Late to the party: Star Wars: The Clone Wars

The Star Wars prequel trilogy receives a significant amount of criticism. Some of it is warranted, as the trilogy has its fair share of problems, such as Padme dying from a broken heart and giving up the will to live and most of Hayden Christensen’s acting . Personally I’m a big fan of The Phantom Menace (I found the senate negotiations and the presence of the Trade Federation interesting) but Attack of the Clones was the weakest of all the films. This was for multiple reasons ranging from the overuse of bad CG, the aforementioned acting, and the overall plot of the film wasn’t particularly good. However the film was influential in what it brought to the lore and explaining key aspects of the universe.

Attack of the Clones also gave Lucasfilm the opportunity to explore other stories that could take place outside of the films in a way that was more accessible than the expansive series of novels and comics that populate most of what was the Expanded Universe. Initially this was in the form of the first Clone Wars animated series which came out in between episodes two and three. This had a distinctive style due to being from the creator of Samurai Jack and was well received. Later George Lucas decided he wanted to revisit the Clone Wars and expand upon the events that took place during those three years.

Unlike the previous Clone Wars series from 2003 The Clones Wars (which began in 2008) adopted a brand new computer animated style, but one that took great inspiration from the 2003 series, with many of the returning characters having their appearance based on their previous depictions.This was highly effective as the show manages to expand upon the animated look but also utilise the advantages that computer animation can provide, when used correctly.

Whilst the series shares characters from the prequel trilogy new voice actors provide the voices for the characters. Although the first few created episodes were combined to form a feature film (although it isn’t nearly as good as the rest of the show) in which some of the original actors reprised their roles and voiced their characters from the films, this included; Christopher Lee (Count Dooku), Anthony Daniels (C-3PO), and Samuel L. Jackson (Mace Windu). Using difference voice actors for a series that was always intended to have around five seasons made sense, however what wasn’t expected was that the new actors would do such a good job, at worst they were merely imitating the original actors, but often they were surpassing them, this was particularly noticeable with Anakin Skywalker (now voiced by Matt Lanter). Whilst still mostly the same Anakin we’re familiar with from the prequel films, his cokyness no longer comes off as grating, and his naiveness more pronounced, and therefore his actions more understandable.

From what I have seen so far (currently near the end of season 2) the show has effectively utilised the benefits that the television format can bring, this being that smaller stories can be explored in more detail without detracting from the wider narrative. The use of story arcs is nothing new in TV, especially for animation, but for me The Clone Wars presents one of the most effective implementation of this storytelling approach. The arcs vary in size, although some episodes are essentially stand alone, but tend to be around 3-4 episodes. This gives ample time to explore a particular battle or diplomatic event.

The arc that I have just finished watching involved the Mandalorians (the society from which Jango Fett and by extension Boba Fett are from) who while determined to remain neutral during the Clone Wars risk being dragged in by the efforts of the Death Watch who are a group that wish to see a return to the warmongering days of Mandalore past. Of course their recent actions are no accident, as Count Dooku and Darth Sidious are manipulating events from behind the scenes to benefit their own aims. This on its own is interesting, but unexpectedly we are also given a look to into Obi -wan Kenobi’s past, one that draws a surprising parallel with that of Anakin Skywalker.

Of course issues of diplomacy aren’t to everyone’s liking, and the battle scenes present throughout the show are spectacular. They both simultaneously make me more excited for Star Wars Battlefront to take part in large ground based battles, but also disappointed that there are no space battles, as there are many ingenious space battles that take place.

This is complemented by the shows ability to change its focus throughout a season. There are episodes and arcs that do not include Anakin or Obi-wan and are no weaker for it. It is a credit to the writers that an episode that focuses on Anakin’s apprentice Ahsoka Tano (who is first introduced in the show) can still be entertaining and worthwhile. Even the clones who were mostly forgettable in the films are given personalities, and it is not difficult to care about the struggles that they face. Other stand outs are oddly enough the Battle Droids who manage to bring a lot of the comic relief, which is necessary overall as the show is permeated with darker subplots.

The Clone Wars came as a surprise to me, I somehow thought that the show was going to be too heavily geared towards children, and whilst it isn’t inappropriate, this is a show that any Star Wars fan regardless of age can enjoy. The Star Wars Universe can be intimidating, which is partly why Disney discounted the Expanded Universe from the main canon, but The Clone Wars provides an accessible entry point for those who want learn more about the galaxy outside of the core films. Plus with the show being confirmed as remaining part of the core canon it can be considered worth your time. Then again the show manages to stand on its own and provide a range of different stories that are enjoyable for a variety of reasons. Now that the show has concluded and with Star Wars Rebels, a show that shares the same art style but set between episodes three and four, already off to a strong start, now is a great time to dive in.

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