Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Season 1 — a review

I know that we’ve talked about this before, you and I.

I was an OG Star Wars fan. I’ve been a member, in good standing, of the Rebel Alliance since that day in 1977 when I saw Star Wars for the first time. This was when it was actually titled just Star Wars; the subtitle “A New Hope” was added later.

I watched the two sequels as they were released, in 1980 and 1983. The Empire Strikes Back was—and remains—my favorite of the original trilogy. Until only recently, I thought of Return of the Jedi as “that Gorram Muppet Show.” I wasn’t a huge fan of Ewoks.

For many years after that time, we didn’t really get any new Star Wars material. There were media tie-in novels, of course, and I read a few of those. I particularly liked the Timothy Zahn novels. Eventually, the special editions of the original trilogy movies were released, and I returned to the theaters to watch these retooled versions. Then, the prequel movies came out.

I don’t hate the prequels. In fact, there are things in each of those movies that I like quite a lot. None of them are Jar-Jar Binks or the Hanna-Barbera Wacky Race starring Lil’ Orphan Ani. Or midichlorians. Darth Maul was cool, though. The concept of a clone army, with its ties to Boba Fett, was an interesting one. The story of Chancellor Palpatine’s rise to power as the Emperor (running parallel to Anakin Skywalker’s fall to the Dark Side as Darth Vader) was a grand one, with moments of excitement and bewilderment, and damned little suspense.

I think I would have enjoyed these movies much more if I’d seen them back when I was twenty years younger.

By the time The Clone Wars came out, a movie followed soon by a series, I had convinced myself that it was possible that I had aged out of the demographic these movies were aimed at. I never watched the Genndy Tartakovsky Star Wars: Clone Wars series, released in 2003. I’m not sure why not. I tried to watch the 2008 series, probably around 2009 after the first season was released on DVD, but couldn’t get through it. It just didn’t feel like my Star Wars.

Then tempus fugitted and marched on and whatever else time is supposed to do. George Lucas sold his brainchild to Disney and washed his hands of his fickle fanbase. Disney began releasing Star Wars movies again, two of which (maybe three) were quite good. There were other Star Wars cartoons as well, which I still haven’t watched. Then, The Mandalorian came to Disney +. And it was good.

It was also being guided by the sure hand of Dave Filoni, who was deeply involved in Star Wars: The Clone Wars as well. Some of the characters and ideas that appeared on The Mandalorian had come directly from the cartoon. Bo-Katan Kryze (and the Darksaber) and Ahsoka Tano, to name just two.

After watching the second season of the adventures of Djinn Djarin and baby Grogu, I watched Star Wars: The Bad Batch on Disney +, and liked it a lot also. As way leads to way, I returned to Star Wars: The Clone Wars to give it another shot.

As far as I could tell, I stopped watching the series the first time (a decade ago), after maybe six episodes. I never liked the newsreel style voiceover that began each episode, and the series did indeed feel episodic rather than a serialized story like the movies. Plus, I couldn’t get away from Jar-Jar Binks.

My time away from this show must have been exactly what I needed. That, and the introduction of new Star Wars content. I watched the first season, all the way through this time, with a refreshed attitude and renewed willingness to suspend my disbelief.

Absence indeed makes the heart grow fonder. Or, it did in this case, at least.

No suspense here. I liked the first season. Quite a lot, in fact.

This series reaffirms my belief that the one thing that George Lucas excelled at wasn’t directing or writing scintillating dialogue. It wasn’t even crafting a cohesive and sensible narrative. His biggest accomplishment, in my arrogant opinion, was worldbuilding. With his hand at the wheel through six movies, he managed to create a milieu that inspired many other creative people to add their own ideas and embellishments to it. Lucas created a sandbox that all the kids wanted to play in.

J.J. Abrams didn’t improve upon Lucas’s vision at all, but he did play in Lucas’s world and added his own square to the resulting tapestry (over here at mixed metaphors, all of our sandboxes have tapestries). As director of the Clone Wars movie and supervising director of the animated series, Dave Filoni did the same, along with Henry Gilroy, Steven Melching, Paul Dini, Drew Z. Greenberg, Katie Lucas, and—literally—hundreds of other creative folk. Writers, artists, animators, voice actors, musicians, sound-effects artists. Star Wars, from the beginning, has always been a collaborative medium, and this series was no different.

This time around, I still felt that the series was more episodic than serialized, but only until about the halfway mark in the season. Still, after the picaresque adventures of Djinn Djarin and Grogu, this no longer bothered me as it did the first time. Then, we began to get more multiple episode story arcs. We spend some time on new planets as well as old familiar ones such as Naboo and Coruscant. We find out about the dreaded Blue Shadow virus, and then journey to Ryloth, the planet of the Twi’leks. Finally, we are introduced to bounty hunter Cad Bane, which is when everything seemed to gel for me.

I don’t know what it is with Star Wars and bounty hunters. Bounty hunters seem to inspire myriad storylines in the franchise.

Along the way, we get Master Yoda, Mace Windu, Plo Koon (a Filoni-favorite, it turns out), R2-D2, and, of course, Anakin Skywalker, Obi-wan Kenobi, Padme Amidala and—still unfortunately—Jar-Jar Binks.

There are twenty-two episodes in the season, each with a running time of approximately twenty-two minutes. So, these don’t require a huge investment of time to watch. If you enjoy the franchise at all, you’ll find things to like in this show as well. I respect what the creative minds behind the series—including George Lucas—have created here. My only regret is that it’s taken me so long to get back to it.

Oh, well. Everything in its own time, I suppose.

Firewater’s A-Long-Long-Time-Ago-Between-Two-Prequels Report Card: B

Hardcore fans, please note that this is a solid B-grade from me, which equates to a range between “better than average fare” to just this near edge of “kind of good.” This is a fair grade. I fully expect it to get even better, and I’ll be watching.

2 thoughts on “Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Season 1 — a review

  1. I grew up on the original trilogy. My father and grandfather took me to see The Empire Strikes Back in the theater for my fourth birthday.

    I only saw a few episodes of The Clone Wars animated series during the original run, and I didn’t really like it. I recently watched the entire series on Disney Plus. I felt the first two seasons were uneven, although there were definitely good entries in both. The show got consistently good with season three, and steadily improved from there.

    Last week I was at New York Comic Con. One of the guests was Dee Bradley Baker, who voiced Captain Rex and all of the Clone Troopers in The Clone Wars. I was on line to get his autograph, and at 45 years old I was literally the oldest person waiting to meet him. Everyone else on line was in their late teens or in their 20s. These fans literally grew up on The Clone Wars animated series. For them, this is THEIR Star Wars, just as the original trilogy was ours. I think it’s great that The Clone Wars became an entry point for a new generation of fans.

    Liked by 2 people

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