watch a show like this, because even when it isn't at the top of its game, it's still relatable, as Seth Green and Matthew Seinrich are much like the rest of the fans of George Lucas' brainchild. Sure, it's easy to hate on Jar-Jar Binks, but how can the character be properly utilized? Since his original purpose was for comic relief, why not actually make the incompetent Gungan actually... funny? Why not poke fun at the shortcomings of the Prequel Trilogy that aren't related to the Ahmed Best voiced reject, like the multitude of ridiculous, implausible Jedi, or the massive proliferation of lightsabers in a saga where the originals only featured a total of three characters (four if you count Han's brief moment) wielding the crystal powered blades, with never more than two on screen. Why not utilize the existing state of the series where every brand product has utilized the series for its own benefit, like the LEGO video games?
The 'Robot Chicken: Star Wars' specials have fit the bill for what fanboys have always wanted, with humor about the galaxy far, far away being more than just none-too-clever wordplay or mish-moshings of characters for no good reason whatsoever. While some vignettes fail at their purpose, the majority of the show connects, with a very rude yet astute sense of humor. The changes in characters aren't always ridiculous, implausible reaches, and numerous gaps in the saga, moments that just don't quite gel, are filled in with a genuine, loving spark. Sure, 'It's a Trap!' had a better Darth Vader death gag, but that particular part of the saga (ie, all of 'Return of the Jedi') is just begging for improvement. We get a pretty damn sweet disco remix of the iconic 'Star Wars' theme, even if it means we have to witness a pointless dance sequence. It's worth it, though, sitting through the misfires to get to the gems, as we witness Vader trying to figure out what all his buttons do, or his magical transformation from an old dude to a young scruffy haired nerf herder ghost, much to the chagrin of the older Jedi ghosts.
Never before has a Wampa been given such an amazing, touching moment as the one we witness when Luke has to reflect shamefully upon his cruelty towards the creature, at the life he forced it to live from then on. Never has Padme's blatant prick teasing of Anakin in her lakeside apartment been more truthful, and never, until now, has the meaning behind the orders other than the infamous Order 66 been revealed. 'Robot Chicken: Star Wars III' runs the length of two episodes, and surely falls a bit short of its intergalactic sketch comedy predecessors, with few truly laugh out loud moments (like the brilliant Ponda Baba and Evazan gag in the first installment). It still readily delivers the goods, though, with far more hits than there are misses, and perhaps the most coherent arrangement of gags in 'Robot Chicken' history. It's rude without being utterly foul, it's insightful without being overly analytical and boring. Best of all, it's packed to the brim with bittersweet ironies, juxtapositions, and outright lunacy featuring the beloved characters of 'Star Wars' lore. 'Robot Chicken' is a winner, even when it's off its A game. Failed 'Star Wars' scenes become successful 'Robot Chicken' parodies more times than you can say "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO" in forty five minutes flat.
The Disc: Vital Stats
Warner brings 'Robot Chicken: Star Wars III' to Blu-ray on a Region A/B/C BD25 disc, with no packaging frills. Unlike the 'Family Guy Star Wars' releases, which gave consumers the chance to buy previously released films on Blu-ray for the first time, Warner has only released the third special in this series. Be sure to stick around, as there are a few more gags in the show once the credits begin!
I didn't have high expectations for 'Robot Chicken: Star Wars III' going in to the viewing, and perhaps that's why I'm so satisfied with this transfer. Warner gives the toy-laden animation a VC-1 1080p encode that looks far better than any viewing of this show I've ever seen on cable or home video.
The textures, the random fabrics and cloths making up the costuming for characters is just a pleasure to look at, far more so than the awesome construction paper layout of 'South Park' Blu-rays. The picture is constantly a real pleasure to look at, as detail levels are pretty great, where applicable (some moments in the show are naturally somewhat bland in animation, so that didn't bother me). The picture depth is actually really good, even if this type of animation doesn't normally lend itself to such, especially with the flat panel mouth animations. Colors are quite solid and not the least bit dull, while contrast is absolutely pitch perfect.
I will say I noticed some ghosting in the stormtrooper escalator gag, with screens looking just fine (as well as the Emperor), but the fast motion of the white armored clones creating a visual distraction. There is also some artifacting to be found here, most noticeably in the black interior sections of the Jedi council or the skiff bar beneath the bartending EV9-D9 droid. If you have to look up that name, you lose geek street cred.
The audio for 'Robot Chicken: Star Wars III' was disappointing, even with lowered expectations as this show debuts on Blu-ray. The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track is simply lacking.
The light movement effects are nice, even if they're too few and far between, while the localization is accurate, and a fun little add in to keep the full room engaged as dialogue sometimes circles. Sadly, bass is the killer. Explosions are way too light, and some musical segments have no oomph beneath them whatsoever, in places where it would be the most fitting. The Order 67 gag and one Boba Fett spot had some light roar, which was nice, but when your film features a THX sound gag that has no rumble, and extremely limited range, something is wrong.
This track just feels limited, restrained, and that's not a good thing.
Five bonus ways to view the film. Five. That right there clinches a huge score by itself. The rest? Bonus awesome sauce.
'Robot Chicken: Star Wars III' is made with love. A bunch of guys and girls playing with toys, spawning a show that features said toys taking over and recreating, to better effect, some of the odder moments of the series. This third installment may not be the best of the bunch, but it is easily the most coherent, with an actual plot to the story, as a whole. Warner's release of the show fares better than one would think, and it's loaded to the hilt with bonus goodies. This one comes with the highest of recommendations. It's short, but it can be quite sweet.