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Star Wars: The Clone Wars (Volume 1) Review

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Let go of your conscious self and it’s tons of fun

★★★★

Nearly ten years after he began gambling With his legacy, George Lucas has at last landed upon a format that wholeheartedly succeeds as a basis for canonical Star Wars stories. As supervised by director Dave Filoni, the 21-part animated series, subtitled A Galaxy Divided (four episodes are presented here), may not render the fabled Clone Wars to the fever dream specifications of man-child fans, but judged on its own terms this terrific tweenager ’toon is the best argument for continued merchandise sales in a generation.

The success of these half-hour divertissements is all the more remarkable when you consider the amount of baggage Filoni and his animators have been saddled with. Sandwiched between Episodes II and III, Clone Wars needs to honour dunderheaded storylines like Anakin’s secret marriage and find screen time for unloved characters, including that floppy fella from Naboo. More to the point, most right-minded people have quite simply had enough of all this nonsense by now.

This much was obvious last summer when film critics, a fraternity that has been on the losing side since 1983, rounded upon the theatrical release of what was basically a bloated TV pilot with astonishing savagery. And yet, freed from the dubious honour of watching “a new Star Wars movie”, it is absolutely possible for unrepentant kidults to enjoy The Clone Wars as a rather wizzy new TV show that just happens to enjoy the kind of cinematic scale and technical accomplishment you would normally associate with, well, a new Star Wars movie.

The Clone Wars TV series is not markedly superior to the Clone Wars movie, but any nagging reservations about the visual style are blown away once you gobble it up in small screen-bites — this could well be the best-looking cartoon show of all time. And although the stories are something of a mixed bag, the half-hour format, appended by the odd cliffhanger, is as perfect a match for the material as you would expect of a universe built squarely on the foundations of Saturday-morning serials.

So far, an arc for Anakin that would explain his journey to the Dark Side has been sadly missed in favour of morality-101 banter with his perky Padawan, but important new wrinkles to the EU (Expanded Universe) are being folded into the formula. Best in show are the clone troopers who, like henchmen in Austin Powers, have a human face for the first time. Rookies, a later episode where the troopers get the screen all to themselves, vividly demonstrates just how much life there is left in the Star Wars brand once you unpin it from all that mythic freight.

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