This week on The Clone Wars: A New Hope! If you wanted magic, "The Gathering" delivered by introducing several new characters on a rarely-seen planet. Best of all, this episode was actually fun to watch. I'm actually jealous of kids who get to see this as children, I think I'd have been pretty stoked to have seen this at age 6 or 7. It's also probably the cutest thing you as a Star Wars fan will ever see on television. As always, spoilers and video await you!
Given the largely-dour characters, grim storylines, and (at times) murky visuals as of late, this new storyline couldn't have come at a better time. The animation is brighter, the story lighter, and yes, it just looks good. Heck, it even challenges existing notions (and commandments) in the Expanded Universe, although I have to assume it will be viewed in the prism of the recent Disney deal as a possible forerunner of youth-themed stories from our Disney overlords. I don't take that as a bad thing as we all fell in love with Star Wars as kids, so it's nice to see something made for a new generation to enjoy. I hope. I liked it, anyway.
And there we are. I loved it. Here's a breakdown of the new cast this week: Ganodi is a young Rodian. Gungi is a Wookiee padawan, which is of particular interest as comic scribes were said to have been told by George Lucas to not make any more Wookiee Jedi a few years ago, if memory serves. Katooni is a Tholothian (I was previously under the impression they were human?) girl who just happens to look like a short Adi Gallia. Zatt is a young Nautolan who looks and dresses like the cold weather Kit Fisto figure from a couple years back. Byph is a male Ithorian. Rounding out the group is Petro, a young human male and apparently the group's token jerk.
The affable group of kids is joined on a field trip by Ahsoka and Yoda on the cold world of Ilum, which we saw briefly in the original Clone Wars series a few years ago. (That's where Snowbunny Padme comes from.) There are no real villains to speak of, but we get introduced to six fairly distinctive personalities with some nifty character designs and some stunning backgrounds. Each character is tasked to find a crystal with which to build their lightsaber, and has to challenge a frosty, frozen cave filled with them in order to find the right one.
Much like Harry Potter waiting for a wand to pick him, the kids have to allow themselves to be lead to a specific place, where the crystal will basically call out to them and only them. This is where it gets to look really nifty, as the icy caverns glow with the power of the crystals. For example, Gungi is tasked with waiting patiently for a pond to freeze over so that he may reach his crystal. The other kids go through similar tasks, each focusing on their own weaknesses which even include fear. I'm not sure why we're seeing one of the Dark Side emotions engaged so much, but seeing the fear and strange visions from Katooni was just adorable.
Some real fun comes in from Yoda, who is a character we rarely get to see in full teacher mode. The Jedi Master watches over the proceedings, clearly knowing full well that he isn't subjecting the kids to too much genuine danger as snowy floors collapse, shards of ice explode, and personality flaws are revealed as kids go out for electronic parts which, for some reason, are not stocked on Coruscant's Radio Shacks. Seeing our little green friend as an amused professor certainly beats seeing him hand down foreboding messages about the fate of the galaxy, and it's wonderful to see an episode not focused with life-and-death struggles which hold great consequences for the galaxy. It's even more wonderful to not see anyone mention anything about bank regulation. It's election week, I get enough of that everywhere else.
Four stars **** dudes and dudettes. While aged down significantly from the bulk of the series, it was an enjoyable and refreshing diversion from the norm. We've got three more weeks of this, and as long as we don't come back to the ice caverns I'm quite happy to spend more time with this group. I haven't gone looking for fan feedback on this episode as of when I write this review late Saturday evening, so if the fandom at large hates it, go ahead and make it four and a half stars. (Spite makes me like things more.)
Next Week: "A Test of Strength." With Doctor Who!
See you then!