Star Wars Forces of Destiny Review: “Sands of Jakku”

Star Wars Forces of Destiny Review: “Sands of Jakku”

***This is a review of “Sands of Jakku,” the first episode in the Star Wars Forces of Destiny animated micro-series. There will be spoilers.***

They’re finally here! After being announced first at Star Wars Celebration in Orlando this past spring, Star Wars Forces of Destiny has arrived with its first episode, “Sands of Jakku,” featuring an adventure with Rey and BB-8. If you have not seen the episode yet, you can see it now on Disney’s YouTube Channel.

These new animated shorts are very much in the tradition of the Star Wars: Clone Wars micro-series that ran for three seasons on the Cartoon Network, from 2003-2005. Clone Wars and Forces of Destiny are stories told in bite-sized chunks that run between two-three minutes. You wouldn’t think much territory would be covered in such a brief time. However, if you watched Clone Wars, you know that’s a misleading assumption. This first episode of Forces of Destiny is filled to the brim with Star Wars goodness.

The episode opens with narration by Maz Kanata (Star Wars: The Force Awakens), voiced wonderfully by Lupita Nyong’o. After the title sequence, it transitions into a scene that picks up right after Rey — also impeccably voiced by original TFA cast member, Daisy Ridley — agrees to take BB-8 in for the night in The Force Awakens. As in the film, she’s not thrilled with the idea of having the little droid tag along, but it’s a temporary situation. Or so she thinks.

It’s not long before the duo realize they’re being stalked by a Nightwatcher Worm. BB-8 would make a tasty treat for the creature, so Rey knows they need to be on the move — and fast. Turns out, the Nightwatcher Worm is a bit like an iceberg. There’s much more to this creature lurking just below the sand’s surface. Rey’s quick thinking, and skill with her staff, spares the pair, albeit momentarily.

Not one to be deterred, the creature again sets its sights on BB-8. In a scene that nicely calls back to Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back and R2-D2’s close encounter with an underwater creature on Dagobah, BB-8 looks to be doomed. Rey is also someone who is not easily deterred, and she knows how these creatures operate — or at least enough so that she’s able to anticipate its movements. Once again, her skill with a staff pays off and BB-8 is spared a gruesome fate.

Rey is also kind, and she knows the Nightwatcher has probably not eaten — and she also knows how much effort goes into keeping one’s self fed on a harsh world, such as Jakku. With BB-8 safely out of reach, Rey makes sure the creature gets sustenance.

The episode clocks in at just under three minutes. As you can see, though, that’s ample time to share in an exciting adventure with some of our beloved Star Wars characters.

My impressions of this first episode of Star Wars Forces of Destiny? I’m very pleased. I’ll admit, I wasn’t sure what to expect. While I love the characters featured, none of them are my favorites. (Well, except for BB-8. Love me some BB-8!) Without the likes of Luke Skywalker, Cassian Andor, or Kylo Ren, would I really care enough to see these stories through, or feel invested enough to look forward to new episodes? Short answer: Yes.

The animation was crisp and clear, and I appreciated the style. I grew up on 2D animation, so it was a nice change of pace from the more ‘modern’ look you’ve seen in Star Wars: The Clone Wars or Star Wars Rebels. The production value was more than I expected for an online video series, and the characterizations of Rey and BB-8 rang true. This could easily have been a deleted scene straight out of The Force Awakens. The addition of musical cues from John Williams’ score for TFA immerses you even further into this little tale. (UPDATE: I’ve learned the episodes are being scored by Ryan Shore. Nicely done!)

According to the Star Wars Twitter account, these little shorts are canon. Like many other canon stories, they’re not required to enjoy the films — but they are a neat addition to the ever-expanding galaxy far, far away. Future episodes will premiere every day this week — culminating in their collected broadcast debut on the Disney Channel, Sunday, July 9 — and will feature even more of the heroines of Star Wars.

If for some reason you’re on the fence about checking out these shorts — and I’ve seen much hesitation expressed online — set aside your reservations and dive in. Seriously. If the rest are as fun as “Sands of Jakku” — and I have no doubt they will be — you’ll be missing out on something special. Two to three minutes out of a busy day will be time well-spent, I assure you.

To catch each episode as it debuts, be sure to subscribe to Disney’s YouTube Channel.

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