This is not the first time I’ve written a feature on Star Wars (check out the last one here and another here) Although this may seem like a departure from the usual content, you can be assured there is a lot more video game related stuff in the works. Why the reason for the sudden writing about The Clone Wars series? The final series ended last year and with the expansion of the universe it surely seems trivial to go back? Well I’m happy to report that if you missed the series the first time around, now has never been a better time to watch it. You’ll likely be as surprised as I was to find one of the best animated shows you’ll ever see. It’s not perfect by any stretch but it is canon and when it gets into a stride the quality is simply out of this world.
I must admit, I was a little apprehensive starting The Clone Wars at first and it didn’t help matters that the first impressions aren’t great. Everything occurs during the Second (Attack of the Clones) and Third (Revenge of the Sith) Star Wars films which aren’t exactly the best of bunch. The series starts out feeling like its reason to exist (other than merchandising) is simply to expand the lore and tie up loose ends however it quickly develops into its own creature and with each season the animation takes a leap forward in quality and direction. For a story that largely features characters that you know are going to survive the entire series (due to having necessary roles in Revenge of the Sith) The Clone Wars somehow manages to make the twists and turns that are interesting and powerful. It’s not simply the main cast who’s lives are at stake and you definitely get a feel for the world they inhabit along the way.
The introduction of numerous new characters combined with the patient pacing of the show, allows for The Clone Wars to be more focused than you’d expect for a series of this nature. Numerous uniquely different characters become involved in the battles and one of The Clone Wars best strengths is how it takes the time with the side characters to give them more of a weight and presence. This means that when dangerous situations arise there’s more at stake then simply filler. As the show progresses there is more of a focus on the series created character Ahsoka Tano (and a few others I won’t spoil) and it really allows some incredible twists and turns before the conclusion. There’s a good reason she was included with the Disney Infinity 3.0 starter pack and it’s fantastic news that she’s getting her own series. It now makes sense why the fandom lost it in that Mandalorian episode.
Despite The Clone Wars being 7 seasons long and each season having roughly 22 episodes (with the last 2 only having 13 and 12 respectively) each episode is a short 20 minute chunk of a typically 3 episode story. It follows a flow that most long running comic book series use. This means that each story is allowed time to start, develop and have a satisfying conclusion without compromising the over arching narrative. The events that play out on the planet Mandalore are a great example of this, slowly showing how the planet is effected by the war and constructing a narrative that leaves it ready for the next project to continue. Not all stories are arcing plots though and there are a handful of episodes that are simply one shot stories. These can be very hit and miss but the advantage of the short episodic nature of The Clone Wars is that even if you have a frustratingly silly Droid focused episode you can be safe in the knowledge that after that story is done you’ll be moving onto something entirely different. As you progress the animation and characters steadily evolve and you can feel the effect made to make sure it fits to the Star Wars universe.
The Clone Wars is really hard to pin to one genre or target audience. At first appearance everything looks like a kids show, especially at the start of the series and with most of the early promotional material. Anakin and Obi Wan slice through funny enemy robots and save the day, Padme shoots her gun and debates politics while the War rumbles on. Then you’ll have a story about troopers dealing with their mortality, a Sith murdering an entire village to get a Jedi’s attention, a battle royale story, slavery, the breaking of a persons freewill, abuse, manipulation, assassination, child kidnapping and a surprising number of macabre deaths. The Clone Wars is also full of shockingly violent moments that aren’t subtle. People will be beheaded, blasted through the chest, tortured to death and the camera will pan around to show it in the most shocking way possible. Although the series isn’t particularly gory it was staggering how many moments where incredibly brutal. It has moments with a similar shock value as the Joker’s knife in mouth scene in The Dark Knight, no blood shown but still a violent act. As ridiculous as this sounds, The Clone Wars is definitely not a kids show.
Dark topics and violence aside The Clone Wars is wonderfully funny. The battle droids have some brilliantly entertaining dialogue and as the series progresses the level of self awareness grows with the dialogue reflecting this change. Voice acting throughout The Clone Wars is superb and more than a few times you’ll be pausing to check if that voice you heard is a certain actor, 9 times out of 10 you’ll be right. The background music is absolutely stunning and if you have a chance to listen to the soundtrack to the series then you’ll adore some of the tracks. Typically there is an incredibly subtle nod to other familiar melodies that play out with precision timing and can create pockets of perfect moments. There are moments where all subtly is gone but these fit the narrative nicely, adding an extra undertone to certain scenes. It all comes together ridiculously well and can create moments to take your breath away.
This page is an incredibly glowing report so far then, what’s the down side? If the cringe of Anakin being a really horrible creep in Attack of the Clones wasn’t bad enough, there are some really awful moments that mirror this in The Clone Wars. The general decent into darkness for Anakin is interesting at times when on the battlefield or on a mission but his treatment of Padme is mostly hard to watch. They get together and break up often and this obviously still resolves itself for the 3rd film to occur but there are moments where his outrage is shown as being justified when it’s simply petty and disgusting. There is also a quite jarring short arc revolving around ‘the force Father’, Son and Daughter but thankfully once it’s over it doesn’t get referenced in a notable way (much like midi-chlorians) The Clone Wars also has a bad habit of making a few characters incredibly one dimensioned with Mace Windu being the best example, never becoming more than a disappointingly dull character throughout. There’s also a heavy glossing over any content that occurs in the prequel films, although this leaves the films with original content this results in disappointing moments such as Count Doku being killed off screen and simply referenced in a conversation despite being the villain for most of the series.
For its flaws The Clone Wars Series is still worth a watch. I cannot stress enough how incredible the animation for the series is. Impossibly stunning backdrops and scenes are shown with absolute precision. The animators clearly knew what they had on their hands and delighted in taking long pauses to soak in the landscapes, shots and artwork. The action and chorography is simply mind blowing at times and the lightsaber battles are some of the best in any Star Wars piece of media. I never even expected to remember the names of any of the clone troopers, side characters or be still shocked by the finale but here I am. I can understand the need for the fans to get the Final Season and I’m very glad it exists. The final 2 episodes stand out as the best. Simply incredible, compelling and emotional.
The force is strong with this one.
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