Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated movie is officially celebrating its 10th anniversary this week. The first ever Star Wars animated feature marked a new era for the franchise, coming off of the prequel trilogy from George Lucas. At the time, Lucas was still in control and he had hatched plans to release an animated Star Wars series taking place during the prequel era. But he decided that he wanted to make a movie in order to kick things off in a more flashy way. That decision proved to be a profitable one, though, the movie itself maintains a complected legacy. The official Star Wars Twitter account decided to commemorate the occasion, saying this.
“Ten years ago today, @TheCloneWars animated feature film was released in theaters. A galaxy far, far away would never be the same.”
Indeed, things never were the same after The Clone Wars was released. It was largely assumed that after Revenge of the Sith hit theaters in 2005 that Star Wars on the big screen was pretty much over with. However, George Lucas had other plans. Unfortunately, those plans involved making what is by most accounts a very, very bad movie. He didn’t direct it, though. That distinction belongs to Dave Filoni, who was sort of Lucas’ apprentice, so to speak, and has since gone on to become one of the greatest Star Wars storytellers in the history of the franchise. But he had himself a rough start.
Initially, there wasn’t going to be a movie. The Clone Wars started life as a series. But once George Lucas saw some of the footage on the big screen, he decided that the first arc of the series should be reconfigured and stitched together as a movie, with a budget of just $8.5 million. Animated or not, for a Star Wars movie, that’s nothing. So, Dave Filoni and the rest of the team scrambled to make it happen, with Lucas guiding the ship with his overall vision.
The result was a disaster, in the eyes of fans and critics alike. The movie holds just an 18 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes and made only $68 million at the box office. That still made it a success financially, given the minimal investment, but the Star Wars name alone should have put a lot more meat in seats. That speaks to the quality that was on display. The movie is childish, any attempts at drama and humor both fall flat, the animation is far from great and it simply doesn’t live up to the storytelling that we’re accustomed to within this universe.
On a personal note, I will never forget my one and only experience watching this movie. I was by far the most hardcore Star Wars fan amongst my friend group and, with much convincing, talked some of them into seeing The Clone Wars with me on opening weekend. It was a Star Wars movie! How bad could it be? The amount of apologizing I had to do after walking out of that theater was, to say the least, substantial. After all, we could have went to go see Tropic Thunder instead.
Despite the very bad movie fans were subjected to, The Clone Wars soldiered on and debuted on Cartoon Network just a couple of months later on October 3, 2008. This is where the legacy thing gets a bit tricky. Granted, the first couple of seasons took some time to find its footing. However, when the show got good, it was an excellent source for great stories within a galaxy far, far away. Episodic storytelling simply wasn’t a thing in the Star Wars universe up to that point and once Dave Filoni got comfortable, it became clear that he really knew what worked well and how to tell a good story within the franchise. He would later go on to prove that in spades with Rebels.
A younger generation of Star Wars fans grew up on The Clone Wars. That’s part of the reason that the recently announced revival season coming to Disney’s streaming service next year was such a big deal. While many of those fans probably don’t count The Clone Wars movie as one of their favorite things within the franchise, that’s where the series started, rough as it may have been.
There are two things that The Clone Wars movie got right. Sort of. One, the creation of Ahsoka Tano. Now, to be clear, the creation of the character is what deserves some credit here. Her characterization in the movie is atrocious and downright annoying. There is no reason to like her as presented. She was hated by the fanbase initially. That’s what makes it so incredible that she has gone on to become one of the most compelling and beloved characters outside of the live-action movies to date. Again, she had a rough start, but she’s an important part of the lore now and a pretty amazing redemption tale. There’s also, the introduction of composer Kevin Kiner, who provides the score for the movie, as well as The Clone Wars series and Rebels. He is one of the most unappreciated elements of the post-prequel trilogy era. The man knows how to make great Star Wars music and if there is an heir apparent to John Williams, it’s this man. Lucasfilm needs to let him do a live-action movie already.
Lucasfilm was purchased in 2012 by Disney for more than $4 billion and thus, with the promise of a new live-action trilogy on the way, the sins of the prequels and The Clone Wars animated movie were (mostly) washed away. Still, animation has become an increasingly important element of Star Wars storytelling and, like it or not, that started with this no good, terrible movie. If you want to reflect further on it, you can check out the Star Wars Twitter account’s The Clone Wars 10th anniversary post for yourself below.
— Star Wars (@starwars) August 15, 2018