Star Wars: The Clone Wars (Film)

In 2003, the Star Wars franchise was between instalments. Attack of the Clones had been released the previous year and it wouldn’t be until 2005 that Revenge of the Sith hit theatres. To fill in the gap and explore the legendary Clone Wars first mentioned in 1977’s A New Hope, Lucasfilm hired animator Genddy Tartakovsky to create an animated miniseries. Tartakovsky was well known, and well respected, for his television show Samurai Jack, the gritty tone and stylised animation of which can be found in abundance with Clone Wars.

The show aired on The Cartoon Network (later just Cartoon Network) during advertisement breaks with each of the first 20 episodes (series 1 and 2) running at just three minutes in length. The final five episodes (series 3) would get their own allotted time slot as they were upped in length to twelve minutes each. This meant that, in total, the entire show ran at just over two hours long, effectively giving us a feature length film between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. Star Wars: The Clone Wars was created as part of the main canon, with some elements even getting a mention in the novelisation of Revenge of the Sith such as series villain Asajj Ventress. To me, this series is still one of the finest pieces of storytelling and animation that Lucasfilm have ever given us, but there is now a new canon Clone Wars where this show once stood.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars is a 2008 computer animated film that follows Anakin Skywalker and his newly assigned Padawan Ashoka Tano as they attempt to retrieve the kidnapped son of crime lord Jabba the Hutt. Along the way, they and Obi Wan Kenobi must survive attacks and treachery from the Sith Lord Count Dooku and his apprentice Asajj Ventress. Asajj is one of the few elements carried over from the 2003 miniseries, along with the general character designs and several members of the voice cast. The most prominent returns in terms of voice acting are James Arnold Taylor as Obi Wan and Tom Kane as Yoda. They would return again for the television show, of which this film was the backdoor pilot. As far as pilots go, this one is pretty good, although it isn’t perfect.

I’ve now watched The Clone Wars several times and each time I soften to it a little bit more. Before viewing it for this piece, I remember not being fond of it and thinking that it may be the worst of all the films in the franchise, however I was definitely being overly critical of it. There are critiques to be made for sure, but there is also plenty to enjoy. The soundtrack by composer Kevin Kiner really sets this film apart from the others, with its use of less common instruments like Dudukes and Ouds, and mid-2000s vibe. The oft-used John Williams theme is sampled for the opening and end credits, but the rest of the score is purely Kevin. The voice cast all give great performances too, whether it’s newcomers like James Arnold Taylor and Tom Kane or returning voices like Samuel L Jackson and Sir Christopher Lee. Whilst the animation itself comes across like computer game graphics, the backgrounds are gorgeous and clearly inspired by the concept art of long-time Star Wars artist Ralph McQuarrie. Probably my favourite element of The Clone Wars is its addition to the ever-expanding Star Wars lore.

The lore of the Star Wars franchise is a marvellous but fickle thing. Between the small retcons here and there, like the 2003 miniseries, there are brand new additions which continue to be beloved by fans. There’s an abundance of those additions here, which will later be vastly expanded by the 7 series long run of the show that follows. Asajj Ventress is a phenomenal villain who is both vengeful and skilled whilst still living in perpetual fear of disappointing her master. Ashoka Tano is, as the film points out, a lot like Anakin with her cocky attitude and secretly caring nature, whilst also being intuitive. These two master/student pairings are fascinating to watch and compare. The film also introduces us to the immensely likable, and later fan-adored, Clone Captain Rex as well as the simple humour of the Separatist Battle Droids, and the previously unseen members of the Hutt clan. Whilst the show really takes its time to explore all of these elements, the film does a fantastic job of introducing the concepts.

However, my criticisms come with the story itself. We start off with a 20 minute long battle between the Droid and Clone Armies, which is great fun, before rescuing Jabba’s son, which is fine, before getting a B-Plot with Padmé in the final act which feels a little unnecessary. I feel like the plot should be building to something instead of starting on a high before sort of dwindling. The character interactions and action sequences are enough to keep the film intriguing, but I wish that the main plot was a little stronger. The B-Plot with Padmé feels like less of a “twist” and more of a “snap” despite the character being really likable. Ideally this B-Plot would have been present from the very beginning of the film ,or not present at all, which would have allowed us more time with characters or fights. This sidequest also introduces us to Jabba’s uncle Zirro the Hutt who is painfully queer-coded. It only becomes a major issue throughout the television show’s run, but I’m still not a fan of it here. He is literally the only Hutt, as far as we know, who speaks English, and they gave him a feminine voice with a lisp, which makes the queer-coding feel almost intentional. It kind of sucks to be honest.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars, for the time being, is the last of the canonical Star Wars films to be reviewed and the reasoning is that it doesn’t really fit. I could have done this entire franchise in order, but I made the conscious decision to do the mainline Skywalker Saga, before doing the off-shoots, before doing this one. Part of that is that I already had those first 6 films ready to go, but part of it is also because they are the “most important” to the Star Wars story I suppose. If you’re watching everything in this franchise in chronological order, then you’re following this with the television show, but if you’re sticking to the films then you’re following it with Revenge of the Sith– providing a severe disconnect. Firstly, this is the only animated feature in the (currently) 12 film line-up that consists of live-action films. Secondly, the story doesn’t pick up or end in a convenient place. There’s no clear indication of the presumable time jump that happens after Attack of the Clones, and the film ends open-ended so as to provide a launching point into the story of the television show. This isn’t to say that the film is bad, because I don’t think it is, it’s just that because of the way in which the film is constructed you are kind of required to watch the show before Revenge of the Sith. That show is excellent and leads perfectly into that film, but in terms of a “Movies Only” marathon, the Tartakovsky show, despite being non-canon, just fits better. As always, the choice of how you handle viewing this film and the franchise around it is entirely up to you.

May the Force Be With You…

Signed: Your friendly neighbourhood queer

The TROS Defence

Before we begin this long journey, I would like to clarify that I am not JJ Abrams, and that I am in no way affiliated with him, amd as a result, I cannot know for certain what is in the original script (from Abrams and Terrio, not Trevorrow) for The Rise of Skywalker (TROS), or how the information in that script differs from the novelisation by Rae Carson. This defence is comprised of notes that cast members have given us about the script, the contents of the novel (which I have read), and information from within the film itself, topped of with a small amount of theorising. The aim is not to convince those who believe that the film is awful that they are wrong, nor is it to dissuade anybody who did like it. As mentioned in my review [HERE] I believe that there are several flaws in the film, but I don’t think that they should ruin your opinion of it. They certainly didn’t for me. I have broken the numerous complaints into several categories for ease of reading.

PART ONE: Concerning Sheev

Having died at the hands of Darth Vader in Return of the Jedi some 31 years earlier in the timeline, Emperor Sheev Palpatine has returned. The film brushes off how this is possible, citing “cloning, dark science, secrets only the Sith knew” but we are left in the dark on the subject. The novel tells us that his feeble body is merely a clone of the original, and that it is inhabited by the spirit of the original Palpatine. However, this clone body is too weak to sustain his unlimited power, which is why it seems to be rotting away, with chemicals from his crane keeping him alive. The dark side technique of Essence Transfer has appeared before, in the Star Wars: Legends timeline, being used by several figures including the highly popular Darth Bane, but this is the first time that it has appeared in the new canon. Many have wondered how Palpatine’s feeble frame could use the force to summon an entire armada of destroyers, but the novelisation clarifies that this is simply a vision that he is giving Kylo Ren. It’s revealed in the opening scene that Sheev isn’t the only clone as we discover that Former Supreme Leader Snoke- antagonist of The Last Jedi– was too. Not only that, but he had been designed as a way to groom Ben Solo into the ways of the Sith and, ultimately, as his final test. We see several elderly Snoke bodies floating in a Bacta Tank, leading many to question if he has always looked like that. I theorise that he has not and that several Snokes were being grown at the same time to age at the same rate. This would lead to an easier way of replacing the first Snoke should he somehow die. As previously mention, with his death at the hands of Kylo Ren, Snoke has served his purpose, so it would stand to reason that there would still be several clones to spare. I’ve seen claims that if he was merely a creation of Palpatine and under his control that he didn’t really bridge the minds of Kylo and Rey. However, supplementary material dives into a smattering of Snoke’s past so I propose that instead of literally being under the control of Palpatine, he is instead an independent being under Sheev’s influence. The fact of the matter is that we know next to nothing about Snoke, and that he could have been in communication with his creator the entire time. I’ve seen further claims that nobody really bridged Rey and Kylos minds because they were already connected through their Force Dyad. It is apparent, at least to me, that the connection was lying dormant until Snoke bridged their minds, unleashing the full power of their connection. Our third and final clone is revealed only by the original script- Rey’s father. The film however gives the impression that he is a biological child of Palpatine and goes no further into it. This is some pretty important information that we could have done with, because the implication of the in-movie explanation is not one that anybody wants.

PART TWO: Concerning Finn

The Rise of Skywalker spends more time on the ladies in Finn’s life than it does on Finn himself, which is a shame because he has perhaps the most interesting arc. I say ladies, but Rose, who it seemed to be implied would be his love interest, is barely present. Co-writer Chris Terrio has stated that she was supposed to be more present, staying with Leia and acting as an anchor to the Resistance base. However with the passing of Carrie Fisher in 2017, any scenes featuring her were to be recycled shots from previous films and, for some of those shots, it would mean some pretty hefty CGI work. As a result, the decision was made to scrap these scenes during production, leading to the unfortunate cutting of almost all Rose’s material. Finn’s alternate love interest is a former stormtrooper named Jannah who they encounter on the moon of Endor along with the rest of her squadron. Until this point, Finn is the only stormtrooper we know to have abandoned the First Order which makes him unique. By introducing an entire squadron of former troopers, you take that unique-ness away.. This trilogy, and more so the novelisations, have hinted at Finn being force sensitive which is a magnificent reason for the First Order not being able to gain complete control over him. Instead, it seems that any trooper can leave so he isn’t that special anymore, even with his possible force ties. This is something that the film continues to hint at, and that the script supposedly confirms. It’s this news that he wants to tell Rey but, again, the film doesn’t explain that. Of all the issues that people have with TROS, the inclusion of Jannah is one that I can agree with.

PART THREE: Concerning Kylo

Of all the characters that people feel were “ruined” by TROS, Supreme Leader Kylo Ren seems to be top of the list. As you may recall, he has been steadily growing as a person and, in doing so, destroyed his helmet in The Last Jedi. This is a progression for him because many, including Snoke, saw the mask as his pale imitation of Darth Vader. In destroying it, Kylo acknowledges that he is not his grandfather, but his own man. TROS has him repair that helmet which many felt was a betrayal and an act of regression. Co-writer Chis Terrio and Kylos actor Adam Driver have divulged that this reforming of the helmet is supposed to reflect the rebuilding of Kylo’s identity. While it once stood as an homage to Vader, it is now a cracked representation of Kylo’s character. This act is based on the ancient Japanese art of Kintsugi, where broken pottery is repaired and the visible cracks become a part of that objects history. Thus continues the long-standing tradition of Star Wars borrowing from Japanese culture. There was also a heavy amount of criticism towards how quickly Kylo seems to change upon his redemption, with there being very little sign of change in the preceding scenes. Indeed, this aspect of the film could have been handled better by showing that change over the films duration or by redeeming him earlier. As for killing him, I still will not fault it. George Lucas has always maintained that Star Wars should rhyme, and this trilogy has made no secret of being the new Vader. I’ve been saying since 2015 that if they want to redeem Kylo, something I was hesitant of at first, they’re going to kill him so it came as no surprise to me when they did. I also think that if you consider the future of this galaxy far, far away, it probably wouldn’t sit well with its inhabitants to have a war-criminal wandering freely. The following issues centre not only Kylo himself, but on his Knights of Ren. Time after time I have heard that they don’t add anything to the plot and that simply isn’t true. It is the Knights of Ren who are responsible for tracking Rey to both Passana and Kijimi. While there is a First Order presence on these planets, there is only a presence. The First Order doesn’t particularly care about Rey but Kylo does, hence sending the Knights of Ren to hunt her down. They are also responsible for the capture of Chewbacca on the former of these planets. It may be the stormtroopers who fly him back to the flagship but it is the Knights who capture him and hand him off. Ultimately they are slaughtered by the redeemed Kylo Ren which is also a point of contention. Many were expecting to hear more about them and their history, but that is not something that was ever promised to us. JJ Abrams has stated that he originally had further plans for them back in 2015 but that The Last Jedi hadn’t used those ideas. As a result, he decided to bring them back for TROS so that we would, at the very least, get to see a bit more of them. Anybody who was expecting to get a deep dive into these characters is either misinformed or have concocted these expectations themselves. Theorising has always been one of the most enjoyable aspects of every fandom, at least for me, but you cannot hold the film in contempt for not delivering on your theories.

PART FOUR: Concerning Rey

Having discussed the dark side of the Force, it is now time to address the light. I think that the most trivial complaint was that “somehow” Rey managed to fix Luke’s lightsaber after tearing it in half during The Last Jedi. If you’re shocked that a lightsaber can be repaired then I would like to take a moment to educate you. Each lightsaber is built from scratch by a padawan during the course of their training. If it has been built, it can be destroyed and it can be re-built. Rey has a long, long history of taking things apart and putting them back together, after all it was the only way to survive on Jakku. On top of this, she is training under the exceedingly capable Leia and is in possession of the ancient Jedi texts so fixing a lightsaber should be a breeze. Whilst we’re talking about how capable Rey is at repairs, let’s discuss Luke’s X-Wing. After sitting at the bottom of an ocean for several decades, this vehicle is definitely not up to standard so clearly Rey couldn’t use it to travel to Exegol. Except that she repaired it. Just because you don’t see it on-screen doesn’t mean that it didn’t happen. The novelisation confirms this. If there’s one thing I have learned from my relatively short time on this planet it’s that thinking for yourself is incredibly important. Part of that is being able to fill in the blanks when they occur, which it seems several people can’t do. Our next issue seems to run along these same lines with Rey having no response to Kylo’s final sacrifice to save her. I will admit that the film could have and should have handled this moment much better. Even a pan out to a wide shot would have gone a long way to giving this moment the weight it deserves. However, Rey still has to travel all the way back to the Resistance base and upon returning she isn’t all cheers and smiles. Technically, from the Jedi perspective, she shouldn’t even be mourning his loss because emotional attachment is seen as weak but, if she did, I believe that she did so during the flight back. Of all the opinions that you have encountered so far, the following is perhaps the most controversial. I am absolutely fine with her being a Palpatine and with her taking the name Skywalker. One issue seems to be that this implies The Force is genetic but it very well could be. The only Force user that we know to have children is Anakin, who passed that gift onto Leia who passed it on to Kylo. A further issue that arises is that because Rey is a Palpatine, she isn’t special The reveal of who she is, as far as we see, doesn’t change how she perceives the universe around her. It’s also a very late reveal, occurring in the third act of the third film of a trilogy. For contrast, the “Vader” reveal occurs during the third act of the second film of a trilogy. Luke gets an entire film to explore the consequences of his reveal whilst Rey does not. It’s a case of bad timing and, in all probability, some poor planning. There are those who feel like it retcons Kylo’s line in The Last Jedi about her parents being nobodies but I disagree. “You’re parents were nobodies because they chose to be” is a silly line and I don’t think anybody will dispute that, but I see this as a further clarification of the previous statement. From a societal standpoint, her parents were nobodies and that is a life that they chose for themselves. As far as Rey dawning the name Skywalker, it’s a good old fashioned “found family” trope Luke and Leia were the only adults to show her any real signs that they cared about her and that they did so regardless of the fact she’s a Palpatine.

PART FIVE: Concerning Plot

As I’m sure you are aware, the plot for TROS is a fetch quest with an added side of a cat-and-mouse chase. A lot of people have taken issue with this, stating that it doesn’t feel like Star Wars and that it all but destroys the character arcs of our main heroes. Personally, I disagree with this take as it’s the first time we’ve seen our main cast interact with each other and how their relationships work. Furthermore, I don’t seem to recall any complaints that Rogue One: A Star Wars Story was a fetch quest- which is a story element that I have always enjoyed, regardless of where it is used. I also can’t say that I agree with any criticism stating that the film relies too heavily on pre-existing material. You’re right to state that their isn’t much new content here but as the final film in a saga, I don’t feel like there needs to be. Personally, I feel like it only needs to wrap up any loose plot elements and character arcs. Whether it actually does that is something on which opinion differs, but I think it does. The remaining issues are ones that I don’t know I can defend. Luke spent the majority of the previous film telling Rey that the Jedi were not the peacekeepers that history makes them out to be and that they were, to put it bluntly, incompetent. It’s important to note that he is entirely correct, but once he returns as a Force Ghost, he informs Rey that he was wrong. This action is the films one true retcon. Secondly, there is a noticeable lack of General Armitage Hux who has been going through his own character arc. He gets around 5 minutes of screentime but, as with so many things, his role is expanded in the novel and the original script. Then there are the death fake-outs of Chewbacca and C-3PO. Chewie’s death exists purely as a demonstration of Rey’s ability to use force lightning while threepio’s sacrifice seems to be the jumping off point for comedy, as he is dragged through a dangerous adventure by people he doesn’t know.

PART SIX: Concerning Lesbians

I’m sure you all saw this part coming. The inclusion of a lesbian kiss was either the Social Justice Warriors ruining Star Wars, a step in the right direction for LGBT representation, or not enough of a step in that direction. Personally, I don’t feel like it was anywhere near good enough. We only know one of these women- Commander D’Acy- and she has only had several lines between this film and The Last Jedi. It’s also a relatively quick shot that adds nothing to the plot and can easily be cut out from any showings. If the reports are true then the House of Mouse is to blame. If you wish to read more about how they have failed the LGBT Community, and continue to do so, you can read my piece Disney Minus {HERE}.

PART SEVEN: Concerning my final thoughts

At the end of the day, TROS suffers from one massive issue which is its lack of explanation. As I’ve said throughout this piece, many of the films issues have a resolution in either the novel or the original script or both. I don’t think that this would have prevented people from disliking the film, but it might have at least softened the blow. Had the entire script been shot and released, TROS would supposedly have been 3 hours long and was set to be 2hours 42minutes until a couple of weeks before its release when it was cut down to 2hours 22minutes. It is yet to be disclosed by why this happened, with the prevailing theory being that the film was given one last overhaul which may explain the pacing. This is further cemented by Adam Driver performing Automated Dialogue Replacement in a hotel closet while he was on tour promoting the film. There are further reports of studio interference including the refusal to make Finn and Poe a couple as well as the kiss between Rey and Kylo. It’s also been reported that the voices of Jedi past from the climax of the film were to appear on-screen as Force Ghosts and that Kylo’s death scene was at least 5 minutes longer. This led to calls to ‘release the JJ cut’, which I myself made. As I stated at the very beginning, this piece does not exist to sway opinions on either side, but to give the movie a fair voice. We may never know what happened, or if the JJ cut exists, but there is more to the story of Rise of Skywalkers failure than meets the eye.

May the Force be With You…

Signed: Your friendly neighbourhood queer