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Categories: Features

Matthew Wilson looks back at one of the oddest ducks of one of the oddest franchises, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, to see how it fits in.

The Star Wars Universe is a vast and often dense place with each and every character carrying their own detailed backstory and, with Disney’s taking over the Star Wars name, a lot of those histories which have become loved and respected by the fan community have been pushed into the non-canon series known as ‘Legends’. But, while most people know that the cinematic Episodes are canon, what many might not know is that the animated Clone Wars series and its sequel Rebels are both canon within the Star Wars universe and have been used to bring back a lot of the favoured elements of the Legends source; including The Inquisitors, The Grey Jedi Code and the infamous Grand Admiral Thrawn. The animated series has become one of Star Wars most popular elements, but considering their beginnings with The Clones Wars movie, it’s amazing we got anything at all.

The movie is essentially a rushed backdoor pilot for the Clone Wars series consisting of three episodes merged together into feature length and it’s painfully obvious, the first third sets up the main characters but has nothing to do with the rest of the film which follows Anakin and Obi-Wan on the search for Jabba The Hutt’s kidnapped son. Considering the amount of ridicule Star Wars gets for its overblown marketing, forcing together three separate episodes of a TV show for the sake of a theatrical release is a special kind of silly. Through considering it made $68 Million on an $8 Million budget I’m not sure who the fools really are.

Being rushed also hurt the animation with the human characters looking too wooden and jagged to be realistic and the action scenes being monotonous and repetitive with absolutely no energy. The spaceship dogfights consisted primarily of moving from one of the screen to the other while the lightsabre battles all move as quick as they can to avoid spending too much time on a single shot. You don’t ask for the film to completely match the live-action for intensity but they could have at least given it a shot. To go back to that $8 Million price tag, regular animated films cost upwards of about $30 Million and you can see every cut corner and skipped phase of development.

So the story is a mess and the animation choppy, does this film do anything right? Well for one thing it’s always nice to see these characters again, there’s a definite toning down of certain elements with Anakin’s temptation to the dark side not even being touched upon, instead he plays the reluctant teacher to new character Ahsoka Tano.

For those of you who don’t know, Ahsoka is one of the breakout characters of the Clone Wars series, developing from a wide-eyes apprentice into a warrior of the rebellion, eventually choosing her own path way from the Jedi and the Sith after seeing the faults on both sides. She has a huge fan-following now but her initial appearance in The Clone Wars movie was met with less enthusiasm though personally I liked her immediately, she’s a burst of optimism and wit in a war-torn Galaxy, maybe a bit too cocky and naive for her own good but the exuberance of youth carries her through.

Her addition to the series also benefits Anakin’s character by giving him a foil to work against, bridging the gap between apprentice and mentor that he struggled to find with Obi-Wan, the relationship between Anakin and Ahsoka becomes one of the driving points of the film and eventually The Clone Wars and Rebels series’ which allows both of them to mature and paints Anakin in a better light than what the prequel trilogy offered.

Mostly though, the film is absolutely harmless. It focuses on a more kid-friendly tone, which is to its detriment considering how little the series would come to rely on that once it became its own thing, but for the film itself there’s nothing offensively bad in it. Unlike moments in the prequel trilogy which manage to do a lot more damage with a lot less effort, The Clone Wars at least keeps itself simplified within its own universe. Yes it’s connected to the main series but you could watch them both separately and not lose anything. It’s main fault is the utter needlessness to be a film, rather than letting the series open itself, the studios made a greedy mistake and this suffered as a result and while it is a flawed production, it’s not the disaster that many have been led to believe.

As of right now, The Clone Wars sits at 18% on Rotten Tomatoes, the lowest rated Star Wars production ever with even the dreaded Holiday Special gaining a higher result (though in fairness with much, much fewer reviews) and I think that’s unfair. For all the problems the film has, taken as the beginning episodes of the show, it’s got enough to pull fans in. I know they say if a book doesn’t grab you by the first chapter you probably won’t enjoy it, but The Clone Wars is the best example I’ve found of ‘It gets better later’ being a genuine mantra for the series. The growth it’s managed to take once it developed into its own creature, even more so with Rebels, has allowed it to become one of the hidden gems of the Star Wars universe.

Matthew Wilson

Operating out of Livingston, Scotland, Matthew Wilson has been self-publishing reviews since 2012 - amassing over 1000 and climbing on his personal account at MovieFanCentral- and has produced a number of short films for his Graded Unit at Edinburgh College. Matthew hopes to start writing and directing his own productions one day, having written several unpublished scripts for film and television.

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Posted on May 18, 2017

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