Star Wars Rebels Season 2 Trailer!

At the Star Wars Celebration Rebels panel they debuted the trailer for Season 2 of Rebels.  Again, more great work from Dave Filoni and company.  For Clone Wars fans the trailer features the return of Captain Rex and that villainous pirate Hondo Ohnaka.  Looks to be a great season!

The Clone Wars Era – Out With a Bang and a Whimper

Lost Missions Blu-RayThis week marked the end of an era for many Star Wars fans with the release of Star Wars: The Clone Wars – Lost Missions on Blu-Ray/DVD, as well as the long promised soundtrack to the series.  Clone Wars was the last project with direct involvement and input from Saga creator, George Lucas. While Lost Missions has been available for some time via Netflix and other video on demand services, finally owning the episodes on physical media gave me a feeling of closure about the series; as if I was saying goodbye to an old friend..

It would be nice if Lucasfilm/Disney would revisit this era, and these characters from time to time through books, comics, and future home video releases, but outside of an announced Ventress novel for 2015 I’m not entirely hopeful.  While having the final season of the show in the best available quality makes for a wonderful home video experience, there’s a sense that both the release of the Blu-Ray set and the soundtrack were produced on the cheap as a quick cash grab,

Star Wars: The Clone Wars – Lost Missions Blu-Ray Review

The Episodes:

Jar Jar and MaceI will eventually write individual reviews for most of the major arcs of Clone Wars; so this will simply be a brief overview of what is presented on the Lost Missions disc set.  The 13 episodes on this set would have been broadcast in future seasons of The Clone Wars.  Fortunately these episode where either complete, or near completion, when Disney decided to pull the plug on the show.  The episodes are part of 4 story arcs, and frankly there’s not a bad episode in the bunch.  The show really went out with a bang.

EmboThe Clovis and Jar Jar Binks stories are certainly weaker than the Order 66 arc that opens the set, and they pale in comparison to the final Yoda arc, but they are entertaining episodes nevertheless.  However, the real meat of this set is the opening and closing arcs of this truncated “season” of Clone Wars.

ClonesThe Order 66 arc is a 1970s political conspiracy film, complete with double crosses and underhanded political machinations.  A growing sense of paranoia takes over the mood of the story as our hero, the Clone Trooper known as “Fives,” slowly begins to uncover a plot to turn the Clone Troopers against their Jedi generals.  Lucas once again does an amazing job of using truth as a blunt force weapon against the Jedi.  Fives eventually uncovers the Emperor’s ultimate aims to destroy the Jedi using a secret encoded chip inside each Clone Troopers brain, but the Jedi simply will not believe him, and dismiss his suspicions as the delusional fantasies of a Clone gone mad.  This arc, and the first part of the Yoda arc, reveal the mystery behind Jedi Master Sifo-Dyas and the creation of the Clone Army adding deeper layers to the mystery surrounding the genesis of the Clones as recounted in Attack of the Clones.

Yoda & The PriestessesFinally, The Clone Wars series officially concludes with the mesmerizing, and thought provoking Yoda arc, guest starring Liam Neeson as Qui-Gon Jinn.  During a deep Jedi meditation, Yoda hears the voice of Qui-Gon which urges him to go to Dagobah where Yoda will begin training for the next phase of his Jedi walk.  Qui-Gon explains that he will teach the venerable Jedi Master the secrets of manifesting his consciousnesses after death.  Yoda’s journey leads him to the center of the galaxy where five Force Priestesses (played beautifully by Jaime King) teach him the deepest secrets of the Force, and how the Cosmic Force and Living Force intertwine with the midichlorians creating life, and allowing for those strong in the Force to communicate with it and understand its will.

It is wonderfully deep, spiritual trip which reinforces how short sighted the Jedi Order truly is, and how they only have a narrow minded understanding of the true nature of the Force.  The arc touches on themes of religious dogmatic belief versus spiritual truth and expands the Force in ways that I hope are further examined in the Sequel Trilogy.

Presentation:

Joel AronThe high definition Blu-Ray release of Lost Missions highlights how far the show had come from its humble beginnings with its cinematic premiere and the premiere episode, “Ambush.”  What really stood out with the series was its cinematic feel, from lighting, editing, and finally to camera moves.  The show literally looks and feels like a weekly Star Wars movie which just happens to be animated.  The work of stellar Lucasfilm Animation supervisor, Joel Aron is on full display in the show’s 1080p presentation.  Shadows are deep and rich, and the show’s expansive color palette gives Clone Wars its own sense of reality and and gives establishing shots an almost photo-realistic look.

Matt & DavidNot to be outdone though is the exceptional sound effects work on the show thanks to the efforts of Star Wars veterans, Matt Wood and David Acord.  The Dolby 5.1 track highlights the amazing volume of work these two sound effects wizards brought to the series each week.  The sound is immersive and dynamic, immediately transporting the viewer to that galaxy far away.  Meanwhile, Kevin Kiner’s brilliant music adds emotional weight, and appropriate dramatic tension to every scene. Lost Missions, like all Star Wars releases, does not skimp on presentation,making for a complete movie-going-like experience for the viewer.

Extras:

Unfortunately, Lost Missions, like a lot of other Disney home video releases, is short on extras and bonus features.  Gone are the Jedi Temple Archives which had been on previous sets and gave fans options to look at pre-visualization work, production sketches, character models, and extended or deleted sequences.  Previous sets had also included little mini-documentaries highlighting the making of some of the more important arcs in the series.  Fortunately, what little there is in the way of bonus features is quite good.

Crystal CrisisThe set includes the unfinished four part Crystal Crisis on Utapau arc which was previously available on the Star Wars Official Site.  The episodes have completed vocal work, as well as music and sound effects; the only incomplete parts of the episodes is the animation.  So in a sense you are getting to watch the episodes from the perspective of George Lucas, who would see the the near complete episodes in this state before offering his recommendations, and any changes he wanted to see.  It’s a nice experience, and the vocal performances by Matt Lanter (Anakin) and James Arnold Taylor (Obi-Wan) are so good (frankly some of their best work on the show) that you quickly get lost in the story and forget you are watching an unfinished work.

However, the real stand out among the extras on this set is the amazing 16 minute documentary chronicling the people behind the show.  Due to its limited run time, the creators of this short make the smart decision of choosing to focus on one aspect of the show rather than trying to cram in a 6 season overview in only 16 minutes.  You can really feel the sense of nostalgia and loss among some of the Lucasfilm Animation employees featured in this short.  We are treated to some really wonderful insider secrets such as the annual Lucasfilm Animation Christmas Pot Luck which was affectionately renamed Pouchonica after Pouchon Venerin, one of the animators who arranged the yearly get together.  There is a tremendous sense of camaraderie found throughout the interviews of the Lucasfilm animators, and it is no wonder so many of them stayed on to work on Rebels.

The documentary concludes with a touching tribute of the final day of work on the show.  Joel Aron, animation supervisor, took a series of very powerful portraits of the crew.  These pictures are raw and filled with the conflicted emotions of the staff.  You can find Joel Aron’s amazing Lucasfilm Animation portraits here.  This finale is a touching tribute to the staff’s love of Star Wars, and their dedication to George Lucas, and his vision.

My only complaint about this particular extra is that it feels like one part of a larger documentary chronicling the series.  The Clone Wars really deserves a proper documentary exploring the genesis of the show, from designs, to casting, as well as a deeper examination of key moments of the series.  Hopefully, some day the show will get a complete series release along with some new bonus features for fans of the show.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars Seasons 1-6 Original Soundtrack Review

Clone Wars SoundtrackThis week also saw the release of the long promised Clone Wars series soundtrack.  Unfortunately, the album is only 1 hour in length, spaced over 28 tracks.  The soundtrack is more or less a “Greatest Hits” collection gathering some of Kiner’s best work over 6 seasons.  My biggest gripe with this release is that many of the album’s tracks were previously available to listen to on Kevin Kiner’s official web site for free, and many enterprising fans have simply ripped the music, creating their own Clone Wars soundtracks.  And with 6 seasons worth of episodes to choose from, this soundtrack was bound to be missing some of Kiner’s best work from the series.

Kevin KinerHaving said that, what is actually presented in this collection is nothing short of outstanding.  The album contains some brilliant work from Kiner, including some of the best moments from Season 5 of the show.  Some of the more exceptional tracks are taken from the final Ahsoka arc.  Some pieces, like Duel in the Temple, Ahsoka Leaves, and Jedi Eulogy are as good as much of John Williams work.  Other standout tracks include the final duel music between the Emperor, Darth Maul, and Savage Oppress.  This piece is driven by Kiner’s pulsating rhythms, underscored by  classic Star Wars motifs.  Finally, one of George Lucas’ demands from Kiner when scoring the show was that each planet the series visited had to have its own theme based on ethnic and regional music found throughout the real world.  Tracks such as Rodia, and Jedi Master Aayla Secura, highlight Kiner’s amazing skill and deft ability at giving each new world it’s own “voice.”

I certainly hope this is not the final compilation of Clone Wars music we will be able to get our hands on.

Overview

Yoda vs SideousBoth the Blu-Ray release of the Lost Missions, and the series soundtrack are outstanding releases, but both releases also highlight Disney’s dismissive attitude about the series… after all it wasn’t created in house, so it isn’t their baby.  Unfortunately, that leaves fans of the show with two releases that come across as quick money grabs rather than a celebration of the importance of The Clone Wars series in both the lore of Star Wars, and as the property which carried the Star Wars banner for 5 years, and introduced new fans to the Star Wars universe.

These complaints aside, both releases get my highest recommendation.  The Blu-Ray release, despite the lack of extras, tells some of the finest Star Wars stories to date, and answers many questions fans have had about the nature of the Force, give more insights into characters from the Prequels, and provide closure to many loose plot threads.  Meanwhile, Kevin Kiner’s series soundtrack is chock full of classic Star Wars music and features highlights from some of The Clone Wars finest moments.  I wish the set included more cues, but hopefully those were saved for a future release.

You can order Star Wars: The Clone Wars – Lost Missions Blu-Ray set here

You can also order the Clone Wars Season 1-6 Soundtrack here

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May the Force Be With You

Clone Wars Review – Ambush

Season 1 Episode 1 – Ambush – Elegant Simplicity

Action YodaFrom time to time I plan on revisiting The Clone Wars animated series and review selected episodes that really stand out to me.  I hope these reviews will encourage readers who have not watched The Clone Wars to seek out the show and give it a chance.  There are a number of wonderful episodes which rival even the movies in terms of story, character and thematic content.  One of those episodes is the show’s premiere episode, Ambush.

Fortune Cookie: Each episode of the show kicked off with a text of some important saying or pearl of wisdom replacing the standard “A long time ago…” title card.  These little nuggets became known as “Fortune Cookies” and were meant to quickly encapsulate the moral of each episode for young viewers.  This particular episode starts off with:

“Great leaders inspire greatness in others…”

It’s a strong message peppered throughout this episode.

As our story begins, Master Yoda and a convoy of Republic ships are en route to one of the moons of Toydaria, Rugosa, where the Jedi Master plans to meet with Toydarian King Katuunko to negotiate the construction of a base to protect the system from the forces of the Separatists.  Unfortunately the convoy is intercepted by the forces of Separatist leader, Count Dooku, and Yoda, along with three Clone Troopers are forced to use an escape pod to land on Rugosa so Yoda can make this important meeting.

VentressMeanwhile the Separatist army, led by Dooku’s secret apprentice, Ventress, arrive on the planet and intercept the King and strongly suggest he join the Separatist cause.  Ventress claims Yoda is dead, and the Republic is too weak to protect his world. However, the King says he is a man of his word, and still plans to at least meet with the Jedi Master.  He offers a counter proposal; if Yoda can still make the negotiations in person, and get past the Separatist army, he will join the Republic, if Yoda fails he will side with Dooku.  The evil Count agrees to the terms and the race is on.

Over the course of the next 15 minutes we are treated to a light-hearted, exciting adventure as Yoda leads three Clone Troopers through a gauntlet of sometimes dangerous, sometimes inept Separatist battle droids.  Yoda’s expertise with the lightsaber, and brilliant tactical keep our heroes out of harms way.  His wisdom inspires the Clone Troopers who manage to save the Jedi Master in the end when he is trapped.Yoda_the_great_warrior

Of course Dooku has no intentions of abiding by his deal with the Toydarian King and orders Ventress to dispose of him, but Yoda and the clones arrive just in time, and the old Jedi Master disarms the young Sith apprentice who turns tail and escapes.

Ambush is a quaint little adventure and a strong kick off to the show with a strong message for young viewers: Regardless of your size, your ability, or your circumstances, we all have a destiny; and if you listen to the wisdom of those around you, you can accomplish things you did not even think you were capable of.

The Good:

Yoda speaksFor years voice over artist Tom Kane had been the official Lucasfilm voice of Yoda for work in video games, commercials, and other animated projects so it was only natural that he would carry on as the venerable Jedi Master in The Clone Wars.  Kane’s performance is simply stunning, and he inhabits the role in a way that feels familiar and fresh.  Kane’s Yoda has a younger sound and the character feels more like he did in his first appearance back in 1980 in The Empire Strikes Back.  There’s a sense of humor and playfulness that was missing during the Prequel era.  But Yoda is not all fun and games; there is also an amazing amount of depth and humanity Kane brings to the part.  In one standout moment, Yoda speaks with each of the clones calling them by their name.  He explains to them that while they are the same they are individuals with their own destinies, and just like all life, are tied to the Force.  It is a powerful moment with a very important lesson for young viewers.

Clone Wars design team and writers do a great job of making each of the Clone Troopers distinguishable from each other, but it is really the vocal performance of Dee Bradley Baker that breaths life into Thire, Jek, and Rys.  Somehow Baker is able to give each Trooper his own distinctive style and manner of speech which elevates these troops from mere clones to individual human beings.  Baker’s talents are stretched in further in episodes later on in the series when he is given even more troops to characterize on screen.  His work only makes the betrayal by the Clones during Order 66 in Revenge of the SIth even more heartbreaking.Yoda and Clones

Kevin Kiner had an insane task ahead of him, and somehow he managed to come through with flying colors.  When George Lucas approached Kiner to score the series he had two demands:  Each planet the show visited was to have its own musical sound influenced by real earth cultures, and Kiner was to refrain for using the Williams library of Star Wars music as much as possible.  Kiner had to develop his own musical style for the show, and turned to both his background in rock music and his experience as a traditional film and television composer.  In the early episodes of the series Kiner’s work has an original sound that feels different, but right for the Star Wars universe.  However, Ambush makes ample, yet restrained, use of the Yoda Theme throughout the episode to great effect.  This episode’s score is both familiar and new, and works beautifully.

The Bad:

YodaThere’s really not a lot to criticize about Ambush.  It’s a wonderful story with a solid script and great vocal performances.  If there is one weak area with the series during its freshman season it is the animation.  Characters are not nearly as detailed as their models in subsequent seasons (or even later in the first season), and their movements are not nearly as fluid; so this might be a little jarring for new viewers who might be binge watching.  However, the unique stylized visuals make for a very interesting looking show reminiscent of the old Thunderbirds marionette series from the 60s; it certainly stands out from other animated shows of the era.

Overview:  Ambush is a terrific premiere to what would become a multiple Emmy Award winning show, and would introduce new fans to the Star Wars Saga, while keeping the fire alive for older fans.  Ambush is filled with action, humor, and some wonderful character moments which help elevate the Clone Troopers from simple soldiers indistinguishable from each other to individuals with their own ambitions (this will become an important theme as the series goes on).  Of course Yoda is the heart of this episode, and Tom Kane’s performance injects a playful impishness we have not seen from the venerable Jedi Master since The Empire Strikes Back.  And while this story is fairly simple and straightforward, there’s a certain elegance to Ambush’s simplicity.

8 of 10

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May the Force Be With You

Ahsoka Tano – On the Path of the Hero’s Journey

Ahsoka Tano was introduced to audiences in August 2008 with the theatrical release of The Clone Wars movie.  Over the course of five subsequent seasons she became a fan favorite, especially among younger viewers who identified with the scrappy, yet vulnerable Padawan Learner of Jedi Knight, Anakin Skywalker.  What’s that you say, you didn’t know Anakin was a master to a young apprentice?  Well, for a brief time he was between the events of Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith.    Initially, Aksoka could come across a little headstrong, and she was certainly impulsive, but as the show evolved, so did she. She eventually developed into her own person, influenced by her master’s lessons, but an independent, strong young woman capable of incredible feats of courage, and blessed with an enormous resolve she showed from the beginning.

Through Ahsoka’s growth as a character we see her following the classic mythological pattern of the hero’s journey.  Her path is one of transition from childhood to early adolescence, early adolescence to young adult, and young adult to woman.  The journey is fraught with danger and excitement, and intense testing and trials, with Ahsoka being forced to embrace adult decisions and living with the consequences of them… She’s one of my favorite characters from the entire Saga.

So what is this “hero’s journey,” and what does it have to do with Star Wars, and more specifically, Ahsoka?  Good questions.  So, let’s take a quick look at some of the materials that influenced George Lucas during the writing of the original film, examine how his encounter with the works of anthropologist Joseph Campbell forever altered the course of the Saga, and how all of this ties into a certain young Padawan.

Star Wars is often dismissed by critics as popcorn entertainment, mindless fun, or shallow; to the casual viewer they see Star Wars as nothing more than your standard summer movie fare.  While there is certainly an element of truth to these criticisms, if you only take the Saga at face value, digging a little deeper into its characters and themes of the series reveals something far more substantial.

One of the reasons fans are so attracted to the Saga is there is something familiar about it.  Something resonates with them; whether it’s the journey of Luke Skywalker, longing to escape the confines of home and find his place in the universe, or Anakin’s struggles with temptation, and his desires to control things and people around him as he slips further and further to the Dark Side. While fans are limited to the confines of this earth and will never blow up the Death Star, or face a Dark Lord of the Sith, they have their own dreams and wrestle with their own demons.  Star Wars fans see a reflection of themselves in these characters and project their own hopes, dreams, and experiences on those characters.  And that is why Star Wars endures, for fans; it has passed beyond mere pop culture and has been elevated to modern myth.  And that is why I find Star Wars so infinitely engaging.

As I mentioned in my first blog entry, I grew up on myth and legend.  I reveled in the tales of Hercules, Jason and the Argonauts, the Norse gods, Robin Hood, and King Arthur.  Even as a young boy, I subconsciously made the connection between Star Wars and these grand stories passed down through history.  And as I read books and magazine articles about the making of Star Wars I discovered that was intentional; Star Wars creator George Lucas was trying to create a modern fairy tale using many of the same themes and motifs found throughout ancient mythology. During the course of writing his epic, Lucas came across the works of anthropologist and scholar, Joseph Campbell.

Campbell had written numerous scholarly comparative studies of mythology as well as world religions.  Some of these works include, The Hero With a Thousand Faces and The Masks of God. Campbell concluded that regardless of a culture’s history, or their region, that all myths and folktales passed down through the centuries, shared a familiar pattern.  He labeled this pattern the “Hero’s Journey,” or monomyth, and summarized it as this:

“A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.”  The Hero With a Thousand Faces

Lucas had struggled putting all of his grand ideas into a cohesive story when he came across Campbell’s work:

It was very eerie because in reading The Hero with a Thousand Faces I began to realize that my first draft of Star Wars was following classic motifs. So I modified my next draft according to what I’d been learning about classical motifs and made it a little bit more consistent.” – George Lucas

Like the ancient storytellers from our past, Lucas was crafting a story, for a modern audience, that was relatable and invited viewers on a journey of self discovery, revealing universal truths about the human experience along the way.  The Saga is filled with characters walking this hero’s journey, encountering both friends and obstacles along the way, all the while trying to navigate this path to ultimately fulfill their destiny.  An example of one of those heroes on this journey is Padawan Ahsoka Tano.  Ahsoka may have been a character on a children’s animated show, but Lucas understood that he had new, younger viewers and through Ahsoka he could encourage children to take their own steps on this hero’s journey.

Ahsoka’s path from childhood to adulthood reflects many of the 17 stages of the hero’s journey chronicled by Campbell, but I want to break down three events in particular which highlight the hero’s journey, and demonstrate clearly that Lucas is inviting audiences to dig a little deeper.  While The Clone Wars was always jam packed with action, the show was always layered with deeper thematic meanings specifically aimed at kids, and the obstacles they would face down the road.

In The Clone Wars movie, Master Yoda assigns Ahsoka to Anakin to train as his Padawan learner.  Yoda’s hope is that Anakin will learn patience by training a strong willed, impulsive, and brash student just like Anakin.  Initially, Ahsoka comes off as a little bratty and mouthy (in the first few episodes of the show she calls her master “Skyguy”), and at times even questions the decisions of her superiors, but as her adventures continue, she settles down and shows herself to be dependable and courageous.  However, as a young learner she is unsure of herself and lacks confidence, often questioning her own decisions, and this is where her hero’s journey is revealed.  It’s not so much a journey to become a full fledged Jedi; hers is a path toward adolescence and adulthood.  Lucas, and Supervising Director, Dave Filoni, are using character of Ahsoka to explain to young viewers that while life can look scary, and while you may often doubt yourself, you need to trust in yourself and your training (i.e., advise from adults), and in that way you can overcome your fear.

In the thrilling episode, Weapons Factory, Ahsoka comes face to face with her first major step in her hero’s journey; the transition from childhood to early adolescence.  Campbell explains that in all myth there are any number of 17 stages along this journey.  Few myths actually contain all 17 stages; most do not, and some only use a handful, choosing one or two stages along the path.  Weapons Factory, focuses on two stages: Crossing the Threshold and Belly of the Whale. 

According to Campbell, a hero will often reach a threshold crossing; a point at which the hero leaves their safe surroundings and steps forward into a strange and dangerous realm.  Weapons Factory concludes the Battle of Point Rain on Geonosis.  Jedi and Republic forces have reached deep inside the defenses of the Geonosians and have their primary droid and weapons manufacturing plant surround.  But Republic losses are mounting, and it is left to Jedi Master Luminara Undulli and Anakin to devise a plan.  The Jedi agree that they will engage the Geonosians while Ahsoka, and Luminara’s Padawan, Barriss Offee, sneak into the weapons plant to destroy it.

It is a strange, and unsettling environment and the young Padawan’s are under constant threat of discovery.  As the stakes get higher, Offee appears to wilt under the pressure, but Ahsoka steps in and makes decisions which ultimate save their lives.  During a protracted battle the two young Padawans take shelter inside a droid battle tank.  They are eventually surrounded and Ahsoka makes the command decision to detonate their explosives.

Here, in the Belly of the Whale (in this case a tank), the two Padawan’s await their fate.  The Belly of the Whale refers to a specific moment in a myth when the hero is separated from the known world, choosing to undergo a change.  Following the explosion the Padwans are trapped in the rubble of the factory.  Undulli believes the Padawans are lost, but Anakin refuses to quite looking.  Like her master, Ahsoka never quits, and manufactures a makeshift comlink to let her master know she’s alive.  Ahsoka emerges from the tank transformed. Gone is a lot of the self doubt and indecision; she’s no longer a child.

As Season 2 and 3 unfold, Ahsoka is given more responsibility, and more opportunities to lead.  Her opinion is often taken into account, but she is still young and inexperienced.  While she shows tremendous courage in the face of danger, she has really not confronted death. or hopelessness, but that all is about to change in one of the finest Star Wars stories ever told, the two-part Season 3 finale Padawan Lost.

During a mission on Felucia, Ahsoka is stunned and kidnapped by Trandoshians.  She is spirited to a remote Trandoshian moon and dropped off to be sport for hunters.  Again she is separated from her master and this time is placed on the Road of Trials which she must navigate or die.  Campbell points out that many heroes are put on a Road of Trials, a series of grueling and dangerous test which often stretch the hero to their limits.  Ahsoka eventually finds a group of Jedi Younglings who were kidnapped long ago.  Stripped of their will to live, they encourage her to give up any dreams of escape (i.e.,give up the journey); theirs is a day to day struggle just to live. But again, Ahsoka demonstrates her indomitable spirit, and willingness to fight to the death, and plans her attack.

In the latter stages of the hero’s journey, the hero returns from their ordeal, sometimes with outside help called the Rescue From Without. In this case her rescue comes from that lovable furball, Chewbacca.  Chewie gives Ahsoka and the Younglings a needed physical advantage, as well as technological help.  Chewie eventually repairs a piece of damaged communications equipment which allows the group to send for help.  But again, Ahsoka finds herself in another Belly of the Whale moment when she is forced to confront the viscous leader of the Trandoshians, Garnac, alone.  To save herself, she is left with no choice but to use the Force to push Garnac over a railing to his death.  She has once again transformed.  No longer able to simply stand by on the sidelines, or await orders from Anakin or Obi-Wan, Ahsoka is an active agent, making life or death decisions for herself, and those around her.  She is no longer a young, naive teenager; she is starting to grow into adulthood, making adult decisions along the way.

Again we see her confidence grow as she assumes a more active role on the show.  In both the Onderon arc and Younglings arc she demonstrates her leadership ability and new found confidence making necessary snap decisions.  But even as she continues toward the inevitable goal of adulthood, and her quest to become a Jedi Knight, dark forces conspire against her, compelling her into a decision which will change her life forever.

In the final arc of Season 5, Ahsoka is accused of conspiring with Separatists to blow up the Jedi Temple.  The evidence against her is strong.  She is accused of murder, and  interfering in an investigation.  But Ahsoka is innocent, and is being set up by an unseen conspirator.  Ahsoka briefly escapes from jail believing her master is helping her clear her name.  In truth she is being helped by the conspirator who plans to spring one last surprise.  Arriving at a loading dock Ahsoka finds a batch of the same type of explosives used in a terrorist attack on the temple; she is caught red-handed by Republic troops.

In order to allow a trial to proceed the Jedi strip the young Padawan of her rank and she is removed from the Order; she faces the ultimate punishment; execution for crimes against the Republic.  The only Jedi who still stands with her is Anakin who refuses to believe she is involved in such a heinous act.  He eventually exposes the conspirator, and Ahsoka is set free.  Returning to the Jedi Temple she is offered her place back in the Order as Anakin’s Padawan.  Mace Windu even suggests this event may have been her Jedi Trial, suggesting she will be given Knight status soon.  But Ahsoka refuse, telling Anakin that she needs to find her own way now.

This is the final stage in the hero’s journey; The Freedom to Live. She has finally left childhood and adolescence behind, and makes an adult choice.  She knows their will be consequences that come with her decision, but she is now free with no anticipation of the future, or ties to the past.  She has grown before our eyes from a wide-eyed, headstrong, impulsive young girl, to a morally strong, even tempered, mature young woman.

In the end, Ahsoka made the right choice; the only choice that was left to her.  When she needed the Jedi Order the most they turned their backs on her and branded her a traitor in spite of her unwavering loyalty and willingness to sacrifice herself for the Order.  Ultimately, the Order’s view of Ahsoka was probably based more on a suspicion of Anakin than Ahsoka herself, so it was probably in her best interests to leave.  In an unaired episode of the Clone Wars, Obi-Wan argues that Ahsoka’s decision to leave was an emotional one based on passion, not reason.  I disagree.  Obi-Wan, like the rest of the Order had become clouded in their thinking.  While the Order effectively welcomed Ahsoka back with open arms they completely disregarded her argument; it should never have come to this in the first place.  Ahsoka is the ultimate people-pleaser, always wanting to do the right thing; by turning their backs on her, the Order placed self-doubt in Ahsoka’s mind which was a tremendous step backward for her.  It was time to make the adult decision and leave the nest. Hopefully, she was able to find peace in a life away from the final stages of the Clone Wars, and I hope we revisit her in Star Wars Rebels some day.

Ahsoka Tano will go down as one of the most important characters in the Star Wars Saga.  For 5 years she was the heart of The Clone Wars and gave young girls and boys an important hero they could relate to.  As she transitioned from childhood to adolescence, and finally to young adulthood, many of her fans would be making that journey with her.  In my own experience, my youngest daughter, Kiersten, began watching the show when she was 13.  By the time the show ended she was now an 18 year old young woman getting ready to graduate from high school and make the transition to college.  It was a profound experience to watch Ahsoka grow and mature like my daughter.

So thank you George for the gift of Ahsoka and for giving young fans new stories and adventures that can be passed on to future generations.  In a world filled with mystery and uncertainty, myth can help children cope with the unknown and realize there is a world outside waiting for them if they will only take their first step on the path of their own hero’s journey.

May the Force Be With You…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clone Wars Season 6: The Lost Missions Coming to Blu-Ray!

Lost MissionsThe fine folks over at Stitch Kingdom are reporting that Clone Wars Season 6: The Lost Missions, is coming to Blu-Ray and DVD on November 11th, just in time for the Holidays!

Amazon is apparently taking pre-orders!

If you’re a fan of the show, complete your collection.  If you haven’t watched the show, then what are you waiting for?  Clone Wars: Lost Missions is available to stream on Netflix, and can be purchased to download through an array of Video-On-Demand services.

May the Force Be With You

The Clone Wars – A Family Legacy

The Clone WarsIn 2008 George Lucas introduced a new chapter in the Star Wars Saga, the animated show The Clone Wars. From 2008-2013 the further adventures of Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi aired on Friday evenings on Cartoon Network, later moving to Saturday mornings.  Following the Disney acquisition of Lucasfilm there was speculation whether the show would either be cancelled or moved to one of the Disney cable channels.  Unfortunately, Disney chose the former, and on March 2nd, 2013 after five successful seasons the final episode of the series aired.  Disney later announced a truncated sixth season, dubbed the Lost Missions, which streamed on Netflix and other video on demand services.

Over the course of one theatrical film and 121 half hour episodes, George Lucas and series Supervising Director, Dave Filoni were able to expand on themes only hinted about in the Prequel Trilogy, and had the creative freedom to take the Saga in new directions, and experiment stylistically , stretching the show’s boundaries. The Clone Wars demonstrated that the Star Wars universe was capable of of being a vehicle for telling a wide range of stories in various genres.

Zillo BeastThe show’s second season saw Clone Wars reimagine Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece, Nortorius, in the episode Senate Spy. Bounty Hunters retold Akira Kirosawa’s classic, The Seven Samurai, in 22 minutes.  The Clone Wars also visited the classic Japanese giant monster movie in the two part Zillo Beast arc.  The Clone Wars even managed to fuse The Third Man and the Harrison Ford thriller, The Fugitive, into the brilliant episode, The Jedi Who Knew Too Much. Many of the show’s finest moments could be found in these homages to film history.

The show told a wide array of stories, from mirthful, light children’s stories like Bombad Jedi, or Nomad Droids, to dark and violent episodes like the Umbara arc.  The quality of many of these stories was nothing short of amazing, and I would put  many of the show’s episodes up against any of the six films.  For example, the two part Ahsoka Tano adventure found in Padawan Lost and Wookiee Hunt is one of the best Star Wars stories ever put to screen, as is the Season 5 Mandalore arc, and Wrong Jedi arc.  The Lost Mission’s Order 66 arc and the final Yoda/Force arc are two of the most important stories in the entire Star Wars lore.  The Clone Wars was able to tell stories on a grand scale, thanks to the vision of George Lucas and his willingness to spare no expense on the show’s budget.

Ahsoka TanoThe Clone Wars also introduced us to a host of memorable Star Wars characters who were equally as interesting and rich as their film counterparts.  Of course, the most important of these new characters is Anakin’s Padawan, Ahsoka Tano.  She’s tough, feisty, a little quick to action, but always strives to do right… hmmm sounds like Anakin.  Actually that’s the reason Anakin is given a student, to help teach him patience, and he certainly has his hands full with the young Togruta Jedi.  Over the course of five seasons they grow an extremely close bond, and as an audience we watch her grow from bratty teenage girl, to a smart, resourceful, and dependable young woman.  She’s one of my favorite Star Wars characters to ever grace the screen, and is equally as memorable as characters from the Original and Prequel trilogies.

Cad BaneThe Clone Wars introduced a whole host of classic Star Wars characters like the ever dangerous, Spaghetti Western inspired bounty hunter, Cade Bane.  Bane is an incredibly rich villain with a sardonic wit, and a cool demeanor.  Honestly, he makes Boba Fett look like an amateur.  And speaking of Boba, we are given some additional backstory and hints of what’s to come from this Original Trilogy villain in a number of outstanding episodes.

But my two favorite minor characters from The Clone Wars have to be that audacious space pirate, Hondo Ohnaka, and Sith apprentice-wannabe, Asajj Ventress.  Hondo is just a treat every time he shows up, and always good for a lAsajj Ventressaugh or two.  Sure, he’s dangerous, but he’s not really that bad of a guy, he’s just out to make a buck.  Ventress, on the other hand, is incredibly dangerous, dark, and sexy in a cat like way.  For most of the show she is a thorn in the side of our heroes, but she always comes up a little short.  Eventually her Master, Count Dokuu, turns on her and she’s forced into hiding.  While on the run her character really gets to shine and we learn a good deal about her past, and come to realize she’s not a bad person, her circumstances are such that she has made bad choices.  She eventually turns away from her dark path and begins a new life as a bounty hunter in a couple a great appearances.  Her character will be further explored in the upcoming novel, Dark Disciple.  Can’t wait.

Recently, the Official Star Wars Site announced plans for further Clone Wars releases and posted a retrospective video examining the impact that The Clone Wars has had on the Star Wars Saga, and laying the immediate future for Clone Wars releases.  You can check it out below:

It’s exciting to know there is still a future for the show.  Although these stories may not take shape in traditional animated form, these are still worthwhile tales to share with Star Wars fandom. Recently the Official Site released the unfinished four part Crystal Crisis on Utapau arc.  It’s a great story, and a good old fashioned buddy cop story with some wonderful moments between Obi-Wan and Anakin.  Just be forewarned the animation was not finished and it is in a pre-visualization state.  But it just goes to show that The Clone Wars was firing on all cylinders before the plug was pulled by Disney.  I do hope, that at some later date, Disney might revisit some of the episodes that were near completion, finish them, and release them as direct to video productions.  But whatever happens down the road, it has been a fun ride.

While I appreciated The Clone Wars for taking me on so many great adventures and expanding the Star Wars universe through the introduction of memorable characters, I have a much more personal reason for my love of The Clone Wars… it was a Star Wars experience I could share with my daughter.  Sure, my youngest daughter, Kiersten, would watch the Original Trilogy with me on laser disc, and I must have taken here to the Prequel Trilogy a few dozen timeKiersten  Star Warss, but something about The Clone Wars really resonated with the both of us.

It finally dawned on me during the series finale, The Wrong Jedi, as Ahsoka walks down the steps of the Jedi Temple, turning her back on the Jedi Order that had given up on her, and had branded her a traitor.  She was now free to make her own way in this huge universe. but her future was uncertain.  And then it hit me… I was watching this final episode (we didn’t know about the Lost Missions yet) with my 18 year old daughter who was only two months away from graduating high school. Tears began to flow.  This wasn’t just a character I had grown fond of over five seasons on a show I loved; metaphorically this was my daughter preparing to take on the challenges of adulthood.

In many ways Ahsoka’s journey was mirroring my relationship with my daughter.  As her father, I was trying my best to raise Kiersten to be ethical, be willing to help those less fortunate than her, and to put others before herself.  Sometimes the results were mixed, but Kiersten was always striving to do the right thing.  Now it all made sense to me; thematically there was a strong parallel between the relationship of Master-Padawan and Parent-Child.

Ultimately that’s why The Clone Wars resonated so much with Kiersten and myself; we saw each other in the character’s of Anakin and Ahsoka.  To Kiersten, I was Anakin Skywalker, her Master, trying my best to protect her from the world, while preparing her for it. And Kiersten was Ahsoka Tano, young, brash Padawan learner, who was at time too impulsive, but whose heart was always in the right place.

So, while others will remember the legacy of classic characters and adventures The Clone Wars added to the Star Wars universe, for me, The Clone Wars is an Evans family legacy…

May the Force Be With You