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Late to the Game: The Clone Wars

Okay, so it’s not a game, but it’s on Disney Plus and it’s got all these characters I’m apparently supposed to know. They show up in other movies and shows and everyone freaks out and I’m supposed to know what it means. Who is Asaaj Ventress? Ahsoka? What is the “Bad Batch”? Bad batch of what? Brownies? So basically, I’m binge-watching to catch up on Star Wars lore.

It’s… it’s not very good. The animation is cheesy and crappy. I’m not a fan of the character designs, from Ahsoka’s flat chin to Palpatine’s raisin skin. Everyone looks like an action figure. Which I suppose is expected, since that’s always been Star Wars’s biggest money-maker.

The serial format is cute. Reminds me of the old-timey WWII films the original Star Wars was inspired by. But it also seems like fight-fight-fight. No plot, no character development. Just blasters and lightsabers flying back and forth with stories as thin as paper. Most of the series is story arcs of 2-4 episodes. The problem is, not all of these have anything to do with the mythology, which is what I’m here for.

I watched it expecting to have all this lore explained. A whole war takes place between Episode II and III. Clone Wars should have been the unnecessary-but-nice-to-have side story that describes what took place. Why does Anakin have a scar? What happens that causes the Jedi’s council not to give him master rank? Who is Ahsoka? Where did she come from? Why does she have two different colored lightsabers? (Several bad guys have two, but it’s uncharacteristic for Jedi to have anything but the single basic model.)

Where did General Grievous come from? What’s his rivalry with Obi-Wan Kenobi? But nope, Anakin starts the series with his scar. Ahsoka just shows up and is assigned as Anakin’s padawan. And suddenly, in season two, she has a second lightsaber. Did they just want to sell more toys?

Anakin suddenly has a student of his own? Is he no longer under Obi-Wan’s tutelage? He’s barely out of Jedi diapers himself. Is that appropriate during a war? I thought his apprenticeship ended at the beginning of Episode III, where Palpatine appoints him his personal envoy. What’s the point of having a canon if they never explain these Chekhov’s guns? That’s why I’m watching–to see the origin of these little touches.

The dialogue is trite and useless, like filler. Someone is always telling someone else “be careful”, “stay sharp”, “proceed with caution” before doing something dangerous. Like are they ever going to do otherwise? They’re constantly doing dangerous stuff. Are they ever going to say “go in riding a dewback, guns blazing, looking like you have googly eyes.” It’s not like anyone of importance can die. Grievous, Dooku, Obi-Wan, Anakin, Palpatine, Windu, Yoda. We know they all live to Episode III, so there’s no tension. Plus, the episodes with Jar-Jar prove going in with no caution or heed works just as well.

The only one that can experience any consequences is Ahsoka, but she can’t because she’s the main character. She’s the audience surrogate–the one who gets expositioned to and closest in target age. The hand-chosen kid who gets to wield a lightsaber and learn under Darth Vader Anakin Skywalker. I like Ahsoka’s character. Even if she starts out whiny (“but we’re not supposed to!”, “but we should follow orders!” “But that’s not what the general said!”) she has the most character development. She actually learns her lessons. Her transition is subtle and earned. And now that I’ve seen more seasons, I see where her appeal lies.

But it feels like there’s no imagination in the stories. The content feels like something Mike Teavee would be into–lots of explosions and people dying (robots and clones) and guns blasting.

Speaking of blasters, the funniest part is how incompetent everyone is. I’d love to see a percentage of “Number of blaster shots fired” over “Actual targeted object hit”. I bet it’s something like .001%. Star Wars has always had a tradition of never hitting anything. But Clone Wars takes it to a whole new level. There’s one scene where Ahsoka is trapped in a four-way corridor with twenty clones and droids on either side. And no one’s getting hit, least of all Ahsoka. She doesn’t even move or do Jedi gymnastics to avoid it.

It’s like Cobra Kai–everyone has marshmallow punches, no one ever gets tired, no ever draws blood. Are the guns designed to act this way? I guess the cost for having infinite ammo is that your accuracy goes down to zero. Likewise, the armor does jackshit. I saw a clone trooper wearing a helmet get punched out. If that can happen, your helmet sucks.

Speaking of badly designed technology, these droids are the worst. You would think an army full of disposable soldiers without the trappings of human error would be a windfall. But they’re terrible. I have more confidence in my off-brand Roomba killing someone, and it’s constantly getting stuck. They’re robots–they should be intelligent and rational like Data or Hal 9000. That would be an unstoppable army. Instead the strategy seems to be overwhelming numbers of replaceable, recyclable troops. Because they can’t hit anything, can’t take a hit themselves, aren’t strong, aren’t dextrous, have neither insight nor intelligence, and no superhuman abilities like reaction time or flight. These guys, a Jedi jumps between them. “Hey… you… shouldn’t… be… here…” Slash.

All in all, the only gap Clone Wars fills out is how significant they were in Star Wars lore. It’s just a throwaway line in “A New Hope”, but here we see what a war hero Anakin Skywalker, how it makes his name. And how meaningful his downfall is–from hero of the Republic to blackguard of the empire. But I wish I had watched just the mythology episodes. My dream of Clone Wars redeeming the prequel trilogy did not come to fruition.

And fuck Jar-Jar Binks. He still sucks.

Eric Juneau is a software engineer and novelist on his lunch breaks. In 2016, his first novel, Merm-8, was published by eTreasures. He lives in, was born in, and refuses to leave, Minnesota. You can find him talking about movies, video games, and Disney princesses at http://www.ericjuneaubooks.com where he details his journey to become a capital A Author.

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