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Animation ● Review: Star Wars – The Clone Wars

Title: Star Wars – The Clone Wars

Director(s): Dave Filoni & Various

Screenwriter(s): Various

Studio: Lucasfilm

Released: 2008–2020

Runtime: 7 seasons, ~24m each.

Season 1 – Season 4: 22 episodes.

Season 5 Runtime: 20 episodes.

Season 6 Runtime: 13 episodes.

Season 7 Runtime: 12 episodes.


My Verdict: Basically an Ahsoka spin-off. Don’t expect too much. Do expect some cheese. Writing improves as the series progresses. Sufficiently amusing.


Star Wars – The Clone Wars

● If one hasn’t seen The Clone Wars by now, then one is probably never going to see it. Either way, I will make a few comments.


● The style and animation of the characters may not be to one’s tastes but, like it or not, it is consistent. Generally, the vehicles and backgrounds are nicely rendered.


● The voice acting is generally excellent with most voices similar enough to their live-action counterparts. Ian Abercrombie as Palpatine doesn’t quite resemble Ian McDiarmid enough even though he was a great actor and his performance is good. The same can be said of Tim Curry, who stepped in after Abercrombie’s death in Season 6, although he arguably sounds a little more like McDiarmid. McDiarmid reprises his role in Season 7 for a few lines.


● In terms of the storytelling, the first three seasons are somewhat episodic. As the series progresses, there is an increasing amount of 2-episode arcs. Season 4 onwards contains mostly 3-episode and 4-episode arcs which makes for more fleshed-out stories.


● When one begins watching from Season 1, the “war propaganda” voiceover narrator that introduces and/or recaps the episode can be jarring. Tom Kane’s voice is perfect for such a role, but one may wonder whether such a voiceover is intended to be satirical or used in every episode. It is the norm throughout, except for the final arc in Season 7.


● One of the main weaknesses of the series is that there is little sense of how the war progresses at the galactic scale. It is an interstellar conflict spread across the galaxy but at no point does one know where the lines are. There is a sense of that, even without maps, when on a particular planet. Usually, the Republic forces have to take A but must take B first while dealing with C—but no meaningful battlelines or strategies are discussed at the galactic level. There is no arc across the season or the entire series. In this regard, the series lacks direction.


● In the earlier seasons, there are a few episodes that are prequels to earlier episodes but are not stated as such. Only after a minute into it does one realize it is intended to be a prequel episode. This should be made clear as it is off-putting.


● There are the cheesy dramatics typically resorted to in a series. For example, our Jedi heroes keep bumping into General Grievous in the first few seasons but he keeps on getting away. He has to because he doesn’t meet his demise until Episode III but the execution is just silly. If Grievous is to make multiple appearances, then it would be better to tell the story of how he went from a Kaleesh warlord to the cybernetic form we see.


● Anakin Skywalker and Count Dooku clash not that often but enough so that it renders the former’s line in the opening sequence of Episode III less dramatic. Granted, “My powers have doubled since the last time we met, Count” need not be Anakin referring to his arm-losing duel in Episode II since it is plausible they clashed during the war, but the series needs to be more mindful of the canon. (The same can be said for all the other spin-off series so far.)


● Ahsoka is a necessary character, the series would not work without her. It is practically her spin-off. Obviously, she is also there because nerds want to see a young lady wield a lightsaber. Or two. Either way, to the credit of the writers, she is a strong character and mostly well-utilized. She is not a goodie-goodie and, like Anakin, has a few cool moments when she doesn’t hesitate with her lightsaber. Watching Anakin and her do their own thing and break every rule and mostly get away with it is amusing but could be better handled.


Ahsoka
Ahsoka

● Maul returns in Season 4. As much as I like the character, he really should just stay dead. Seriously, the guy got cut in half. Having his brother Savage Opress do what he does makes more sense.


● The benefit of such a lengthy series is that there are opportunities for new recurring characters. Some are interesting. Some are annoying. For example, Hondo Ohnaka the pirate is not too bad at first but he never develops into anything. On the one hand, he is not exactly a walkover, he is not quite comic relief. On the other hand, although he can be antagonistic, he is not that much of a threat either. Nor is he the intriguing morally grey character. It would be satisfying to have Ahsoka run a lightsaber through him which, unfortunately, doesn’t happen.


● Despite the weaknesses mentioned above, there are a few strengths. There is an effort to show new planets that are unique. There are many beautifully rendered worlds, both their natural environment and architecture.


● The other is that some attention is given to the mysteries introduced in the prequel trilogy. For example, more information about Jedi Master Sifo-Dyas is revealed.


● Also, the significance of the Dagobah system and how Yoda learned to communicate with the dead is elaborated on in Season 6. This is merely mentioned at the end of Episode III so it is good to see the subject addressed in more detail. The concept of the Force has always been vague, which is not necessarily a bad thing for the purposes of storytelling. However, its implied pantheism is questionable. Either way, Season 6 takes it further, that the Living Force from living things powers the Cosmic Force. It arguably makes more sense if it is the other way around but pantheism ultimately doesn’t make sense anyway.


● There are episodes about and set on Mandalore. These episodes are generally good as they add to the worldbuilding. Satine is the ruler of Mandalore and the older sister of Bo-Katan, and both characters are well-written enough. As the former has a past connection to Obi-Wan Kenobi, it gives his character another layer.


Satine and Obi-Wan Kenobi
Satine and Obi-Wan Kenobi

● Ahsoka obviously has to leave the Jedi Order without dying before the series’ conclusion. The circumstances surrounding that are a little contrived but the emotion of it is sufficiently well-managed—it is sad but not overdone, and one does feel bad for Anakin. It makes his fall to the dark side more understandable.


● The final arc follows Ahsoka leading up to Order 66. It is one of the best arcs and, either way, a fitting conclusion to the series.


● The writing improves as the series progresses despite all the silly moments like Grievous getting away, Anakin and Ahsoka doing whatever they want, and Maul returning. Although there is no blood, guts or even dust from bodies to give it that visceral effect, some of the war scenes and deaths are quite intense for a so-called cartoon. Don’t expect deep and meaningful themes or emotionally charged arcs like anime (apart from maybe two), but it is a well-produced and sufficiently amusing series with a few wow moments.

 

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