“Like fire across the galaxy The Clone Wars spread.” Master Yoda narrates the series introduction to Star Wars: Clone Wars from the back of his Kybuck (a dross between a Deer and a Tauntaun) as battles rage across the galaxy. Also known as ‘Tartakovsky Clone Wars, or The Clone Wars micro series, these animated shorts were originally shown in three seasons between the release of Attack Of The Clones and Revenge Of The Sith. Episodes from the first two seasons were around three minutes each, and by season three each was almost fifteen minutes long.
Clone Wars was produced between 2003 and 2005 by the creator of the well regarded Samurai Jack cartoon, Genndy Tartakovsky, and shared that shows dramatic and exaggerated art style. Battles consisted of hundreds of spaceships on each side, or thousands of clones vs seemingly infinite amounts of droids. Jedi displayed immense power with their force abilities and everything that takes place bears George Lucas trademark ‘faster and more intense’ approach. Mace Windu destroys hundreds of super battle droids with his bare hands, and uses force powers to tear their metal bodies apart. Jedi send dozens of enemies flying with the slightest gesture and leap hundreds of feet in the air.
Events in the first few episodes mirror Attack Of The Clones closely with Republic forces boarding the Venator class Star Destroyers and Anakin bickering with Obi Wan, but soon we are viewing heated battles on multiple worlds across the galaxy, begun the clone war has. With only a few minutes per episode, the stories are rather simple individually, and do not allow for much in the way of character development or complex plots. When viewed together in the DVD format the episodes flow together into an action packed movie revealing much of the backstory of Revenge Of The Sith.
The Jedi are drawn into a war they are ill equipped to fight, and the suffering of innocents forces the Republic deeper into the conflict. Anakin and Obi Wan are the main protagonists of course but a host of the background Jedi Council members each have their moment to shine. Kit Fisto, Aayla Secura and Ki Adi Mundi among others lead attacks at various points in furious anime style warfare. Opposing the Jedi are Sidious, Dooku and the Sith Assassin Asajj Ventress who was created for this series. Another first for this series is the episode set on Ilum, showing the construction of a lightsaber as the final test of padawan Barriss Offee. Ilum and it’s Khyber crystals feature again in The Clone Wars (Filoni version) episode ‘The Gathering’, and later in the Rogue One prequel novel Catalyst.
By the third and final season, the Jedi are beginning to lose the war. Tensions are increasing between the Jedi Council, Anakin, and Chancellor Palpatine which leads nicely into setting up events which transpire after a night at the opera, in Revenge Of The Sith. The anger building up inside Anakin hints at his eventual fate, including Anakins brief use of a red Lightsaber, yet another first for this series.
Despite having little dialogue in many of the episodes, the excellent sound design fills the gap and underlines the action with Lightsabers, droids, and Spaceships sounding crisp and clear. In one memorable scene two opponents stand, Lightsabers lit staring at each other. The moments pass and it begins to rain, slowly one drop at a time, hissing and spitting off the energy of the blades – brilliant stuff.
The final episodes tell the story of General Greivous kidnapping Chancellor Palpatine from Coruscant, and Anakin and Obi Wan are dispatched to rescue him linking directly to the start of Episode III. This brings the series, and the Clone Wars to an end, with only a few days remaining before Palpatine enacts order 66, and declares himself Emperor. This make for a much more satisfying ending than the later series, it is a shame it no longer counts.
There is little to complain about here, some of the voice acting is a bit weak – notably Anakins early appearances but most characters are well represented. In fact much of the content was reworked into the Filoni Clone Wars in one way or another including savage Asajj Ventress. The two series were telling essentially the same story in terms of the things that needed to happen between Episodes II and III, such as Anakins forbidden love, and resentment with the Jedi Council. Sadly this version is now amongst the ‘Legends’ having been rebooted by the Filoni Clone Wars, and then further disavowed by the Disney takeover. While it has been fifteen years since it first screened, and having been overshadowed by the excellent work of Filoni and co, this series is still enjoyable Star Wars viewing. I absolutely recommend it to anyone, and luckily the DVD’s are still available here…