Star Wars Clone Wars: A Galaxy Divided
Release Date: March 24, 2009
Own it on DVD
Directors: Dave Bullock, Dave Filoni, Brian Kalin O’Connell
Writers: Stephen Melching, Tim Burns
Stars: Dee Bradley Baker, Tom Kane, Matt Lanter, James Arnold Taylor, Corey Burton, Matthew Wood, Ashley Eckstein, Catherine Taber, Ian Abercrombie, Anthony Daniels, Terrence ‘T.C.’ Carson
MPAA Rating: Unrated
The natural tendency when you first hear about George Lucas spinning his Star Wars universe into an animated television series is to assume that this is just another blatant attempt to sell out a franchise that once meant something. Like action figures, lunch boxes and seemingly any other avenue possible, a Clone Wars cartoon just screams of cashing in on yet another generation of kids without bringing anything new to the table. Thankfully, that sentiment couldn’t be further from the truth.
As previously stated, I sat down with a copy of The Clone Wars: A Galaxy Divided with low expectations. For starters, this wasn’t even a movie. It was just the first four episodes of the Cartoon Network’s TV show that debuted last October. But once the first episode began, everything seemed right in the Star Wars universe.
Without revealing too much of the plot, here’s a quick review of each of the first four episodes:
The Clone Wars Episode 1: Ambush
“Great leaders inspire greatness in others.”
With only 22 minutes to work with per show, the Star Wars folks do a great job of quickly getting into things and telling compelling stories. In the first episode, Jedi Master Yoda and three clone troopers – Jek, Thire and Rys – are traveling to the moon of Rugosa to meet with the Toydarian monarch King Katuunko. Before they get there however, they are ambushed and must face off against one of Count Dooku’s assassins Ventress, who is armed with a massive droid army.
The Clone Wars Episode 2: Rising Malevolence
“Belief is not a matter of choice, but of conviction.”
After dozens of Republic warships have been destroyed by a devastating new Separatist weapon, the Jedi Council sends Master Plo Koon to search for this mysterious new warship. Led by Count Dooku’s right-hand man, General Grievous, the Malevolence quickly neutralizes Plo Koon’s cruiser with his powerful ion cannon. Anakin Skywalker and his Padawan Ahsoka Tano disobey direct orders from the Jedi Council and head off in search of Plo Koon and his men.
The Clone Wars Episode 3: Shadow of Malevolence
“Easy is the path to wisdom for those not blinded by themselves.”
With the help of his apprentice Ahsoka and Plo Koon, Anakin decides to turn the tables and utilizes new long-range Y-wing bombers to lead a bold strike on General Grievous’ warship, the Malevolence, and its destructive weapon. Meanwhile, the Separatists select the Republic’s secret Outer Rim medical station as their next target.
The Clone Wars Episode 4: Destroy Malevolence
“A plan is only as good as those who see it through.”
As the battle intensifies, Padmé Amidala and C-3PO are taken hostage by General Grievous, leaving Anakin and Obi-Wan Kenobi to save the senator and attempt to destroy the Malevolence once and for all.
The first thing that stands out in The Clone Wars: A Galaxy Divided is just how stunning the animation looks. While remaining true to the original Star Wars movies, The Clone Wars still feels cutting edge. The major players and the environments are richly textured and extremely detailed. The galaxy – which is still far, far away – is simply stunning. It’s cool to see how the cast, particularly someone like Count Dooku, was rendered with chiseled features to make him appear more regal and authoritative. They even found a way to make all of the cloned Storm Troopers look different by giving them different haircuts (which is a minor change, but it does help the viewer to differentiate between the clones).
Just as impressive as the look of The Clone Wars is the voicework done by the actors. Tom Kane as Yoda, Matt Lanter as Anakin Skywalker and Anthony Daniels as C-3PO (who voiced C-3PO in the live-action Star Wars movies) in particular shine (so much so that I might even suggest that Lanter’s Anakin is a more likeable and less robotic version of Skywalker than Hayden Christensen). Even characters who don’t play a huge role in these four episodes like Terrence “TC” Carson’s Mace Windu and Catherine Taber’s Padmé Amidala sound authentic when compared to their movie counterparts, Samuel L. Jackson and Natalie Portman.
Overall, this is a very smart and well-thought out TV show that should appeal to more than just kids. The storylines are enjoyable and keep you interested. And while it is an animated series, plenty of clones and droids are destroyed along the way.
One of the few issues I had with the show was the droids, who seem to be playing the part of Jar Jar Binks. The droids’ attempts at comic relief (which was seemingly every time they talk) end up detracting from an otherwise strong show. Honestly, the only time I enjoyed them on the screen is when one of them angered General Greivous, who destroyed as many droids as anyone else in the show.
Ahsoka Tano was the only other character who needed to be toned down. While riding shotgun with Anakin, the only thing she seemed to bring to the table was a ton of second-guessing and moaning. With Tano now introduced, here’s hoping the writers found a way to use her in future episodes without making viewers openly root against her.
The last minor gripe I had is that episodes two and three took place almost entirely in outer space. So instead of having much in the way of character interaction, you had to settle for good guy ships shooting at bad guy ships and vice versa. Episodes one and four stood out because when battles took place it was actually good guys and bad guys squaring off in person. Because the animation is so strong, it’s almost a shame to see two entire shows set in the bland Star Wars outer space.
All in all, The Clone Wars: A Galaxy Divided is very well-thought out and executed to perfection. The pros far outweigh the cons and for the first time in a while, George Lucas has put together something worth investing your time into. Whether you’ve got kids or you’re simply looking to “get your nerd on,” feel free to pick up this new DVD. You’ll be glad to know – the force is strong with this one.
Written by Brian Murphy. Star Wars Clone Wars: A Galaxy Divided is available now.