With the massive Star Wars “retcon” a few years ago numerous comic series and novels were thrown out. Instead of having years of lore and expanded storylines, the official storyline now contains the main series, The Clone Wars and Rebels TV shows and any spin-off movies made since 2012. The Expanded Universe is now known as the “Legends” series. That means us Star Wars fans are stuck with The Clone Wars as cannon.
Don’t get me wrong. The Clone Wars is a great show. It has plenty of memorable moments, good storylines, reintroduced Darth Maul and created plenty of new characters. However, there’s another show about the clone wars that some tend to overlook. And if you’re a certain age, you might’ve been a toddler or younger when this show aired.
From 2003 to 2005 Star Wars: Clone Wars aired on Cartoon Network. Written and directed by Genndy Tartakovsky (creator/director of Samurai Jack) Clone Wars had a unique feel and style, similar to that of Samurai Jack. It also managed to tell the clone wars in only three years compared to the later show’s six. The show won a few Emmy awards and was broadcasted on the internet as well as on TV.
What made it so good? First it was fast. Clone Wars was actually a micro-series, with each episode lasting under ten or even five minutes. This meant a breakneck pace with plenty of action scenes. Next, the traditional 2D animation provided Tartakovsky and the writers a chance to show fast lightsaber duels, the Force in a way not previously seen before (or arguably since) and give certain characters the spotlight. For example, one episode is devoted to Mace Windu beating an entire droid army near-singlehandedly, sometimes without his lightsaber!
Obi-Wan and Anakin are given most of the spotlight, with the latter being the main character. Through the show’s three seasons an overarching story was told, eventually tying directly into Episode III. Season three focused almost exclusively on the two Jedi and contained an interesting story about why Anakin’s robotic arm looks different in Episode III compared to Episode II. You can consider it today as “a certain point of view” of the events in The Clone Wars.
In addition to having a different view on the war itself, the show also introduced new characters and settings. Some elements from this show later transitioned to its successor. Many of the voice cast of The Clone Wars provide their voices here, including Matt Lanter (Anakin), James Arnold Taylor (Obi-Wan), Tom Kane (Yoda), T.C. Carson (Windu) and Corey Burton (Dooku). Ventress also made her debut on Clone Wars and was an integral part of the first season. She’s much faster and has a different voice than her later incarnation and her design is slightly different. That said if you’re wondering why she has curved lightsabers in The Clone Wars, they’re the same ones she has in this show.
However, the best parts of the show were ARC Troopers, the music and General Grievous. The ARC’s were a squad of troops led by Captain Fordo, who makes Captain Rex look like an average recruit. They hardly spoke and did things a dozen-man team wasn’t supposed to do. Take out a Banking Clan building surrounded by droids? No problem. Rescue Jedi from Grevious’ clutches? Sure. Fordo holding off an army of super battle droids near-singlehandedly in one of the show’s most badass moments? Yes, please. We don’t see what happens to the other ARC’s. Fordo’s given an underwhelming send-off by the end and he deserves to be retconned back into the universe.
The music was composed by James L. Vernable and Paul Dinletir, who also composed music for Samurai Jack. Both composers do a wonderful job handling the show’s breakneck pace with breakneck music while also retaining many of John Williams’ themes. New themes do a good job blending in with the established Star Wars sound. Its a shame their work hasn’t been officially released. Selections of it exist online in various forms of quality. Even though it was performed with synthesizers it’s still excellent.
Then we have General Grievous. For those too young to remember, in the Expanded Universe Grievous was a cold-hearted, fast killing machine who’d stop for nothing. He was not a slow, coughing robot who couldn’t finish off one Jedi without losing a couple lightsabers. Clone Wars version of Grevious is a lot like the Expanded Universe. In his first appearance on the show he kills at least three Jedi and injures two more. Most of the time he’s only using two lightsabers and his own mechanical body. His speed and reflexes are out of this world. When he’s talked about or referenced Episode III, here you get an idea just why he was so feared and respected. And when he does use four arms it’s among the most epic moments in the show.
Overall, the series became well-respected and proved popular with fans. The entire show was released on DVD in two volumes and has never re-released. Considering the retcon I doubt it’ll officially see the light of day anytime soon. However if you do manage to find the full show or the volumes its worth your time. Star Wars fans in particular will enjoy it and even casual fans will like it.