It wasn't long ago that I sat at this very keyboard and wrote a review for the highly anticipated finale to the Star Wars/Family Guy mash-up, It's A Trap. Oh, how I wish I never subjected myself to that phoned-in disasterpiece. I was a big fan of their original effort, Blue Harvest, but do you think I would have learned my lesson after watching Something, Something, Something, Dark Side? No, of course not! I, apparently, fancy myself as a glutton for punishment. Disappointed by the third offering Seth McFarlane and Co. were forced by Fox to provide, I turned my attention to Robot Chicken's attempts to dice the Star Wars saga into bantha fodder... but the same pattern was beginning to emerge - The first episode was brilliant, the second, although light years ahead of Dark Side, was just 'OK' and felt somewhat forced. Needless to say, I was gravely concerned the force wasn't going to be with Robot Chicken's Star Wars - Episode III. However, I have more faith in Seth Green's crew nowadays than McFarlane's, and decided to take my chances and mosey through parody lane once again. After all is said and done, I think the final product here speaks for itself - Robot Chicken wraps up its own trilogy in a way that Family Guy could not - With quality jokes and gags, consistency, and ultimately, lots of laughs. Seth McFarlane, you better be taking notes.
If you're not familiar with Robot Chicken by now, it's a fun late-night animation show, using stop-motion technology and all the action figures of yester-year to bring home the giggles. Robot Chicken's biggest strength comes from its format, in which the skits that are presented to us don't even have to last a full five seconds before switching to something else entirely. Robot Chicken is typically a rapid-fire assault on any given episode, and even if a joke here or there falls flat, before you have time to think about the flaw, you're already watching another skit. Fortunately, the bits are hilarious more often than not, and any shortcomings that stumble across our path are easily forgiven. The downside to this format? When you're focusing on a single theme for an entire episode, especially when that theme happens to be something as well known as the Star Wars universe, jumping around the plot's timeline gets to be a little tiresome after a while.
Fortunately for Robot Chicken's Star Wars - Episode III, most of the skits seem to cover the Star Wars flicks in a chronological order that's much easier to swallow than in the previous episode. For me, that's why the second Star Wars outing for Robot Chicken was such a pain to watch - It was just all over the place with no rhyme or reason. Although that doesn't bother me with any other Robot Chicken episode ever made (since this style is the very core of the show), it just came off like the whole thing was rushed, and there was little consideration paid to making the episode in its entirety an experience worth remembering. For this third and final outing, I was pleasantly surprised to see that those who give their all behind-the-scenes to give us Robot Chicken really went all out, and finished their own silly parody saga with a bang. The laughs contained within this 44 minute episode (yes, that's a nice hour long special if you count the commercials that would accompany it on television, young jawas and wookies) are plenty, and the attention paid to the chronology gives this episode a polish, and almost a sense of pride in regards to the work put into it, that wasn't seen in its predecessors.
Honestly, there's not much else I can say about the quality of the show itself. Personally, I think this may very well be the best Robot Chicken Star Wars yet, but my heart will always belong to the original. Every time I hear Seth McFarlane as the Emporer saying, "What the hell is an aluminum falcon?!" I could probably pee my pants on the spot (and I should really get a look over by a doctor for not being able to control myself). "Oh just rebuild it?! Real f***in' original! And who's gonna give me the loan jackhole, you?!" I'm tempted to go look the skit up on Youtube right now just thinking about it. What I can add, is that the part that intrigues me the most about Robot Chicken doing Star Wars parodies, is the stuff that's not really seen on the screen. Seth McFarlane and Seth Green have been playfully poking fun at each other, especially on Family Guy. It's a Trap featured Darth Stewie talking a lot of crap about Seth Green, which enraged Luke (Chris, voiced by Green) to no end. And at the end of the latter Family Guy/Star Wars parodies, there was a discussion in which Peter basically craps on Robot Chicken for having a small viewership and for not being on a major network like Fox. Yet, here we are, with both Family Guy and Robot Chicken having completed their quest to provide their own trilogies, and the underdog clearly came out on top. Robot Chicken's trilogy as a whole is far superior to what Family Guy gave us, let alone Robot Chicken's Star Wars - Episode III. It's too bad that the FG crew won't be delving into that universe again, because I'd really like to see that creative team try to talk some smack about Robot Chicken now. I mean, how could they? Especially after they openly admitted to phoning it in during the opening crawl! Unbelievable.
Anyway, this is a solid release in terms of the primary content that's available. Robot Chicken fans, you should walk away satisfied. Never whetted your whistle with the Chicken before? I'd suggest starting from the first Robot Chicken Star Wars special, but if you can't get to it before seeing this, don't worry. The show's format inherently means you don't need to have seen anything prior to it. Regardless of where you choose to begin, the force will be with you.
Well, it's about time this show not only made its high-def debut, but its widescreen debut in the home video world as well! Encoded at 1080p via the VC-1 codec, Robot Chicken's Star Wars - Episode III looks fantastic. Color saturation is bold and pops off the screen at all times, giving new life to the work that goes into Robot Chicken, as we can see every painstaking detail that's been crafted. Considering a lot of this stuff is about animating the eyes and mouths of small action figures, it's really quite impressive to see the attention that was paid to detail. Edges are sharp in a natural way, and never comes off looking like it was digitally tweaked, so edge enhancement worriers can put that fear to bed. Since this was made using stop-motion technology, there was no need for the studio to attempt to smear DNR over this release, and last but not least, the contrast is spot on. There is some minor macroblocking going on, but it's not really intrusive, and there's some banding at times as well. Other than that, this really is an impressive high-def debut for Robot Chicken.
Yes, Robot Chicken's Star Wars - Episode III is absolutely stunning in the video department, but although its audio counterpart is flawlessly reproduced (Dolby TrueHD 5.1), it's not nearly as impressive. The dialogue is clear as a bell, and sound effects are decent enough for what the Robot Chicken team is able to come up with, but this is, predictably, a front-heavy presentation. The musical score that's used comes through the front magnificently, but the rears are left wanting. Same thing goes for sound effects. The rears are utilized once in a while for some diagonal pans (such as a spaceship flying past you or the like), but for the most part, they're under-utilized. That being said, the front end of the audio spectrum does sound like it's been very well mixed, and fans of the show shouldn't be disappointed at how good the source sounds.
Holy crap! There's an ass-load of extras here! The people in charge of Robot Chicken really know how to appease the DVD and Blu-ray base, don't they?
-Chicken Nuggets - This allows you access to some sketch by sketch video commentary. It doesn't run throughout the entire episode, but when you see a little chicken nugget appear on-screen, just hit 'enter' on your remote and you'll be treated to some pretty interesting behind-the-scenes sketch work!
-Featurettes - Pretty much any and everything you want to know about what goes on behind the scenes is here. You'll see glimpses of the massive toy figure collection at Robot Chicken HQ, interviews, and a look at some of the sets. The featurettes included are - 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
-Robot Chicken Skate Tour '09 - I wasn't aware this even happened, but what a crazy fun idea! It's basically like a Star Wars convention, but on roller skates. It was a free bus tour that happened, and people showed up in typical Star Wars convention fashion, dressed up as their favorite characters. This is a pretty in-depth look at the whole tour, as this featurette runs for nearly 23 minutes.
-Deleted Scenes and Animatics
-Time Lapse - This is basically a video playing in fast-forward, and what we're essentially seeing, is a series of different shots being 'filmed'. Someone comes in the frame, adjust the action figure for the next frame, the picture gets taken, and rinse and repeat about a trillion times. Pretty nifty to watch it happen (thank God they had the foresight to show this sped up)!
-Skywalker Ranch Premiere - Nothing too special, but some behind-the-scenes footage at the Skywalker Ranch Premiere was taken by the Robot Chicken guys. It's basically them just standing around, being excited about their premiere, but I can't fault them for wanting to include this on the extras menu.
-Commentaries - Here's where I was really shocked - There's a total of FOUR commentaries for this bad boy. Two of them feature various voice actors, one features the writing staff, and the last is done by the crew. All of these are a lot of fun to listen to. Everyone gets along, everyone is having a good time, and they're able to shoot the shit and have some laughs while presenting us with interesting info all at the same time. It may seem like it's going to be an impossible task, but sit through these, trust me.
-Animation Reference - Seth Green will often film himself in his work space, acting out certain scenes as he wants the action figures to. That includes the voice, the mannerisms and gestures... everything. He looks really silly, but it's all for the effort of the show, and it's a blast to watch. Seth Green can be my boss any day!
-Star Wars Celebration V Robot chicken Panels - This is pretty much how a Q&A session goes down with the Robot Chicken panel at a Star Wars convention. The questions are predictable (Have you all been fans since you were really young?), but it's their answers that are inevitably the most interesting portion here.
Sunday in the Boardroom with George Lucas - The main guys behind Robot Chicken admittedly sit down with George in his boardroom to exploit their outstanding relationship with the man. This actually includes one of the guys informing George playfully, how Star Wars was always coming in and out of his life, is it were repeatedly 'penetrating' him. There's a lot of hilarious tongue-in-cheek stuff like this here, and Lucas takes it all in stride.
I think the first Robot Chicken Star Wars will always be the one to hold a special place in my heart, but I think as far as production, polish, and quality is concerned in an overall package, this may be the best of the Robot Chicken trilogy. Simply put, if you're a fan of a show and you were worried that the writers wouldn't be able to pull enough material out of their ass to go out with a bang, then worry not, as the passion these guys have for the source they're poking fun at is plain as day, and the end product speaks for itself. This is Robot Chicken's first venture to HD in the home video market, and it's pretty impressive to say the least, even if the audio mix could have used a little more rear-channel lovin'. And the extras? Everything you could possibly want for a single episode of Robot Chicken is here and then some. Do I even have to tell you what my recommendation is? Isn't it obvious? Oh, I do? Highly recommended!