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By Brad Cook | April 19, 2005

While I haven’t been thrilled with the “Star Wars” prequels, I have to admit that I can enjoy any “Star Wars” film, even if mediocre, simply for the eye candy and the thrill of visiting such a well-realized universe. And, c’mon, even “The Phantom Menace” couldn’t sink to the depths of a movie like “Star Trek V: The Undiscovered Country” or “Alien vs. Predator.” So, yeah, I cut “Star Wars” some slack. We all have our guilty pleasures.

The “Clone Wars” series of micro-cartoons, which debuted last year on Cartoon Network, were designed to give viewers a sense of what was happening during the battles that took place between 2002’s “Attack of the Clones” and the upcoming “Revenge of the Sith.” Directed by Genndy Tartakovsky, who was responsible for “Dexter’s Laboratory” and “Samurai Jack,” the cartoons’ art style may not be what you had in mind when you thought about animated “Star Wars,” but it still works. The voices, however, are more problematic, as Anthony Daniels (C-3PO) is the only member of the movie cast to show up; some of the voices, such as Obi-Wan, aren’t bad, but others, such as Palpatine, don’t sound right at all.

Given each cartoon’s two-minute or so running time, watching the entire series all at once creates a very episodic, hyperactive feel: now Anakin’s here, then he’s there, then he’s fighting this guy, then there’s a huge battle on this planet, then Obi-Wan is doing something, oh and here’s General Grievous… There really isn’t a narrative through-line here, something that was rectified for the second “Clone Wars” series, which feels more like an actual movie, rather than a series of shorts. Several of the episodes also end with cliff-hangers that are picked up again in the very next installment, which creates a sense of déjà vu: Didn’t we just see the camera push in on the bad guys as they surrounded that Jedi?

But minor quibbles aside, “Clone Wars” is a lot of fun and certainly worth checking out, even if you’re just a casual “Star Wars” fan. This disc also includes two micro-featurettes, each just several minutes long; one covers the making of the series while the other includes the new set of cartoons in its exploration of how “Clone Wars” leads right into “Revenge of the Sith.” There are also two director commentaries, one that was available only to subscribers of the official “Star Wars” Web site when the series first ran and one that was recorded for this release. I’m not sure if Tartakovsky has done commentaries before, as these are languid: there are many moments where he says something like “And here are the clone troopers” and then follows it up with “We really tried to get across how cool they are.” Nothing terribly exciting here.

The disc also includes two galleries full of concept art, storyboards and sketches as well as the “Revenge of the Sith” teaser trailer, a pair of game trailers (the Episode III video game and the Star Wars: Republic Commando game), and a playable game level for the Xbox version of Republic Commando. Personally, I would have liked to see LucasFilm wait and release both sets of “Clone Wars” cartoons in one collection with more in-depth bonus materials, but this one isn’t bad. It’s certainly worth a rental.

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