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Sunday, 23 October 2011

"THE CLONE WARS" SEASON THREE. SWA's TOP FIVE EPISODES. NO 2: "WOOKIEE HUNT"

Animal firepower! A Wookiee warrior takes aim against the Trandoshans in the exciting finale of WOOKIEE HUNT!

Just when all hope of escaping their unhealthy predicament as big game targets within the hostile jungle environs of Trandosha is almost gone, along comes one of the STAR WARS saga's most iconic and beloved characters, bringing his mighty heart, as well as equally large doses of courage, bravery and technical savvy, to the captured Ahsoka Tano and her fellow Jedi Padawan, as they plan a daring new bid for freedom from their Reptilian hunters. It was a close run thing nearing pole position, but at Number Two of our Top Five Season Three episodes of THE CLONE WARS (now available as a complete 22 episode box set on Blu-ray and DVD from WARNER BROTHERS HOME VIDEO) it's the fan favourite that saw in the return of Peter Mayhew as the legendary Chewbacca: Wookiee Hunt.

Captured but not defeated, Chewbacca helps the Jedi fight back!

1. Chewbacca is back. Having had so little screen time with his prior highly anticipated return to the STAR WARS universe in 2005'S EPISODE III, it was great that George Lucas and Dave Filoni decided to bring everyone's favourite pre-Han Solo partnership Wookiee back into the fold for the animated series, and further develop that characters role and back story within such a critical period of the series history, part of an episode which successfully showcases all of his unique talents previously seen and enjoyed in the Classic Trilogy movies. Emerging from the caranage of the destroyed Trandoshan slave ship-after Ahsoka and her small teams escape plan goes terribly awry- the audience is stoked for Chewie's appearance with those first animal mumbles emanating from the beached craft wreckage, before his ultimate emergence in furry glory. As the episode progresses we gets to see our favourite woolly Wookiee as an inventor and technician (creating the rescue signal that ultimately gets picked up), protector (some lovely scenes with Ahsoka, the pair having a great chemistry on screen which appeals to all ages), and as a warrior-more so than we've ever seen before. His strength was only hinted at before and seen briefly in the classic films: here he has some terrific action/hand to hand combat scenes with his Trandoshan hunters- his sworn enemies after the soon to form Empire- and lives up to his reputation from Jabba the Hutt in EPISODE VI as "the mighty Chewbacca", now well and truly back home in the STAR WARS universe and brought to animated life with great care and attention to detail by the shows dedicated behind the scenes team, who took great pains to research the look and distinct manners of the creature, working with the actor who played him so perfectly- Peter Mayhew. In creating such a deservedly successful and memorable episode, lets' hope this isn't just a one -off for Chewie-we want more of him and Kashyyyk in general for the future!

The Jedi Padawans and Chewbacca attack the Trandoshan cloud base.

2. Confident storytelling. Right from the series early genesis, THE CLONE WARS has always had terrific writers and directors working on it (though I'm still waiting for my call to duty, George and Dave!), but with the second half of Season Three, the season not only retains its family audience values but starts getting bolder and better in the way that the stories are told. The animation continues to be top notch- better, bigger and more ambitious than ever, but the writers/producers also get to sneak in a lot more mature and darker themes into the show, as well as more carefully staged violence, becoming harder edged as the shows time frame nears the tragic events of EPISODE III. WOOKIEE HUNT, like its previous opener PADAWAN LOST, shows confident storytelling and developing talent in all areas, from scripting (a great tale from Bonnie Marks-my only complaint being that this episode feels just a little too short and would've done with an extra five minutes length), animation (superb planetary vistas for the exotic but deadly Trandosha, as well as fine action choreography), acting (a special nod to all the great work by the voice artistes who have made the iconic roles their own in this new format for the last three years) and direction (with Supervisor Dave Filoni really cooking in this two-parter: still the best man for the job in handling the reins of this epic series). It's a symbiotic union that makes great television and great STAR WARS, too!


Finally, THE CLONE WARS shows us the world of the vicious reptilian Trandoshans. 

3. Trandoshans. Ever since we saw his scaly feet hanging over the side of the top of the bridge pit of the Imperial Super Star Destroyer Executor in THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, STAR WARS fans have been fascinated by the Trandoshan bounty hunter Bossk and the reptile/Dinosaur-like race of which he is a part. Though Bossk doesn't appear in this particular two-part story (though he had been in several episodes of the previous Season Two), his species more than lives up to his reputation for gruesome and unrelenting villainy within the almost PREDATOR-like environment of their tropical Island Four trap. Sneakily capturing humans and alien big game for the thrill of the hunt and the initiation of their species as deadly hunters, these technologically adapt, but also savage and instinctive creatures thirst to, and enjoy, their kills in almost Velociraptor style ingenious and unexpected means, alongside using their high tech weaponry, making them another terrific addition to THE CLONE WARS animated series evolving roster of galaxy spanning baddies.


Giving as good as she gets, Ahsoka takes on the Trandoshans!

4. Ahsoka's progress. At first she was 'snips' to her Jedi Knight Master, Anain Skywalker, now the Togrutan Padawan truly proves her worth as in individual in this epic two-parter. Resourceful and courageous in heart and spirit, she has learnt her abilities well from Anakin and looks set to go beyond his teachings as an individual. Despite her early insecurities and weakness at being captured by the Trandoshans, Ahsoka quickly turns around those first isolated vulnerabilities into a powerful rallying call for unity in fighting back against their enemy captors, gathering the remaining, now leaderless Jedi Padawan survivors of the planet into a formidable fighting team-working as one for survival. With the welcome arrival of Chewbacca, her biggest plan of escape yet comes to successful fruition as they attack the Trandoshan slaver vessel orbiting the clouds. No longer on the run, the reptiles get their just deserts, as the hunters now become the hunted, as Ahsoka uses all of her skills and lithe abilities to the fullest in order to defeat their races' towering and physically equally powerful ruler, Gamac, without succumbing to the hatred and revenge of the Dark Side of the Force.

5. More Wookiees! With the battle on the above air slaver ship at its height, and Chewbacca and the Jedi almost starting to be overwhelmed by the Trandoshans, help comes in the welcome form of a small Wookiee assault force led by their robust and eager for battle Tarfful and Sarporin, two of the popular Kashyyyk based characters from EPISODE III (in a ship piloted, in a further fun cameo, by bounty hunters-for-hire Sugi and Seripas, previously seen in the popular Season Two episode BOUNTY HUNTERS). Their group appearance is a welcome and unexpected surprise/bonus for the audience and its great seeing them alongside Chewbacca as they use their incredible physical strength to get stuck in and take out their Trandoshan opponents (in some cases literally throwing them over the desk in the process!). The finale scenes where all of our heroes are reunited on Coruscant with Yoda and Anakin is also well handled, ending Season Three on a very satisfying and successful note...



The Complete Season Three box set of THE CLONE WARS is now available on Blu-ray and DVD, as is a box set of the entire three seasons so far...

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