Thursday, June 23, 2005

The Star Wars: Clone Wars, Vol. 1 DVD collects the first 20 chapters (five more chapters were produced--enough to bother issuing a DVD?), shorts that ran on the Cartoon Network. Believe it or not, it was Neal Stephenson, writing a pro-Geek piece for the Times, that convinced me to rent it. The shorts--about 70 minutes worth--flow as one story (sometimes hard to tell where one begins and the next ends), improving as it goes on. Like the novelizations which I haven't read, the cartoons cover the wars that take place between the action of the films Episode II and III. Battles on far-flung planets feature the Jedi in extreme butt-kicking action, including Yoda, Mace, Annakin, and Obi-Wan, as well as bad guys Dooku and his new (female!) apprentice, Asajj Ventress. Kit Fisto, just one of the many characters merely glimpsed in the films who gets some of the spotlight here, dazzles in an underwater battle, like Aquaman with a lightsaber.

Partly to accommodate the three minute chapter length, the style of the cartoons is minimalist in terms of narrative and dialogue, which nicely complements the artists' sleek drawing style in which a few bold lines and 4 or 5 solid colors are used per character. (Apparently they were made by the creators of Samurai Jack.) It's a bit jarring to adjust to at first, when you're used to the visual style of the films, but as a cartoon it works well. The cartoons are every bit as serious in tone as the films, far more serious than most cartoons adults see, which are usually comical, so there were moments of awkwardness that made me chuckle (especially the cute Yoda), although it was no more serious than the action oriented fare kids watch all the time (or like the Superfriends series my generation loved as kids). Ahh, the culture of geeks comes full circle, from the Padawans who grow up on such cartoons to the adult Jedi who buy tickets to and make the SF and superhero blockbusters. Lucas seems to have greenlighted the project only to be surprised by how well they turned out, okaying a few more installments that take us directly up to the events of Episode III (if I read between the lines of the brief featurette correctly). It seems a bit contradictory that Lucas would allow these cartoons to be aimed at younglings and then mount a vigorous campaign to tell parents Episode III wasn't appropriate for their youngest, but in the end I think it was more about setting expectations--no doubt kids saw the film in droves.



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