The Force Is Strong With This One
The “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” animated series is a bit of a jumbled mess. I don’t mean the stories are too complex to understand or anything of that nature. What I mean is many of the storylines are told out of order. That’s right, the series doesn’t have a very consistent chronological order. In fact there are two episodes in the series that take place before the theatrically released film. This gets messy because you’ll be watching one episode and then the next one will just jump to a different point in the Clone Wars. Why this decision was made I’m not too sure however the reason I ramble on about this is because I normally review shows by seasons. However since “The Clone Wars” is so all over the place it is best to look up the chronological order (on starwars.com) and watch it in that fashion (as opposed to the order of release).
From that opening paragraph (and my less then positive review on the theatrical film)you might be thinking to yourself, I must really hate this series. When in fact the opposite is true. When taken as a complete series “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” is actually a very well done show. It explores a lot with the characters we know and love by really developing them even further. The series gives us fun adventures, while also greatly expanding on the lore. This isn’t a perfect series but it’s a damn good one that deserves far more recognition than it’s gotten.
The premise is simple, this is a look at what happened during the Clone Wars in between “Episode II: Attack of the Clones” and Episode III: Revenge of the Sith”. While it mostly revolves around the adventures of Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi (and Anakin’s apprentice Ahsoka Tano), this series (with its massive 22 episode seasons) goes beyond that by also exploring some characters we didn’t get a lot of time seeing in the principal films.
When watching this series before you head into “Revenge of the Sith” it really makes the emotional beats of that film come across even stronger than it does before. This is really when we get to see Anakin Skywalker as a full fledge Jedi. In “Phantom Menace” Anakin is just a young child. In “Attack of the Clones” he is a young padawan. As a padawan Anakin is still learning and very naive. So, he comes across as whiny (as does Luke in parts of his journey to become a Jedi) . And finally when we meet up with him again in “Revenge of the Sith” we see him in distrust of the system and the Jedi. “The Clone Wars” really gets to show off his confident and heroic self (while being voiced by the capable Matt Lanter). There are episodes here and there that hint towards his eventual descent into darkness (most especially the three part story arc on the planet of Mortis).
The first season of “The Clone Wars” suffers a lot of the same issues as the feature film did (to a far lesser degree though). You can tell the animation was still being fine tuned and bringing Jar-Jar Binks back into the series isn’t exactly a welcomed return. However there are still some excellent episodes in the mix, especially the season finale “Hostage Crisis”. From that point on however the show kicks it up to a new level.
Season two has some of the best sequences in the “Star Wars” saga period with a second battle on Geonosis that rivals the one taking place in “Attack of the Clones”. The animation is fined tuned, the characters are fleshed out and the episodes are used more economically (making the most of its 22 episodes with less fluff) and the action is incredible. I critiqued the theatrical film for mechanical looking lightsaber fights. The ones in the series are engaging, tense and exciting. There is several (especially when a certain Sith Lord returns) lightsaber fights that are even better than some of the live action ones. As the seasons keep on progressing, the series just keeps getting better.
Season four though brings back one of the most beloved Star Wars characters of all time, Darth Maul. Last time we saw him he was sliced in, how could he have survived? Yeah, the explanation is a bit hokey but it works well enough to get the character back into the action. Nearly every episode revolving around him is a great episode. In “Phantom Menace” he has about 3 lines and is a silent badass. Here his character is fleshed out and becomes more interesting as a result. They expand upon his back story and even his brother, Savage Opress, is well written. This is the best decision Lucasfilm, creator Dave Filoni and George Lucas made for the series.
Aside from bringing back old character they introduce some new ones while also digging back into the Genndy Tartakovsky micro series “Clone Wars” (which is no longer considered cannon) to return some fan favorites. Captain Rex and Asajj Ventress are notable returning characters from that series (along with voice actor James Arnold Taylor as Obi-Wan Kenobi). The standout new addition is the Bounty Hunter Cad Bane. Bane makes numinous appearances throughout the series and shows himself as a capable character that can not only take on the Republic Clone Troopers, but the Jedi as well. One could be so bold and make a strong case that he is even more badass then classic Star Wars character Boba Fett.
The series though is not without its issues. The dialogue from time to time is a bit hokey (which improves as the series progresses), and there is more than a few episodes that clearly miss their mark while some others feel like filler. Four less episodes a season could have done wonders for the pacing of the seasons and the arcs.
It’s a shame this series remains unfinished. After Disney bought out Lucasfilm it canceled the series which had already produced 13 episodes for its Sixth Season. The last season was released on Netflix as “The Lost Missions”. There were still plans for a Seventh and Eighth season but it was scrape leaving many arcs hanging. Two arcs were completed in the form a novel and a graphic novel. If you reach the end of the series and want more still go explore the novel “Dark Disciple” and the graphic novel “Son of Dathomir” (which are both official Star Wars cannon). Hopefully the series will be completed in various other ways. For now I am more than happy with what we got.