Why Clone Wars is a Vital Part of the Star Wars Universe


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 Each month the Cinelinx staff will write a handful of articles covering a specified film-related topic. These articles will be notified by the Movielinx banner. Movielinx is an exploration and discussion of our personal connections with film. May (the) 4th is Star Wars day, and because of this we will honor Star Wars all month long. What do you love about Star Wars? How did the franchise influence you? Feel free to add your comments and reviews!

When Clone Wars first came out as a theatrical featured film, it got panned royally (18% from Rotten Tomatoes). A lot of what was written was justifiable: crappy animation, weak script, the opening was not the “true” opening, Obi-Wan’s beard resembled a snow-plow, etc. etc. I’m not going to argue with any of that because it is what it is. A theatrical release of a franchise intended for television can sometimes be an unwise decision but I don’t make those decisions so couldn’t tell you their logic for why they did it. What I can say is that it did get better with the passage of time.

The first two seasons are more action-oriented than anything. Adults who are avid sci-fi junkies and wanting some sort of character development are going to be solely disappointed. But to some people, like myself, who crave just about anything Star Wars (short of the Lego parody movies), this series more than fit the bill. It had both the action seen in the movies as well as pushing the limits of Cartoon Network’s standards and practices. Clone Wars aired at a time when half the stuff they were showing (people getting shot and killed, anatomy innuendo, habitual alcohol use [and abuse] by consenting aliens) would have had the show automatically segregated to the Adult Swim block or re-edited like when the network aired Tenchi Muyo! (a-la “special tea”). In this case, the network realized Star Wars is a mainstream institution that has entertained people of all ages for more than 35 years and needed to be shown as intended.

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As popularity grew, the remaining seasons had less stand-alone episodes and more story arc episodes which helped in the character development of a lot of the leads; specifically Anakin, Padme, and Ahsoka. It also allowed viewers into worlds that are part of the SW universe but have rarely been mentioned. We even get to meet the clones themselves and how they create their own unique personalities and deal with the pressures and strife of ongoing war and its true cost. This is especially laid out in an important story involving a clone defector who given the opportunity leaves his unit after watching his comrades killed off because they were too damaged to save. He then becomes a farmer with a biological family only to be discovered by another clone unit and has to come to terms with his past. Other shades of gray conflict can be found throughout the series. Just like with our civil war, not everything the Republic Senate (Union) did was “good” and not everything the Separatists (Confederacy) did was “evil”. In fact, the Jedi themselves are not the seen by all as the golden knights of the universe. Yoda himself references an alien race strong with the Force who considered the Jedi Order “kidnappers of children” in the early years of existence regarding their practice of taking children as young as four or five away from their families only to be trained in the service of the Republic for the rest of their lives. There are also countless worlds that remain neutral that want nothing to do with either side. The show also covers a lot of topics that could be seen as a reflection of current events such as domestic terrorism, forced occupation, political cover-ups, people questioning their own ideals, and so on. Even as great as the movies are, there is only so much one can cover in a 120 minute film. This series allows the fans to see “the rest of the story” as the late Paul Harvey was coined to say.

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One personal thing I like about Clone Wars is how well-acted the characters are portrayed. I know most people think voice-acting is easy, but to generate the same kind of action-reaction in a “cartoon” on the same level as a live-action episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation or Battlestar Galactica (the newer series) is a lot harder to pull-off. An example of this is the fact fans have always criticized how “stilted” the acting was in the prequels as well as Anakin’s and Padme’s relationship. Clone Wars was allowed to correct some of that. While the relationship is no definitely no Han and Leia, it is a little more realistic when compared to the movie versions and even tackles some issues regarding the relationship itself (long distance apart, trust issues, etc.). With the exception of a few comical episodes, yes, Jar-Jar is present in 5-6 episodes total, you’d sometimes forget this is an animated series as a whole.

While Clone Wars is official cannon within the SW Universe, newer fans do not have to be concerned about viewing the series for fear of references that might be slid into the upcoming films. The main reason being there’s a 50 year time frame between Clone Wars and “The New Republic” (my name for the new trilogy at the time of this writing). Most fans already know what happens through the movies themselves. With Clone Wars, we basically get to see what went on in the background that have allowed the events in the movies to materialize in the first place. This is also where most of the fun in watching the series actually lies. As canon, when you watch all six seasons, you see components of the key characters that you may not have known about. Especially with Anakin and Yoda. Like a lot of long-time SW fans, I always had the established notion of who the characters were and what they were about. If you watch Clone Wars and then watch the movies again (specifically Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi), it is LITERALLY like watching the movies completely new again. You envision Darth Vader’s and Yoda’s personality differently than the first time you watched them. You’ll begin to ask questions like was Anakin still inside Vader all these years and struggled internally with the monster he had become or was he dormant only to have his own son awaken what little was left of his personality? On a more trivial observation, you wonder how Darth Vadar (assuming some of old Anakin was still in there) would feel knowing he blasted the same droid he was fiercely loyal to throughout the series. The same loyalty as if it were your horse or dog. And then there is the revelations seen in the very final story arc with Yoda as the central character which is considered by many fans to be one of the most powerful stories currently in the SW universe. I guarantee after watching it you will never see the Dagobah scene with Luke and Yoda the same way ever again.

Clone Wars in my opinion is as essential to the Star Wars universe as the movies themselves. Simply because it allows fans to re-watch the movies in a different light and in some cases see the entire universe differently. To a lot of fans, that is more of a gift then all the high-end special effect enhancements imagined.