I finished the animated Clone Wars movie and season 1. I enjoyed both quite a bit, while there are admittedly strengths and weaknesses to the series.
- One of the things the series does is allow for more time with the main characters than a few two-hour movies. So we get to spend a lot more time with Anakin Skywalker as a heroic, moral character, for example. I presume there will also be a much more gradual move towards his ultimate fall to the dark side, as well as developing his conflict with the Jedi council.
- Background characters get some development as well. Several of the Jedi that are just seen in group shots or getting killed during the Order 66 sequence get entire episodes as lead characters.
- On the other hand, the series is doing the villains no favors. The droid armies are pretty much incompetent, and even the once-lethal droidekas that act as anti-Jedi weapons are often easily dealt with. This makes sense on a certain level, given that each side is bound to learn to counter the other side's weapons, but it still weakens the droid armies as a threat.
- Watching a whole season over a few weeks really drives home how incompetent the villains often are. Or else, their victories take place off-screen, with the actual episode devoted to the heroes reversing that victory, so you only actually see one side win. For the villains to be taken seriously as a threat, they must be seen to have significant victories on screen, just like the Jedi and the clone armies.
- The one exception so far are the commando droids, who wipe out a clone outpost with ease. They need more enemies like this on the show. Grievous also manages to kill a Jedi in one episode.
- The "newsreel" voiceovers at the start of each episode (in the style of WW2 news bulletins) used to annoy me, but I see how they're used to often skip a lot of setup and just throw us right into the middle of a story, so they help with a more economic narrative. They work better than I thought.
- Some of the character designs are over-stylized, in my view. They don't go for photo-realistic models, which is wise, but while character designs like Anakin or Mace Windu work well, Palpatine and Count Dooku are overly-stylized. Obi-Wan Kenobi always looks slight off as well. The "hair and beard chiseled from stone" look is a bit off-putting.
- The first season is a mix of standalone episodes and story arcs. It's also heavily weighted with General Grievous episodes early on, while he disappears entirely in the second half.
- The show makes a great effort to treat the clone troopers as invididuals rather than disposable cannon fodder, even going so far as to give them unique haircuts or facial hair or scars. The Jedi treat them as individuals, who are worth knowing and treating with respect, while the droids are just thrown into battle with no concern, something the villiains remark on in several episodes.
- despite this, the poor clone troops die in large numbers nearly every episode, but that's realistic. Soldiers die in war. At least the deaths have some impact since the series spends so much time building sympathy for them.
Overall, it's a good series. I've rediscovered some of my old enthusiasm for Star Wars while watching it. Looking forward to season two.