Review: Star Wars: The Clone Wars

If you have mixed feelings about animated Star Wars, then I recommend you do not begin with Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Start with Star Wars Rebels—the animation is better and the storytelling is a little tighter. I am not saying that I dislike The Clone Wars, but I never would have watched it without being sucked into the animated show world by Rebels. That being said, if you haven’t watched The Clone Wars, you have been depriving yourself. Even if you hated the prequels, which I pretty much did, you might like this show.

One of the biggest flaws of Episode II is that the two armies were basically faceless. Hundreds of identical droids go up against hundreds of faceless, nameless clones. I had no emotional investment in the Battle of Geonosis, even with the Jedi and clones there. It was basically humdrum. “Oh, no,” you think sarcastically, as a clone dies, “not…faceless dude number 327.” The Jedi there are largely uninteresting also, because we know none of them, really. Oh, and let’s not forget the unbelievable and forced relationship between Anakin and Padme.

So, for as many things as there are to dislike about Episode II, there are as many things to like about the show The Clone Wars.

The most notable thing the show does is give the faceless, nameless clones faces and names. You begin to develop a sense of their humanity, and how each one has a personality all their own. By the time you reach one of my favorite story arcs, the arc set on the shadow world of Umbara, you genuinely care about the clones—even the one whose names you never learn. You also see that the clones get tattoos and different haircuts as expressions of their individuality. You begin to feel the weight of the war—people are dying. Individual, real people, not just stupid redundant clones, are dying. You realize that the clones are basically genetically engineered war slaves. And before you know it, you’re invested. The war now has meaning for you as an audience member in a way that Episode II could never make it.

The different Jedi all get a little more attention, too. You start to develop favorites and loyalties the more you watch the show. The Jedi who get the most development, of course, are Obi-wan Kenobi, Anakin Skywalker, and Anakin’s Padawan learner, Ahsoka Tano.

Oh, my. Ahsoka Tano. Where to begin? I hate her for most of seasons one and two. She is a precocious snot and calls Anakin “Skyguy.” It makes me die a little inside every time she does. I think that the writers were trying way too hard to make Ahsoka this super cool character that young audience members could identify with, and they kind of overdid it—sort of the “Wesley Crusher effect,” for those who know about Star Trek: The Next Generation. By the third season, though, I actually started to like her. She has a cool character design, and her character does get more complex and we see her face real dilemmas.

Obi-wan and Anakin are well done in this show. You see the camaraderie that actually makes Obi-wan’s cry of “You were my brother!” in Episode III believable. You learn a lot more about Obi-wan’s history, but the person who gets the best development is Anakin. We also see him slowly edging toward the dark side as the war progresses, making what seems like an overly sudden flip in Episode III a great deal more believable. You also actually learn to like him. Yeah, he’s cocky, but it comes across a lot less obnoxiously in the show than in the movies. What you do see is someone who is fiercely loyal—to a point where it is a flaw—and surprisingly compassionate. You also see, however, how all of his loyalty and compassion start dragging him the wrong direction—where loyalty and such becomes more important than doing the right thing. It is interesting to watch.

Another thing that the show tries to do is redeem Anakin and Padme’s relationship. While I can’t for the life of me understand why Padme fell for him in the first place, I understand his character a little more. Loving as he is, Anakin is jealous and possessive, to the point where it’s almost semi-abusive. I say semi-abusive because his abusiveness comes in the form of being a control freak when it comes to Padme talking to other men. It makes his switch to the dark side more believable—it’s just a more extreme manifestation of what is already there. How can so much love and evil dwell together in one being? This is a question the show posits and tries to address. In my opinion, Anakin is a loving person with attachment issues, which can happen to children with difficult early years. I’ve known of men with attachment disorders who couldn’t handle anyone giving their girlfriend a compliment, so Anakin’s behavior over Padme is believable. The fact that the Jedi stress the idea of not having attachments clashes strongly with Anakin’s propensity for forming them—and if he does in fact have an attachment disorder, you can see why somebody telling him that attachments are bad might lead him to say, “From my point of view, the Jedi are evil.”

So, these are all positive things about the show. But it has a lot of issues. It can’t fix Jar Jar, no matter how hard it tries. I will hate Jar Jar forever. It also has way too many droid-centered episodes, such as ones about R2D2 and C3P0. (I hate Threepio.) These episodes are usually obnoxious and uninteresting to me. There are also a few episodes with political storylines, which, while interesting, are slow-paced and not always my favorite. Still, at least they help make the war more believable and show things from both sides. The droid excursion episodes are pointless.

Another major issue is that the show does not air in chronological order, which gets really confusing sometimes. The story arcs are all cohesive, of course, but sometimes a story arc will take place with a character who is already dead in an earlier episode of the show. It threw me for a huge loop, but eventually you get used to it. I can’t for the life of me figure out why they presented the show this way, but whatever. It’s not so bad that you can’t follow it.

Overall, I give the show 3 1/2 stars. Is this show a must-watch? No, but it is entertaining, and it almost redeems the prequel trilogy—so well that you might as well ditch the prequels and just watch the show. I do recommend it.

Have you seen The Clone Wars? What are your thoughts on the show? Share in the comments.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars picture taken of my own personal copy of the DVD set, used for editorial/review purposes only.

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Review: Star Wars Rebels

Okay. So. If you are a fan of Star Wars and aren’t watching Star Wars Rebels, then you really need to get with the program and watch it. I know the animation style is a turn-off for a lot of people, but the storytelling is amazing. I never thought I’d see the day where I would love Star Wars so much, and I can say that I largely owe it to this TV show. Even if you don’t especially love Star Wars, you need to be watching this show.

Star Wars Rebels begins on the planet of Lothal, an outer rim planet where the Empire has taken over and built huge factories. Their occupation includes the seizure of private property, forcing citizens into poverty, and other general evil/bad Empire stuff. Many people are forced to work into the factories to survive, where it is implied that working conditions are not particularly great. The main character of the show is Ezra Bridger, a fourteen-year-old Force-sensitive boy, who falls in with a group of rebels. The rebels are led by Kanan Jarrus, a former Jedi Padawan who survived the Jedi purge. Kanan decides to take Ezra in and teach him the ways of the Force. The other main characters are no less interesting: Hera Syndulla, the merry band of rebels’ Twi’lek pilot, is sassy and in charge. Chopper (C1-10P) is Hera’s temperamental droid who is basically a psychotic version of R2D2. Garazeb Orrelios, or “Zeb,” as they call him, is a Lasat with a bad attitude, and he is the muscle of the group. Zeb is particularly unique, as his species was not introduced into the Star Wars canon until this show. Sabine Wren is a Mandalorian girl with a grudge against the Empire she won’t explain; all we know is that she used to be at the Imperial Academy. The main antagonists are Agent Kallus, an Imperial Security Bureau agent assigned to quashing the beginnings of a rebellion on Lothal, and the Grand Inquisitor, who works for Darth Vader by hunting down any trace of Jedi who may have survived the purge.

So what is it that makes Star Wars Rebels so great?

First of all, I think that it is visually beautiful. Even if the characters aren’t always the best designed (I’m thinking here about the Wookiees in the pilot episode), the backdrops are always spot on. The Imperial cruisers always look delightfully intimidating when they are on screen. The buildings are believable and have a certain weight to them that makes them feel real. I also love the design and layout of the Ghost. Even the characters have pretty good design—the animators do a good job of avoiding uncanny valley, which is crucial. I especially love Hera and Zeb’s designs. Ezra, as one of my friends pointed out, is basically 3D Aladdin, and well, she isn’t completely off the mark. But everyone else is cool and original.

Second, I love the characters. I love them all, but from the start my favorites have been Kanan and Zeb. I love that both of these characters have a significantly tragic history wherein they lost their entire people, more or less. For Kanan, he lost the entire Jedi Order, while the Empire committed horrific genocide on the Lasats, Zeb’s people. The show has great villains, too. I love Agent Kallus for so many reasons—he lives up to his name, that’s for sure. He is a great love-to-hate character all throughout seasons one and two. I will avoid any spoilers, but season three of Rebels has moved Kallus into the honored position of second favorite character (Zeb will always hold first place.) The Grand Inquisitor is especially great, too. Season three also introduces Grand Admiral Thrawn, the new canonized version of Thrawn from the Expanded Universe books. He’s so delightfully evil—I love to hate him, too.  The character development is always well done, even if they hold back a lot about certain characters’ histories—but it’s always for the sake of the overarching plot.

Third, I love how the show fits into the overall Star Wars meta-narrative. If you watched The Clone Wars, you’ll see some familiar faces pop up. There are all kinds of Easter eggs scattered throughout the show, if you know where to look for them. So if you love the vast expanse of Star Wars, you’ll probably love this show.

Fourth, I think that the show is surprisingly easy to get into, even for somebody whose basic knowledge of Star Wars is that you watched the original trilogy once or twice—maybe the prequels, too. Like I said, I went from being a “Meh, Star Wars is okay” person to an “I love Star Wars” person. I knew almost next to nothing about Star Wars going in, and loved the show. The characters are just that loveable.

It does have some issues, though. I often think that the half hour time slot is far too short. In certain episodes, the action is packed together too quickly and the storyline resolves just a little too fast for my taste. There are also a few episodes which feel extraneous, like annoying side quests. Fortunately, they always turn out to set up future episodes with important elements—so I guess I can’t complain too much. Plus, those side quest episodes always leave plenty of room for character development. Still, they annoy me. Also, if you have watched and loved The Clone Wars, then you may find that Rebels has a much, much more kid-friendly feel to it. I don’t mind kid-friendly shows—in fact, I like them a lot—but every now and then I want a little bit higher of a body count. (Does that make me a horrible person?) Really, though, those are the only flaws I can find with Star Wars Rebels. Except the Wookiees in the pilot episode. Seriously, guys. Those Wookiees are NOT well animated.

Since season three just ended, now is a great time to get caught up on the show so you will be ready for season four when it comes out. I went from being a Trekkie to a Star Wars fan just because of this show, so if you’re already a fan of Star Wars, I think you’ll like it, too.  Overall, I give it 4 stars.

Have you watched Star Wars Rebels? What do you think about it? Sound off in the comments! (Be sure to warn everyone if you have a spoiler in your comment.)

Star Wars Rebels Season 2 picture taken of my own personal copy of the DVD set, used for editorial/review purposes only.

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