By Dan Turpin
“Begun this Clone War has…”
-Jedi Master Yoda-
Lucasfilm made a slight snafu by releasing the animated pilot first as the series had yet to find its creative footing and really showcase the talent involved. It’s not terrible by any stretch, but it gave ammo to the bitter critics and raised skepticism of how STAR WARS will translate and THRIVE on television. Thank the Maker, shut all that down; impressing audiences and critics, winning several Emmy’s and becoming cartoon Networks biggest ratings grabber- ever. The credit goes to creator and executive producer, George Lucas and writer/director/producer/show runner, Dave Feloni who was a Lucas-by-proxy, for capturing the nuances of the characters and universe and infusing it with high action, emotions and plenty of adventure.
Too many were dismissive by calling it a, “kid’s show,” which it can be, but it was/is for everyone, since not many kids shows have aliens doing torturing methods that involve BRAIN stirs on their victims or have the word, “murder”, or “Senate” in an episode title. As bloodless as it is, it has a high body count for being family entertainment.
Deeper characterizations and themes of betrayal, duty, friendship and misplaced loyalties are sprinkled throughout and played out through the prism of war and political machinations; sophisticated storytelling with visual flair and amazing voice acting, push The Clone Wars over the top of some of the best damn STAR WARS ever seen and one of the best animated series- period.
Set up as mini-movies, each episode with a narrated version instead of the standard opening crawl gets a hunk of set-up out of the way at the start, straight to action and contains all the expanded universe characters, iconic star ships and bounty hunters you could ever want!
To its credit, Clone Wars never started off small, and the 22 minute running time didn’t mean a darn thing. Visually it could rival and often times surpass the movies and the sound packed the required punches as well, especially if you have a quality sound system. It’s huge and this epic quality translated beautifully. The best part is that in some ways,(not all, but some) the series was/is far superior to the prequel films as we get to spend a lot more time with all of the participants- no more broad strokes- we get strong characterizations from all the usual suspects and few more surprise appearances. Anakin Skywalker, Obi Wan Kenobi, Plo Koon, Ki Adi, Yoda, Mace Windu and Padme Amidala get plenty of screen time as they struggle to keep the peace in a galaxy at war.
Anakin has become my favorite character of the series and we see him as the noble hero, frustrated by the boss’s obsession with procedures and rules; he is the most compelling figure as we see flashes of darkness, yet his decency keeps him stable…for now. He’s a well-meaning kid, but his zealous tactics are at times questionable and he unknowingly puts his fellow Jedi’s in danger. He’s likable and brash and at times and even naive loaded with a great sense of humor as does the series; a great running gag throughout is how Anakin and General Grievous never see each other… since they officially don’t meet until SITH. Obi Wan is still the big brother, frustrated by his Padawan’s antics, he too is fun, likable and so very proper with his measured judgment.
Jar Jar is still around being as divisive as ever and continues to annoy those around him. His last appearance in season 6 redeems him somewhat as he fights off some enemies and saves Mace Windu’s life.
Padme doesn’t get as much time as the two show hogs, but she too is duty bound and they all get their moments to shine and does a wonderful lead in to Revenge of the Sith. Her last few appearances with Anakin in season 6 offer some very prophetic happenings and show Anakin’s dark side moments as he becomes increasingly fearful and PROTECTIVE.
The series’ most controversial aspect was the addition of Ahsoka Tano, Anakin’s Padawan’s. How can Anakin have a Padawan? Anakin was a blank slate for many years so it wasn’t entirely impossible. Many cried foul at this, but as the series moves on, she proves her mettle and becomes a welcomed addition. She turns out to be the best addition, the best character to a long list of new character additions, alongside my favorite Ventress and Savage Opress.