I’ll be the first to admit it — I got into “Star Wars” late in life. I only watched the series when my high school physics teacher played the first six movies after exam season, and after that, I was enamored. Although I had originally harbored some doubts about the series’ hype, once I watched the movies that started it all, I finally appreciated George Lucas’ universe.
I remained a casual “Star Wars” fan for a while, familiar enough with the general plot but not devoted enough to read the comics or memorize every character’s name. Last winter, however, I decided to start watching one of the spin-off series, “Star Wars Rebels.” I initially worried that I wouldn’t be very invested in the show, as the series’ protagonists are not part of the main canon. But the character dynamics, plot development and quirky graphics got me hooked. After finishing “Rebels,” I was hungry for more “Star Wars” content, and, having already blasted through “The Mandalorian,” the only thing left to do was watch “Star Wars: The Clone Wars.”
Set in the time between “Star Wars” episodes II and III, “The Clone Wars” might have seemed like a way to simply fill up the Saturday morning time slot during its inception in 2008. Coupled with the fact that the series treads onto prequel territory, an era of revulsion for many “Star Wars” fans, there’s lots of room for skepticism. Just as “Star War Rebels” takes patience to get into, however, so too does “The Clone Wars.” The plot starts off slow, consisting mostly of short, episodic arcs that involve clashes between the Jedi and Count Dooku’s lackeys, but the character development and the stories that follow are well worth the initial pace. Co-creator and supervising director Dave Filoni does a brilliant job of endearing his audience to even the cringiest characters, including Jar Jar Binks and Jabba the Hutt. The series also transforms Anakin Skywalker from the angsty young adult in “Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones” into a full-fledged, level-headed Jedi master. Most importantly, the show’s storylines navigate the gray area between the Dark and the Light sides, suggesting that the story’s heroes and villains are not as distinctly divided as they seem.
“The Clone Wars” allows Filoni to build upon many aspects of the plot left undeveloped in previous “Star Wars” content, such as the convoluted politics of the Galactic Senate on Coruscant and the aftermath of Darth Maul’s demise. The show’s formatting as a TV series provides a much richer understanding of the “Star Wars” galaxy than could be offered in the movies, slowing down the pacing and developing plotlines. The medium of the series also provides Filoni with enough space to experiment and apply his own imagination to the “Star Wars” universe; throughout the show, we see an abundance of genre-mixing across episodes, from murder mysteries to political drama to war narratives. In effect, “The Clone Wars” takes one of the biggest events in the canon and fleshes it out into one delightfully entertaining ride.
As an animated show that spans more than a decade, “The Clone Wars” showcases varying animation quality throughout its run. The CGI that Lucasfilm uses in the first three seasons has a more video-game feel to it, whereas the expanded budget and technological capabilities of the later seasons allow for greater realism and smoother graphics. The animation style is certainly more photorealistic than “Rebels,” an understandable choice since the crew for “The Clone Wars” must depict recognizable actors from the live-action movies with accuracy.
“The Clone Wars,” as with most “Star Wars” content, boasts a phenomenal soundtrack thanks to the excellent work of Kevin Kiner and John Williams. The composers ensure that the show’s major musical themes match the grandiosity of the rest of the series while also tailoring them to the specific context of each arc and planet portrayed. The soundtrack ranges from lighthearted and fun to epic and dramatic, resulting in a sound that is well-rounded enough to match the dynamic energy of “The Clone Wars” as a whole.
Overall, “The Clone Wars” is a wonderful way to experience nostalgia while also exploring new content in the “Star Wars” world. The show offers a space in which fans can revisit their favorite characters and planets, now re-imagined and improved. To most audiences who have seen “Star Wars,” the plot’s general direction is known. But the journey along the way is waiting to be discovered through the countless stories within “The Clone Wars.”
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