Maybe I'm just a process junkie, but the best thing about Star Wars: The Clone Wars - Complete Season One box set may be watching the series evolve from awkward beginnings and finding its feet. That or the comedy droids.

If you are a process junkie, then the boxset is made for you; along with a lovely booklet full of production sketches, each episode has an additional mini-documentary with interviews from the crew involved, as well as seven episodes with new material added for "Director's Cut" editions (Spoiler: Han doesn't shoot first in any of them). More to the point, just rewatching the series shows how the show has evolved as everyone learns what they can, and can't, get away with; I watched the first few episodes in the set after watching "Landing At Point Rain," the most recent episode of the second season, and the difference is amazing - and, for a second, somewhat damning to the first season in comparison ("Point Rain" featured not just some wonderfully choreographed battle sequences that offered a fluidity and grace that the earlier animation lacked, it was also surprisingly brutal in tone - The clones and Jedi used flamethrowers on their alien opponents and you saw them burning to death, which really leaves the earliest episodes of the show, uncertain about the tone just yet, looking anemic). But to concentrate on how far the show's come is to miss the point, and the fun, of the first season.


Clone Wars season one was full of trial and error, yes, but even when things didn't work, they're still worth watching - even moreso on DVD, when the bad taste of the Jar-Jar-centric "Bombad Jedi" is quickly washed away by the double bill of "Cloak of Darkness" and "Lair of Grievous," both of which move more towards the self-assured tone of the movies. The show's mini-arcs make more sense when viewed together, as well (And episodes like "Storm Over Ryloth," "Innocents of Ryloth" and "Liberty on Ryloth" work better than the feature that introduced the series in the first place). But as much as the writing shifts and grows in quality and confidence throughout the series - Just compare the Ryloth episodes to "Ambush" to see what I mean - so, in a much more subtle way, do the visuals.

Never less than impressive, even from the get-go (Just look at some of the textures used! Or the lighting! Man, it's good stuff), the animators nonetheless manage to tighten things all the way throughout the season by, ironically, loosening up: The "acting" by the characters - especially the facial movements - gets more natural as the show goes on, making it easier to empathize with the characters despite (because of) their impressive and intentional cartoony quality (Again, this is something that's all the more obvious looking at newer episodes like "Point Rain," where Anakin has some great subtle smirking going on, adding to his "Yeah, you're a hero now but you're going to end up Darth Vader because of that assholishness, buddy" thing).

But even outside of the "Watch the show improve" aspect that made the boxset for me - I couldn't help it, I'd seen the shows before - there's a lot to like about The Complete Season One; yes, some of the episodes (Ahem, "Bombad Jedi") are clunkers, but the good outweigh the bad, and there's something to like in all of them. The bonus features, as I've said before, are worth watching (Especially the "Jedi Temple" extras, which I think are BluRay only?), and the format makes the multi-episode arcs much stronger than they were when first broadcast, even without the addition of the extra footage.


In the end, then, there's something in The Complete Season One for almost everyone: Complete nerds like me get to geek out over the evolution of the show and peeks behind the scenes, casual fans who liked the series on television can enjoy the Director's Cut episodes and watching the arcs in one sitting, and newcomers... Well, they just get a pretty good cartoon that's, for the most part, more enjoyable than the prequel trilogy. Me, I'm already waiting for the Complete Season Two boxset to hear how they managed to get away with torching their enemies on Cartoon Network prime time.


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