Star Wars Rebels and Star Wars: The Clone Wars Are The Real Prequels
The heck with movies. Cartoons are where it's at.
Look. I know you don't like the Star Wars prequels. You're on the internet, which has made its opinions fairly clear on the subject. But shut up for a second, because I'm going to tell you about how the real prequels are a pair of TV shows. Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels combine to provide the world with the Star Wars prequels we need, not the Star Wars prequels we deserve. Unless that's supposed to be reversed. I can never remember which way it's supposed to go. Anyway, let's count down the reasons I am not a crackpot for preferring two all-CGI shows to three mostly-CGI movies.
- Villains matter more.
In the prequel movies, Darth Maul was cool, but he got cut in half after about twenty minutes of screen time. Count Dooku was nearly cool on account of being played by Christopher Lee, but he, too, was gone after one movie. And that's not enough time to overcome the name "Dooku." In a TV series, villains have time to stretch out and become interesting. There's this neat Sith lady in Clone Wars named Asajj Ventress who runs around with two light sabers and maes a fun recurring villain. And General Grievous, who's in Episode 3 as a weird, wheezing robot, gets to show up again and again as the Big Bad. His tragic backstory appears to that he's a robot with asthma. And now they've announced that the de-canonized expanded universe is getting some attention as General Thrawn will show up for the next season of Rebels.
- There are cool new characters.
Specifically, characters like Ahsoka Tano, who starts as a spunky Jedi apprentice in Clone Wars, gets thrown out of the Jedi, and comes back in Rebels. And the clones that fill out the anonymous Storm Trooper helmets get developed into interesting individuals. That's fundamentally more interesting than Elan Sleazebaggano, the dirtbag who was selling "death sticks" in Episode II.
- What about Jedi?
You get to learn more about the Jedi Order, which is something the original Star Wars movies left deliberately vague. We only met Obi-Wan and Yoda, both of whom had presumably gone a bit squirrelly after decades of isolation. The prequel movies showed us a bit more of what the Jedi were like, but the television shows let you see the Jedi doing their jobs (in Clone Wars) and fighting the Empire (in Rebels) so that you feel like you know more about what this order of sword-fighting mystics was all about.
- There are lots of aliens.
The universe is suddenly full of weird alien races. And there's more than one example of each race! Like, you know how Greedo was a Rodian, but he was the only Rodian we ever saw except for that kid in Episode I that you weren't sure if it was supposed to be Baby Greedo or not? Well, it wasn't. So there were two Rodians in the whole universe, plus maybe there were some in the Galactic Senate. But in the cartoons, it's fairly easy to revisit races without having to make a whole new rubber mask, so there are alien races all over the place. Turns out Jabba has a cousin who talks like Truman Capote. That guy's great, and he's exactly the sort of thing you don't have time for in a movie.
- There are wars with clones.
Ever wonder what the actual Clone Wars looked like? They sure sounded interesting when Obi-Wan said he fought in them with Luke's father, right? That's exactly the sort of thing a prequel should provide, right? Guess where you get to see a whole bunch of it? Not in the movie called Attack Of The Clones,, that's for sure.
- Remember that guy?
Darth Maul comes back. Good news! Getting cut in half is less fatal than you thought!
- Fixing what was broken.
Probably the most important thing the CGI TV series provide is that they rehabilitate the movie prequels. I know, I said the shows were the real prequels. But the movies have important plot points, so you probably still need to watch them to know the whole story, like why Obi-Wan is Anakin's master in the first place. (Answer: because he feels guilty about letting Qui-Gon die, so he mentors the kid that Qui-Gon was going to replace Obi-Wan with, and for MUCH MUCH MORE about this theory, you'll have to find me in person.) But the shows don't just take the good things from the movies; they take the bad things and do a lot of work to make them good again. To go back to Jar Jar for a moment, the shows know he's an annoying doofus. But there's a place for that, as long as it's done on purpose.
- They evince basic quality.
They're just good, okay? Not all of these points are going to have really detailed explanations! If you want cool stories set before Episode IV, that's what these shows give you. And they're still canon, if you're worried about that.
- There are bad guys being bad.
A really important thing that was left out of all the movies was a sense of what the Empire was like and why the rebels were the good guys. Sure, there's the occasional talk about the grip of the Empire squeezing blah blah whatever, but what does it actually mean to be squeezed? That's where Rebels shines, because it's full of scenes of daily life with Stormtrooper jerks causing problems. It's good to see why we need to blow up the Death Star. I mean, besides the fact that it's called a Death Star. (Whoever's in charge of Imperial Branding is not interested in making friends, huh?)
- Anakin's arc.
This is the most important thing for a Star Wars prequel to do, and it's what the movies most clearly failed to do. We saw Anakin as a chipper kid, a lovestruck teenager, and a jerk who killed everyone in the Jedi temple. But the dots never really got connected. Guess what? That's what happens ALL OVER The Clone Wars. There are seasons of Anakin being an impulsive jerk who chafes under the rules of the Jedi, and presto! You have a story for the character that makes sense and is fun to watch.
It's time to stop moaning about The Phantom Menace. We've got great Star Wars prequels, and they're CGI cartoons. I am not a crackpot.