Clone Wars: not just for kids
Excitement for a new series on Cartoon Network doesn't usually stretch much further than the playground, but the start of season four of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, about to premiere on 2 April, is a definite exception.
But then Clone Wars is no ordinary cartoon - for one thing it's not just aimed at kids, and for another it's the best thing involving lightsabers to happen since Return Of The Jedi.
Given how forehead-slappingly woeful the prequel movies were, it looked like the Star Wars franchise was finished, nailed shut in a Jar-Jar Binks shaped coffin. Short of filming himself carrying out animal testing on Chewbacca, there wasn't much more George Lucas could have done to annoy die-hard fans of the original movies.
Of course, Star Wars obsessives aren't the easiest people to please. It's not enough to show them something vaguely Obi Wan-related and hope that'll make them blind to plank-like acting or comically dreary plots (taxes and trade delegations, anyone?). So what hope did a humble cartoon have of repairing the damage and convincing fans across the globe to retrieve their Wookie action figures from the bin and pin their Millennium Falcon posters back on the wall?
As it turns out, Clone Wars has done the unthinkable, and given Star Wars a new lease of life. The animation's visually stunning, but not at the expense of plots or characterisation, meaning that all the people who cringed their way through the Phantom Menace can now officially stop sticking pins in their Jar Jar voodoo dolls and fall back in love with this galaxy far, far away.
The brilliant thing about Star Wars: The Clone Wars is that it isn't some cutesy tie-in, content to gather together all the film favourites and hope fans will be so delighted to see them again they'll put up with glaring continuity errors. It takes place in a specific and consistent period of time – the three years between the movies Attack Of The Clones and Revenge Of The Sith. One of the most frustrating things about the prequel trilogy was how hollow the friendship between Obi Wan and Anakin seemed. It seemed to consist entirely of Anakin being sulky and Obi Wan telling him off like a vaguely irritated supply teacher. THIS was the legendary friendship that made Alec Guinness go all gooey-eyed in New Hope? Now, thanks to Clone Wars, we actually get to see the intricacies of their bromance - going on missions together, having each others backs, and generally being intergalactic pals.
There's also an impressive cast list full of Separatists, Jedis and bounty hunters, story arcs every bit as complex and well-plotted as you'd find in any live action sci-fi series. Oh, and we also get to discover far more about the likes of Count Dooku and General Grievous (the latter, who was a baffling filler character in Revenge of the Sith, actually has a reason for existing in Clone Wars) .
So what can we expect at the start of season four? Without giving too much away, Anakin and Padme are part of a force trying to restore peace to Mon Calamari and stop it from sliding into a civil war, but the Separatists have got their beady eyes on taking charge of yet another planet. Can the Jedi hold back the advancing tide of Separatists? Tune in to find out – you won't be the only grown up watching…
Star Wars: The Clone Wars, season four will air on Cartoon Network (Virgin Channel 704), at 10am on Monday 2 April.