The Clone Wars: Fan Reaction
- By Bryan Dean
I’ve wanted to do an article on this for some time, and I believe I’m ready to offer my thoughts. The question is: Is the harsh fan criticism of the series fair? We’ll get to my personal opinion of that later. I first want to address what seems to be the overall atmosphere of Star Wars opinion in general, which, if the internet is a true indicator, is becoming more and more negative.
I think Star Wars is under a continuous vicious cycle. Firstly, you have the fans who were adults or who grew up with the Original Trilogy. The original Original Trilogy, before any kind of Special Edition tinkering. Then you have fans of the Special Editions. Then another new generation of fans that have grown up with the Prequel Trilogy. And yet others of the DVD’s, the two Clone Wars television series, and other extras. Soon, we’ll have an even newer generation that will grow up with the Blu-ray releases, the live-action series, and the upcoming 3D re-releases.
The cycle is this: while there are fans that love every part of Star Wars, give or take a few disappointments here and there, there are those that cling to one or maybe a few portions of Star Wars and nothing else. For instance, you have the ones who grew up with the Original Trilogy And. Can’t. Stand. any of the newer versions or the Prequel Trilogy. Then you have the ones who adore the Prequels but think the Original Trilogy is from the Stone Age. Minus a few areas that might seem to be common ground, these two groups of fans don’t see eye-to-eye on anything.
Original Trilogy fans: “The OT was magical for it’s time and still is. The PT… just tons of fake CG with wooden acting.”
Prequel Trilogy fans: “The PT is awesome, yet does contain many flawed elements, including The Phantom Menace, Jar-Jar Binks, an Anakin that was too young, Jar-Jar Binks, a horribly executed love story, Jar-Jar Binks, and other things. The OT… older than dirt. In fact, the Original Trilogy is so old, it farts mummy dust.”
Now, those may be generalizations, but I feel according to my own blog and forum observations, they’re not too far off the mark. As I said, there are scores of fans that are pleased with both trilogies, but the cycle of “older fans = love the OT hate the PT” and “younger fans love the PT and hate the OT” seems to be the default view of Star Wars fandom. Of course, you have to throw into the mix the continuity-minded fans, some hardcore, that seem to be tormented on a daily basis. That, I believe, is a another can of worms worthy of another blog post. Then there’s the Expanded Universe fans, some of which view the novels as a higher level than the movies: again, I’ll save that for another discussion.
The Clone Wars: Fan Reaction
Then we come to the TV series. The micro series has its fans and its share of complaints, including it’s structure, impact on continuity and the fact that is was a cartoon. Great for kids, bad for adults, so it’s been said.
Now we have the animated series, which began as a movie released in theaters. In all of the back-and-forth I’ve seen in blogs and forums, I don’t think there’s any medium as polarizing to fans as The Clone Wars series. It seems that this series has literally rent the already divided fan base into even deeper levels of separation. Some balk at the graphics. Others at the story. Yet others complain that there’s not enough “clone” or “wars” in The Clone Wars. The continuity-minded folk? Tormented beyond anything they’ve ever experienced before. Now we have the sudden turn in plot as this series has literally shaken Star Wars down to it’s foundation. We’re seeing things that we’ve never even dreamed would happen in official continuity. All of this and we’re only 3 seasons in.
The very act of releasing one set of movies during one time period and a different set in another one will naturally cause a division; I’m not suggesting that every fan must like every aspect of Star Wars. Nor am I suggesting that everyone must like, put up or shut up about the animated series. Debate is good. Debate is healthy. It’s a good bet that the people behind the series are more than pleased about the fan debates being carried out all across the net at any given moment. But is the negativity going too far? Are the continuity-minded fans too obsessed with details? Is watching an episode, waiting to catch a goof or continuity change, the right approach?
People are judging the episodes before they even air. Some are having what seem to be anticipatory panic attacks when they see an episode preview, only to be rendered silent once they watch the complete episode, no doubt realizing things weren’t as they seemed. Was the negativity beforehand, much of it public and on permanent record, worth the energy? In 20 years, will you really care about or even call to mind the episode that featured Qui-Gon, Darth Maul or Shmi? In 20 years, will you really care about Ahsoka’s fate, and why the heck she wasn’t mentioned in Revenge of the Sith? No, you probably wont.
Fans vs. Lucasfilm
I do see both sides. I understand that many fans out there keep a detailed eye on continuity. For some it’s a hobby, for others it’s literally their life (yes, some have said this). Yes, The Clone Wars has introduced continuity-changing elements, and because of that, you now have to make adjustments. But is it really worth getting frustrated over? It’s not your history that’s changing, it’s a Star Wars timeline. Surely some tweaking here and there doesn’t warrant the level of vitriol I’ve seen. Look, there’s been many times where honest mistakes have been made, and it’s been the fans that have pointed it out. Fine. Point it out. But act like you’re talking to someone face to face. Would you really get all up in someone’s face over the Mandalorians? Or Darth Maul? I’d hope not.
As far as the other side, Lucasfilm wants to entertain people, especially their fans. But I can’t even begin to understand the level of stress it must take to keep on churning out The Clone Wars episodes that try to please the majority. Not only do they keep tabs on hardcore fan reaction, but I’m sure they’re also concerned about the casual crowd. People who like or love Star Wars, but are more concerned about being entertained than making sure Anakin is wearing the right color robes or that the planet he’s currently on has the proper amount of moons.
I think for the most part, they’re doing a fine job of catering to both audiences. The fact that they held unprecedented screenings across the country, sometimes occupied by Lucasfilm VIP’s should tell us that they’re concerned about fan reaction. The constant tweets and Facebook posts from those same VIP’s is further confirmation of that.
“But they could have created that episode without messing with what we know about that planet, or who that person’s father is, or how big that ship is.”
Yeah, probably so. But is it that big a deal, really?
The latest example of this would be Jedi Master Even Piell’s death in “Citadel Rescue”, episode 3.20 of The Clone Wars. It’s created a generally negative buzz amongst the forums because according to the novel Jedi Twilight, Piell was killed after Order 66. You know, it’s ironic that people would complain about an official change to a novel that has errors about the character in question.
Hilarious, actually. For years the Coruscant Nights series has been insulted and has been the butt of all sorts of jokes because of the errors in it and its supposed lame content, yet now it’s being coddled because people think it’s the victim of yet another The Clone Wars retcon. Most of you are complaining just because you need an excuse to complain about something and now you’ve found it, even though in this case the change actually fixed a few errors. Sure, they need to come up with another Jedi Master to replace Piell, but who the heck cares? The story (an excellent one, in my opinion) is not lost. Many of you didn’t care about the Coruscant Nights series before, so why do you care about it and the characters within now?
A lot of you have never even read Jedi Twilight, never even heard of Even Piell before “Citadel Rescue”, yet you feel compelled to take a stand with all the other complainers and complain about the change. Really? And you expect to be taken seriously?
All I’m trying to say here is… we are all fans. Every single one of us. Each of us have a different taste too. Some love Darth Vader, others Han Solo, yet others the Ewoks. Some believe The Clone Wars is better than the movies themselves. Regardless of our favorite ship, character or planet… regardless of what we love more, the movies, the Expanded Universe or The Clone Wars, can’t we all just take a step back and look at the big picture while we critique every minute detail of the latest episode of The Clone Wars? That big picture being… our galaxy from a far, far away is very much alive and kicking. We have a continuous fresh stream of content that keeps our attention and our imaginations engaged. Star Wars is not letting up, nor will Lucasfilm stop tinkering with the timeline to satisfy what they feel is needed changes.
I feel that I have a largely neutral stand in this issue, but there are some changes that I question. It’s no secret that I think Darth Maul should remain dead. He may still be, I don’t know. Perhaps we’ve been fooled during the recent Savage Opress arc. But I’m not losing sleep over it. After all, at the end of the day, it’s a fantasy. There are things out there that are more important, more relevant and demand a higher priority level. So just relax, put in some popcorn, and enjoy the show.
Besides, it doesn’t end with The Clone Wars. The live action series and any other projects down the line is sure to surprise and shake things up. I, for my part, don’t mind it a bit.
How do you feel about this subject? Please comment, even if you disagree.
- Master Optician