We have some things to be thankful to the prequel trilogy for, reckons Steven Ellis
Even though I’m really not a fan of the prequels I’m kind of glad they happened. You see, I would argue that the best thing about the Star Wars prequels is all the things they’ve led to…
Whatever your opinions of Star Wars and of George Lucas, now is a pretty good time to be a Star Wars fan. There are so many things out there for us; we’re really being spoiled. From fantastic Lego models and some brilliant Expanded Universe books through to the Robot Chicken and Family Guy comedy specials; from the Hasbro action figures and vehicles to snuggly Taun Taun sleeping bags. We even have those really cool light and sound replica lightsabers to run around beating each other up with. There’s more stuff out there than a Star Wars fan could have dreamed of 20 years ago and if the prequels hadn’t happened, then I doubt many of these products would have ever come about.
Sure, there will be some people saying Lucas sold out, licensing all these different products, but hey, it’s his playground and he can let in who ever he likes. As I’m sure I’ve said before none of this alters our Star Wars filled childhoods and you are not obliged to buy anything. But if you want to, then you really can find pretty much anything.
Something else that probably wouldn’t have happened without the prequels is the CGI Clone Wars cartoon series. I’m a huge fan of the clone troopers; I think they’re the best thing the prequels brought to the table. I have 30-odd little Lego Minifigures of clone troopers and over 120 of the Hasbro 3 ¾ inch ones and I adore the Karen Travis Republic Commando series of books. I’m all about the clones me, so you’d think something called The Clone Wars would be right up my street... And you’d be right. I love it.
I wasn’t overly enthusiastic about it when I first heard snippets of information: Jabba having a kid; Anakin getting a padawan; spindly-looking animated caricatures of characters I knew. What was this nonsense? But I gave it a go, and all my fears were dispelled within a few episodes.
This show is epic. It’s dramatic, it’s exciting and it’s funny. It has characters that actually have character. Hell, it’s even made Jar Jar… if not a brilliant character, then at least a bit more tolerable.
If there’s one place the show really shines it’s with the clone troopers and episodes concentrating on the actual conflicts of the Clone Wars. From the Ryloth storyline in season one to the jawdropping landing and assault sequences in season two’s “Landing At Point Rain” through to the whole four-episode General Krell/Umbaran arc of season four, the show does battles brilliantly. From small squad action or lightsaber duels to entire armies clashing both on land and in space the animation and action is as good as, and usually better than, anything seen in the films.
And the battles don’t pull their punches. The scenes are hard hitting, cruel, violent and at times very brutal. We all know the Jedi main cast members are safe, but anyone else is fair game and some of them have been killed in some pretty extreme ways. New characters created for the show that have been built up over the four seasons can and do die in very quick and sometimes in very meaningless ways. We’ve had entire squads of clone troopers cut to pieces as they charge the enemy, clones falling to their death from burning Gunships, friendly fire incidents, Padawans mercilessly impaled on lightsabers and wounded enemy troopers casually executed. Cartoon Network actually asked for a scene of a certain darksider kissing a clone as she killed him to be cut. I’m not saying this is anything like as dark as some TV shows out there, but when you see what is shown on either side of the show on Cartoon Network then the difference is quite stark.
Sure, it still has the occasional problem and the odd miss-step; it’s not perfect. The Padme/senate/politics stories are usually pretty crap, but then they’re trying to serve the Padme as a politician character and I bet it’s kinda hard to make that sort of thing interesting again and again. I’d also say we bump into already known characters from the original trilogy a little to often maybe, and there has been some serious canon retconning; the whole Mandalorian thing especially. They even re-killed someone who already has an established death in an SW novel. But on the whole the show has been top notch entertainment and it has far more of the feel of the Star Wars I had as a child than any of the prequel stuff ever did.
At the time of writing there have been over 70 episodes aired; that’s about 1,540 minutes of The Clone Wars compared to the approximately 801 minutes of the combined film saga, that’s almost double already and there’s at least another 30 episodes planned. And I’d say most of those 1,540 minutes is spot-on Star Wars action.
With the exception of A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back I think The Clone Wars is the Star Wars I’m most likely to stick in the DVD player to watch. So, there you have it, there was something good about the Star Wars prequels after all… They led to better things.