Tomorrow's new episode of Star Wars: The Clone Wars is the 100th episode of the show. So I thought I'd jot down a few words about it.
Around the time Episode III came out it was announced that the 2D Clone Wars micro-series was going to be modified and return to television as an ongoing show. I for one was excited.
First, it would be more Star Wars. This itself was good for at least two reasons. One, since back in 2005 we were all under the impression that there would be no more theatrical Star Wars ever, a new show meant Star Wars would be able to continue (yes, yes, I know there were still the books and videogames....don't get me started). And two, it would be Star Wars on, presumably, a weekly basis. Holy lightsabers Obi-Wan, new Star Wars every week!! Josh and I quickly did the math, and realized that in just one season, assuming it would be a half-hour, we'd get almost as much Star Wars content as the entire film saga had given us. So in just one season there'd be a doubling of Star Wars. And if the show went on longer, wow.
Second, I really enjoyed the Tartakovski micro-series. It felt Star Wars-ian to me. You might think, well, duh, it's Star Wars. But just because you slap the Star Wars name on something doesn't make it feel like George Lucas' galaxy far far away. I've found that many of the EU novels, while fine books in and of themselves, don't quite nail that Star Wars feeling. But even with minimal dialogue (especially in the first batch), this little show with a funky art style and anime influences felt right. So a continuation of that in particular was exciting.
As I recall, shortly after the announcement news about the show completely dried up. There was nothing said about it. I had confidence that the show was being worked on. But still, not hearing jack diddly about it was a bummer. But eventually the news started to flow again. The show was going to be CGI (that may have been announced originally, I'm not sure), each episode was going to be a half-hour, and they weren't sure what network would carry it. Rumors included everything from Cartoon Network (since they had broadcast the micro-series, and they're called Cartoon Network, it was certainly reasonable to include them in the list) to HBO (what would a Star Wars cartoon on HBO look like, we all wondered).
As time went on, news picked up and the hype train pulled out of the station. And then, one fateful day, an announcement was made. The series premier would not be shown on television, but in the movie theater. I got misty-eyes, I must admit. I was going to get to go to a movie theater again and say, "I'd like two tickets to Star Wars, please." I'd thought my days of doing that were over (little did I know, eh). Soon preview clips of the film and show found their way onto the Internet. I remember watching them, listening intensely in order to try and figure out whether the live-action actors were reprising their roles or not. At the time I was hoping for the original actors, although now it's quite obvious that, by in large, they (although great talents) weren't essential. Indeed, it's hard for me to imagine the Clone Wars show, and the fandom surrounding it, without folks like Matt Lanter and James Arnold Taylor. Their talent and their genuine enjoyment of their place in Star Wars has been an irreplacable aspect of it all, one that I just don't think would have been there without them (I guess that's what irreplacable means, huh). In any event, it is a testament to the talents of James and Matt that in listening to those preview clips I just couldn't quite tell whether I was hearing Ewan and Hayden or voice actors. I knew that Lucasfilm had a voice actor who did a phenomenal Obi-Wan, since he'd played the part in the micro-series. Kenobi was, and is, my favorite character, but James Arnold Taylor's Obi-Wan was so good that I wasn't really concerned that he might get the role and not Ewan McGreggor.
It turns out none of the original cast was returning, save Anthony Daniel, and, for the film, Christopher Lee and Samuel L. Jackson (who, incidentally, is the one film actor who I still wish was reprising his role on the show). But that didn't deter me, Josh, and my wife Liz from being in the theater opening day. (In fact, we observed that once the show got into its second season, all these new actors will have played these parts for more screen-time than their live action counterparts. James Arnold Taylor would have been Obi-Wan Kenobi longer than Sir Alec Guiness and Ewan McGreggor combined.) Reviews were already out, and, shocker, a lot of them were negative. This also didn't deter me, as reviews of the prequels had been less than stellar but I thoroughly enjoyed all three films. The lights darkened, the 20th Century Fox fanfare did not play, the Clone Wars version of the main theme hit, and we were on our way.
About 10-15 minutes in, the battle of Cristophsis was still going on, the projector in the theater locked up. While on the one hand a bummer, it did give the three of us the chance to share initial impressions. Liz isn't a huge Star Wars fan, but she was liking it well enough. As for Josh and I, we really liked what we'd seen so far. Soon the projector was fixed and the movie resumed. Our final feelings were the same as those initial ones. We just didn't see what all the hate was about. It felt exactly like Star Wars, just CGI instead of live action/CGI. Sure the animation had room for improvement. But it was by no means bad. The art style was very appealing, and the music, though definitely taking Star Wars music into more experimental territory...for Star Wars music, and though definitely not John Williams, was still very good, and fit perfectly with the film. The actors all nailed their parts, the story had that Star Wars version of swashbuckling fun, the new padawan seemed like she had potential to become an interesting character, and Obi-Wan was dry and snarky, yet warm-hearted, just as he should be. (I still consider the film to be one of the best 'episodes' of the show. The premier of the show, now confirmed to be on Cartoon Network, couldn't come soon enough.
And eventually it arrived. Ah, season one. Although I don't consider it to be my favorite season (that would be two), there's a certain magic associated with that season in my mind. It was Star Wars on TV. And it was airing in the Fall (my favorite time of the year). I have very fond memories of season 1. And there were some standout episodes in that first season: The Malevolence Trilogy, Ambush, Jedi Crash and the subsequent episode (which incidentally gave us our first Star Wars / Star Trek casting crossover, at least of a major character), Blue Shadow Virus and Mystery of a Thousand Moons. Reviews started off pretty harshly. It was apparently the cool thing to do to hate on the show. But slowly, people started to come around. Star Wars fandom started to embrace the show on a larger scale.
And here we are, years later, in the middle of season 5. (A show which covers three years of in-universe time is in its fifth season. Don't do the math.) I must admit, over the last season and a half my excitement for the show has waned just a bit. There are a few reasons I can identify, but I won't go into that here. (But if you're curious, check out the latest episode of our Clone Wars podcast, The Clone Cast.) Nevertheless, I'm glad the show is still on, as it gives me a chance to explore that galaxy far, far, away, and to see the exploits of what may be my favorite fictional character of all-time (yup, Obi-Wan Kenobi).
I don't think the show needs to run for another 100 episodes. But when it does end, I hope it is succeeded by another Star Wars animated show of some sort. We're getting more Star Wars films in the coming years (!), but that doesn't mean we don't need we don't also need Star Wars on TV. May they both continue for a long time. And years from now, I believe folks will look back to The Clone Wars and see that it set a firm foundation for the post-original saga era of Star Wars.
Still anti-clankers, I am,
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