Cartoon Network previewed its new animated series “Star Wars: Clone Wars” at the TV Critics Assn. tour Friday, and based on that first glimpse of a full episode, the program bears the hallmarks of the recent trilogy: Dazzling visuals — in this case, almost three-dimensional computer animation — rousing battle sequences and clunky dialogue. Fortunately, the half-hour format and generous helpings of action mitigate that last attribute, resulting in a concept that should keep the flame burning for “Star Wars” fans and could represent a major coup for the Turner network.
Chronicling the period between second and third (or actually, fifth and sixth) features “Attack of the Clones” and “Revenge of the Sith,” “Clone Wars” was developed inhouse by Lucasfilm and will explore the further adventures of such characters as Anakin Skywalker and Obi-wan Kenobi. In the episode shown, Jedi master Yoda pursues a diplomatic mission on a distant planet against the forces of Count Dooku, facing seemingly impossible odds.
Franchise architect George Lucas was resolute (one might say pigheadedly so) about scripting the last movies himself despite his tin-eared dialogue, and the half-hour screened will have some fans thinking about the irritating Jar-Jar Binks, only here with the incompetent Droid army delivering pretty lame comic relief.
Fortunately, as with the earlier “Clone Wars” shorts crafted using traditional cel animation, the vibrant imagery and sweeping scope provided by animation allows the series to achieve a theatrical level of excitement at a significantly reduced cost — and in a tighter episodic format, transforming each mini-adventure into a get-to-the-fun-stuff romp. Alien worlds and characters are rendered in explosions of color, with the computer process creating extraordinary depth and detail.
As a consequence, the new series (to be launched by a theatrical release in August) should fill a void for “Star Wars” junkies jonesing now that the movies have run their course, while keeping Lucasfilm’s merchandising machine lumbering ahead like one of those Imperial Walkers. And with 22 episodes coming, Cartoon will have a welcome centerpiece to its fall lineup, appealing to kids and adults alike.
By the standards of a fragmented TV universe, the Force should thus remain a potent force — which explains why Cartoon execs should have a good feeling about this.