Flashback Reviews: Star Wars Side Projects Part V (Star Wars: The Clone Wars 2003-2005)
Finally! I finished the reviews of the bad side projects! Thanks for sticking with me (and hopefully laughing a bit along the way). I promised some good ones would be coming. Here's the first...
This cartoon is packed with action, incredible animation and amazing music.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2003-2005) may be the absolute best of the Star Wars side projects. Although it is light on dialogue, it is heavy on action, interesting stories, perfect animation and amazing music.
I loved this show so much when it first aired that I burned DVDs and gave them to all of my geeky friends for Christmas that year. Every single one of them was thrilled.
It is important to note that although I also enjoy the 2008-2014 cartoon of the same name, they are two completely different shows. Some of the voice actors play the same roles in the two shows, and obviously characters over lap, but the writing and animation style is completely different.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2003-2005) was produced and animated by Genndy Tartakovsky. Tartakovsky had previously produced and animated The Powerpuff Girls which I enjoyed. More importantly, he did the same for Samurai Jack whose animation I loved. When Cartoon Network first began advertising Star Wars: The Clone Wars, I recognized the animation would be similar to the style of Samurai Jack and immediately began counting down the days until the show would air.
Genndy Tartakovsky is a brilliant artist.
I was not disappointed.
The show takes place (and was aired) in-between the movies Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. The first two seasons originally aired as twenty 3 to 5 minute "micro-cartoons". The third season was comprised of five more traditional 15 minute episodes. Although they were all excellent, the micro episodes are my favorite of the series. They aired on Cartoon network in between its regular programming over the course of two weeks. I still remember making sure to drop everything in order to be in front of the TV for the first run of every episode. I also recorded every episode and watched it more than once.
Even though these may sound like the actions of a 13 year old fan boy... I was 32 when I was doing this.
And I won't apologize or feel embarrassed. The show was that good. In fact, I think the cartoons are better than any of the prequel movies.
Because I had begged my son Timmy to watch the bad movies with me, it was only fair that I invite him to watch these with me. We hadn't watched them together for years. Neither of us were disappointed.
Did you ever wonder what a lightsaber battle would be like in the rain? Wonder no more...
Even though the show was clearly intended to be a series of commercials for the upcoming release of Revenge of the Sith, neither of us cared. The animation is stunning. Not only are the characters drawn in a very unique and cool style, the planets, backgrounds, environments and even the weather are stunning. Tartakovsky uses dramatic closeups as well as any director of non-animated films. There is far more emotion in these animated characters than there is in the "real" actors in the prequels.
Creating this emotion in animated characters is challenging enough. Couple that with the fact that the first twenty episodes have very little dialogue, and you have an absolute marvel of animation.
A huge part of this achievement is the music.
John Wiliams composed the soundtrack.
John Williams' music pairs perfectly with Tartakovsky's animation. The combination is stunning. For some unknown reason, the soundtrack has never been released.
So the show looks and sounds cool... but what about the story?
At the end of Attack of the Clones the Clone Wars have begun. When Revenge of the Sith opens, the war is fully raging. What happens in-between? These cartoons will answer that question.
The introduction to General Grievous is definitely a highlight of the show.
When Revenge of the Sith begins, there is a battle over Coruscant occurring. Chancellor Palpatine is being held prisoner on a Separatist ship and General Grievous is coughing and having a hard time catching his breath. Would you like to see why? Then you need to watch these cartoons. Much like Rogue One leads directly to the opening scene of A New Hope, this cartoon leads directly to the opening scene of Revenge of the Sith. And I mean directly.
In addition to answering these questions, Star Wars: The Clone Wars introduces some of the coolest characters in the Star Wars universe. The episodes depict many different individual battles raging across the galaxy. A few highlight some cool new types of clones (like Jump Troopers and Shock Troopers) but most featured Jedi. Yoda even fights in a couple of them. Miraculously, these Yoda battle scenes actually seem less "cartoonish" than the ones in the live-action movies. There are of course many scenes of Obi-Wan and Anakin. We even get to see a glimpse of Anakin's dark side when he kills some enemies out of pure revenge. We also witness exactly how powerful Mace Windu and Yoda really are. In these cartoons, Yoda both pulls down and lifts up entire mountains. Its pretty cool.
In addition to the old favorites, some new Jedi, many of whom are "alien" species, are either introduced or "fleshed out" a bit. There are too many to list here, but some of my favorite are Kit Fisto, Paxi Sylo, Luminara Unduli, Barriss Offee, Ki-Adi Mundi, Shaak Ti and Aayla Secura. Those are all featured in the movie.
Although Voolvif Monn only makes a very brief appearance, he is very memorable...
because he's a freaking wolf-man Jedi!
There are three others who only appear in this cartoon. Although their time in the Star Wars universe is short, Roron Corobb, Voolvif Monn, and Foul Moudama are all worth checking out.
Perhaps the greatest accomplishment of the show is its introduction of three new villains. Durge, Asajj Ventress, and General Grievous are all more exciting, menacing and interesting in this cartoon than any of the villains in the prequels (except perhaps Darth Maul). The battle scenes with these characters are far more exhilarating than most in the prequels.
So on to the big questions...
Is the show "canon"?
Unfortunately, the answer is no. This seems very odd to me. Not only does the cartoon lead directly into the final prequel, it includes some great back stories and cool characters. I think the biggest error Lucas made in deeming this as "not canon" was the removal of Durge from the official Star Wars universe. He was an awesome villain (and my son's favorite).
Durge is one of the coolest villains in the Star Wars universe.
Will it help you enjoy the main movies more?
Yes! 100% yes!
I think it is incredibly valuable to watch this cartoon before Revenge of the Sith so that you have a better understanding of the opening scene of the movie.
Should you see it?
Yes! 100% yes!
In fact, I think Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2003-2005) is better than any of the prequels.
But be careful, this is not a cartoon for little kids. There is a lot of action. This means there is also a lot of violence. You will have to judge for yourself if your children can handle it. My 5 and 3 year old nephews are into Star Wars right now but I think they need to wait a couple of years before watching this one.
Have any of you seen this? Have I gone completely over board with my love of this show? What is your favorite type of animation?