Why Star Wars: Clone Wars Is Key To Understanding The Prequels

One of the biggest questions for fans of Star Wars: ‘What happened during the clone wars?’ Due to time and story constraints, George Lucas was never able to show the clone wars in full force on the big screen. But between the release of Episodes II and III, Lucas developed a micro-series directly bridging the two films. Star Wars: Clone Wars was developed by Samurai Jack creator Genndy Tartakovsky and aired on Cartoon Network from 2003 to 2005.

Although the majority of episodes were only three minutes long, the 2D-animated television series gave fans a glimpse into an ambiguous time period in the Star Wars universe. Here, we’ll take a look at the coolest and most integral components of Clone Wars that expanded on and mythologized the quarrelsome prequel trilogy.

A Bomb(astic) Introduction To The Clone Wars

In 2002’s Attack of the Clones, the infamous stormtroopers were finally given an origin story. Going to Kamino with Obi-Wan and witnessing the production of clones for the first time was a real high-point of the film. However, the clones seemed radically weak compared to their bounty hunter donor, Jango Fett. In the early episodes of Clone Wars, we got to see the clones in action and the pay off was much greater. Clone Wars introduced the ARC troopers into the series and they were considered to be the top unit in the clone army. The ARC troopers were able to function better as a group than most clone squadrons, being more covert, stealthy, and intelligent.

The ARC troopers band together to inavde Muunilinst during the clone wars.
Credit: Cartoon Network

Although the squadron was not quite a collection of Jango Fett’s, the ARC troopers were considerably tougher than the average clone. In the second episode, the ARC troopers showed off their combat skills during an assault on the Intergalactic Banking Clan’s headquarters. The ARC troopers’ formidability lays the groundwork for order 66 because it showcases the clones’ ability to take down the Jedi if they worked in unison. Given the length of the three-minute episode, the ability of the troopers to work in tandem was particularly well done.

Lightsabers Work Underwater?! In Clone Wars, They Do

George Lucas wanted Clone Wars to showcase what fans didn’t get to see in Attack of the Clones. In episode five, the Quarren Isolation League of Mon Calamari secedes from the Galactic Republic. The secession hurt the Jedi’s alliance with the republic and gave rise to Count Dooku’s separatist movement. As a counter, the Jedi sent Kit Fisto, an amphibious Jedi, to defend the planet’s underwater dwellers. The ensuing fight scene had me, the five-year-old child yelling at the television screen, “You can use a lightsaber underwater?!”

The Clone Wars microseries established that Jedi could fight underwater as well.
Credit: Cartoon Network

In Clone Wars, the viewers got to see episodes depicting terrains and landscapes that fans have been deprived of. The animation style seemed to fit the Star Wars universe perfectly. Not to mention, the episode’s star, Kit Fisto, made his animated debut. Kit Fisto was always a character that stimulated fan interest due to his unusual and striking appearance in Attack of the Clones. In addition, Kit Fisto’s strong force abilities in this episode made his selection by Mace Windu to defeat Palpatine in Revenge of the Sith believable.

Star Wars: The Road Warrior

Clone Wars also introduced the audience to some major villains from the comic book universe. The first of these was Durge. Durge originally appeared in the Star Wars: Republic comic book series just prior to his television debut. Durge was a skilled bounty hunter and a seemingly indestructible, Akira-like bio-creature. He was ruthless, physically imposing, and nearly-unbeatable in hand-to-hand combat. It was only fitting that Obi-Wan would take on such a villain. Although Durge is eventually bested by Kenobi after slicing him to bits, he is seen slowly reforming, leaving his fate ambiguous.

The first appearance of Durge and Asajj Ventress during the clone wars.
Credit: Dark Horse Comics

Durge was the perfect villain for the series, due to his menacing intimidation tactics and his character design. In most of his early fight scenes, Durge rides a high-powered speed bike with a pointed lancer. He appeared bad-ass in a Mad Max way and was distinguished when compared to his droid army. Durge also has the honor of being one of the few villains who kept both Obi-Wan and Anakin at bay during confrontations. He was one of several villains dispatched to fight the Jedi knights by the nefarious Count Dooku.

The Sith Apprentice

While Clone Wars gave fans many solid new villains, Asajj Ventress was perhaps the best developed. Since the original trilogy, we have seen characters try to prove themselves as forces of good. But we have never seen a character try to prove themselves as a Sith. Asajj Ventress transcended that anomaly by defeating every opponent in the battle arena, vying to be noticed by Count Dooku. Ventress earned the Count’s respect by holding her own in a one-on-one battle with him. In turn, the Emperor appears and presents Ventress with the ultimate task: Destroy Anakin Skywalker.

Ventress waits for Anakin in the midst of their duel.
Credit: Cartoon Network

Asajj Ventress was a particularly unique villain, because she was sympathetic. As a child, Ventress was orphaned and taken under the wing of a nameless Jedi master. Eventually, the warlords on Rattatak slayed Ventress’ master. She blamed the Jedi for not helping their own and Count Dooku skillfully cultivated her hatred and turned it against the young Anakin Skywalker. Anakin and Ventress’ duel at the end of season two is both well-paced and genuinely uncertain. While the audience knew Anakin would survive into the third film, it was unclear if he had the stamina to defeat Ventress.

Anakin eventually disposes of the Sith apprentice, but only after resorting to dark side tactics. Ventress was also a difficult challenge for Obi-Wan in the Clone Wars comics as well. At one point, Ventress went missing and Obi-Wan became obsessed with locating her; convinced she had somehow hidden her presence. Since Ventress’ debut in the 2003 micro-series, the villainess has consistently proven herself a fan favorite and an integral element of the clone wars saga.

Go To The General To Save Some Time!

Six powerful Jedi Knights against one droid. The odds are unquestionable, right? Wrong. General Grievous completely changed the perspective of droids with one fatal swoop. At the end of season two, the clone wars seemed to be a fairly easy win for the Jedi. The droids and bounty hunters were an annoyance, not a challenge. However, when General Grievous entered the stage at the end of the second season, the tide began to turn. Viewers began to question the unlimited abilities of the Jedi. Moreover, the notion that all droids could be easily disposed of was debunked.

General Grievous battles Ki-Adi Mundi on Hypori.
Credit: Cartoon Network

Lucas aptly used animation as a great way to experiment with fight scenes. General Grievous provided an excuse to invent an opponent capable of wielding four lightsabers and being completely mechanical. The General proved to be inconvenient for the Jedi. Jedi Master Ki-Adi Mundi was unable to defeat him in single combat, and Jedi Master Shaak Ti struggled immensely to keep him at bay. Even the famed Kit Fisto had trouble fending off the droid general. In Revenge of the Sith, Obi-Wan is finally able to destroy Grievous. Considering Grievous’ prowess in the micro-series, Kenobi’s victory is impressive. Without the micro-series, this win would not be as substantial. Thus, General Grievous’s presence in Star Wars: Clone Wars is as refreshing as it is crucial.

The Power Of Mace Windu

The prequel films insisted on considering Mace Windu to be the second most powerful Jedi after Yoda. A brief appearance in the final act of Attack of the Clones was the only substance to that label thus far. Sure, Windu was powerful. He disposed of Jango Fett fairly quickly, but we haven’t really seen him live up to that title yet. In Clone Wars, we got to see Windu take down an entire droid army by hand. To make matters worse, he loses his lightsaber halfway through the fight. Without a saber, the odds were stacked heavily against the Jedi master. Despite this, Windu was still able to take down metal droids and an over-sized seismic tank with his bare fists.

Mace Windu uses the force to crush General Grievous.
Credit: Cartoon Network

While on Dantooine, Mace’s unrivaled abilities as a Jedi master are on full display. Thus, the episode marked a significant turning point for the character and substantiated his besting of Palpatine in Revenge of the Sith, a feat even Yoda was unable to accomplish. The Star Wars: Clone Wars micro-series further solidified Windu’s legacy by showing him taking down General Grievous himself at the end of season three. After defeating three Jedi with ease, Grievous turns to face Windu with all four arms wielding lightsabers. Instead of dueling with the droid general, Mace simply extends his hand and crushes the helpless droids upper thorax with the force. Grievous is seen coughing frequently in Episode III as a result of the permanent damage Mace inflicted.

The Evolution Of Anakin Skywalker

Anakin went through some major changes between Episodes II and III. Clone Wars’ main goal was to construct a bridge that would lead Anakin further to the dark side. For one, Anakin became much more powerful during the clone wars. In addition, Anakin was finally granted the rank of knight, cutting his padawan braid as a sign of maturity and growth. He also managed to single-handedly take down the entire techno union factory at the series’ conclusion (literally).

Anakin stands triumphant after defeating Asajj Ventress.
Credit: Cartoon Network

The relationship between Obi-Wan and Anakin also deepened in the micro-series. In Attack of the Clones, the two Jedi had a primarily antagonistic relationship. Although this set the stage well for their final confrontation, the pair weren’t close enough to deliver the emotional resonance felt in the original 1977 film. Throughout Clone Wars, Obi-Wan began to trust Anakin. Their brief discussion of the deceased Qui-Gon Jinn in season one also helped to solidify the pair’s commonality and bind to each other.

I Have A Good Feeling About This…

The series’ focus was on Anakin. He is indisputably the show’s main character, having been featured in most episodes. The character’s arc led well into the final prequel film. Lucas took pains to explain why the young Jedi looked battle-scarred and deadlier in Revenge of the Sith.

The series also directly leads into the opening rescue mission of Episode III by leaving Palpatine in the clutches of General Grievous, something the 2008 animated series failed to do. With such carefully connected threads and character-building blocks baked into the micro-series, Clone Wars added a layer of complexity and logic that is indispensable in understanding the Star Wars prequel films.

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