Thanks to popular demand, The Clone Wars animated series is currently resurrected and running it’s seventh and final season on Disney+. After the Mouse House acquired Lucasfilm, the series was cancelled midway through the sixth season in favour of working with a blank slate going forward and shifting priorities. The reaction did not go over well with fans, who have come to adore the series. The series was thankfully renewed in order to give fans the ending the show deserved. But that’s a far cry compared to when the series first debuted as a motion picture back in 2008.
After the prequel trilogy finished, it was announced that a CG animated film would be coming to the big screen to help fill in the gaps between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. On paper, this sounded great-especially after the acclaimed series Star Wars: Clone Wars by Genndy Tartakovsky premiered in 2003. That offering boasts a 95% on Rotten Tomatoes, so naturally, people were excited for more Clone action. Instead, fans got an abomination.
With an 18% on Rotten Tomatoes, The Clone Wars is the lowest reviewed theatrically released Star Wars movie to date. I’ve personally seen it once and never want to see it again. The plot sees Anakin and his new apprentice, Ahsoka Tano, trying to recover Jabba’s infant son from the Sith in exchange for a partnership. The animation is stiff and of low quality, the story is weak, characters flat and the story is downright bonkers. I can never unlearn the fact that Jabba the Hutt has a baby and a gross one at that. Baby Yoda, he is not.
Not even two months after the release of the movie, the television series followed suit. I can only imagine the stress Dave Filoni and his team felt going into the launch of the show after the reviews came out. Would fans turn out for more Clone Wars? Personally, I didn’t. For many years due to the bad word of mouth around the movie. Many people discouraged me from watching the show after having seen the movie. But something unexpected happened. The first season actually got some decent reviews. Nothing earth-shattering, but positive none the less. Something was changing.
Over the years, the show would go on to tell some of the best stories available in the entire Star Wars history. The structure of the show allowed for micro arcs of one to four episodes to be told over the course of the season, allowing for a lot of growth around a particular group of characters. As the show progress and the war continued, the show became much more nuanced and darker, with less emphasis on being “kid-friendly”. Sure, kids can still watch the show, but the writers never treat it as a kids show, unlike Star Wars Resistance, say.
For me, the Anakin Skywalker shown in the show is my Anakin, not the live-action version found in the prequels. We see him constantly being tempted by the dark side and making reckless decisions. Likewise, Kenobi becomes much more human as we learn about his romantic feelings. Ahsoka Tano went from being one of the most hated characters in the entire fandom to becoming one of the most universally beloved. The show isn’t all about the good guys though.
The series puts in quite a lot of screen time for the villains, even making them protagonists of certain arcs. We get to learn a lot about Count Dooku and his apprentices, Asajj Ventress and Savage Opress, as well as seeing the wider manipulations of Palpatine. We get to meet awesome new characters like Cad Bane as well as see the return of Darth Maul. Maul is particularly interesting to see. Initially killed off in Phantom Menance, the silent killer becomes a realized and fleshed out character in the show. He’s out for revenge but also is no friend to the Sith anymore. In that sense, not all characters are simply black and white over the course of the series and this layered complexity to them is what elevates the source material.
Things also aren’t so black and white. Just look at the Darkness of Umbara arc in season four. A group of clones follow their Jedi General into battle, but he constantly makes dumb decisions that are getting clones killed recklessly. Do the clones disobey orders? Are they allowed to have free will and protect themselves or do those orders stand no matter what? What are the consequences for engineered soldiers? Why is a tactically incapable Jedi in command? It’s all fascinating…and incredibly mature. This is one of the few arcs that I would not recommend for younger viewers.
I’d say the show really started to find it’s placed with fans and becoming iconic around season three when it ceased in becoming strictly a kid show and began diving into bigger picture themes. The Mortis Arc, for instance, is out there, weird, wild and yes, dark. We began seeing new and unusual things that weren’t just part of the actual war effort.
The show actually does a great job of making Anakin’s arc in the live-action movies that much more compelling. We buy into his fall from light much better thanks to the show. We also gain more insight into the war and now it wasn’t so black and white. There were heroes on both sides as well as villains. Season seven is off to a great start thus far and the entire show is available on Disney+. If you can power through the acceptable first season, you’ll find a rewarding show as it goes on. A far cry from the film that was released in 2008.