I'm fairly certain I will lose any credibility I may somehow already have, but I need to let y'all know something about me before we start. It's not something I typically mention, and in fact I try to avoid bringing up whenever possible, but it is a part of my story and, in this case, an important one. So, deep breath, here it is: the first Star Wars movie I saw was Episode I.
I'm now pausing for the awkward silence before the single clap that brings the audience to a full standing ovation for my sheer bravery.
There are a few caveats/excuses for that statement (it's the first full movie I saw, I grew up knowing who Luke's Father was so I wasn't that far out of it). And don't worry, I've seen all of the movies now. But this is an important thing for you to know because of what it means. It means that you can trust my opinion that Episode I is terrible because I also hold a nostalgic place in my heart for it. It means that my dislike for Episode I does not stem from a feeling that it ruined the originals, but instead is based on its obvious and numerous flaws. And hopefully it means you can trust my opinion about the rest of the Star Wars universe because they come from a fresh perspective of relative newbie-ism, and are based on quality and not childhood nostalgia alone. Right guys? Right?!
Aw, screw it. I wouldn't trust me either.
Maybe I can redeem myself by telling you that if you consider yourself a true Star Wars fan, if you are merely dabbling in the universe at war in the stars, or if you're skeptical of the sci-fi genre essentially borne out of this franchise, you will be doing yourself a favor by watching the “Clone Wars” 2D animated series.
The opening of this series alone is enough for you to know that they're not messing around. The timing, framing, music, and narration immediately grab your attention, make you wish you had a 360 degree view of what's going on and, more importantly, wish that Genndy Tartakovsky had been running the show on episodes I and II.
If the super cool villainous characters, perfectly timed pauses (especially before characters die), intriguing foreshadowing of events, and other stylistic elements seem familiar to you, it means two things: first, you recognize the genius of Tartakovsky from his equally genius Cartoon Network cartoon from the early 2000s, “Samurai Jack” and second, we can still be friends. If not, there's still (a new) hope, but it's going to take a lot for you to earn back my respect.
This first volume immediately sets out establishing the already building animosity between Obi-Wan and Anakin and the mistrust the Jedi feel for Palpatine. Unlike its predecessors, “Clone Wars Volume One” doesn't confuse or bore the audience with complicated trade federation blockades and other details, presumably because its target demographic is made up of 7-year-olds, but arguably because those details just aren't needed in order to understand what's going on. Also, there's no time; it has some pretty awesome fight scenes to get to.
Before too long, we're introduced to a truly badass (and more importantly not mind-bendingly annoying) female character, Sith apprentice Asajj Ventress. She reveals her true prowess after being put in a very Tartakovsky-an scenario: an arena of horrific monsters, robots, and science experiments gone wrong which she must fight her way out of. It's almost enough to make you root for the bad guys. Almost.
And lest you be scared off by the TV-Y7 rating, the series packs some serious blows to the gut and heart, sparing no one (save for our those we know live at least through the Clone Wars). Darth Sidious is even more creepy than he is in the first two Episodes (those teeth! that weird spider contraption he uses to move!), and the villains are hard-core villainous. I would love to see that muscle string guy as a "real" character. He would be unstoppable.
However, while I am a wholehearted fan, I am also not entirely biased. There are a few missteps throughout, like characters who are set up well but never really resolved, moments where you feel a little emotionally manipulated (am I supposed to care about the Jedi temple just because it's the Jedi temple, even if I only found out about its existence 1.3 seconds ago?), and throwaway lines of dialogue.
But let's get to the real crux of this thing: the fight scenes. Have mercy, the fight scenes. I am not one who enjoys a movie because of the fight scenes. They are typically used as showpieces and nothing more (similarly, I'm not a huge fan of musicals for this very reason). But here, they are artfully used to provide character depth, move forward story points, and again, make us wonder how an animated scene can be so perfectly choreographed and executed while the live action falls short. The Mace Windu and General Grievous we see here are so far superior to what we see in the episodes, almost comically so.
I apologize if this seems like nothing more than stroking the ego of a franchise that already has enough fluff out there, but the first volume of the Clone Wars 2D animated series packs more cool characters, more plot, and more epic fight sequences into its 73 minutes than episodes I and II do in their 278 minutes combined. It is a breath of fresh air on the heels of I and II, so much so that you'll probably be disappointed when you move on to the Clone Wars movie. Don't worry, folks, it gets better. There is, after all, a volume 2 to look forward to.