Star Wars: The Clone Wars - Season 1 Review
Why the judgmental-visor-stare, Cody Clone? I'm supposed to be judging you, not the other way around!
...fine, you win, I'll start with the positives.
-Things I liked-The soundtrack! See, one of my pet peeves is miss-use or over-use of the Star Wars movie soundtracks. Videogames are often guilty of this, with some such as Jedi Outcast and Jedi Academy using nothing but the movies' score. It makes sense why they do it, John Williams' work is amazing, and it's expensive to hire composers, conductors, engineers, musicians, and everyone else necessary to create a soundtrack - but to me, each movie's score was specifically created for that movie, and use outside of their respective movies can cheapen them. Thankfully, I needn't worry about that with The Clone Wars, as it makes full use of an original score by Kevin Kiner, with Williams' score very sparingly and tastefully seeping through every once in a while.
The voice acting. For the most part, it's really good. Corey Burton's Dooku and Arnold Taylor's Obi-Wan are nearly spot on. Matthew Wood is just as good as Grievous as he was in Revenge of the Sith. Tom Kane remains the second best Yoda in the galaxy. Ian Ambercrombie as Palpatine, Terrance Carson as Mace Windu, and Matt Lanter as Anakin don't really sound like their movie counterparts, but they do the job, and I've gotta give props to Dee Bradley Baker for playing every single clone as well as some background characters.
The animation. The lighting and rendering is the best I've seen in an animated television series.
-Things I didn't like-The animation. Yep, animation makes it on both lists, because it's a mixed bag. Like the 2008 pilot movie, the character movement here is often very stiff, wooden, as are the facial expressions. While some of the planets look great(Ordo Plutonia), while others(Rugosa Moon) are more akin to a Jedi Academy level. I'm not expecting Pixar or Dreamworks level animation in a TV series of course, but there were a number of animation issues that stood out.
The writing. It was hit and miss in the prequels, and so it is here.
The tone. It's very childlike in most episodes. Schoolyard name-calling and nicknames abound, the villains nearly always fail and end up running away in the end, and the humor is simply too juvenile. "Oh you dolt of a Dakari, why are you watching a Cartoon Network show then?" I here you say. To which I'll respond, I like 'kid movies', I love animation and I love Star Wars. Disney and Pixar have proven time and again that you can have something for kids that appeals to adults as well, and one could make the case that the original trilogy was made for children. So yes, I'll admit that I'm outside the target audience age, but I still have a problem with the overall tone.
|Mushrooms I see. Fetch them, we shall.|
Well, so much for hoping this season would start better than the movie. This first episode, mostly disconnected from the events of any other episode, features Yoda and a few clones fighting some droids on a Toydarian moon... and that's it. It reminded me a bit of Tartakovsky's 2003 Clone Wars series, in that it focused 98% percent on action, dropping story almost entirely. Only unlike the 2003 series, this action isn't fun to watch.
|What do you mean, calling our ship Malevolence is a bad PR move?|
Next up is a three-episode arc consisting of Rising Malevolence, Shadow of Malevolence, and Destroy Malevolence, which are more fun that what has come before it, but still pretty dumb. Destroy is the most entertaining of the lot, giving Obi-Wan, Anakin, and Padme a rather ridiculous set piece to slash and jump their way through, though it ends up pitting Obi-Wan against Grievous in a lightsaber duel, which is rather dull to watch - 'cause not only is the animation still very clunky, but, y'know, we've already seen Episode III and know exactly what these two look like fighting each other in a lightsaber duel.
|All right, which one of you has my wig.|
Finally, a good episode! Well, 'good' might be a tad generous, let me start over.
Finally, a refreshingly not-bad episode! Rookies follows a small group of Clone rookies(Who would've guessed) on the Rishi moon. Aside from a couple brief cameos, there are no Jedi in this episode, which proves to be a welcome change of pace, as we're introduced to some named Clones who go on to become recurring characters.
|Did you hear that one about the bad motivator?|
These two episodes, Downfall of a Droid, and Duel of the Droids, basically exemplify my preconceptions of this show before I tried watching it: Painfully cheesy storyline, ugly animation, scatological humor up the arse, and Saturday-morning-cartoon villains. The only part I liked was the choreography and cinematography of a brief scene between Ahsoka and Grievous.
|Yousa missin my bumblin!|
Another terrible one, aren't we on a roll! I'd go so far as to say this is the worst piece of Star Wars I'd seen since the last time I tried to watch The Holiday Special. If you hated Jar Jar Binks before, this episode will change nothing. As someone who's never hated him, this was almost enough to make my join the club.
|You did not just dress Jar Jar in a tie...|
Best episode so far, though it does have its share of cringe-worthy moments. "If it isn't the hairless harpy..."
|Not my best side.|
This one's alright. It finally lets us see Grievous as something other than a total pansy, that's got to count for something!
Okay, Dooku Captured and The Gungan General are dumb, to be sure, but they're a lot of fun. Your own mileage will vary depending on your tolerance for Stupid, Jar Jar, and (Debatable?)fan-service. I enjoyed them though.
|This isn't crashing, it's landing with style.|
First off, I liked the beginning of this arc, with Aayla Secura and the battle in the sky. Then the Jedi... well, crash, on a planet, and the next half hour happens. It's okay, I guess, but it really starts to drag. It's got George Takei in it though, and that's pretty cool.
Recommendation: Watch. Or don't. Or whatever.
|I've got to move up in the world...|
Definitely one of the better ones from this season, standing apart from the others by demoting the main characters to side characters, shifting the focus to the new character Riyo Chuchi and her planet's problems. I actually liked the look of this one too, though that was probably just because the snow blowing around was hiding everything I normally dislike.
|Hand them over. All three of them.|
This one's actually a prequel to the 2008 movie, and in extension, the rest of this series, taking place back on Christophsis before Ahsoka showed up. And it's actually pretty fun, and I enjoyed it a lot more than the Christophsis portions of the movie itself. There's this one really cool camera shot when Anakin Force Pushes a window, shattering it out toward the viewer. Hey, I've got an appreciation for that kind of thing.
|Padme, look! Dead people.|
Blue Shadow Virus and Mystery of a Thousand Moons are another pair of stupid-but-fun episodes, which I enjoyed, though will probably not watch again. Like the Dooku Captured episodes, whether or not you enjoy this will depend on your tolerance for stupid and/or cliche things, like cackling Mad Space-German Scientists or killer plants. Oh, there's also an action scene in a hallway with slightly curved walls, and some droidekas roll up the walls as they round corners. That was neat.
|Damn, did we do that?|
Better than the average episodes of the season, but it all felt a little dry, which isn't great for what is essentially the finale of a season. Still, it has its moments.
|Given the recent wig shortage, we require your hat, sir!|
Hey, note to all you TV show producers out there. If you've got an otherwise sub-par season on your hands, THIS is how you end it. Definitely the best episode in the season, with the best villain-introduction scene since Return of the Jedi. Seriously, Anakin and Padme are in the middle of their oh-so-convincing romantic dialogues, when BAM, this blue jerk breaks it up and declares it's time for some Die Hard in a Galaxy Far Far Away for the next twenty minutes. Glorious.
- Asajj Ventress finally gets to shine, if only a little. At least, until
- Cad Bane completely steals the spotlight.
- The Other Villains are basically terrible, and not in the way you want villains to be.
- Ahsoka Tano would win a lot more points with me if she'd stop calling Anakin Skyguy.
- Everyone Else is about as good or bad as they were in the 2008 movie or the prequels.
-Role in the Larger Saga-
Guys and gals, I found Season 1 of The Clone Wars to be extremely hit and miss, with episodes ranging from cringe-inducingly-awful to really-quite-fun. Kids might love it, adults, not so much - and as an adult who's still pretty much a kid, I fall somewhere in the middle of that spectrum. It's a rough start, to be sure, but by the end it seemed to finally be finding its legs, and the last episode left me quite optimistic to the future... in spite of an unwanted callback to the past.
-Score and Recommendation-
4/10, better than the 2008 film, still below Attack of the Clones - If you took only the better episodes, this could stand up to AotC, but taken as a whole, it's a mixed, though largely negative bag. I recommend either selectively skipping episodes or watching many, if not all, on 1.5x or 2x speed(Whichever is slow enough you can still understand the dialogue).