You fought in the Clone Wars? – Luke Skywalker to Obi-Wan Kenobi, Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope
The shroud of the dark side has fallen. Begun the Clone War has. – Yoda, Star Wars: Episode II: Attack of the Clones
Until 2002, when Episode II was released in theaters, the Clone Wars were a nebulous yet important part of George Lucas’s Star Wars saga. In the Classic Trilogy, they are part of the backstory and only three lines of dialogue in A New Hope refer directly to them.
Yet the series of conflicts known collectively as the Clone Wars looms large in the Star Wars mythology as the catalyst for the rise of the Galactic Empire, the destruction of the Jedi Order, and the transition of Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker from impetuous hero to the evil Sith Lord Darth Vader. But as important as the war between the Separatists and the Republic is, moviegoers only get to see the beginning of the galaxy-wide conflict in Episode II: Attack of the Clones and its tragic ending in Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.
Cable and satellite television subscribers who get the Cartoon Network – and now, DVD owners – have seen other engagements in the animated micro-series Star Wars: Clone Wars
When I first read about how George Lucas had greenlighted writer-director Genndy (Samurai Jack) Tartakovsky’s 20 three-minute-long episodes that bridge the three-year gap between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, I was less than optimistic about both its quality and success.
You see, I still have all-too-vivid memories of how badly Star Wars television programs had fared, beginning with the bizarre Star Wars Holiday Special of November 1978 and continuing with such awful entries as The Ewok Adventure, The Battle for Endor, Droids, and Ewoks. Also, the one drawing that illustrated the article on the then-upcoming Clone Wars – of Anakin Skywalker brandishing a lightsaber – was a turn-off because it was very stylized. (I guess I could say it looked too abstractly cartoonish.) So even though I had not ruled out watching it when it premiered on the Cartoon Network, I also wasn’t very excited about the so-called “micro-series.”
As it turned out, I did watch most of the original episodes when they originally aired on the Cartoon Network, even though most of the installments were all too short and I had to endure the annoying CN introductions – which included a tour of Lucasfilm Fan Relations VP Stephen J. Sansweet’s Star Wars collection, which is the largest in private hands – before each chapter. And, to my astonishment, I really enjoyed the shows.
Essentially, Star Wars: Clone Wars “fills in the blanks” in the narrative arc between 2002’s Episode II: Attack of the Clones, which depicts the start of open warfare between the Galactic Republic and the Confederacy of Independent Systems at the Battle of Geonosis, and 2005’s Revenge of the Sith, where the Clone Wars’ true objective is revealed and the war-weakened Republic is replaced by the evil Galactic Empire.
In the first of two DVDs, Star Wars; Clone Wars: Volume One, we see how, as Yoda says in the first episode’s voice-over introduction, “like fire across the galaxy, the (conflict) spread.” The badly outnumbered Jedi (less than 10,000 strong) are now teamed with white-armored Clone Troopers and sent into action on many fronts as the CIS, also known as the Separatist movement, deploys its droid armies on such planets as Dantooine, Muunilist (home of the InterGalactic Banking Clan), and Mon Calamari.
The basic storyline of Clone Wars focuses on Obi-Wan Kenobi (Philip Moog), now a Jedi Master and General in the Grand Army of the Republic, as he and his clone troopers attempt to secure the Banking Clan’s factories and munitions plants on Muunilist, and his Padawan Anakin Skywalker (Mat Lucas), whose arrogance and ambition have grown in tandem with his prowess as a Jedi.
Over Obi-Wan’s objections, Supreme Chancellor Palpatine (Nick Jameson, who did the reborn Palpatine’s voice in the Dark Empire audio adaptation), “suggests” that Anakin be placed in command of the space forces over Muunilist while Kenobi and his troopers go after San Hill and his cronies on the planet itself. Not only does Obi-Wan feel that young Skywalker isn’t ready for such a responsibility (“It’s not your abilities that are in question,” he says to his brooding Padawan, “it’s your maturity.”), but the two will be separated.
While Obi-Wan and Anakin deal with the Separatists on and over Muunilist, other Jedi Masters are fighting the enemy elsewhere. Kit Fisto, for instance, leads his aqua-troopers and Calamari soldiers in a spectacular underwater battle on Mon Calamari; Mace Windu (Terrence Carson) fights against a huge Separatist spacecraft on Dantooine; Yoda (Tom Kane), accompanied by Senator Padme Amidala (Grey DeLisle), heads for a secret Jedi temple to rescue two Jedi Masters in grave peril….while Ki-Adi-Mundi and a handful of Jedi Knights and Masters encounter a new and deadly foe, the cyborg known as General Grievous.
While the somewhat abstract animation style does take some getting used to, Tartakovsky’s scripts and love for Star Wars (and the full cooperation of George Lucas) make Clone Wars: Volume One a very enjoyable viewing experience for both children and adults. The episodes, with the exception of one chapter, are three minutes long but presented without gaps or pauses, and the emphasis is on the action rather than long bits of dialogue and/or exposition.
And what action! There are, of course, spectacular battle sequences in space, on various planets, and even under the seas of Mon Calamari, but it wouldn’t be Star Wars without lightsabers and Force duels, and Clone Wars has lots of those, the most fierce involving a female Sith candidate named Assaj Ventress (Grey DeLisle again).
Moreover, there are references and tie-ins to both the Prequel and Classic Trilogies, both in visual settings (in the latter half, we see Yavin 4, the future site of the hidden Rebel base in A New Hope) and in bits of dialogue. (My favorite? When Anakin is involved in a one-on-one spacefighter duel over Muunilist, he says “I have you now,” which his “future” Vader incarnation will utter during the Battle of Yavin in A New Hope.)
Other touches I like include:
* The casting of Anthony Daniels as C-3PO; the man has portrayed the prissy, nervous protocol droid in all six films and the three National Public Radio Dramas.
* An “homage” to a classic TV commercial from the late 1970s.
* Another, more or less subtle reference to “Scooby Doo.”
Volume One, obviously, is only the first half of the story arc, so it, like The Empire Strikes Back, ends on a cliffhanger note; Volume Two, which as of this writing is due to be released in December of 2005, picks up the story threads and takes the viewer right up to the beginning of Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.
Partial Cast List
Corey Burton … San Hill/Count Dooku/Warrior #2
Anthony Daniels … C-3PO
John Di Maggio … General Grievous/Padawan (2004)
Nick Jameson … Supreme Chancellor Palpatine/Darth Sidious (2003)
Tom Kane … Yoda
Mat Lucas … Anakin Skywalker
Daran Norris … Durge/Aide #2/Henchman/Warrior #3/Ki-Adi-Mundi/Master Barrek
Kevin Michael Richardson … K’Kruhk/Human Male Jedi Master (2004)
André Sogliuzzo … ARC Captain/Battle Droid/Clone Trooper/ARC Trooper/Captain Typho
Cree Summer … Luminara Unduli (2004)
James Arnold Taylor … Obi-Wan Kenobi/Aide #1/Aide #3
Tatyana Yassukovich … Barriss Offee
Philipp Moog … Obi-Wan Kenobi
Terrence ‘T.C.’ Carson … Mace Windu (2003-2005)
Grey DeLisle … Asajj Ventress/Padmé Amidala/Shaak-Ti