After many, many hours of Star Wars during the last few weeks, I was keenly looking forward to a break before we do it all again in 3D in a few months time. But then I stumbled on this disc. All fans owe it to themselves to indulge in a little official Star Wars that doesn't take itself too seriously. Enter Lego Star Wars: The Padawan Menace.
In 1999, the same year as the release as The Phantom Menace LucasFilm inked a deal with the Lego Group to release Lego themed products with Star Wars branding. The initial batch of toys, including the iconic X-Wing fighter sold extremely well, leading to the release of many more Lego toys. Later, the brand mashing continued with a range of popular PlayStation and Xbox game releases. Now, the series has extended to a 22 minute Cartoon Network short, which based on the laughs, I certainly hope can be made into a regular animated series (although I do not believe it's currently on the cards).
Despite the cringe-inducing inclusion of a young Han Solo (thank God they didn't do this in Revenge of the Sith - allegedly Solo appeared in an early draft) Lego Star Wars: The Padawan Menace is one of the funniest, youngster-aimed shows I've seen for a long time. In fact, it's worth it just to see Jar Jar shot, killed and fallen to pieces whilst C-3PO exclaims "Poor Jar Jar!... oh well!" Indeed.
Lego Star Wars: The Padawan Menace is presented in the aspect ratio of 1.78:1 (its original aspect ratio), encoded with AVC MPEG-4 compression.
This animated show is made entirely in the digital domain and as such scrubs up as well as they normally do. Colours are bright and bold and visually this will appeal to the kids. The animation here is not Pixar quality - rather than character models and big and appropriately Lego blocky. So this isn't high class animation, but fine enough for the purpose. Apart from some assumingly intentional grain, there really aren't any issues to speak of.
I imagine that the DVD would upscale nicely, but the Blu-ray presentation in full 1080p is very nice indeed. Overall, a good effort. But probably an effortless effort.
The main audio track is encoded with DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 at 24 bits.
This isn't a massively over engineered audio track by any stretch of the imagination, but a fine enough experience which brings the show to life.
There was no issue with dialogue and the front soundstage supports the majority of effects. There is a fair amount of bleed in the rears and even some aggressive mixing during some moments.
It's a nice touch that they've re-purposed John Williams score from all six films. With some nine hours of music composed, there is enough in the library to suit any scene. This is mixed appropriately and sometimes impressively.
Overall, a good effort and more than acceptable for the purpose.
With a scant 22 minute runtime, one would be excused for maybe expecting something more sizeable in the extra features department. Unfortunately it's all a little bit lacking in quantity here. There could have been numerous opportunities for some cool tie-ins - here's just one hint: An on-disc Lego Star Wars III - The Clone Wars PlayStation 3 demo. Despite this, there are a few nice extras.
The short films The Quest for R2-D2 and Bombad Bounty are funny pre-cursors to The Padawan Menace with similar production values as the latter, but much shorter at around 5 minutes apiece. I enjoyed the Quest for R2-D2 a little more, if not for the absence of Jar Jar Binks who features prominently in the latter.
The original viral hit Star Wars in 2 Minutes is presented here, in 1080p. I struggled to find any background information on who created this, but they did a damn good job. Recapping the trilogies in two parts using actual lego pieces with stop motion animation and a great sense of humour, this rivals the main feature in quality.
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