I’m a HUGE Star Wars fan. The first movie I ever saw in a theater was Return of the Jedi. I had to watch them any time one came on TV, no matter what else I was doing. When they were released on VHS I watched a Star Wars movie just about every day. It was always on in the background. I had all the action figures, even Boba Fett and the Emperor, which I had to beg my parents to send away for in the mail. (Yes, I took them out of the box. They are well-used and I regret nothing!) When Tim Zahn started releasing his Thrawn Trilogy I begged my parents to buy me the hardbacks. I was in Jr. High and I devoured each of them in just a few nights. They blew my mind. New Star Wars! From there I collected all the Bantam books. I had to have them the day they were released, even the ones that ended up being pretty crappy. I didn’t care, they were Star Wars. Then they announced they were working on the new movies. The Prequels. Darth Vader before he was Darth Vader! We’ll get to see the final fight between him and Obi-Wan! The Clone Wars! SQUEEEEEEEE!!!!!! I followed fan sites religiously for tidbits of new information, spoilers, speculation. It was ridiculous.
And like everyone else in the summer of 1999, I was really disappointed in what we got.
That didn’t stop me from seeing it 6 times in the theaters, but still, The Phantom Menace was horrible (with the exception of any scenes of Jedi using their lightsabers and that final, epic duel with Maul). Episode II was better, but still not up to par with any of the originals. Episode III was the closest to making the mark, but it, too, still fell short thanks to clunky dialogue, cheesy/wooden acting, and a focus on stuff that no one but Lucas cared about. (Read the novelization by Matt Stover, though. It was one of the best Star Wars books written and it shows what that movie COULD have been.) The prequels had come and gone, and we were left disillusioned and wanting. The novels, too, had hit a funk, where they tried to do too-long connected storylines using multiple authors. The only saving grace for a fan like me was the comics being released by Dark Horse, which were still high quality and made even the prequel era fun.
The the first, short cartoon series based on the Clone Wars hit, and it was amazing. It was done by the same guy that did Samurai Jack, and while I never really loved the art design, the story itself was really cool. Then they announced the Clone Wars would be a full TV series done using CGI. They released the pilot as a movie and while it had it’s issues I thought it was pretty fun, but the kiddie humor and Anakin’s padawan (He has a what?!) was annoying. Still, for the first time since 1999 I had hope that we would have new Star Wars stuff, other than the comics and select books, that would be fun.
I’m happy to say my hope was well-founded. Dave Filoni and his crew, in the last 5 years, have delivered Star Wars worthy of the name, and it’s only improved with each season. The art direction continues to get better. The storylines went from being laced with kiddie humor to growing more mature, and sometimes dark, just as Bruce Timm did with the Justice League Unlimited series. Here is Star Wars for both kids and adults that satisfies both demographics without sacrificing quality. There are occasional misses during the course of each season, but overall the series is Star Wars that fans have been waiting for. Anakin’s padawan, Asoka, went from being annoying and snarky to a strong female character that female fans could relate to and root for. Anakin’s destiny is often hinted at, and as the series moves forward those foundations for the darkness that eventually overtakes him are laid. (Such as force choking and torturing a prisoner for information to save Asoka).
Originally the Clone Wars was planned for 5 seasons, but it’s become apparent that they intend to run longer than that. I’m hoping that they may actually go through the events of Episode III (and tell it better), but I doubt it. I do hope, however, that once Clone Wars is over they might move on to a new series set either during the rebellion or showcasing events after RoTJ. I know there is a live action series planned that takes place between Ep.III and IV, but who knows when (if ever) that’ll actually get off the ground. Either way, I love having new Star Wars to look forward to and enjoy. If you’ve put off checking out the series either due to the prequels leaving a bad taste in your mouth or because you wrote it off as a “kids show” do yourself a favor and check it out. You’ll be glad you did.
The Clone Wars airs on the Cartoon Network on Saturday’s at 9:30 A.M. central time and is available in full on iTunes.
J.R. Broadwater is the author of the non-fiction book Down with the Thickness: Viewing the World From a Fat Guy’s Perspective, and the sci-fi detective novel You Only Die Twice, both available now in digital and paperback formats. Sample chapters and more information about both books can be found here.