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- TV Series: Star Wars: The Clone Wars
- Episode: Clone Cadets and ARC Troopers
- Starring (Voices): Matt Lanter, James Arnold Taylor, Dee Bradley Baker, Ashley Eckstein, Matthew Wood, Tom Kane, Anthony Daniels and Nika Futterman
- Written By: Cameron Litvack
- Directed By: Dave Filoni (Clone Cadets) and Kyle Dunlevy (ARC Troopers)
- Network: Cartoon Network
SW: The Clone Wars: Clone Cadets and ARC Troopers Review
The third season of Star Wars: Clone Wars Begins.
By Rob Vaux
September 17, 2010
The Clone Wars Season 3 Reviews begin..
© Lucasfilm/Bob Trate
Many fans view The Clone Wars TV series as proper atonement for the shortcomings of Episodes I through III. I’m a defender of the live-action films and even I see how the animated show steps up its game. It finds the right combination of fun characters and spectacular visuals, while its storylines adroitly combine extended narrative arcs with terrific stand-alone episodes.
The mixture allows them to make full use of the richness of the Star Wars universe. We can take side-trips to visit interesting locales or hang out with little-known characters, then return to Anakin, Obi-Wan and the gang for some righteous droid butt-kicking without losing a beat.
The Season Three premiere--comprised of two distinct but interrelated episodes--delivers a first-rate blend of all of those elements, while keeping the show’s shortcomings to an absolute minimum. Annoying characters are nowhere to be seen (though I’m sure Ahsoka “I Lost My Lightsaber” Tano is just waiting to run her nails down the blackboard when the opportunity arises) and the script shows a crispness and buoyancy that the show’s weaker episodes often lack.
It also pulls off the not-insignificant trick of giving a group of clones some viable personalities.
We’ve seen it before--notably with Captain Rex--but the first story here demonstrates the comparative difficulty of the task. It focuses on five clone cadets, comprising a single squad and struggling through their training on Kamino. Director Dave Filoni likens their exploits to Band of Brothers, as they bicker and fight with each other rather than concentrating on their task. They run the risk of being demoted to maintenance, an ignominious fate reserved for the lowest of the low in clone society. In order to persevere, they need to come together as brothers and recognize the value of their individual skills within the greater whole.
Though trite and hastily developed, the formula still endears us to the figures at the center of it, while illustrating the nifty way Jango Fett’s Mini-Mes slowly develop their own personalities. In and of itself, it’s merely serviceable--a fast-paced bit of training-style action slightly hampered by a pedestrian script—but it pays big dividends in the second episode, “ARC Troopers.” We return to Kamino a short time later, along with Obi-Wan (voiced by James Arnold Taylor), Anakin (voiced by Matt Lanter) and the veterans of the squad in the first episode. They aim to stop an invasion of Kamino by General Grievous (voiced by Matthew Wood) and Asajj Ventress (voiced by Nika Futterman). By knocking out the Clone facility, the Separatists would gain a huge advantage in the war, something the Jedi must stop at all costs.
First and foremost, “ARC Troopers” serves as a textbook showcase of how animation benefits the Star Wars universe. As the heroes and villains square off against each other in their expected pairs--with Obi-Wan battling Grievous and Anakin taking on Ventress--director Kyle Dunlevy delivers an astonishingly kinetic series of duels. Here, Clone Wars’ use of animation really shines, with the combatants attacking at inhuman speeds and Grievous’s scuttling, insect-like gait moving him in all manner of surprising directions. It uniquely encapsulates how the Jedi move in our mind’s eye, something no live-action production (however advanced) can quite match. Coupled with the imaginative choreography (and the fact that lightsabers are still too damn cool for words), it makes the episode a feast of eye-popping action.
More importantly, it gives the first episode a poignant sense of closure. “ARC Troopers” intercuts the Jedi battles with the clone squad’s efforts to stave off invasion. We see the pride they carry in their “home world” and the gruesome losses they bear in the prosecution of this war. The clones basically serve as “heroic” Separatist droids: each one interchangeable and ultimately replaceable. Clone Wars shows us the halting, struggling way they find their individual souls, while still creating a “culture” of sorts for which they’re willing to fight and die. It lends the action just enough thoughtfulness to remind us why the Star Wars universe remains so awesome. That, and the return of terrific figures like Ventress to the fold, spells great things for the season to come.