Recently I’ve been watching spooky TV sensation Stranger Things. It’s very enjoyable, sort of like if Slenderman took a holiday to Twin Peaks and brought his buddies in the stereotypically evil government conspiracy lab. Hence, with my impeccable taste credentials established beyond doubt, I’ve typed up a blog post where I complain about a children’s cartoon. Specifically, why the 4 1/2 out of 6 seasons of Star Wars The Clone Wars I’ve watched are annoyingly inconsistent.
The first major inconsistency I’ve noticed is scale. This is something I really try not to let it bother me – I’m reasonably sure there’s a George Lucas quote where asked how fast hyperspace was he replied “as fast as the plot demands” and I can respect that – but man is it hard to ignore when the main characters get assigned to invade a “critical” planet with 3 ships and about 200 dudes. Personally, I assume that in the Star Wars galaxy each planet is actually really small and only has a population of a few thousand, except Coruscant. Things make a lot more sense that way.
But the scale problem crops up another way. Speaking of those three ships: they have different capabilities depending on what’s going on. When the fleet of three Jedi Cruisers fights the fleet of six or so Droid ships (and for what I assume are animation reasons this exact matchup happens every 5 episodes) sometimes there’s heavy damage, ships exploding and one side forced to retreat within 2 minutes. Sometimes though, the heroes need to rescue someone from the baddies and when that happens the exact same ships can happily sit there firing at each other for 22 minutes without anything major happening at all, at least until they’re done with the rescue. It’s a little hard to ignore when you’re asking yourself “wait, wasn’t that fight really dangerous when they did it back at that other planet?”.
Oh, and the amount of times villains have gotten away hanging on the back of a transport yelling “you’ve won this round, Skywalker but you haven’t seen the the last of meee!!” is amazing, even in situations when friendly spaceships and fighters should be right there. At least it works both ways, young Skywalker has done the exact same thing in heavily defended droid bases too many times to count. So yes, a little bit more internal consistency would be appreciated, but as I mentioned I do try not to let it bother me. The second thing is harder to ignore though.
The main inconsistency of the show is sadly one that has a much bigger impact on the quality. That is the tone of the show, which is all over the place sometimes within the same episode. Sometimes, the show is lighthearted Jedi adventures with wise-cracking protagonists trading jokes as they slice up those incompetent battle droids, like the multiepisode arc where they’re saving some underwater planet and the young padawan has to learn that working together is the key to victory (also there are Gungans). However, sometimes it veers full-on into “war is hell” territory like the terrible multiepisode arc where the Clone regiment Anakin commands gets a replacement Jedi commander and we get three episodes devoted to the numbing horror of seeing your comrades killed while high command doesn’t care. Unsurprisingly the obviously bad Jedi in question turned out to be a traitor, but the whole thing didn’t feel very “Starwarsy”. Also once, confusingly, there was an episode that was just the plot to Cube but with bounty hunters, which I don’t have any particularly strong point to make about except “huh?”.
I’m quite sure a lot of people would here point to how the series also makes the Jedi order look like a bunch of hugely incompetent hypocrites, but honestly I’ve got to give it a pass for that because it’s an inherited problem from the prequel trilogy source material.
I suppose such problems are unavoidable given the setting. There doesn’t seem to be a strong reason why the war is even a thing apart from the 2 guys at the top of each faction wanting it to be so. You’d think the Republic being peaceful and the attacked party would have lots of support, but multiple planets are said to be undecided between Republic and Separatists. To be clear, the Separatists are cartoon bad guys and have – with witnesses! – done things including but not limited to: enslaving entire populations, using civilians as shields, extorting food supplies (for their robot army?) and obvious assassinations. The Republic on the other hand is: slow to react, has bizarre tax laws and ….sometimes can’t provide aid supplies to civilians quickly enough through blockades (the last one was an actual objection said to the Jedi. No-one thought to point out maybe the side doing the blockading and starving civilians was worse). Still, I suppose real life has plenty of examples of propaganda and political assassinations getting people on side with unsavoury allies.
I’ve talked about the sequel series Rebels before and that is a lot better at all of these issues. I’d be surprised if it wasn’t, scrappy underdogs fighting for what’s right which is much easier to maintain tonally than politically murky galaxy-spanning civil war. I’m going to keep going with the last 2 seasons of Clone Wars though, partly because I’m curious to see how they’re going to get rid of Anakin’s apprentice who he is clearly very close to in such a way that she isn’t even mentioned in the third film, and partly because laser sword fights and pew pew blaster battles are good stuff to have on in the background while I’m e.g. cooking.
So take all of the above with a little grain of salt, because odds are I was doing something else while watching it, glancing over occasionally to roll my eyes at the dumbass predicament the idiots have got into this time. It’s great for that.