Saturday, October 10, 2009

Season 2, Episode 3 - Children of the Force

The third episode of the Clone Wars second season closes up the first of what are doubtless mini-arcs to come. In this, the production team is nearly showing off: in less than 30 minutes we visit half of the planets in the Star Wars universe. Or, at least, it felt that way. It was a great way to conclude the first mini-trilogy, if not quite as strong as the prior two episodes.

Cargo of Doom (the previous episode) skipped over exposition and threw us directly into the action mid-stream. Children of the Force begins at the exact moment Cargo of Doom ends and flies full throttle for the rest of the half hour. Bane is tasked with finding four force sensitive children and taking them to Mustafar for… experiments. Creepy. The Jedi use all their resources to hunt him down and try to save the children. Good old fashioned premise, brought to fruition in style.

Definitely lots of “wow” factor all over the episode. The planets looked terrific all around, including some wonderful new looks at Rodia, moody lighting on Coruscant (which seems to have three possible wide shots with various lighting choices available), Cad Bane’s lair certainly seemed fresh and imposing, and the above ground Gungan City was a cool new vision. Children of the Force shows how the animation has evolved to great effect.

Also, the season continues its dive towards the Dark Side. Stealing innocent kids from their parents? Putting them in secret labs to mess with their tiny brains? Yikes. The scene where the Jedi triple mind trick Bane also portends some problems for the Jedi. Their behavior is aggressive here, unethical. Still, they are trying to save children. The question being asked, subtly, is: what is the war doing to the Jedi? Great scene, new concept, intriguing.

A few minor quibbles. The episode felt a bit crowded to me. In an effort to move the heroes all over the galaxy in style, it felt like there was a bit too much story for a half-hour and I kept thinking “Wait…how long did it take them to get from here to there?” At a certain point, it felt like a bit like everyone was using teleporters and not spaceships. Obviously, it’s more a problem of perception than logic: we just don’t see the travel time. But it still tested the limits of how much you can pack into a single episode.

Also, the children of the episode, adorable as they were, had an almost Muppet-babies vibe that didn’t really sit right with the gravity of the situation. They all seemed a little too cartoonishly cute, and it was hard to imagine them as children in actual danger. The scripts insistence of referring to them as “kids” and not “children” also seemed to lighten the proceedings accidentally.

And finally, this episode did quite a bit of quoting. Obviously, this is all over Star Wars stylistically, and it made sense in the films (to tie the story of Anakin to the story of Luke.) In the cartoons, though, the quoting can feel a bit overly clever and cute. I understand the choice, but sometimes it takes me out of the moment.

And yes...Anakin apparently went to Mustafar before Episode III. I don't have a solid opinion on that choice, but it's sure to the subject of some consternation among plenty of fans.

Rating (out of five): *** 1/2


Jeff said...

Great review. I agree 100%. I thought it was a great episode, but jumped around a little too much for my liking.

Dave said...

I'm quite surprised by the Jedi behaviour this season, they really seem somewhat unscrupulous at times. I wonder if this deviation from the path of the light side help the sith to cloud themselves?