I think most people agree on two things being universally terrible, the Star Wars prequels and Cartoon Network in the late 2000’s. So imagine a series that is set during the Star Wars prequels and aired on Cartoon Network in 2008, recipe for disaster, right? But in spite of these odds, Star Wars: The Clone Wars manages to overcome and be a fantastic cartoon set between the events of Star Wars Episodes II and III. In fact, it’s actually better than the prequels themselves.
The Clone Wars follows, well the Clone Wars, and the events that occur during the three year war between the clone army of the Republic led by the Jedi and the Droid Army led by the Sith. Of course, the main focus of the show is on Jedi Knights Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker. Obi-Wan is basically the same wise-cracking Jedi Master we know from the movies but Anakin has undergone a major change in that he’s actually likeable as opposed to…
In order to understand what I mean, let’s think back to the speech Obi-Wan gave Luke in A New Hope about Anakin. “He was the best star pilot in the galaxy, and a cunning warrior, and a good friend.” Well if we remember the prequel movies Anakin is nothing like what Obi-Wan described. We don’t see his combat/star pilot skills or cunning outside of a bit in Episode III and he is most certainly not a good friend due to being whiny, moody, creepy, and all around unlikeable. Anakin’s the weird guy on twitter who wears fedoras, bitches about the Friend Zone, and believes Trump isn’t a total asshole; you just don’t wanna be around him.
Well The Clone Wars fixes that right up, from Season 1 we see the Anakin we should have seen in the movies: charming, courageous, balls to the wall, caring, and unconventional in his fighting; in other words the opposite of the Anakin we see in the movies. Heck, I even buy his friendship with Obi-Wan as they banter and interact with each other in a way that makes you buy that they’re close friends. Over time you actually begin to forget about that total loser from the prequels and just accept The Clone Wars Anakin as the default Anakin, because goddamn he’s just so likeable.
But we also see what makes him fall to the dark side as there plenty of times Anakin is unafraid to show his dark side to get what he needs and he can be very emotional at times, even showing his pettiness and almost murderous jealousy at times. Heck we actually see Anakin fall to the dark side at one point, although it did last all of 5 minutes (also the reason he did it is pretty friggin ironic).
Of course Anakin and Obi-Wan aren’t the only ones who lead the show as we have plenty of faces new and old. You’ve got the cast of the prequels (sadly, that includes Jar-Jar) but you’ve also got new faces like Captain Rex, Anakin’s second in command; Asajj Ventress, a Sith Assassin with a mysterious past; Savage Opress, Darth Maul’s brother; Cad Bane, a bounty hunter with a very distinct style; and many many more. But the most important new character to pop up in the show is Ashoka Tano, a Jedi Padawan who is apprenticed to Anakin throughout most of the series.
Now, giving Anakin a teen sidekick sounds like an idea that even George Lucas would scrap for being too stupid and pandering. And in the movie pilot… yeah, she’s not horrible but I certainly wouldn’t say I’d like to see more from her. Luckily, the actual TV Series trades that out and by Season 2 we have a better Ashoka than what we started with, someone whose growth as a character I want to see more of, which certainly does happen quite a bit in the storylines presented.
Speaking of storylines, I personally think the stories told in Clone Wars beat out the stories told in the prequels. These stories are well-written, suspenseful, filled with interesting characters, and refuse to shy away from death. You’ve got basically anything dealing with the Planet Mandalore, the Return of Darth Maul, the Mortis stuff that makes the Force cooler than that midi0chlorian shit, and more thrilling conspiracy stories than you can shake a stick at.
Now story isn’t everything when making a cartoon and to be frank I’ve never been a fan of CGI animated shows, they just don’t seems to have the texture or fluidity of traditional artstyles. Which is where The Clone Wars again kicks some serious ass as the animation is fast, fluid, and looks jaw dropping gorgeous. There are even moments where it rivals the movies in terms of cinematic quality, and there’s none of that jarring green screen like in the prequels so that’s already a plus.
However, there are a few problems with The Clone Wars, the first being how it starts. No, I’m not talking about that sick as hell narration that sounds like a wartime propaganda film, a neat touch given the subject matter. I’m talking about the movie that served as the pilot and Season 1; they just aren’t very good in comparison to everything else that The Clone Wars had to offer. In fact those stories bored me when I was a kid and caused me to put down the series before I reached the far better Season 2. Plus the animation, while not terrible, isn’t at the level that Season 2 onward is.
The second problem is some of the stories; specifically ones where Jar-Jar is a major focus. Anyone who’s seen Episode 1 will probably instantly get what my beef is; he’s fucking Jar-Jar Binks, need I say more? There are even storylines focused around R2-D2 and C-3P0 and that soudns terrible. Not the stuff with R2-D2 mind you, but C-3P0. I’ve never liked this golden loser and the prospect of spending 30 minutes with him makes me wanna kill some younglings.
That said though, those are some minor issues in an otherwise stellar series, and one that transcends it’s terrible origins. It’s on Netflix so you have no excuse, go check it out now, just don’t start with the movie, I’ll be covering why later but trust me it suuucks.