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From Under A Rock: Star Wars: Clone Wars (2003)

December 20, 2015 | Posted by Michael Ornelas
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From Under A Rock: Star Wars: Clone Wars (2003)  

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We all have things we get excited for. For many of us, Star Wars is one of those things, and for me that’s no different. I try to watch through the franchise once a year or so (yes, even the prequels), but there’s one thing that’s different about my viewing: I always include one other property along with the six main series films, and that’s my pick this week. It is one of the few adaptations of something I love that not only matches the franchise, but enhances it.

You only get one first time, and for some people, it comes later than it does for others. This particular column is about documenting the first viewing of a “classic” movie or TV show (determined at the discretion of my writing partner, Aaron Hubbard and I in alternation). This column is a companion piece to my podcast of the same premise, which you can check out here.

Last week Aaron had Michael comb the desert, but he didn’t find shit except for the movie Spaceballs. This week Michael takes Aaron out from under the proverbial rock with the 2003 Genndy Tartakovsy (of Powerpuff Girls and Samurai Jack fame) directed Star Wars: Clone Wars!

Star Wars: Clone Wars
Released: November 7th, 2003
Directed by: Genndy Tartakovsy
Written by: Bryan Andrews, Mark Andrews, Darrick Bachman, Paul Rudish, & Genndy Tartakovsky
Starring: Mat Lucas, James Arnold Taylor, Tom Kane, Grey DeLisle, Anthony Daniels, Corey Burton, Andre Sogliuzzo, Richard McGonagle, & Nick James

Michael Ornelas: Much like most of our picks these days, I got super excited when I found out you hadn’t seen this before. Samurai Jack is one of the best action cartoons of all time and seeing Tartakovsy helm a Star Wars version of that show (essentially) was something that made me incredibly happy. While I think it’s tough to make a project like this interesting (meaning the vignette format), or at least sustainable, I felt this series did more than enough to get to the meat of the scenes and make sure things weren’t glossed over.

Aaron Hubbard: I know I certainly had a hard time getting into the show when it was on Cartoon Network, but when it’s thrown all together into two one-hour movies, it’s an absolute blast to watch. Seasons 1 and 2 were more fun for me than Season 3, but all of them were great, and for me, what I was hoping for ever since I first saw trailers for Attack of the Clones. I’ve watched bits and pieces of the CGI-TV series and have enjoyed that, but this is on another level.
Exploring the Galaxy Far Far Away
Michael: One thing that’s easy to do when making a companion piece to an established franchise is to fall into the trap of only adding to things we already know, because we’ve seen them on-screen before. This series goes beyond that and adds entirely new stories to the film canon, and I love that. I think perhaps that’s why you didn’t like season 3 was because it focused more on filling the gap between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith than it did telling entirely new stories. That said, one of my favorite sequences in the whole series is Grievous’ assault on Coruscant to capture Senator Palpatine from his protection by Shaak Ti, Roron Corobb and Foul Moudama. It gave Grievous so much more credibility than Revenge of the Sith had the time to. Actually, everything with Grievous in this series is amazing and it’s why he’s one of my all-time favorite Star Wars characters.

Aaron: That’s a phenomenal sequence and one of the few things I caught from the series in its original run; I remember getting amped for Revenge watching it and seeing the consequences play out in the movie was very cool. My main problem with season three was that it had too many homages and lines from the movies. The show is much more engaging when it’s more or less silent and just a visual experience. I didn’t need Obi-Wan saying “what an incredible smell you’ve discovered” or similar things to be engaged in the show; those things took me out of the experience instead of enhancing it. I get the feeling that George Lucas was a bit more hands on with the writing in that season than he was in the first two.

Michael: I’m unsure of Lucas’ level of involvement, so I can’t comment on it with any certainty, but it wouldn’t surprise me. And I completely agree about the visuals being the selling point of the show. As I’ve mentioned to you a few times, another one of my favorite vignettes in the series is Mace Windu’s battle with the onslaught of Battle Droids:

Michael: There is no conversational dialogue there, and I think that added so much to the drama of what was happening.

Aaron: It’s a fantastic sequence, and probably the coolest Mace Windu has ever been to me. It says a lot about the quality of this show (and about George Lucas as a director) that these artists and storytellers can make Mace cooler than Samuel L. Jackson was able to do. A much smaller but similar sequence that I personally loved was Kit Fisto’s sequence; I’m a sucker for anything underwater and Kit Fisto fighting with a lightsaber that works in water was just one of the coolest things I could imagine and not something we’d ever seen before.


New Villains
Aaron: I think the most lasting impression this show has made in my Star Wars experience is the introduction of Asajj Ventress, the would-be Sith Apprentice. Fans were extremely fond of the character and she has a presence that far outlasted this show; she’s all over the CGI-series and it’s not hard to see why. I also enjoyed Durge, the bounty hunter that always heals, and of course the show introduced us all to General Grievous as well. But Ventress to me is this show’s lasting legacy in the greater Star Wars universe. And as a fan of her, it was really cool for me to see her backstory play out and I felt a degree of sympathy for her.

Michael: Anakin’s battle with Ventress is so cool. It’s very well-animated and choreographed nicely (is that term applicable if it’s not live action?), and more importantly, it gives Anakin a lot of momentum toward the Dark Side of the Force that we don’t really get to see in Revenge. It seems abrupt in the movies and makes him unlikable as opposed to this series, which shows him doing bad things for the side of good, and how that’s a slippery slope. I think that differentiation is so important, and it’s the main thing lacking in the prequels.

Aaron: The sight of Anakin with a red lightsaber was such a cool visual, and really told the story we needed. That fight may be my personal favorite, even including the movies. The set-up is cool, with Asajj taking out Clones in a sequence right out of Predator, establishing her as a threat. The location is amazing, with the jungle and then the old temple and the rain coming down. The fighting is intense but the quiet moments may be even more intense. And again, they never say anything to each other. They don’t have to. The show doesn’t need to insult the intelligence of the viewer by spelling things out for us.


Clone Lives Matter
Michael: As we all know, Clones were nothing more than a plot device in Attack of the Clones, which is a shame. This series, without many words, makes Clones feel important. They’re actually competent, first of all, and not just there to add to the body count. The clip above feels like Zero Dark Thirty but with Clones, and I think that does so much more for them than anything done in the movies. Also, in the Mace Windu clip above, several Clones die, and I actually felt sad for them while watching it. And lastly, through the use of character design and body language, the Clones actually feel like individuals, with their own distinct personalities.

Aaron: That was a great sequence, and it shows how valuable and necessary the clones are. I mean, when you watch Mace Windu take on hundreds of battle droids by himself, it’s easy to think of the clones as expendable. But this show gets across the idea that the war wasn’t just won by Jedi, but by the clones. But by the same hand, I think this also does a good job of showing us bits of the other Jedi and making us care about them. Luminara Unduli and Barriss Offee have a great scene where Barriss constructs her lightsaber and we can feel their connection to each other. We see Ki-Adi Mundi and Shaak Ti be terrified of Grievous. Things like that help these characters feel real, and I can carry it into my viewing experience of the prequel trilogy and feel more personally invested.

Michael: They also make the Jedi incredibly vulnerable, and it goes to show that for every great hero, there is an equal villain. The Jedis are against all odds in this show (a precursor to their ultimate demise in Revenge of the Sith), and no punches are pulled in building up the villain (primarily Grievous).

Ratings:
Aaron: I loved this series so much. I was excited to see this before hand, but this exceeded my expectations and has earned a place as one of my favorite bits of Star Wars media. If one considers the show as a two-hour movie, it’s better than any of the prequels and I may actually like it more than Return of the Jedi. My only complaints are tiny nitpicks like character design on Shaak Ti and the wookiees and lightsaber physics. Besides that, this show is nearly perfect viewing for a fan of the greater Star Wars universe.

A

Michael: An instant classic and welcomed addition to Star Wars canon, this series has been one of my favorite properties in the franchise for years now. Tartakovsy is my favorite when it comes to animated action, and brings this show up to a very high quality.

A

Aaron:You know what really bothered me about the last part of this show? The fact that Anakin and Obi-Wan went to Pandora for a Na’vi spirit journey. Where is that sequel to Avatar?

Michael: In a galaxy far, far away.

Which Clone Wars series do you prefer?

Next week:

Aaron: Next week is one of the most festive weeks of the year, as many people celebrate Christmas for one reason or another. The holiday has provided inspiration for many movies, several of which have become classics. But for me, there’s one movie I grew up with and try to catch every December to help put me in the spirit.

Muppets
Michael: I’ve always liked The Muppets from a distance but never really dived into the franchise. I’ve seen their first movie and honestly, I’m not a fan of it, but The Muppet Show was classic, and the current incarnation The Muppets is decent. The characters are iconic, so I’m looking forward to watching this one.

What are your favorite movies to watch during the Christmas season?

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Charity!
Toys

To get into the Christmas spirit, we’re going to take our charity from last week out again for another spin. Toys for Tots is a charity that provides seven million children with presents during the holiday season. If you have a spirit for giving and want to help put a smile on someone’s face, this is a wonderful way to do so.

And next week, we’re introducing:
From Under A Rock: The Ultimate Battle!!

We will pit protagonists and antagonists from the 21 movies we’ve reviewed so far against one another and let YOU vote their ultimate fate! This is just for fun, but depending on how it goes, we’ll do it every time we get to 32 characters we want to do this with! Be sure to check in on Christmas Day or the days to follow to cast your vote!

9.3
The final score: review Amazing
The 411
Star Wars: Clone Wars sees one of the greatest minds in serial animation tackle one of the most beloved franchises in history. Genndy Tartakovsky's vision is arguably what we all wanted to believe the prequels would be; smart, engaging, innovative and epic in scope. It enhances both the main heroes of that era as well as several side characters. It's a fantastic companion piece to those movies and a worthwhile watch on its own merit. We strongly recommend checking it out.
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