Star Wars: The Clone Wars - A Galaxy Divided

I’ve been a stalwart fan of Star Wars since I first saw the movie at an incredibly young age. I can remember the sequels coming out as being major events for my family, and remaining captivated through it all. I even liked the Ewoks. The new trilogy came and I maintained my faith and interest in the series, through midichlorians, Jar Jar Binks, and dialog that turned a talented actress like Natalie Portman into a wooden figure. My love of Star Wars has endured… until now. Star Wars: The Clone Wars was a horrific blight on the Star Wars legacy, and the animated series that’s followed barely improves on what was pretty broken to begin with. Star Wars, the franchise I’ve followed throughout my life, is officially dead. Star Wars: The Clone Wars - A Galaxy Divided picks up where the Clone Wars movie left off, which is also somewhat where Star Wars: Attack of the Clones left off. The galaxy is at war, with the Jedi taking an active part in leading the Republic’s clone army against the droid forces of the Separatists, led by Count Dooku and General Grievous. The animated adventures are supposed to expand on the time that occurred between movies, giving us a look at the much anticipated, but never seen, Clone Wars. Instead, they kind of make me wish that era was still shrouded in secrecy.

A Galaxy Divided is comprised of four episodes of the series: “Ambush,” “Rising Malevolent,” “Shadow of Malevolence,” and “Destroy Malevolence.” The first episode has little to do with the others, save a supposedly rousing speech from Yoda that helps the Clone soldiers realize they are more than fodder. The other episodes surround a massive Separatist starship named Malevolence, which houses a secret weapon. In the first episode, Jedi Master Plo Kloon discovers the weapon and survives thanks to the aid of Anakin Skywalker (and his annoying padawan). The second episode sees Anakin (and his annoying padawan) lead an attack on the Malevolence as it prepares to lay siege to a medical facility. Finally, it’s an all out battle between the Separatist ship and the Jedi forces, with General Grievous proving he still has a trick or two up his sleeve.

Comparing the movie and the animated series, one thing appears to have changed for the better - the animation of the story. The same blocky approach is taken toward the characters, but there’s something about the level of detail and expression presented here that makes this feel more like it’s set in the Star Wars universe. Maybe it’s because Clone Wars was intended for the small screen all along, or maybe it’s my imagination, but things looked better here, with the exception of Yoda’s teeth, which makes the Jedi Master look particularly vicious throughout any scene he opens his mouth in.

Unfortunately, all of the problems of the animated movie are here, refreshed in each episode. Okay, maybe not all of the problems. After all, the effeminate Ziro the Hutt doesn’t show up here. We get more than enough of Ahsoka, Anakin’s annoying padawan, however, including all of her disrespectful and unbelievable dialog, like silly nicknames (“Sky-guy” for her master, and “R-Twoey” for everyone’s favorite droid), immature comments that are given far too much weight, and the like. Master Yoda told both Luke and Anakin they were too old to train as Jedi. With Ahsoka, perhaps we’ve finally found someone that should have been considered too young. What we wind up with is the equivalent of a six year old who everyone listens to when it comes to making tactical decisions. I thought Jedi were supposed to be smart.

The issues from the prequels make their way into Clone Wars as well, such as the ridiculous droid army. The first episode has the humorous insight to point out the droids can only be as good as their programming, but it makes me wonder how this programming ever was considered “good” for an army that should be laying siege to the Republic. Meanwhile, the whole series tries to hard to be what Star Wars is by stealing/paying homage to the original movies by reusing dialog whenever possible.

I know that most of this needs to be taken with a grain of salt, because I’m not the target audience for the animated series. Lucas wants to open his franchise to a new generation, making the series particularly child-friendly, with a protagonist kids can connect with in the form of Ahsoka. Here’s the problem though - I loved Star Wars and this is an abomination to what I enjoyed, so what’s the likelihood my kids will be exposed to this? Unlikely. For me, and for future generations of my family, there is no Clone Wars, and Star Wars’s real story ended years ago. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a DVD put together this badly. Frankly, I expect better from Warner Brothers, who has been putting digital copies of their movies with all their new releases at the very least. Here you don’t get a digital copy, you don’t get a commentary track, you don’t even get commercials for the episodes. There is absolutely no bonus material included for your enjoyment. Just the four episodes.

I was surprised to see this release come out so soon. After all, the first season is still going on, even if there have been twenty-two episodes to date. Instead of getting a first season release, we get this… four episodes? And one of those episodes doesn’t even tie in with the other three. This release makes absolutely no sense. Why not wait until the season is done and put out the whole thing? Someone, somewhere is hoping to make some money off of this, which explains the lack of any sort of bonus material. A double dip is in the works; I guarantee it.

If the lack of bonus material wasn’t bad enough, the episodes are presented, according to the box, “In a format preserving the aspect ratio of its original television exhibition.” You know what that means - full frame video. But here’s the catch - the series is presented in a letterboxed format specifically so it can appear widescreen. Instead of taking advantage of that, the series is presented full frame, with the letterboxes included. That means, if you’re watching on a widescreen television, almost a third of the screen is just blacked out due to the picture being cropped. It would almost be laughable if it wasn’t so horrendous.

This is an amazingly poor DVD release, with nowhere near enough content and an extremely poor presentation of what is here. Sure, the video looks good and the audio is crisp, but when a third of your screen is rendered useless, you have to take that into account. It’s been a while since I’ve given a DVD that one-star disc rating, but in this case I think it’s well earned.