The Star Wars prequels, to put it nicely, are not as good as the original trilogy. I won’t go as far as to say they’re irredeemable abominations of cinema as I actually like Revenge of the Sith (despite its many flaws), but they were overall poorly executed as far as making us feel for the characters and their relationships. In addition, the war that was the focus of the plot for two movies was something that just happened out of nowhere that the Jedi just threw themselves into fighting without asking questions, ultimately leading to their downfall. A lot of this epic space opera just didn’t make sense.
Unless you’ve watched the 2008 CGI series Star Wars: The Clone Wars, or as I call it, “Redemption of the Prequels”. This show tells the story that the prequels should have entirely focused on; the ways in which the Clone Wars led to the characters and conflict of the original trilogy. In particular, we see how Anakin went from a respected Jedi leader to the villainous Darth Vader in the original, while making us as an audience sympathize with him. In the prequel movies this transition is quite clunky, but the series puts a huge piece of this puzzle into place in its premiere.
The theatrical film of the same name which was released in 2008 served as the series premiere, though it was lower quality than the show in terms of storytelling and animation. I’d even go as far as to say it could be skipped, except for one crucial element: the introduction of Anakin’s Jedi apprentice, Ahsoka Tano.
Yes, Anakin had an apprentice while he was still a Jedi. She becomes his confidant, friend, and helps him grow past his teen angst from Attack of the Clones while becoming an interesting and fleshed out character herself. What happened to her by Revenge of the Sith? I’m not going to spoil it, but since she wasn’t there Anakin was in a much more vulnerable position than he would have been otherwise.
Speaking of Anakin, I actually buy him and Padme as a couple based on this series. They have genuine moments of chemistry that were sorely lacking in the movies. His own personal beliefs and frustrations with the Jedi are explored on multiple occasions, including a particularly good episode where he meets Tarkin for the first time and finds that they agree on the state of the war.
This is a lot of material that was needed to sympathize with out characters’ motivations in the prequels. Imagine if instead of The Phantom Menace we had started with the Clone Wars already in progress, Anakin having an apprentice with their friendship being one of the main focuses of the series, and learning about how the war is pushing his beliefs through how they interact. We could have seen this develop over three movies along with the more believable relationship with Padme.
We find out more about Obi-Wan Kenobi’s past as well, and it’s used against him later in the series. Darth Maul comes back and becomes more than just the cool-looking villain that we knew him as for 10 minutes of screen time. Heck, even Jar Jar is actually watchable for a few minutes, accomplished by making other characters look annoyed with him and having them question his presence, then having him actually do something useful.
There are episodes which either do not focus much on the war or the usual main characters. The weirdest example (in my opinion) is a story arc where Anakin, Obi-Wan, and Ahsoka go to a planet with entities that control the balance of the Force between the light and dark sides. Similarly, there are episodes featuring witches which manipulate the Force as though it were dark magic. These are interesting ideas that, while explored in some of the now non-canonical books, are now visualized (imaginatively I might add) and officially part of Star Wars lore.
That being said, the show isn’t perfect. The first season is a little awkward since the creators hadn’t yet found their footing, and I’ve never felt like re-watching one story arc in particular which focused on droids. Those are minor problems compared to the amount of great material we get which will make any Star Wars fan happy. Want a planet full of Boba Fetts? Check. New villain who uses the Force for sorcery? Check. Planetary invasions? Check. Actual personalities for different Clone Troopers? Check. The Jedi almost finding out about Order 66? Check!
If you’re wondering where to start, I’d recommend the Darth Maul episodes. Do a quick Google search to see which episodes are part of his story arc. I should probably talk about that; there aren’t many standalone episodes, mostly there are 2 to 4 episode story arcs, giving a lot of stories a more cinematic feel. The whole series is on Netflix, so go watch it!
Rating: 5/5 ★★★★★