Tales of the Jedi is now streaming on Disney+. Below is a spoiler-free review.
Animation has proven to be an excellent vehicle for Star Wars to explore its universe, as well as those previously much-maligned prequel years, and Tales of the Jedi is another strong entry into that legacy. Is it absolutely essential Star Wars viewing? Not really, no, but it is a well-done and superbly animated take on two important characters: Ahsoka Tano and Count Dooku.
Tales of the Jedi’s bite-sized entries, all of which range between 15 and 20 minutes, split their focus between Ahsoka and Dooku evenly; interestingly, if you’re watching them in the order in which Disney+ lists them, it starts with Ahsoka as a baby, then shifts to three episodes about Dooku, and then moves back to Ahsoka. Though there isn’t a straightforward throughline among the stories told – they’re all anthology-style standalones taking place at various pivotal moments in each character’s life – you can make some parallels between the two central characters if you dig deeper and there’s a not -so-subtle feeling that that’s the point, especially when it comes to Dooku’s concerns about the Jedi Order, something we know Ahsoka eventually leaves.
For the most part, Tales of the Jedi creator and general Star Wars animation mastermind Dave Filoni doesn’t rely on spectacle. That’s not to say there isn’t action; “Practice Makes Perfect,” which focuses on Ahsoka’s Padawan training, is heavier on it than others, and there’s an exciting climax in the final episode “Resolve.” But, for the most part, this is Star Wars leaning into its moody and meditative side, which makes the fights hit harder, especially in the Dooku episodes. “The Sith Lord” is the best example of this, building up to a great bit of understated but impactful action. The whole endeavor is tightly written without feeling a tad bit rushed, despite the short runtimes – Filoni knows, at this point, how to indulge in atmosphere and build tension without padding runtimes to unnecessary lengths.
In particular, Dooku’s episodes provide some intriguing insight into how he became the Sith Lord that we know today, but they don’t veer too far into unrealistic sympathy for the guy. As far as Ahsoka goes, the first episode, “Life and Death,” gives us some background about her home planet and her early showings of Jedi ways, but otherwise, they’re mostly more time spent with the Togruta that we know and love at different points in her life. But hey, that’s never a bad thing, and if you’re eagerly awaiting her live-action Disney+ series, it’s a good way to whet your appetite.
To that end, Ashley Eckstein makes a welcome return to reprise her Clone Wars role, and Corey Burton (who previously voiced Cad Bane in The Clone Wars) does some solid, threatening work as Dooku. But the real star is the animation; it’s the best a non-live-action Star War story has ever looked, particularly in the lush, colorful landscapes in both “Life and Death” and “Resolve,” which are almost distractingly beautiful. It’s all incredibly polished, feeling like just a tad stepped-up from the animation of The Clone Wars.
And while the stories are quick little morsels, they don’t feel like they’re for newcomers. Tales of the Jedi is definitely made for those who’ve already been won over by Star Wars’ animated stories, but that’s not necessarily a point against it. Fan service isn’t, in and of itself, a bad thing, especially when it’s this slickly done. Plus, if you haven’t already watched The Clone Wars, you should probably get on that.
Ranking the Star Wars Movies From Worst to Best