I was a bend-over-backward to be fair defender of this August's Star Wars: Clone Wars movie. It was never meant to be Episode VII and it was overall pretty entertaining. It had one innovative set-piece (the wall-climbing battle) and a solid climactic light saber fight (Anakin and Dooku dueling in a barren dessert; no jumping from platform to platform above bottomless pits, no lava explosions and vine-swinging, just two hated enemies desperately trying to kill each other). But I must concede that the 95 minute movie did come up short. It was a little juvenile and didn't do much to advance character.
It's been sitting in my DVDR for a few weeks, and I've only watched two of the four aired episodes. But, I'm happy to report that the actual Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated series is actually a solid improvement over the pilot movie. The animation is certainly more suited to television, and the stories are smaller in scale but richer in character. Since we know much about the lead Jedis and the lead villains already, this show seems to be about the soldiers themselves, the clone troopers.
Both episodes dealt with clones being trapped in no-win situations and being guided to survival by their Jedi generals. They know full well that they are clones and meant to be primarily canon fodder, but the Jedi of course don't see it that way. As Yoda points out in the first episode, they may be clones, but the Force has given them all individual souls. Of course, the more these troopers grow as individual humans, the more tragic their inevitable fate will become. By making the faceless stormtroopers faceless no more, the series may add an extra poignancy to episodes III-VI.
The writing is sharp, with a bare-minimum of cheesy humor or Jedi-exposition ('we must find that weapon!'). Even the dreaded Ahsoka, Anakin's teen girl padawan, comes off better. She's less prone to wisecrack, and it's amusing watching Anakin deal with a student who has the same recklessness that Obi-Wan has had to deal with. It'll be a shame when she eventually dies.
As for the action, each of the first two episodes has boasted at least one worthwhile set-piece. The first episode climaxed with an extended sequence of Yoda laying waste to an entire droid patrol, in a sequence just as fantastic, but far more realistic than similar beats in the Genndy Tartakovsky Clone Wars series (to be fair, chapters 18 and 19 of that series boasts one of the finest light saber duels ever). The second episode has something I've never seen before - a Jedi vs. droid troops sequence literally set in outer space, with Jedi Master Plo Koon fending off separatist attacks from the outside of a battered rescue pod.
So far, so good. I know many people felt burned by the movie, but that really wasn't the series at its best. It's no Batman: The Animated Series, but Star Wars: The Clone Wars is a good solid action adventure show that boasts decent writing, acceptable acting, and promises to actually add to the vast Star Wars canon. If you're a fan, it's at least worth a try.