Director(s): Steph Green, Peter Ramsey, Jennifer Getzinger, Geeta Vasant Patel, Rick Famuyiwa
Screenwriter(s): Dave Filoni
Runtime: 8 episodes, 37m – 57m each.
Starring: Rosario Dawson, Natasha Liu Bordizzo, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Ray Stevenson, Ivanna Sakhno, Lars Mikkelsen
My Verdict: Moderately enjoyable despite clumsy plotting. Good performances and would be better if the cast is given more to work with.
● After the nonsense that was the sequel films, one may be conditioned to not expect from Disney much more than a dumpster, perhaps without even a half-amusing fire. Surprisingly, Star Wars series released so far have generally not been too bad. This is presumably because the settings of these series are somewhat disconnected from the so-called main storyline.
● With that preamble out of the way, Ahsoka follows on from the unresolved issues of the animated series Rebels: Ezra Bridger and Thrawn are still stuck far, far away, but some witch is trying to bring the latter back, thus threatening the weak New Republic.
● It generally looks good. There are a few instances the CG looks off but that is typically the case in any production. It could take more creative risks with (cinematographic) stylization.
● The choreography and film editing are a little clumsy in a few action sequences, failing to convey a Jedi’s capabilities and kinetic energy. [Minor Spoiler] For example, when Ahsoka (Dawson) and Hera Syndulla (Winstead) visit the Corellian shipyards and are attacked, as if someone like Ahsoka could not predict it and react a fraction of a second quicker. Instead of just taking out just one attacker initially, she could have cut off the hand of one with one lightsaber (just to be consistent with the franchise) and simultaneously used the other to deflect a blaster shot. Syndulla could then take out the third so as not to exclude her from the scene.
● Given the simple premise, which is a good thing for an 8-episode series, the plotting should correspondingly be straightforward. However, it initially tries too hard with the intrigue and the plot progression stagnates somewhat after a few episodes. [Spoilers Below]
● Star Wars may be in part an adventure but there is this recent obsession with finding maps. This is especially annoying if the map is ancient but somehow leads to a person in the present. Maps are typically for places or inanimate objects at particular places, not people who can move around. There is a reason for this in Ahsoka and it becomes apparent but there is no need to use this device in the first place.
● The opening also introduces two dark Jedi, Baylan Skoll (Stevenson) and his apprentice Shin Hati (Sakhno). They are obviously the “coolly dark characters”. The first thing one notices is the stark difference in their fighting styles. Every Force practitioner is different but why this stark difference between master and apprentice is not hinted at.
● Either way, Stevenson and Sakhno play their roles well and it is sad that the former is no longer with us. Both could have been given more to work with too, with whatever setup given them barely developed throughout and ignored in the conclusion.
● As Ahsoka and Syndulla try to figure out what the bad guys are up to, they involve Ahsoka’s former apprentice Sabine Wren (Bordizzo). The two have issues and they deal with it, which is handled well enough.
● The main problem with Wren is that her powers just switch on. Although not as poorly handled as Rey, a few overt hints of development would make it more palatable.
● Of course, Ahsoka gets in trouble so she has flashbacks and ghost Anakin shows up, she having issues regarding Anakin as well. It’s great to see Hayden Christensen on screen but one wonders if this is a little too much fan service. Unlike The Mandalorian, at least Ahsoka does not abuse the “cute and little” approach.
● Flashbacks and ghost Anakin are fine and the “life flashes before my eyes” episode is appreciated, but it is a little too unfocused and even clumsy. It may arguably be that type of experience, but the series is at 8 episodes so it needs to be tight. If the series is longer, say 10 or 12 episodes, then one can afford more filler in such episodes.
● Lars Mikkelsen does well enough as Thrawn, sinister but urbane. Although we see a few glimpses of such a calculated commander at work, he spends too much time asking witches for help.
● It is good to see Syndulla deal with the politics of the New Republic. It enhances the worldbuilding as well as adding conflict to the story. Although it is not meant to be a big part of the plot, there could be more of this. Either way, it gets resolved too clumsily.
● The series conclusion is not a cliffhanger but it is a somewhat cheap setup to the next season. There are other relatively minor issues but there are enough spoilers as it is. Despite all the issues, it is moderately enjoyable. The performances are solid, which shows that the cast could and would do better if given more to work with.
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