The third story in canonical order of Star Wars: The Clone Wars is the 2008 theatrical release. While the film has its detractors, and is far from perfect, it does benefit from some poignant moments that affect the entire Star Wars saga as a whole. It's longer than a normal episode (weighing in at 98 minutes), as it combines four episodes of the series: “The New Padawan”, “Castle of Deception”, “Castle of Doom”, and “Castle of Salvation”. It does complete the storyline regarding Christophsis, and introduces Ashoka Tano, one of the most impactful and influential characters in Star Wars canon.
In addition to introducing Ashoka, the film also features the first canonical appearance of Whorm Loathsome (who was mentioned previously in “The Hidden Enemy”, but was not on screen until the feature film), as well as Jabba the Hutt's son, Rotta (who knew) and his uncle, Ziro (one of my least favorite characters in Star Wars). As far as new planets, Anakin and Ashoka's investigation into the kidnapping of Jabba's son brings them to the planet Teth.
The film suffers from a disjointed plot; however, this is no fault of the creators. George Lucas decided at the last minute to combine the first four episodes into a theatrical release, and this helped to result in a severe lack of enthusiasm from critics. However, In defense of Lucas, Dave Filoni, Henry Gilroy, etc., I believe many critics did not have context for the film. It is much different than any other Star Wars film, and this may have contributed to some of the confusion. Some may have anticipated a continuation of Revenge of the Sith, some may have not enjoyed the early animation style, some may have been thrown by the intro, or any number of rationales. It's difficult to say with any certainty.
In addition to critics, the film is still derided by some Star Wars fans for myriad reasons, not the least of which are those dreadful nicknames Ashoka and Anakin give to one another. However, it does feature some breathtaking visuals, incredible displays of Anakin's Force abilities, and a dramatic dual between Obi-Wan and Asajj Ventress, not to mention the voice talents of Samuel L. Jackson and the late Christopher Lee. Whatever side of the proverbial fence you reside, It's must see viewing for one specific reason: Ashoka Tano. Her burgeoning relationship with Anakin is the main catalyst for much of the Emmy winning series, and helps to reveal a softer, more legitimate side of Anakin than any of the other feature films provide.
Summary of the Episode
As mentioned above, this film is four episodes of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, and begins with the battle of Christophsis once again front and center. From the first two episodes of the television show, “Cat and Mouse” and “The Hidden Enemy”, the audience is familiar with how Obi-Wan and Anakin have ended up on this planet, as well as the impetus of this conflict. They need reinforcements, and get them in the form of more Republic gunships, as well as a new Padawan for Anakin, Ashoka Tano. While Anakin is resistant at first (much to the amusement of Obi-Wan), she meets his resistance with aplomb, talent, and determination, thereby winning him over.
Once the plot point of Christophsis is resolved, attention is turned towards the Hutt clan, as Count Dooku hatches a plan to capture Jabba's son, Rotta, in an attempt to frame the Jedi, and ensure that Jabba will close off trade routes in the Outer Rim. Anakin and Ashoka rush to Teth to rescue Rotta, only to met by the Droid Army and Asajj Ventress. Obi-Wan and Ventress have a spectacular dual, and match withs and quips, as well as lightsabers. She is a unique foil for Obi-Wan, and is a formidable opponent.
Through a series of events, Padme Amidala becomes involved, and attempts to use diplomacy to ensure that Jabba knows the Jedi are trying to help. This is where we meet Ziro the Hutt, an inexplicably purple Hutt who I found to be both annoying and tedious. He betrays Jabba and helps orchestrate the kidnapping with Dooku, in an attempt for both of them to gain power in their respective endeavors. We are treated to a confrontation between Anakin Skywalker and Count Dooku (the first of many in this series), and finally, through some subterfuge and cunning, Anakin and Ashoka return Rotta to Jabba, and their partnership is cemented. It is clear when each episode transitions to the next, even though it is packaged as one feature film. As a result, I suspect the irregular nature of the theatrical release of Star Wars: The Clone Wars contributed to some of the criticism, which has unfortunately followed the film to this day.
What this Episode means for Star Wars
The introduction of Ashoka to the canon is paramount to not only the success of the series, but to the future of Star Wars in animation. When it was first announced that Anakin would have a padawan, the result was a mixture of skepticism and bemusement. The Prequels were judged to be less than a success by a vocal minority, and this criticism was applied to Star Wars: The Clone Wars theatrical release as well. Fortunately, Ashoka did much to alter this criticism.
From her first appearance, Ashoka demonstrates why she and Anakin are such a compelling and formidable duo. They both are unconventional in practice (Anakin much more so, of course), but this allows for them to see things differently than the Jedi. Ashoka brings out the nurturing side of Anakin that was severely lacking with his own children, and Anakin provides Ashoka with a powerful, laser-focussed master that continually (and sometimes inadvertently) encourages her to think for herself. This helps to perpetuate who Ashoka is and will serve her well throughout her arc.
The film also resonates, as it reintroduces Padme, Count Dooku, Mace Windu, and many more familiar faces to the animated Star Wars universe. One thing that I have always appreciated about the Clone Wars is that it fleshes out many of these characters much more clearly than the Prequels, and helps initiate much more empathy and context for the power of Order 66, the fall of the Republic, and the rise of Palpatine. This is also the moment when fans were drawn to Asajj Ventress, an excellent foil for Ashoka Tano, and a compelling character in her own right. While there is much that falls flat for the theatrical release, the addition of these two to the canon is more than enough to keep fans interested. Star Wars is better off for it.
Themes Present in the Theatrical Release
Normally, the fortune cookie, or quote, that starts at the beginning of each episode focusses on a theme present in the show. However, there is not one provided for the theatrical release. This does not mean that no theme is present. Quite the opposite, in fact. Two in particular stand out, which are harbingers of the entire series.
The first one focusses on the rise of friendship, as well as the untruth that first impressions can provide. When Anakin Skywalker first meets Ashoka Tano, he sees her as an inept child that will only hold him back from the Clone Wars. Once Ashoka proves herself both wise, as well as formidable in battle, Anakin begin to open himself up to a new point of view. She helps to humanize him, and their relationship is what truly drew me to Anakin in a way I did not expect.
Ashoka is much younger than Anakin, and is also a bit rash and impetuous, but in a much more focussed manner. She seeks to prove herself to Anakin, but not at the risk of losing herself in the process. This is one trait she manages to avoid throughout her tutelage with her master. Her journey is among the finest in storytelling, and adds texture to Anakin in a way that his relationship with Padme never truly did (at least for me).
The second is the power of deceit, and the harm it causes not only to the recipient, but often to the wielder as well. Both Count Dooku and Ziro seek to disenfranchise Jabba from the wishes of the Jedi and the Republic, and foster only malice and cruel intentions. Naturally, neither is successful, and both have their plans foiled. This is just a sampling of the machinations of Count Dooku, an extremely potent wielder of the Dark side of the Force, who, in a turn of dramatic irony, will be a victim of the deceit and cruelty he is so willing to inflict on the galaxy.
Two down (this is not included in the countdown, as it is the theatrical release), one hundred and nineteen to go! Up next is “Clone Cadets”, episode 301 (3:01). Happy viewing!Powered by Sidelines