Attack of the Clone Wars!

The Clone Wars animated series is a collection of episodic tales, almost an epic cycle, of the many battles fought between the Galactic Republic and the Confederacy of Independent Systems (aka the Separatists) during the time between Episode II and Episode III.  It concerns the exploits of famous Jedi-turned-warrior generals of the Republic Army; Obi Wan Kenobi, Anakin Skywalker, his Padawan Ahsoka, Mace Windu, and a horde of other fascinating characters play out new adventures, as the most anticipated piece of Star Wars history comes to life.

The first round of Clone Wars cartoons premiered in 2003. These short, 5-minute segments had animation by Genndy Tartakovsky of Samurai Jack, Powerpuff Girls renown, and their stories lead up to the release of Episode III.  The new series began in October of 2008, following the release of the Clone Wars feature film.  Both the film and the new television series use the same 3D animation.  The CGI appears to be a hybrid of a video game, an anime, and the puppeteer Thunderbirds series from the 1960s

Like the film, this series falls short of the Star Wars ‘dirty future’ aesthetic that the original movies perfectly captured with decrepit spaceships, grimy bounty hunters, disgusting crime lords, and a general shabbiness to space.  ‘Well-used’’ was the description given by New York Press columnist Armond White for Han Solo’s blaster.  In that Galaxy far, far away, technology had been around for a long time.

Clone Wars has none of the living, breathing, desperately-in-need-of-a-shower Universe that made the first films so special, but the meaningful stories and compelling characters make the shows as Jedi as ever.  Each episode begins with a moral: a cosmic fortune cookie that the following adventure elucidates through the action of high-energy lightsaber duels, space battles, and the most badass use of the Force.

As with a comic book, the length of the series (which is now in its second season) allows for more character development.  Jedi Masters like Kit Fisto, the green skinned, fish-eyed, dreadlock from the prequels, get spoken lines, and in Kit Fisto’s case, you learn he has a Jamaican accent.

George Lucas is not only executive director, but plays a role in reviewing and coaching the writers on scripts, making sure the stories contain ample character development and exotic locations.  “It’s very much Star Wars…,” he said on the Late Show with Conan O’Brien, “It’s sort of the first dramatic animated show that is, um, PG-13…”

This mature, animated addition to the Star Wars universe may have trouble finding its place on television, but the depth, imagination, and sheer brilliance of the series, which will play out over 100 episodes, makes it very strong in the Force.  Do not overlook it.

[The Clone Wars shows at 9pm Fridays on Cartoon Network]

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