Star Wars: Forces Of Destiny (2017-2018)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 10/18/19
Cast: Lupita Nyong'o, Ashley Eckstein, Daisy Ridley, Shelby Young, Vanessa Marshall, Catherine Taber, Tiya Sircar, Matt Lanter, John Boyega, Tom Kane, Felicity Jones, Gina Torres, Mark Hamill, Dee Bradley Baker, Anthony Daniels, Jim Cummings, Kelly Marie Tran

Contains 36 episodes

"Being a hero means stepping forward, no matter what may happen."

"Forces Of Destiny" is a series of 2-3 minute animated shorts that accompanied the introduction of Disney's line of female-centric "Star Wars" dolls aimed at the young girl market. All but two episodes focus on the female characters in the "Star Wars" universe, namely Ahsoka Tano (Ashley Eckstein), Rey (Daisy Ridley), Padme Amidala (Catherine Taber), Leia Organa (Shelby Young), Maz Kanata (Lupita Nyong'o), Sabine Wren (Tiya Sircar), Hera Syndulla (Vanessa Marshall), Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), Qi'ra, and Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran).

I love the fact that the women are in the spotlight, presented as strong and intelligent feminine role models with superb athletic and combat skills, healthy mental attitudes, and solid moral compasses. It's also interesting to note that none of the female villains show up in the series, which reinforces the show's fundamental "good girl" approach. Unfortunately, much like the "Clone Wars" TV series, the family-friendly writing is overly juvenile, sickeningly sweet, and relentlessly sentimental. Even with the extremely short running times, every episode in the first season made me cry. While there's very little continuity in regard to the overall canon, "Star Wars" DNA is liberally sprinkled throughout to great effect. Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) even shows up in a couple of episodes, which really cranks up the nostalgia, and the meeting between Leia and Maz is especially poignant.

Production-wise, the show is a mixed bag. Overall, the voice acting is very good, with the exception of John Boyega who literally sounds like he phoned in his performance. Perhaps he's just not used to animation voiceover work. Lupita Nyong'o, Ashley Eckstein, and Tiya Sircar are exceptionally good. The character designs are simple, but charming, and match the "Forces Of Destiny" doll line. As a result, the characters tend to look more "girlie" than other "Star Wars" ventures, but that's not a bad thing. On the other hand, the animation tends to be unsophisticated, and body movements often look awkward and ungraceful. The music is adequate, but quickly forgotten, and blatantly recycled sound effects betray the show's lean budget. This is especially obvious in the case of BB-8, R2-D2, and Chewbacca, whose lines and voices were lifted directly from the films.

While the female-centric approach is admirable, the series doesn't seem to serve any purpose other than to capture the young girl market and sell dolls. The positivity, gender confidence, and moral lessons are fine, but they don't really inform the big picture. The characters are essentially Disney princesses with blasters and lightsabers. Maz Kanata is used as a framing device to tell the stories, much like a wise old mother or grandmother figure, and perhaps the whole point is to enforce the notion that small acts of kindness, friendship, sacrifice, and heroism can make a huge impact in the lives of others. Or perhaps it's all just subversive propaganda to recruit young girls into tomorrow's Rebel Alliance.