Before you reach for your blaster so you can shoot first, hear me out. Yes, the original Star Wars trilogy is stunning. Three basically perfect films (even Return of the Jedi) that are everything the prequels aren’t – clever, cool, and full of charismatic creatures. And I’m definitely not making a case for the prequel trilogy over the original saga – I’m cocky, but not that cocky. I’m arguing for The Clone Wars animated series or, to put it another way, for six seasons of original trilogy-style magic, set in the prequel era of the Star Wars saga.
A long, long time before Star Wars Rebels came along, The Clone Wars – spearheaded by supervising director Dave Filoni – was quietly transforming the legacy of one of the darkest periods of George Lucas’ franchise. Like Darth Vader chucking his old boss down a space-well, it frequently feels like an attempt to put right past mistakes.
Here, lead characters Obi-Wan and Anakin have the relationship you always hoped for – they’re basically what it would be like if Han Solo could banter with himself. Darth Maul, killed off idiotically early in the prequels, is resurrected, given metal legs and an evil brother, in a dark and complex arc that may well foreshadow Star Wars: The Force Awakens (opens in new tab). There’s even a better backstory for Boba Fett (featuring his first team-up with Bossk).
But righting past wrongs isn’t the only thing Clone Wars has going for it. Though as Star Wars-y as can be, it has a look and feel that are all its own, with brand-new characters and storylines equal to anything in the original three films. There are mad space pirates, with space-monkeys for pets. There are baby wookiees training to be Jedi (not as cutesy as it sounds). An army of warriors wearing Mandalorian armour (AKA, an army of Boba Fetts). And, in Ahsoka Tano, arguably the saga’s greatest heroine, a character who combines Princess Leia’s badass bravery with Luke’s sword skills. Yep, before J.J. Abrams decided Star Wars should be fronted by a cool girl, The Clone Wars got there first, with Tano frequently acting as the audience’s eyes and embodying the series’ soul.
Admittedly, the first season takes a while to kick into hyperspace, but once the second gets going, time streaks by. And, as galaxies go, there’s a lot to explore. Across six seasons there are 121 episodes, each lasting around 22 minutes, which means, as a story, it’s longer than all the Star Wars films combined. Longer, and richer.
Ignoring the argument that without Episodes 4 to 6 there would be no Clone Wars, these cartoons are, in sheer entertainment terms, easily as successful as the original trilogy, dazzlingly reviving the sense of fun that defined those films. That the show manages to bring back the spirit of ’77 in the context of the (horrendous) prequel universe makes it even more impressive. So, just as much quality, but in far greater quantity, means The Clone Wars is superior to Lucas’ (incredible) originals. You know, from a certain point of view. Or is it just me?
Each month our sister publication Total Film magazine (opens in new tab) argues a polarising movie opinion and gives you the opportunity to agree or disagree. Let us know what you think about this one in the comments below and read on for more.