Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 27, 2009)
While it doesn’t substitute for a continuation of the live-action films, the animated series Star Wars: The Clone Wars offers a fun way to explore aspects of the franchise’s universe. Lucasfilm launched the new cartoon with 2008’s theatrical release of The Clone Wars, but that flick was never intended to be a one-shot stand-alone affair.
Instead, the movie acted as the introduction to the Clone Wars TV series. The animated show follows the same characters and time frame seen in the flick, as it looks at the period between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith.
Entitled A Galaxy Divided, this DVD release offers the first four episodes of the series’ initial season. I’ll look at them in the order broadcast. The plot synopses come straight from the official Star Wars website.
Ambush: “Jedi Master Yoda (voiced by Tom Kane) and three clone troopers -- Jek, Thire, and Rys (all voiced by Dee Bradley Baker) -- must face off against Count Dooku's (Corey Burton) dreaded assassin Asajj Ventress (Nika Futterman) and her massive droid army to prove the Jedi are strong enough to protect a strategic planet and forge a treaty for the Republic.”
For all the faults of the Prequel Trilogy, I like the fact that they showed Yoda in action. In the Original Trilogy, we didn’t even meet him until halfway through the second film, and he died during the third flick’s second act. This meant the OT never let us see Yoda in action; we heard a lot about his Mad Skillz but never saw them.
At least the PT let us check out Yoda in his prime, and that’s a key part of this episode’s appeal. “Ambush” comes free from much plot; the story exists to put Yoda and his three troopers in the midst of many challenging battle scenes. Within that basic framework, it offers a lot of fun. It’s a blast to see Yoda work his way through the situations, and we get plenty of good action in this delightful episode.
Rising Malevolence: “An attack by a devastating new Separatist weapon leaves Jedi Master Plo Koon (James Arnold Taylor) and his clone troopers struggling to survive until Anakin (Matt Lanter) and Ahsoka (Ashley Eckstein) can find them.”
“Rising” leads me to another aspect of the Clone series that I like: it lets us get to know more about minor Star Wars characters. I always referred to these as “Action Figure Fodder”, for without the massive number of Star Wars toys on the market, no one would know their names.
Plo Koon falls into that category; he was “blink and you’ll miss him” material in the feature films. That makes it fun to see more about him and get a sense of him as a unique character. Plo Koon’s story meshes well with more of the Anakin/Ahsoka relationship to turn this into another enjoyable show.
(By the way, although I normally save my discussion of multi-part episodes until the conclusion of the final segment, I decided to go show-by-show this time. Partly that’s because I think each episode works well enough on its own to merit individual inspection, but also it’s to make sure this review runs longer than 200 words.)
Shadow of Malevolence: “With the help of his Padawan Ahsoka and Jedi Master Plo Koon, Anakin utilizes new long-range Y-wing bombers to lead a bold strike on General Grievous' (Matthew Wood) warship, the Malevolence, and its destructive weapon.”
As an episode, “Shadow” essentially acts as a reworking of the climax to Star Wars. A team of fighters take on a powerful weapon to keep it from killing innocents; it’s not a literal rehash of the original film’s ending, but it’s in the same ballpark. Despite that derivative side, “Shadow” provides good action and excitement. It also acts as a nice lead-in to the final chapter of this three-part story.
Destroy Malevolence: “Padmé Amidala (Catherine Taber) and C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) are taken hostage by General Grievous, leaving Anakin and Obi-Wan (Taylor) to save the Senator and complete the destruction of the Malevolence.”
Funny – while “Shadow” recreates the third act of Star Wars, “Destroy” reprises the middle of that flick. We see Luke/Anakin and Obi-Wan/Obi-Wan as they try to rescue Leia/ Padmé. Again, “Destroy” doesn’t provide an explicit recreation of the bits from Star Wars, but it does fall in the same ballpark.
The big difference comes from the climactic nature of “Destroy”. This gives the episode a grandness that makes it interesting, as the show concludes a major arc in the Clone Wars universe. It comes with more of the same fine action found in the disc’s other episodes, so expect an entertaining program.