Disney’s “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” is getting a lot of buzz, an odd contrast to the last time a “Star Wars” film outside of the numbered episodes premiered. In August 2008, I mentioned “The Clone Wars” movie to friends, and they responded with “There’s a new ‘Star Wars’ movie out?” Although it was a wide-release film, there wasn’t much of a marketing push behind it, because George Lucas decided fairly late in the game to release the first four-episode arc of the new TV series as a “movie.”
Now in its third season, “Star Wars Rebels” (8:30 p.m. Saturdays on Disney XD) has almost entirely caught up to “The Clone Wars” in production value. Even though Disney is spending less money than Lucasfilm did, the animated library of elements is now vast enough to give “Rebels” a more vibrant look, while still retaining the concept that the Ghost crew is operating on the fringes. Also, with the excellent character work done in the back half of Season 2, I like the crew of the Ghost and I care what happens to them. In the first three episodes of Season 3 (“Steps into Shadow” Parts 1 and 2 and “Holocrons of Fate”), “Rebels” keeps the momentum going.
Season 2 of “Star Wars Rebels” recently kicked off in our universe, but in an alternate dimension where George Lucas did not sell “Star Wars” to Disney, fans are currently reflecting on the conclusion of Season 7 of “The Clone Wars” and looking forward to Season 8, probably the epic final season of the show. While we’ll never get the full run of “Clone Wars” as originally intended by Lucas, we recently got the story reels for the “Bad Batch” arc, which according to Wookieepedia would have been the first arc of Season 7. The four episodes are posted on the “Clone Wars Legacy” page at starwars.com.
I’ve been slower than most fans to embrace Disney’s take on “Star Wars.” Even though “Star Wars Rebels” features “Clone Wars’ “ executive producer Dave Filoni in one of the drivers’ seats, I still resented the end of “The Clone Wars” and felt bad for all the talented Lucasfilm folks who were laid off in the Disney takeover. And indeed, the Mouse’s tighter purse strings were evident in “Rebels’ ” first season, from the emptiness of Lothal’s streets to Ezra’s hair being cartoonishly still even when he hangs upside down.
When some “Star Wars” podcasters were drenching hyperbolic praise on “Star Wars Rebels” (8 p.m. Central Mondays on Disney XD) in its early going, cast members kept saying it would be even more amazing by season’s end. On Monday, we found out what they were alluding to, when we saw the return of Ahsoka Tano (who had been under the guise of Fulcrum), plus Darth Vader, who had also appeared in the ABC version of the pilot episode. Additionally, Grand Moff Tarkin was central to the final arc of the season. Throw in a space battle over Mustafar and a rescue of Kanan that parallels “A New Hope” without being too much of a ripoff, and it was a fine finale.
While I and most fans will always be irked that “The Clone Wars” wasn’t allowed to bring its character threads to natural conclusions, I have to admit that “The Clone Wars: The Lost Missions”(2014), released in March on Netflix and now available on DVD, hits on several crucial elements and bows out with a beautiful grace note in its final episode, providing a nice framing mechanism with the first Season 1 episode, which likewise featured Yoda.
“The Clone Wars” it ain’t. But to be fair, “The Clone Wars” wasn’t the great show we now know and love in its formative episodes in 2008, so perhaps I should give “Star Wars Rebels” a few episodes before rendering a harsh judgment. The first major project of Disney’s “Star Wars” regime certainly has room to grow in a positive direction, but my first-episode impression of Friday’s “Spark of Rebellion” is that this is a mediocre show out of the gates.
A great debate recently popped up at my office: Who deserves credit for the success of “Star Wars?” Well, George Lucas, of course, because he created it. Plain and simple, right? Not necessarily, because he was far from alone in making “Star Wars” great. Strictly speaking, he couldn’t have made that first movie on his own, because he needed start-up money. The truth is, while Lucas has to be No. 1 on this list, the “Star Wars” saga was created and molded and made into a success by more than one person.
Although the four-part “droids in the void” arc was by far the worst in the series’ run, “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” Season 5 (8:30 a.m. Central Saturdays on Cartoon Network) nonetheless ranks as the best season so far thanks to the other arcs — the Onderon rebellion, the young Padawans, the Darth Maul/Death Watch saga (that arc’s finale, featuring Sidious fighting Maul, was the best episode of the series) and now the mystery-laden Fugitive Ahsoka arc.
We’re in a curious situation right now where 94 percent of the country supports pro-war presidential candidates yet other polls show that the majority of people are against war (although most of Congress is pro-war). Of course, war is a complicated issue, and I don’t pretend to understand all of it (although I certainly respect soldiers’ views, which tend to lean anti-war, in my experience). But because of the mainstream media’s focus on the two major parties, the raw fact of our involvement in the Middle East is generally not questioned — rather, the questions are about the details of how to conduct the wars.