Disney+ dropped the first season of Tales of the Jedi this Wednesday. Created by Dave Filoni, who also wrote five of the six episodes, Tales of the Jedi is a series of short films exploring the Jedi of the prequel era. I watch everything Star Wars puts out, especially the animated projects. Almost everything about this series appealed to me, from the names attached to the Clone Wars-esque art direction. Half of the shorts heavily feature Count Dooku, one of the few characters not improved and expanded on by The Clone Wars. Ahsoka was an obvious choice to focus on, but Dooku was an inspired one. Since these shorts are so short, I thought it made the most sense to talk about them all in one go. Let’s have a look.
The Tales of the Jedi take place from Qui-Gon Jinn’s youth and apprenticeship to after the fall of the Republic. “Life and Death” introduces us to Ahsoka’s parents and village. We see her first encounter with death and the Force as her parents learn the nature of what she is. “Justice” follows Count Dooku and the young Qui-Gon Jinn’s mission to free a senator’s hostage son. However, things aren’t as they seem. “Choices” joins Count Dooku and Mace Windu on Raxxis as they investigate the death of a Jedi master. “The Sith Lord” concerns Qui-Gon’s discovery of the Sith reemergence, but only indirectly. The main story is Count Dooku’s grief over the loss of his old Padawan and the dark path he follows. “Practice Makes Perfect” explores the rigorous training Anakin puts Ahsoka through and how it serves her later in life. Finally, “Resolve” finds Ahsoka struggling after the end of the Clone Wars. When an Inquisitor hunts her down, she must face him and protect the people she’s become close to.
This might be the best-looking Star Wars animation yet. They’ve captured things like dust and lighting perfectly, and the designs in Tales of the Jedi are just gorgeous. The character designs look like a marriage of Clone Wars’ striking angular shapes and Rebels’ more subdued take. I think this was wise, maintaining the franchise’s signature animated style but with a more restrained sense of caricature. I’m mainly thinking of Ahsoka’s softer features here, and especially Count Dooku. When we first learned of this show, I praised his design here for looking more like Christopher Lee and less silly. Count Dooku and General Grievous are the two characters I think The Clone Wars really did dirty, the latter in characterization and the former in both characterization and design. Tales of the Jedi does much for both facets of Count Dooku’s character, and I’ll talk more about him later on. Kevin Kiner’s original score for Tales of the Jedi absolutely rocks, full stop. I found the music in “The Sith Lord” and “Practice Makes Perfect” particularly memorable, but it’s all good stuff.
Finally and unsurprisingly, the voice acting in Tales of the Jedi is good all-around. Corey Burton still doesn’t sound like Christopher Lee to me, but he’s got his own iteration of the character, and I respect that. He does a great job of portraying Dooku’s emotions and inner turmoil here, which we didn’t see much in The Clone Wars. The material he’s given here and the focus on his character give Burton more to work with, and he provides a stellar performance. It’s always a treat to hear Ashley Eckstein back in her signature role as Ahsoka. Rosario Dawson did a good job in The Mandalorian and Book of Boba Fett, but Ashley IS Ahsoka. Hearing her changing voice and tone through different phases of the character’s life is so satisfying. Of course, we already got this between The Clone Wars and Rebels, but this is a nice little reminder. Many talented voice actors fail to convincingly play younger characters, but this is an ability Eckstein excels at. Terrence C. Carson is good as Mace Windu, reprising the role from The Clone Wars. I wish Samuel L. Jackson would play his character in animation, and we know he can do voice acting well. Maybe it’s a money issue. Regardless, most of the Clone Wars cast returned for this project, and that’s cool. James Arnold Taylor and Matt Lantern reprise Obi-Wan and Anakin, and they’re as good as you’d expect, particularly the latter. We see Anakin’s ruthless side in “Practice Makes Perfect” as he pushes Ahsoka past her limit to make her stronger. Clancy Brown is good as the Inquisitor, if under-used. We’ll come back to this. I’ve said much about Dee Bradley Baker as the clones before, but suffice it to say, he’s good here, too, albeit in a smaller role(s). Bryce Dallas Howard voices Master Yaddle in “The Sith Lord,” and she’s great. Between this and her unrecognizable voice (and body) in Rocketman, I think she should do more voicework.
For the sake of simplicity, I’m going to talk about the shorts in two bunches based on the characters they star. I’m not sure why they weren’t ordered this way on Disney+; having Ahsoka’s first episode followed by all three Dooku shorts makes no sense to me. Anyway, “Life and Death,” the first Ahsoka short, is alright. I like the tone and atmosphere a lot, but some of the dialogue is a tad cheesy, and some moments seem a bit much. For example, when Ahsoka rides the cat back into the town, it seems forced to make her look cool. She’s a baby, not a superhero. I love Ahsoka; she’s my favorite non-original trilogy Star Wars character. But sometimes, it feels like Dave Filoni takes it a step too far in exploring her life. “Practice Makes Perfect” is easily my favorite of the three Ahsoka episodes. It perfectly leads into the Siege of Mandalore arc in Clone Wars, and the story is perfect for both Ahsoka and Anakin’s characters. It’s an informative, entertaining story in and of itself while fitting very well into the larger narrative. “Resolve” is more exciting and interesting than “Life and Death,” but it also has more lulls, so I’m not sure which I like more. In “Resolve,” she attends Padmé’s funeral on Coruscant. This opening scene is my favorite in this short; it’s gorgeous, sad, and I always liked the look of Padmé in her coffin. Obviously, I don’t like that she’s dead; her dress and the flowers take my breath away. The run-ins with Bail Organa are a bit much. Namely, he insists on giving Ahsoka a communicator and won’t let her leave without it. I find his involvement and insistence here forced. I know this character always wants to help, but this didn’t feel right, partly because they didn’t have a relationship in The Clone Wars. I also feel like we already got Ahsoka’s reluctance to interfere in the Martez sisters arc of the aforementioned show. This issue has already been explored and resolved, so why are we doing it again? However, my least favorite aspect of this episode is Ahsoka’s stand-off with the Inquisitor. He’s only in one short scene and gets quickly taken down by Ahsoka in approximately four moves. Lame.
Shockingly, the Dooku episodes work better for me overall! I enjoyed the Ahsoka episodes, but Dooku’s story in Tales of the Jedi is cohesive, cathartic, and contextualizes his choices in the films and Clone Wars. I enjoyed how he and Qui-Gon (Liam Neeson’s son Michael Richardson) play off of one another in “Justice,” which also starts Dooku on his path to the Dark Side. “Choices” shows how Dooku’s methods, while unconventional to the Jedi Order, get results. This contrasts beautifully with the very restrained, intentional Master Windu, who ascends to a Council seat for following instructions despite having nothing to show for it. But “The Sith Lord” is the showstopper of this whole anthology, in my humble opinion. The animation in this episode is INSANE, especially the tree Dooku visits and says Qui-Gon loved. This episode is also the most emotional, as we essentially grieve a death from The Phantom Menace from a new, more powerful perspective. The showdown at the end of “The Sith Lord” is everything the one in “Resolve” isn’t, and that’s all I can say about it. You have to see this for yourself! Ahsoka was an obvious character to follow in this animated series, and I don’t question that decision. But Dooku is underdeveloped in the films and other series, so including him here was brilliant, and the payoff is incredible. They got me to feel sympathy for him and understand his motivation. Honestly, he reminds me of a calmer, more reasonable Anakin at times. Great work.
Tales of the Jedi is gorgeously animated and features a masterful underscore. Exciting moments and meaningful character development abound, even if some episodes lack that epic Star Wars feeling. Overall, I liked this a lot, and I hope they choose to do more installments focusing on more Jedi.