This latest entry in my retrospective of the Star Wars films is one that I have wrassled with for a bit. I say “wrassled” instead of “wrestled” because it’s been a real fight. In 2008, The Clone Wars television series was set to premier on Cartoon Network. George Lucas was SO impressed with what he saw, that he decided to give the series a theatrical premier in advance of the television release. The results were, well, underwhelming by Star Wars standards. The film grossed $35,161,554.00 in North America, and $68, 282, 844.00 worldwide, and was nominated for a Razzie award for Worst Prequel, Remake, Rip-Off, or Sequel. Not great by ANY standard, but horrendously bad for a Star Wars film. Film critics were extremely harsh toward the film, and it is generally not considered when discussing the films in the Star Wars saga. Should I include it? Should I ignore it? The film got a theatrical release, and I’ve watched it more than once, so I fell on the side of including it, and I’ll explain my decision below.
The idea behind this series was to discuss my feelings on each film individually. What elements bring me back time and again? In pondering this, I felt it appropriate to include an entry on The Clone Wars. It IS canon, it advances the story of Anakin Skywalker, and fleshes out the Star Wars universe in ways that resemble the live-action films. The plot is simple, and the situations sometimes border on juvenile, especially with the baby Hutt, but that doesn’t make it impossible for me to enjoy. The look of the film, from the character designs to the color scheme is what hooks me the most. I also enjoy the action sequences, which are allowed to be even more frenetic due to the animation. Finally, the introduction of Asajj Ventress makes this film a must-watch for me, as she ended up being one of the most interesting characters in the entire saga.
It seems to be a running theme in this series that Jeff likes color. I talk about it often on Comics With Kenobi, and I know I’ve mentioned it several times in relation to the films. Pretty colors catch my eye, and this film is FULL of them. The sky above Christophsis is brilliant and I could stare at the blue and green crystalline hues all day. This opening sequence is what I associate the most with the film, so the color palette here seems to dominate my opinion. Even the white of the Clone Trooper armor against the cityscape is eye-catching, and the hues of the lightsabers are brilliant here. Once we get to Tatooine, I would expect the colors to dull, but somehow the artists working here managed to make the sand pop, and the sky that serves as the backdrop is beautifully realized, and perhaps even more captivating because of its juxtaposition with the tan sand. The character designs may still be rough and blocky, but one cannot deny the beauty of the environments in this film. They are truly a sight to behold.
Another element that I return for in The Clone Wars is action. As I mentioned earlier, the opening sequence really grabs me, it’s appropriately disorienting and very kinetic. The audience is dropped right into the action (as is the norm for Star Wars) and it doesn’t let up for a good long stretch. It is the perfect way to open the film. It ends abruptly, which is a bit jarring. I have a few complaints about the pacing of the film, and most of these are due to the fact that it is actually 4 episodes strung together to form a film, so that explains the sudden stop in the action, as well as the tonal shifts that occur every 22 minutes. However, this doesn’t decrease my enjoyment of the action sequences we get, and that includes a few that come after the opening. Anakin and Ahsoka get ambushed on Teth and we get another, albeit shorter skirmish that is still satisfying, and especially so since it introduces one of my favorite Clone Wars characters. More on that later. The freedom of animation gives the battle sequences in this film license to go all-out, and we get a good taste of what is to come in the series, which whets my appetite greatly.
When Anakin and Ahsoka get ambushed on Teth, the forces are led by Asajj Ventress. Ventress is a character that is unique to The Clone Wars, and she is a VERY welcome addition. She is a secret apprentice of Count Dooku, so of course this is going to end well. She is presented here in very broad terms. We see she is a capable leader and that she has a keen mind for battle and conflict. As The Clone Wars series progressed, Asajj became a tragic figure, and an extremely complex character that continues to fascinate me to this day. We don’t get a lot of her depth here, but the knowledge of where the character will go really informs repeat viewings of this film, and the experience benefits from knowledge of what happens after the events depicted here. If this was all we ever got of Ventress, I would still be intrigued, but her introduction is very dynamic, and the road that her character takes throughout the series makes her introduction even more interesting to me, and I find that I enjoy the time we get with her more each time I watch the film.
As I’ve said, The Clone Wars is by no means a perfect film. In fact, to be honest it’s not even a very GOOD film. It IS a fun experience, though. The color palette, character designs, and action all help to make this chapter in the saga explode off the screen in a way that the live action entries usually do not. The pace of the action, the wanton destruction that can be depicted, and the environments that are so brilliantly hued all work to make this truly feel like a galaxy far, far away. Star Wars has always been about characters, though. While introducing us to Ahsoka Tano, who will become another of my favorite characters, The Clone Wars also reveals Asajj Ventress for the first time, and she is a character that continues to capture my imagination, and gives me reason enough to return to this film at least once a year. It’s certainly not the most polished of the Star Wars films, but I do feel like it deserves to be discussed among the live action offerings, so I hope you’ve enjoyed my discussion of it here. As always, I look forward to hearing your thoughts in the comments section!
Until next time,
May the Force of Others Be With Us All.
Margot and Archie say hi.
Jeff can be heard weekly on Assembly of Geeks (www.assemblyofgeeks.com) and on his own podcast network, MarvinDog Media (www.MarvinDogMedia.com) where he hosts The Pilot Episode, Talking Toys with Taylor and Jeff, and Bantha Banter: A Star Wars Chat Show. He is also co-host of Comics With Kenobi with fellow CWK blogger Matt Moore, on CoffeeWithKenobi.com, which you have already found if you’re reading this blog. You can contact Jeff at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The views expressed in this blog do not necessarily reflect those of Coffee With Kenobi, its hosts, respective writers, or its affiliates.