I did an interview with Dave Filoni, supervising director of The Clone Wars for my piece on The Huffington Post about The Clone Wars (which you can read here), and we talked at length about the political intrigue that has ramped up in Season 3 of the show and where we can expect the show to go from here.
Every time I talk with Dave Filoni, you can just feel how much he loves the Star Wars universe, as much or more as any of us fans. And this conversation we had provides quite a few tantalizing tidbits about the direction of Season 4. And once again he proves his thorough knowledge of the ins and outs of the Star Wars universe, both as a storyteller and a filmmaker. He never ceases to impress me.
This is an abridged version of our talk:
Dave Filoni: The second half of season 3 is much more indicative of where the series is going as a whole. They’re much more in the mold of the swashbuckling vein of the original trilogy, but they still have the political overtones the prequels had. We still have to deal with the senate. We did the political episodes in the first half of the season and we got better and better at them as we went. By the time we did ‘Heroes on Both Sides’, I think we showed that the Separatists aren’t all villains and Ahsoka says, “This war isn’t as black and white as I once thought it was.” And to me, that’s her coming to terms with being a human being (I know she’s not a human being) but coming to the understanding that the world is a much more complex place than she first thought. When you’re growing up as a kid and you realize there are kids all over the world and they all have different political views and people don’t always agree on things. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s evil or good. It’s an awakening for her.
We don’t get as detailed with that in the future season but we definitely show it more from the war front side. In some ways it’s like the film Patton. In that film you always understood that the politics were always affecting what Patton was trying to do on the front line but you saw it more from the General’s standpoint. The future of the show we go more from the general’s standpoint and how some of the machinations we saw, how the corruption we saw across the galaxy, is affecting these soldiers and these commanders on the front line.
Bryan Young: Watching the show with my kids, they have questions about things like the opening crawl in Revenge of the Sith that says “There are heroes on both sides, evil is everywhere” you guys were able to clear up some of that.
DF: When you look at that opening, it was a really intriguing statement. Even though I’m an adult, I thought, “Wow. What does that mean?” And when you look at the Star Wars saga, you understand that the Republic just transitions into the Empire.
In my opinion, Anakin doesn’t really see that he changes sides at all. If you ask Anakin as Darth Vader, “Did you betray the Jedi?” he would say, “No. The Jedi betrayed the Republic.” He doesn’t ever understand that he transitions from one thing to the next. He definitely makes the moves to gain more power, which George [Lucas] has always said is really at the root of a lot of evil of the dark side is that they’re selfish and through those selfish motives they try to seek power. And Anakin does it by being selfish and trying to keep his friends alive at all costs when he doesn’t look to Yoda and isn’t selfless about letting go of people. You can see these extremes just looking at Anakin and it says there are heroes on both sides and evil everywhere and the Jedi didn’t see that clearly enough. Much to their downfall.
It’s an interesting story to tell in that I know the Clones which the kids like very much eventually in Revenge of the Sith turn around and are ordered to execute their commanders, the Jedi. So it does make me think of a lot of things to do with the story, especially with popular characters like Captain Rex and I think that because those big questions, evil is everywhere, heroes are on both sides, the politics are thus involved to help explain some of the machinations behind it all. So you’ll have a better understanding of how this all happened. In the movie’s it’s all much more focused on Anakin’s personal story.
BY: You guys have received a lot of criticism for taking the bad guys from the original films and making them heroes here. But is there a better lesson people can be taking from that?
DF: I think Palpatine, as far as the lesson there, is that he’s deceptive. He seems like the kindly old man but he is really the evil monster he’s revealed to be in the later films. That’s such a common thing in mythology. You think the person is kind, the beautiful Queen in Snow White is supposed to be kindly, but her beauty is a deception. She’s not. She’s really evil. The old man you think is withered and helpless is deceiving you, he’s actually a powerful sorceror. There’s a really simple directorial thing in Return of the Jedi that illustrates it really well. When he gets off of the shuttle, he’s walking using the cane, and all the scenes you see him in up until Luke Skywalker shows up he generally has his cane. But then when Luke is in front of him, he rises up out of his chair and just walks over to Luke. As the audience, you were being deceived into thinking this guy was really aged and weak and he’s not. He’s extremely powerful. So I think that’s part of the lesson being learned.
And part of our examination of the clones in great detail is more really looking at these guys as soldiers and asking how they follow orders and do they follow all of them like the Kaminoan’s think? Are they thoughtless in their execution of following orders? Do they develop a personality? How would the Jedi interact with an entire race of soldiers created for them and do they try to humanize these guys, not just use them as tools? I think once you’re dealing with a cloned army, a lot of those questions come along with that idea. Especially since you have the Jedi, this selfless people guiding this army, you’d think that they would try to be kind to them. And we tried to show that each Jedi General’s personality is reflected in their soldiers. So it’s going to be a big shift for everybody when they become Stormtroopers in the end. It’s fun stuff really.
BY: Do you think there’s something to be said about the fact that you’re showing people the sympathetic side of these people? And really this is in play in even the classic trilogy, but it depends on your own point of view what’s evil. Especially in today, reflecting in the events of what’s going on, good is a point of view.
DF: That’s what Palpatine would like you believe, for sure. I found it really interesting in Return of the Jedi that Obi-Wan Kenobi tells Luke that “you’re going to find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.” And that’s the response to the fact that he lied to Luke about his father. But when you find Palpatine in the opera scene in Revenge of the Sith, he tells Anakin that good and evil is a point of view. That you’re listening to the dogmatic views of the Jedi and evil is a real thing only depending on what side of the fence you sit on. There’s probably some truth to that in a way, but it’s a very good line by Palpatine because it’s very easy to believe that. If you believe that it makes you think that other things you do aren’t so extreme because it’s only a point of view. Are the Clone Troopers evil because they executed an order they were given? Can they help when they do that order? Are the all complicit when they do that order? Do some of them not want to follow Order 66? Those are all great questions that I think this series will be headed towards before it’s all over. It’s a great question to ask. Is that true? Good and evil is dependant on your point of view? Or are there truly evil things?
I think everybody in a way is a pawn of Palpatine during the Clone Wars. The politicians that work with him, they’re greedy and they want more power for themselves. If they knew he was a Sith Lord, they probably wouldn’t even care. What does that mean to them as long as they mean more money and become more powerful? The Jedi are so wrapped up in their own politics and doing what they think is right from wrong that they can’t see this guy that in a lot of ways they helped get elected (through the defense of Naboo and and different channels) is the Sith lord they should be looking for. He’s right under their nose. Padme believes in Palpatine because he’s from Naboo and he’s a fatherly figure to Anakin and her. It’s all under the umbrella of this truly evil guy. In some ways the Bounty Hunters are the most removed because they’re independent. Like Boba Fett and Cad Bane. But Bane is driven by greed. Boba Fett is confused about his motivations because of the death of his father. It sounds like a lot of ramblings, I’m sure, but in a way it goes to illustrate how fertile this area of Star Wars is for storytelling because there’s so much at work, politically, with the Jedi, with the Clones, in the Outer Rim, with the Bounty Hunters, it really is the heyday of this period before the Empire comes in and puts it’s big boot down and tries to get everyone in order.
BY: For adults that might ordinarily say, “I love Star Wars, but why would I watch this cartoon?” what would you say to them?
DF: We’re just telling stories and a good story is a good story no matter what style or medium it’s told through. I’m sure they all go and see Pixar films because they’re wonderfully told stories. I think they’ve proven that even though the kids like it, adults get a lot of it, too. Clone Wars is that way. We’re telling these stories using animation but they’re stories just the same as George has always told them going back to 1977, he loves animation. Many of those live action films you’d go see have a huge amount of animation in it, so it’s all just coming together. A lot of people in animation feel like we’re just telling stories and we happen to use animated characters. I have brilliant voice actors behind those characters, brilliant animators doing the work, and at the end of the day if the story is good, and I think these stories are aimed at everybody, for old and young…
When I was a kid I remember Star Wars being the first big thing my dad and I really sat down and I knew he liked. He wasn’t a crazy fan of it, but he was always into opera and it was kind of like space opera. That was always a big creative bridge between us to talk about the music of Star Wars and of the operas he liked. I get a lot of comments from people that they watch Clone Wars with their kids and this is a family Friday night, even when the shows are sometimes fun and whimsical and sometimes more intense, they like to sit there and talk about what the show will say. And I think biggest compliment we can get on this series is that we’re getting generations to sit down and watch it in this fantastic world that George created.
BY: It’s funny, my favorite episodes are not my kids’ favorite episodes, and vice versa. Their favorite episode, hands down, is Bombad Jedi and they will watch it on a continuous loop.
DF: How about that…
BY: They’re big Chaplin fans and they’ll watch that and “The Kid” back to back and they think it’s just as good.
DF: Wow. That just proves there’s something for everybody in The Clone Wars.
The Clone Wars season three finale airs on Friday on Cartoon Network. Be sure to check local listings for showtimes. Season four begins in the fall.
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