Monday, August 8, 2011

Robot Chicken: Star Wars III (Blu-ray Review)

Seth Green and Matthew Senreich’s Emmy Award-winning Robot Chicken and Adult Swim bring the third and final episode in the beloved Annie Award-winning Robot Chicken: Star Wars series to DVD, and for the first time, Blu-ray Disc, with the release of Robot Chicken: Star Wars Episode III. A must-own for fans of Star Wars, humor and all things awesome, the DVD is bursting with over three hours of bonus material including an special appearance by the man himself, Mr. George Lucas, and two features exclusive to the Blu-ray release.

Film (4 out of 5 stars) 

As a life-long hardcore Star Wars fan, I’ve enjoyed not only the original movies but also the many spoofs of the franchise done by Family Guy (see my review of It’s a Trap here) and the Robot Chicken series.  Both shows parody the saga but they do it in different and crucial ways. Family Guy does it by using their characters as stand ins for the main characters, while Robot Chicken uses the original characters in humorous ways.  That may not sound like a major difference, but it is because by using the Family Guy characters adds an additional layer of obnoxiousness to it since a lot of the characters are so unlikable.  Robot Chicken is more true to the source which I appreciate more and it also makes the gags even funnier since it’s not being filtered and modified to fit another show’s characters.
This third edition in the Robot Chicken: Star Wars series has departed from the format of the two previous Emmy-nominated specials. “We told a more linear story this time that covers all the Star Wars films,” says Green. “We wanted to show the Star Wars universe through the eyes of our Robot Chicken: Star Wars Emperor Palpatine, Darth Vader, Boba Fett and Gary the Stormtrooper,” says Senreich. “We wanted to get the unique perspective from people who just want to rule the universe.” This special again fuses the satirical sensibilities of the Robot Chicken stop-motion sketch comedy television series with the characters of the Star Wars universe.
As usual, the Robot Chicken crew managed to get a lot of well known folks to join in the fun including: Zac Efron as Anakin Skywalker, Anthony Daniels (from the original Star Wars films) as C3PO, Mike Henry and Donald Glover all making their first appearance in Robot Chicken: Star Wars. Returning from the previous specials are: Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian and Ahmed Best as Jar Jar Binks , as well as Green, Senreich, Breckin Meyer, Seth MacFarlane, Dan Milano, Abe Benrubi, Donald Faison, Rachael Leigh Cook, Adrianne Pallicki, Eden Espinosa, Hugh Davidson, Bob Bergen, Keith Ferguson, Tom Kane and Zeb Wells.
With over 30 shorts on this disc, there’s a couple of bits that don’t work but most of them are very funny.  I want to write about some of the very funny ones but I don’t want to ruin it for anyone.  The ones that usually make me laugh the hardest are the ones featuring the Emperor which is funny since Family Guy’s Seth MacFarlane voices him and he’s a lot funnier on the Robot Chicken specials than he is on his own show.  On this one, it starts with the Emperor just being thrown down the shaft by Vader which gives him a chance to reflect on his life and his choices through funny flashbacks going all the way back to events before The Phantom Menace.  While I really liked this edition, I didn’t like how they portrayed Boba Fett as a drunken loser which triggered my inner Star Wars nerd outrage.  Despite that, this is a very funny special and if you liked the previous two, you will love this one!

Video (4 1/2 out of 5 stars) 

This release marks the first entry into high definition and it looks fantastic!  This 1080p (1.78:1) transfer is extremely sharp and when combined with the stop motion figures, it adds a feeling of depth which was really present in earlier releases.  The excellent picture offers a close up view of the props, textures, and details that would have been missed before.  Colors are vibrant and black levels are suitably dark.  Overall, this is a very nice crisp transfer and the detail it provides is more than enough reason to buy the Blu-ray edition.

Audio (3 1/2 out of 5 stars) 

The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix isn’t quite as good as the video quality, but it’s pretty darn good especially for a TV show.  This mix is mostly a front speaker affair but the rear and satellite speakers occasionally get in on the action with some cross panning effects.  Dialogue is very clear and the sound effects and music are well balanced too.  I was happy with this mix but I wish they had utilized all of the channels more than they did.

Special Features (5 out of 5 stars) 

Robot Chicken and Star Wars fans will be very happy with the extensive bonus materials featured on this Robot Chicken: Star Wars Episode III Blu-ray!  Here’s what you will find on the disc:
  • Sunday in the Boardroom with George – Anyone that doesn’t think that George Lucas has a sense of humor should watch this as we see the Robot Chicken guys at Skywalker Ranch with a good-natured Lucas.  They talk about the movies, the show, and it’s great to see Lucas interact with his younger fans.
  • Chicken Nuggets (sketch by sketch video commentary) – An option that allows you to see the visual part of the commentary section for certain scenes.  If you’ve already seen the show, this is a fun option.
  • Behind-the-Scenes Featurettes: For the Love of Toys, For the Love of Star Wars, For the Love of Filmmaking, Behind the Scenes: Writing, Behind the Scenes: Voice Acting, Behind the Scenes: VFX – The cast and crew talk about their love of Star Wars and its toys and how it’s influenced them.  We also see the process of how they make the show with a look into their writing room, recording the dialogue, and the stop motion process.
  • Skywalker Ranch Premiere Trip – The cast and crew are lucky enough to be invited to Skywalker Ranch to premiere their latest Star Wars special.
  • Star Wars Celebration V Robot Chicken Panel – As one of the people that didn’t make it to Star Wars Celebration V, it’s nice to see one of the panels that I missed.  In this, the guys talk about making their Star Wars specials and offer a few tidbits about their secret upcoming Star Wars comedy show that they are working with George Lucas on.
  • Deleted Animatics With Video Intros – A look at some scenes that made it far enough to be be made into an animatic but not the final version.  The best one that should have been included was one of the Emperor giving Vader a performance review after the events of The Empire Strikes Back.
  • Robot Chicken Skate Tour ’09 – Robot Chicken sponsored a series of skate parties in 2009 and this is a quick look at some of that footage.  These aren’t the droids you are looking for…move along.
  • Audio Commentaries – There’s FOUR audio commentaries here with the first one containing Abraham Benrubi, Ahmed Best, Keith Ferguson, Seth Green, Matthew Senreich, and Billy Dee Williams; the second with actors Bob Bergen, Donald Faison, Seth Green, Breckin Meyer, and Matthew Senreich; the third with writers Matthew Beans, Mike Fasolo, Dan Milano, Tom Root, Hugh Sterbakov, and Zeb Wells; and the fourth with crew members Cameron Baity, Christopher Covel, Trisha Gum, Alex Kamer, Cam Leeburg, Chris McKay, Jeanette Moffat, and Rob Ronning.  As you would expect, they are all very funny but I liked the first one best.
Exclusive to the Blu-ray Edition:
  • Time Lapses of Animation – A look at the painstaking process of stop motion animation.
  • Seth Green Animation reference – A funny look at the video that Seth Green films of himself to help the animators capture the look and mannerisms he’s trying to achieve.

Final Thoughts (4 out of 5 stars) 

This is a very funny show to begin with and the addition of Star Wars just makes it even better.  There’s some very funny bits and some that don’t work, but overall this was a fun disc to watch.  The more you are aware of Star Wars, the more you will appreciate the humor and it’s obvious that the Robot Chicken crew have a deep love for the saga.  This is highly recommended!
Order your copy today!

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