REVIEW: ‘The Bad Batch’ is an impressive addition to the “Star Wars’ franchise

Boyce Rucker, Contributing Writer

One could say that there was a time where the Star Wars franchise seemed to be fully beholden to the realm of cinema and thus confined to the big screen; this now seems like a bizarre assumption given the franchise’s recent expansion.

Spanning across various mediums such as comics, novels, video games, television and amusement park rides, the series has become a never-ending staple of pop culture. After the stir of controversy and divisiveness brought on by the storytelling of the sequel trilogy, the franchise has been able to regain its sure-footing through its episodic content on Disney+, like “The Mandalorian” and the final season of “Star Wars: The Clone Wars.” 

Continuing its streak of success, the animated series “Star Wars: The Bad Batch” premiered its first episode on May 4 on Disney+.

“Star Wars: The Bad Batch.” (Jennifer Corbett, Dave Filoni/Disney Plus)

The original “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” provided viewers with a series of thrilling stories that took place in the prequel trilogy era while providing further depth to characters like Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi, as well as introducing new characters to the Star Wars canon. 

A spin-off of “The Clone Wars,” “The Bad Batch” focuses on the titular squad of genetically enhanced clone troopers as they break from the ranks of the clone army after the execution of Order 66 and the emergence of the Galactic Empire. Unlike the majority of the clone army, the squad makes use of more creative and resourceful tactics when they’re engaged in battle while also displaying and acting on emotions with consideration to morality rather than simply following orders.

Despite being set during the events of Order 66, which is overly retread at this point, the premiere introduces a fresh perspective by providing viewers with a distinct point-of-view from the clone troopers themselves. There is plenty of intriguing setup for the 16-episode season, from the inclusion of an antagonist from “A New Hope,” the relationship between the squad members, the introduction of a young ally with a shrouded mystery regarding her origin, and the possibility of further witnessing how the clone trooper army becomes the iconic stormtroopers under Empire rule. The premiere carries a good balance between action and storytelling that longtime fans and new fans alike will enjoy and become engaged with, despite the hour-long runtime.

Stephen Stanton in “Star Wars: The Bad Batch” (2021) (Jennifer Corbett, Dave Filoni/Disney Plus)

Each squad member is compelling and carries their own unique personalities that’s written well-enough to provide them with character arcs that could carry across multiple seasons. For instance, out of the five soldiers, one standout character would have to be Crosshair; as a cold and efficient marksmen trooper, his aim is to strictly execute orders, even if it crosses moral boundaries that could cause conflict within the team. 

And there is Wrecker, the heavy-hitter of the batch who is sure to immediately win viewers over within minutes of the episode’s opening. These characters, and each clone trooper, are brought to life with the voice acting talent of Dee Bradley Baker, who has voiced each animated clone trooper since the debut of “The Clone Wars” in 2008. Viewers can also look forward to the introduction of new characters and the return of fan-favorites, some from live-action films and shows, in upcoming episodes.

A shot from “Star Wars: The Bad Batch.” (Jennifer Corbett, Dave Filoni/Disney Plus)

The animation style that’s been used since the 2008 “Clone Wars” still holds up very well and lends itself appropriately to the cinematic scale of the episode. Each action sequence feels like it could only be done in animation, given the limitations of live-action, and delivers stylish combat scenes that show promise of an adventurous addition to the lineup of “Star Wars” series on Disney+. The environments are greatly rendered and result in incredibly stunning shots throughout the episode that feel as though they could be shots from the live-action films. If there is one strong component that has carried over from the films to the television series, it is the effective pairing of cinematic visuals and action sequences.

“Star Wars: The Bad Batch” serves as a strong and engaging entry within the long-running franchise. Its promise of delivering an enthralling and engaging adventure with richly-developed characters is almost guaranteed with just the first episode alone. If there was any doubt about Disney’s handling of the franchise before, “The Bad Batch” should offer a new hope for a brighter and definitive direction.