Star Wars: Clone Wars
The Star Wars: Clone Wars microseries is one that I will always hold very dear in my heart. Released in 20 three-to-five-minute episodes across 2003 and 2004, and then with 5 more twelve-minute episodes in 2005, this series essentially acts as a true Star Wars: Episode II.V. It runs at just over two hours, and its plot runs the course of the entire Clone Wars from the beginning all the way to the Battle of Coruscant, the end of which we see in the opening to Revenge of the Sith.
Every single Star Wars marathon I do with my family and friends, we watch Clone Wars in between Episodes II and III (except for when we did Machete Order once, though I don’t recommend it for marathons after having done it). It’s extremely fun, more fast-paced than any of the other prequels, and it fills in a crucial gap in Anakin’s story arc that isn’t directly shown in the other movies– his growth from a reckless Padawan to a reckless, but beloved, hero.
But it’s also a somewhat obscure entry in the franchise, at this point. Especially considering the massive success of the 2008 CGI series The Clone Wars (the word “The” makes all the difference), this series has been completely neglected by Lucasfilm, and somewhat forgotten by the fandom. It never even got more than a two-volume DVD set that quickly went out of print, and has never been re-released on Blu-Ray, or officially online (though you can easily watch it on Youtube here, and it doesn’t seem like Lucasfilm cares enough to take it down). Why is this? I don’t know. It could be a rights issue with Cartoon Network or director Genndy Tartakovsky, or it could be worries that it would confuse people trying to watch the 2008 series. There isn’t any official word that I can find on it.
Star Wars: Clone Wars is no longer canon, apparently, and is put in the Legends timeline (despite contradicting with the 2008 series almost not at all and in fact introducing or developing characters that would become major ones in that series). But I will still watch it every time that I do a Star Wars marathon, and I will continue to consider it canon, for me, until something comes along that unambiguously negates it.
In this article, I will discuss the reasons why Star Wars: Clone Wars deserves to be the seventh Star Wars film (which is why I will be referring to it as a movie not a series), while also going through the story loosely in chronological order, as much of this essay will cover Anakin Skywalker’s character growth over the course of the microseries. Once again, if you haven’t seen it already, I highly recommend that you watch it, because it’s one of my favorite movies of all time (despite being divided into two separate DVDs….).
The Battle of Muunilinst
The main focus of the first “season” of Clone Wars (the series was originally aired in two ten-episode “seasons”, then one five-episode one just before Episode III released) is the Battle of Muunilinst, the Republic’s first main siege against the Intergalactic Banking Clan’s homeworld. It very quickly gives a sense of scale for the planetary conflict, as there is a massive battle in space, a massive battle on the ground, and a covert operation by a team of Arc Troopers (pictured above), who are the elite Clone Troopers in the Grand Army of the Republic.
While the battles in Episode II and Episode III are gigantic, we only really get to see snippets of them, because they play in the background to the actual events of the plot. In this, we get to see full-scale warfare through the lenses of many different characters, and get to see the entire battle. On a more minor level, we get to see the difference between the early Clone Wars and the late Clone Wars; this is not a part of the Outer Rim Sieges that are so commonly shown in the latter parts of this movie and all throughout Episode III, and it shows because of the prosperous location, as well as the sweeping battle and swift victory on the part of the Republic. It provides a great contrast to the battles later on in the war, when they drag on for months and take place on obscure, harsh planets.
The battle truly does have an “epic” feel, and gives real credence to the Wars part of the Star Wars name.
Star Wars: Clone Wars’s biggest contribution was in introducing two of the biggest antagonists of the war: the nigh-immortal behemoth Durge, and the deadly Dark Jedi Asaaj Ventress.* They both act as major villains of the first half of the movie, and provide great challenges to Obi-Wan and Anakin, respectively, helping show their growth as characters.
While Durge has still yet to appear in the new Disney-era canon, Asaaj Ventress became one of the main characters of The Clone Wars, and ended up getting her own book with Jedi Quinlan Vos called Dark Disciple. Both of them are very unique villains in the Star Wars mythos, and are established very well in this movie.
*Both of them appeared in the comics before in this, but this is chronologically their first appearance in the EU, I… think? Anyway, it’s their first major appearances.
If there is one thing Genndy Tartakovsky is most well-known for, it’s the fight scenes in his shows. And from what we see in Samurai Jack, Sym-Bionic Titan, and even Dexter’s Laboratory, his fame is well-deserved. However, I would argue that the fights and battles in Clone Wars are his finest work of all.
Every single battle, from Obi-Wan dueling Durge, to Kit Fisto fighting the Quarren on Mon Calamari, to Mace Windu defeating an army of Super Battle Droids and a Sepratist superweapon almost completely by himself, are beautifully choreographed. Some say they are a little over-the-top for Star Wars standards of fights, but I say that they show the full power of the Jedi extremely well. Yoda can lift an X-Wing out of a swamp with barely an effort, so I can generally accept everything that happens in this movie.
Anakin vs. Asaaj
Probably one of the most important parts of the entire movie is the battle between Asaaj Ventress and Anakin Skywalker. Anakin recklessly chases after her, getting himself caught in a trap on Yavin IV, but he succeeds, and brutally kills* her. The lightsaber battle between them is one of the best in all of Star Wars, of course, but the main takeaway is the sheer darkness of Anakin, and his almost primal rage upon defeating Asaaj.
The scream he makes after pushing her off the cliff is one of the more powerful moments in the entire Star Wars saga. The fight is completely wordless, but gives Anakin so much development that it alone would make me want to place this on the pedestal of being the seventh Star Wars film.
*Yes, Asaaj actually survives, obviously.
In what is probably the biggest error of the entire movie, General Grievous makes his first appearance. But who cares if this character design doesn’t match his end character design very well? Because he still has one of the best introductions of any villain in any movie.
We first get word via a hologram sent to Obi-Wan that General Grievous is hunting the Jedi, and subsequently kills the Jedi Master who sent the message. Then we see the battlefield on Hypori; the surviving Jedi are trapped within a destroyed Star Destroyer* being besieged by a vast army of droids.
But then Grievous stops the army, and goes to fight them by himself.
In the next five minutes, we see General Grievous take on FIVE Jedi at once, and defeats all of them but one, killing two and critically injuring the others. He very nearly kills them all before an Arc Trooper squad arrives and chases him away with enough time to save the three surviving Jedi.
Even after Darth Maul, Count Dooku, Jango Fett, Asaaj Ventress, Durge, there is no precedence for the amount of sheer terror that General Grievous instills from the moment he first appears, and the movie follows that up extremely nicely later in the movie, by using his mere presence as a source of tension.
Anakin Skywalker, Hero of the Republic
The most important part of Star Wars: Clone Wars to the saga in my eyes is that it shows the transformation of Anakin from a headstrong Padawan into a seasoned Jedi Knight, and a valiant warrior. It is delivered largely in montage form, but we see many moments of his heroism and growth after he becomes a Jedi Knight.
He and Obi-Wan do indeed become extremely close friends throughout the movie. Their interactions change from the Master-Padawan relationship as shown in Episode II their brotherly relationship as shown in Episode III, and it acts as a very good transition between the two.
Anakin’s rise and fall is chronicled well in the main six movies, but I feel that we cannot get a true picture without also using Star Wars: Clone Wars. He truly becomes a Hero to the Republic, someone that the entire galaxy would look up to.
The Battle of Coruscant
The Battle of Coruscant, whose ending hours we see in Episode III, begins in Star Wars: Clone Wars. The battle is even more massive than the one on Muunilinst, and takes place in the most important planet of the Prequel Trilogy.
Besides the amazing fights and battles from the Jedi (and from the unstoppably-badass Commander Fordo, as pictured above), the battle is extremely important because it shows just how vulnerable the Republic has become, and how close to the end of the war is. The Sepratists invading the capital city of the Republic is a very last-ditch desperate effort, but the amount of horror it strikes into the heart of the citizens of the Republic is very successful at paving the way for the creation of the Empire.
Of course, the main attraction of the Battle of Coruscant is Jedi Master Shaak Ti (and her companions Roron Corobb and Foul Moudama) trying to save Chancellor Palpatine from the clutches of General Grievous. They go on a very long chase to secure Palpatine in his bunker, and while they ultimately fail, it provides some of the coolest moments of the movie, including, of course, the battle in the train station. General Grievous also displays his true might, and handily defeats all three Jedi Masters in the end.
Journey to Nelvaan
While Anakin has become a hero by the midpoint of the movie, he is still a very dark individual, and we get to see his character development shine brightly through his quest on Nelvaan to save the planet and capture what he thinks is General Grievous, but is actually a laboratory full of Techno Union scientists.
The vision in the cave is an extremely, extremely important part of Anakin’s character development, because it shows that his visions of the future continue to plague him, and he continues to get the wrong message from them, just like in Episode III. The vision is also brilliantly-made, and probably single-handedly won the movie an Emmy.
Just like with his battle with Asaaj Ventress, Anakin also shows his fall towards the Dark Side very well, by unleashing his inner rage and executing the Techno Union scientists in a very brutal fashion as the Nevlaanians cheer him on.
The Sith’s Revenge
The movie ends exactly where Episode III begins– a space battle over Coruscant.
Star Wars: Clone Wars acts as the missing link between Episodes II and III, and as a crucial development in Anakin Skywalker’s character. From the beginning of the Clone Wars to the very end, it captures the essence of the Prequel Trilogy, and amplifies it to an insane degree. It does all of this with amazing skill, and should most definitely be considered the seventh Star Wars film in the saga.