Saturday, December 5, 2015

Stubs - Star Wars: Clone Wars (2003)

Star Wars: Clone Wars (2003) Starring the voices of: Mat Lucas, James Arnold Taylor, Tom Kane, Grey DeLisle, Anthony Daniels, Corey Burton, Andre Sogliuzzo, Richard McGonagle, Nick Jameson. Directed by Genndy Tartakovsky. Written by Bryan Andrews, Mark Andrews, Darrick Bachman, Paul Rudish, and Genndy Tartakovsky. Based on characters created by George Lucas. Color U.S.A. Animated, Science Fiction. Run times: 69 and 64 minutes.

Following the conclusion of his Samurai Jack series, Genndy Tartakovsky was approached by LucasFilms to produce one-minute segments about the Clone Wars, an event mentioned in the Star Wars mythology. Tartakovsky agreed as long as the segments could be 3 to 5 minutes and pitched the idea as having “a Band of Brothers-feel to it—where it's episodes of different battles and strategies during the Clone Wars.” Lucas, who would serve as Executive Producer, apparently gave Tartakovsky all the major events during the Clone Wars.

Released between Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002) and Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005), Star Wars: Clone Wars appeared on Cartoon Network. Season one consisted of ten 3 minute long episodes and ran for 10 days over 2 weeks, between November 3 and November 20, 2003. A second season of ten additional 3 minute series ran the following spring from March 26 to April 8, 2004. These two seasons would be cut into a feature length (69 minutes) story line and released on DVD on March 22, 2005.

Taking place after Attack of the Clones, the story deals with the actual Clone Wars, which is really only hinted at, in the feature films. Jedi Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi (James Arnold Taylor) is assigned to lead an assault on the home planet of the Intergalactic Banking Clan, financial backers of the Confederacy of Independent Systems, which wish to break away from the Galactic Republic.

Obi-Wan leading troops into battle.

Over his objections, Obi-Wan’s apprentice, Anakin Skywalker (Mat Lucas), is appointed to lead the space forces at the instance of Supreme Chancellor Palpatine (Nick Jameson), the secret alter ego of Sith Lord Darth Sidious.

Chancellor Palpatine is also Darth Sidious, the Sith Lord.

On the ground on Muunilinst, Republic troops face an assault by ARC (Advanced Recon Commando) Captain Fordo (André Sogliuzzo), who leads clone troopers.

Captain Fordo leads clone troopers against the Army of the Republic.

Separatist leader Count Dooku (Corey Burton), meanwhile, takes the Dark Jedi Asajj Ventress (Grey DeLisle) as his apprentice and sends her to eliminate Anakin.

Count Dooku with his apprentice Asajj Ventress.

She manages to draw Anakin’s attention in the middle of a battle in space and he pursues Ventress to planet Yavin 4, where they engage in a lightsaber duel. Anakin manages to defeat her, but only by tapping into fear and anger, the well-known path to the Force’s dark side.

Anakin takes on Ventress.

In addition to the main story, there are various other battles featured, including familiar characters, like Jedi Master Mace Windu (T.C. Carson) who faces an army of droids unarmed on Dantooine, Master Yoda (Tom Kane) with Padmé Amidala (uncredited) in tow travels to the ice world of Ilum to save two other Jedi Knights; the up ‘til then unknown Kit Fisto (Richard McGonagle), an amphibious Jedi, who leads an aquatic regiment against clone troopers in the water world of Mon Calamari; and the soon to be prominent General Grievous (John DiMaggio) who likes nothing more than to take lightsabers off of vanquished Jedi.

General Grievous showing himself to be a Jedi's worst nightmare.

Even though the series was originally conceived as 20 episodes, its success led to a third season. Instead of 3 minute long episodes, each lasted 12 minutes, but there were only 5 episodes airing on consecutive days from March 21 to March 25, 2005. Like Seasons 1 and 2, this season was also edited together into a 64 minute feature, released as Star Wars: Clone Wars: Volume Two on December 6, 2005.

This volume picks up where Volume 1 ended. It’s two years later, after Anakin’s victory over Ventress and Obi-Wan’s victory on Muunilinst. But Grievous has been winning on behalf of the Confederacy and the Republic is in need of more Jedi Knights. After some discussion, the Jedi Council, headed by Yoda, decides to make Anakin a Jedi.

Grievous, now with four arms, has been leading victories for the Confederacy.

Anakin, meanwhile, has been sneaking around to be with Padmé Amidala, who by now is his wife. Jedi Knights are not supposed to have emotional attachments, let alone wives, but not all the rules apply when you’re the chosen one.

Amidala and Anakin sneak around to be together.

Three years later, Anakin has proven himself to be quite the Jedi. He’s helped Obi-Wan to capture a fortress and rescued other Jedi from bigger droids.

Anakin and Obi-Wan are assigned to find Grievous on the planet Nelvaan, but instead end up liberating a group of Nelvaanians who had been enslaved and mutated by the Techno Union.

Meanwhile, the Confederacy of Independent Systems attacks the city of Coruscant to which masters Yoda, Windu, Shaak Ti (DeLisle) and others are called upon to defend. However, during the attack, General Grievous and his army of droids manage to sneak into the city and kidnap Palpatine for his Master, Dooku.

Yoda can't stop Grievous from kidnapping Palpatine.

Anakin and Obi-Wan set out to rescue the Chancellor, which leads directly into the beginning of Revenge of the Sith, the third of the pre-sequel films.

The visual style of the series is very reminiscent of Samurai Jack and that works surprisingly well telling this story. Episodes rely less on dialogue and more on action; another similarity to Samurai Jack. Battle scenes, which can get drawn out too much in movies, are succinct here.

The voice-acting is spot on. It had been a while since I had seen the films and was surprised to learn that none of the actors from the feature films were actually voicing the characters. And unless you watch the credits, you would probably not know it either.

For some reason, the events of this series are not considered canon to the overall Star Wars universe. My guess is that it was superseded by Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008), which, despite a poorly received feature film debut, Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008), ran for 121 episodes. I have never seen the newer series or its feature film and have no real plans to do so.

Tartakovsky’s version of the Clone Wars story is perfect for someone like me. I didn’t want to devote too much time to what is basically a side-story, but he manages to make it very entertaining and must-watch television, so much so I wish there was a fourth season. If you have a chance to watch either or both of these volumes, I would highly recommend that you do. These do not disappoint.

Next up: Star Wars (1977).

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