Sunday, May 10, 2009
Star Wars: The Clone Wars Season 1 Review
What a craptastic series that turned spectacular. Star Wars: The Clone Wars started out in standard Lucas-flare, which is to say, not that great.
I found the stories and character development featured in the first few episodes were average at best, but what was really horrible is that the show was clearly shot in wide screen yet was originally screened in the worst pan-and-scan format ever. I'm not sure if this was an issue with Lucasfilm Animation, the broadcast tapes that were sent out, or CTV themselves, but the first several episodes essentially zoomed in on the centre of the image from a wide screen presentation, which was blasphemy!
Thankfully, once someone got around to fixing that issue, not only the visual presentation of Star Wars: The Clone Wars improved, but coincidentally so did the narrative of the episodes. By today's season's end, Star Wars: The Clone Wars takes the cake as the best military sci-fi show I've seen in many, many years with both memorable characters, entertaining episodes, and excellent plot-lines.
One thing that's really impressed me is the take on the Clones themselves. The show really began exploring the dynamics of the Clone Troopers, not only with their relations to their Jedi Generals and Commanders, but also with one another and the other citizens of the Galactic Republic. While I wouldn't go so far as to say that Lucasfilm Animation has plumbed their depths to the extent that Karen Traviss has done with her novels, they've done an excellent job for a 30 minute animated series.
A brief re-cap for those not in the know: Star Wars: The Clone Wars is the continuation of the animated feature film of the same name (which I have yet to see and now want to), and takes place between Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones and Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith. It features every one's favourite Jedi from the prequel trilogy (including a few new characters, and greatly expanding on supporting characters) as well as most of the other characters, though all save C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) are voiced by other actors imitating their big screen counterparts.
While each episode is a 30 minute affair, Lucasfilm Animation got into the routine of maintaining a continuing story arc spreading across roughly three episodes, which really served well to follow the three act structure of a conventional feature narrative. Figured most prominently, an episode would often focus on Anakin Skywalker (Matt Lanter), Obi-Wan Kenobi (James Arnold Taylor), and their allies such as Ahsoka Tano (Ashley Eckstein), R2-D2, Captain Rex (Dee Bradley Baker), and Commander Cody (Dee Bradley Baker), taking the fight to the Separatist Alliance on various worlds and space battles. In the show, the politics that were so heavy in the films are left behind, and the focus is clearly on the battlefield itself which makes for some great action.
The series' plot lines actually became rather complex and intriguing for a Star Wars series, and while the show isn't horribly graphic, it certainly isn't a kiddie animated show. There are decapitations and a whole lot of causalities in this war (you really gotta feel sorry for a lot of the Clones), and though the morality is generally simple and black and white, I found the general episodes themselves to be both mature and intriguing.
It's also fun to watch both Jedi and Sith really make use of the Force akin to Star Wars: The Force Unleash and just tear through stuff. The lightsabre battles are on the epic scale, and you really feel like there isn't anything these super characters can not accomplish. But of course, their weaknesses aren't in their skills or combat prowess, but in their characters themselves. Anakin is compassionate and caring, but too much so which often leads him to be rash and reckless. Obi-Wan in stark contrast follows orders and tries to balance out his former young apprentice. The Clones themselves also take their cues from their Jedi Generals and adopt similar personalities and combat styles, which adds a larger dynamic to the different Clone battalions.
While the beginning of Star Wars: The Clone Wars was awful, it has shaped up into an excellent series, and is well worth watching. I'm glad to know that most of Season 2 is already complete, and I'm anxiously awaiting the continuation of the series next season.