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The Clone Wars Explained

24 October 2008 by Rob Daniel

Star Wars: The Clone Wars Clone Wars PosterWith the release of a new movie, The Clone Wars, The Star Wars galaxy is getting more and more complicated. So we asked resident expert Rob Daniel to explain exactly what the hell's going on...

In the original Star Wars (aka Episode IV) Obi Wan Kenobi refers to the Clone Wars. Meanwhile Episode II – Attack of the Clones depicts the war's opening battle and Episode III - Revenge of the Sith its dark conclusion. 

But, realising there was a legion of fans who wanted more (clone) war stories, George Lucas commissioned a “mirco-series” that filled in the three years between Episodes II and III.  Star Wars: Clone Wars is Episode 2.5 (or II.v to use the saga’s numerals) and the force is with it. 

Cartoon Network’s Star Wars: Clone Wars is the brain-child of Genndy Tartakovsky, a man who knows a thing or two about creating crossover cult animation having previously created Dexter’s Laboratory and Samurai Jack.

Samurai Jack’s cinematic sweep and exaggerated anime visuals made Tartakovsky an obvious choice to tackle the Clone Wars, particularly as Lucas himself is so influenced by Japanese culture: Star Wars is a reworking of Akira Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress and the Jedi have a rigid, samurai-like code of honour. 

Clearly granted large creative license, Tartakovsky’s team gave the Star Wars universe a Samurai Jack The Clone Wars rageStar Wars: Clone Warsmake-over, reworking characters in an angular, anime style. 

A “micro-series”, the first two seasons featured episodes of three to five minutes, while season three’s episodes were extended to twelve to fifteen minutes, and depicted the interstellar war between the Galactic Republic and Count Dooku’s separatist Confederacy of Independent Systems. 

Mainly concerned with giving proper bang for buck, Star Wars: Clone Wars puts action centre stage, devoting most time to ambitious battleground set-pieces across the galaxy.

Although characterisation and plot shuffled into the background (presumably so no major plotlines from the upcoming Episode III would be spoilt) Clone Wars developed Obi-Wan and Anakin Skywalker’s friendship, hinted at Anakin’s moodswings, and gave key characters Padme and Mace Windu (Natalie Portman and Sam Jackson in the movies) more screen time to show off their skills in battle.

Fans will have a ball spotting aliens who have cropped up in previous movies but, for the uninitiated, the breathless pace and eye-catching animation compensate for any knowledge gaps.

The Clone Wars' best baddie - Asajj VentressStar Wars: The Clone WarsClone Wars also introduced two immediate fan-favourite characters, the living-tissue and metal fusion General Grevious and the two lightsaber wielding Sith (anti-Jedi) wannabe Asajj Ventress. 

Grevious crops up in Episode III but is more formidable here, while Count Dooku’s Dark acolyte Ventress should have appeared in the prequels, being a better baddie than anything that sneered in Episodes I-III, including Darth Maul, and has a heart-in-mouth duel with Obi-Wan in the new Clone Wars movie.

When shown on Cartoon Network the debate was not 'is Clone Wars any good ' (the two Emmy awards the show picked up confirmed it was), but is it better than the prequels?

Some fans criticised tonal shifts from dark to juvenile (clearly never having seen Jar-Jar Binks, who does not crop up here), inconsistencies with Star Wars novels (what about logic holes between Episode III and Episode IV?) and fast-and-loose playing with technology (okay, underwater lightsabers are a stretch).

Star Wars: Clone Wars is scrappy, lightweight, and punk (the first two series forsake the Star Wars crawl in favour of a The Clone Wars' Yoda - ready for actionStar Wars: Clone Warsbrief digital transmission style credit), but is also frequently breathtaking. 

With the new CGI Clone Wars movie and the upcoming TV series, Lucas seems to be pushing these original episodes into the shadows, referring to them as a "pilot series".  The new movie will rock many a Star Wars fan, but Tartakovsky's irreverent take first injected new dynamism into a saga that seemed finished.

And because of the thrills and the fun they provide, for our money Star Wars: Clone Wars is the true descendent of the original trilogy rather than those seduced-by-the-Dark-Side prequels.