There will be another post, chock full of pictures and video, that will cover the actual premiere event. In the meantime, I have the very first review from The Clone Wars – Season 4.
The premiere comprised of two episodes cut together, Water War and Gungan Attack. You’ve all seen the trailers and, as the names imply, we’re treated with two solid episodes of underwater action.
The Quarren and the Mon Calamari are in the middle of their own civil war, with the Republic siding with the Mon Cals and the Separatists siding with the Quarren. The Separatist “Ambassador” is a shark-like Carcadon and is really just a military stooge of Count Dooku’s, hoping to enslave as much of the planet as possible once it’s in Separatist hands.
Fortunately for the Mon Calamari and the Republic, Anakin, Padme, Ahsoka, and Kit Fisto are nearby and able to help.
Gungan Attack takes the battle further when the Republic has been routed and no longer has any remaining clones outfitted for underwater combat. They go to the one place they know where an aquatic race has a standing army ready to deploy: Naboo.
That’s about all you need to know as far as the story goes, what you really need to brace yourselves for is another monumental improvement in images, animation, and quality in the show. These two episodes, projected on a theatre screen, have a breathtaking amount of detail and depth and the colors are so vibrant and well designed it’s preposterous. 95% of these episodes occur underwater and you can feel it in every frame, from debris floating between the subject and the camera to the way the light seems so much more dense. You never, for a second, forget your environment, and everything in the episodes enhances that feeling. I was reminded more than a few times of Jaws, particularly the moments where Matt Hooper is in the shark cage and then trying to hide from the shark on the bottom of the ocean.
As a villain, the Carcadon general was almost terrifying in some instances. His shrieking growl was particularly shiver-inducing, my compliments to the sound crew. There’s an entire sequence that takes place in a swirling vortex of sand and water and it was…well, you’ll have to see it to believe it.
There were so many other impressive touches though, it’s hard to not list them all. One of my favorites was the way the holograms looked underwater. They had more physicality to them, but were also more distorted. It was a great touch.
These episodes might also be the biggest you’ve seen. There were hundreds of characters on screen in the midst of massive battles, explosions everywhere, blaster bolts careening this way and that, vehicles swooping in from that side to this… It was easily the most dense I’ve ever seen this show. The level of detail and carnage in these episodes makes Landing at Point Rain look like child’s play.
As the animation and battle scenes take an evolutionary step forward, so too does the show itself and the stakes raised for all the characters involved. The days where the only casualties were clones or droids were over. Palpatine’s game has spun wildly out of control, manipulating ordinarily peaceful people into joining the conflict. Wrapped up in the web of lies are the Jedi. The Jedi aren’t just killing droids indiscriminately now, the price they pay for keeping the peace includes killing living, breathing beings who are guilty of nothing more than being manipulated by Dooku and Sidious. A lot of work went into making you realize that the Quarren weren’t the bad guys here, and every time a Jedi killed one, there was a cost to it.
People are dying. There are consequences to actions.
This is a huge step for this show, and I’m glad to have the show back.
The season premiere (which airs Friday, September 16 on Cartoon Network) ends on a cliffhanger that will be paid off the next week, but the last shot of Gungan Attack might be one of the strongest images in the entire series. I don’t want to tell you where it ends, but things are bleak. After a battle inside a swirling water vortex, two characters are left talking in their retreat. The only thing more inspiring than the moment is the lighting. As the characters swim away, the lights on them highlight the emotion and fade away, both into the darkness and the end of the episode. It was pretty incredible.
The storytelling on the show has taken another quantum leap forward and I can’t wait to see what they have in store for us for the rest of the season.