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Animated ‘Star Wars’ fare fills in key details

Mark Bemenderfer | Tuesday, April 5, 2005

Not many creatures, animal or otherwise, have yellow eyes. At least, yellow eyes are not the norm for humans and are almost always associated with something sinister and not human. So it’s oddly appropriate that on May 19, the release of the third “Star Wars” prequel, Anakin Skywalker will finally have yellow eyes as he makes his transition to an evil Sith Lord.However, Episode 3 takes place towards the end of the Clone Wars, one of the greatest wars in “Star Wars” history. It takes place between the second and third prequels, which would leave a few fans in the dark.This is where the animated series “The Clone Wars” steps in. Animated by “Samurai Jack” creator Genndy Tartakovsky, “The Clone Wars” attempts to give fans filler material on one the Republic’s greatest wars. And while on many levels it succeeds, the first volume leaves a bit to be desired.Each of the original cartoons was only around 3 minutes long, which unfortunately keeps any real plot depth from developing. The basic story isn’t too deep, but should be of interest for fans. The Jedi and Republic attack the Separatists on many different home fronts. Each cartoon centers around a particular Jedi doing his part against the Droids.This gives Star Wars fans the opportunity to see their favorite lesser characters in action. Many of the lesser Jedi get scenes, or even entire cartoons dedicated to them. It was also a nice change of pace to see Storm Trooper predecessors that could hit the broad side of a barn, unlike in the live-action “Star Wars” walks. The cartoon also shows what mischief the other side of the conflict gets into. Count Dooku, not content to sit around and wait for his probable demise in Episode 3, stages a giant melee in hopes of recruiting the greatest fighter.In one of the volume’s many cool scenes, the viewer is introduced to another lightsaber swinger – Sith wannabe Asajj Ventress. Ventress steps up and impresses Dooku enough that he sends her after Anakin. Their fight marks one of the highlights of the first volume, of which there are a few. But this is where the problem lies – the first volume, due to the length of each of the original cartoons, feels like a bunch of highlights clipped together without the actual story to link them. Slow parts are required to help create the story, and to give the viewer a chance to soak in what they just saw. And in such a crucial period of Star Wars history, namely that of Anakin’s descent to evil, the lack of story development is a shame.Beyond Anakin’s usual disobedience, there is not much in the way of him beginning to embrace the Dark Side. Two scenes in particular do stand out however, one with Emperor Palpatine encouraging Anakin to defy Jedi orders and then the other in his climactic battle against Asajj Ventress. However, due to the length of each episode, neither one is fleshed out too deeply. The chapters correspond with the beginning and ends of each of the cartoons, so fans can skip to each one individually. Being a cartoon, the colors look vibrant and nice. No complaints in the sound department either.But the special features are rather lacking. There are two commentaries, but one of them is next to worthless for the average Star Wars fan. The only special feature worth a real mention is the “Bringing the Saga: From Clone Wars to Revenge of the Sith” feature. It has interviews with Tartakovsky and George Lucas himself, plus some random people associated with Star Wars. It too doesn’t go too deep however, but is still a nice bonus on the DVD. There are also some screen shots and scenes from the upcoming “Star Wars” film, but nothing that hasn’t been seen in the trailers already.Fans should check this out, but only at a discounted price. The full price of a DVD may be too much to pay for this, even if it does have the first appearance of upcoming villain General Grievous. However, it is worth a watch because a new character is introduced and he just happens to have villainous yellow eyes.