Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The 2003 Clone Wars Microseries


In 2003, in between the releases of Episode II Attack of the Clones and Episode III Revenge of the Sith, Cartoon Network aired a microseries entitled the Clone Wars. While not the Clone Wars series that the Star Wars fandom now holds dearly to our hearts, which came later in 2008 and introduced the likes of fan favorites Ahsoka Tano and Captain Rex, the microseries has its redeeming qualities.

It was created by Genndy Tartakovsky; also the creator and/or director of Dexter's Lab, Samurai Jack, Hotel Transylvania, and more. Over its three season run, it resulted in twenty-five episodes. The first two seasons each episode lasted a whopping three to five minutes or so each, whereas the third season's episodes had a run time of twelve to fifteen minutes. The entire series comes in at just over two hours and can be found on YouTube.

(For whatever reason, this is missing the last like three minutes, so here that is.)

The goal of the series was to show some of the long-discussed Clone Wars and to fill some gaps in between the two movies. I gave it a re-watch recently, as I haven't viewed it much since its original airing. I was blown away by how much it still holds up. I wrote two pages of notes, random observations and such. Some of them deeper than others, but a lot of them being things like "Kit Fisto!!" 

In a retrospect piece about the series with the show's creator, he spoke about how things changed as the series went on. (I very much recommend you reading the piece.) He gained more control from George Lucas with time. Initially they weren't given much to work with at all. So their goal was to drop you into various battles to show the severity of the war. This is one of their strengths, as early on it shows the Jedi's apprehension of being in the war. The tone of the episodes early on is much different from the later episodes. There is not a lot of dialogue and I was struck by how much silence could be felt throughout the episodes. As the series progressed, there was a bit more dialogue. The first season or so is very superficial but still delightful.

A few things in particular stuck out to me immediately. Anakin is much more Episode II Anakin and not just stylistically. He's whiny and brash. As the show evolves, so does Anakin. That is one thing that I really enjoy about this series. The 2008 Clone Wars Anakin sometimes leaves me wondering how he came so far between Episode II and the series, this series shows you more of that. In the same light, it shows the evolution of his relationship with Obi-Wan. At the start it is very much more master and apprentice, it then evolves to a more peer-like relationship. I don't particularly care for the stern Obi-Wan interpretation presented in this series.

Another interesting aspect is the vast difference in the relationship the Jedi hold with the Clones than in the 2008 series. They're referred to as 'Troopers' mostly, though Cody is mentioned later on in the series. In the 2008 Clone Wars you see the intense bond between the Jedi and the Clones, particularly with a character like Rex. They make them people, not just clones. It makes Order 66 that much more upsetting when you watch Revenge of the Sith.

As the show evolves, the episodes grow in quality. There are great moments like Mace Windu's interaction with the young boy Paxi Sylo after he wins a strenous battle, Padme embarking on a mission with Master Yoda and worrying about his well being, and her using C-3PO as a decoy. (Padme is still a bad bitch in this. It doesn't matter the series or movie, she's still the best.) Grievous's entrance is fairly dramatic and he seems a little OP to me but it does open you up to the idea that the Jedi can be beat. That is an interesting notion. Though now it doesn't seem so crazy, this series was before we ever saw Order 66. The moments between Dooku and Grievous are some of the show's best. "Don't let your pursuit of trinkets cloud your reality."

My favorite moment of the series was probably Anakin following Asajj to Yavin IV and duking it out. I didn't know I needed it in my life, but I did. Asajj is a point of celebration for the series, as she went on to become a fan favorite with the 2008 series. The show has other continuation aspects that really set it apart, even though now it is no longer canon. Grievous's wheezing and coughing is a result of Mace Windu crushing his lungs with the Force. It leads directly up to Episode III and shows the abduction of Palpatine, the rescuing of him being the opening scenes of Revenge of the Sith. Interesting to me that Grievous did not know Palpatine is the Emperor. They question his loyalty perhaps? Or he is just not important enough to know such a secret. The series also uses a few familiar voices like Tom Kane as Yoda and James Arnold Taylor as Obi-Wan Kenobi. They'd go on to reprise these roles on the 2008 series.

Season three gets a bit strange. Anakin, in particular takes a turn with the Nelvaan arc. This probably seems to be expected with what takes place in Episode III but the execution was just a tad strange to me. Anakin with the weird tattoos just is not my cup of tea. While that threw me off a bit, season three's strength lies in the manipulation at the hand of  Palpatine as he sets his plot to begin Anakin's turn and the Jedi's demise that we see in Revenge of the Sith.

Generally speaking, I very much enjoyed the series. The battle on Yavin IV, Luminara explaining the creation of lightsabers to Barriss (I always enjoy the inclusion of kyber crystals,) the use of Qui-Gon in mentions and in Force dreams, Shaka Ti kicking ass, and much more. There are a lot of extremely redeeming qualities to the series. While vastly different from the 2008 series, it is worth taking the little over two hours out to sit down and watch.

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