Putting the “Wars” in “Star Wars:” Five epic battles that should influence Episode IX

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Photo credit: Lucasfilm

The Battle of Umbara

Once again, The Clone Wars offers an uncompromising view of war and its effects. Trying to capture the Separatist world of Umbara, a planet constantly in twilight, Anakin Skywalker is called back to Coruscant. His Legion, the 501st, is left in the hands of Jedi General Pong Krell.  Almost immediately Krell demonstrates his disdain for the Clones, choosing attack plans which result in heavy casualties for the Republic troops.

As the fighting becomes ever more intense, and some Clone Troopers begin to question the orders from the General, Captain Rex is dispatched by Krell to stop a group of Umbarans who have disguised themselves as Clones.  In the midst of the battle, Rex realizes that in fact Krell has betrayed them, and they are actually fighting another Clone unit.

Through the fog of war, both metaphorical and literal on Umbara, Rex has to stop the Clones from killing one another, and decide to act against orders to stop the General whom they discover is actually in league with the Separatists.

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In one of the best single Star Wars stories in the entire franchise, the Umbara arc plays out across episodes 7-10 of season 4 of The Clone Wars. Dealing with moral decisions on Rex’s part regarding a Soldier’s duty to command versus that to fellow Soldiers makes this Star Wars’ version of The Caine Mutiny.  

Though the episodes are filled with thrilling sequences, it is the tense interaction between Rex, his fellow Clones, and a seemingly mad General that set the arc apart. The horror demonstrated by Rex when he realizes brother is killing brother resulting from Krell’s  betrayal is gripping and heartbreaking.

The Last Jedi already touched a bit on following orders when you think they are misguided, but it is the confusion and fog of war that Ep IX could learn from the Umbara arc.  Yes, the saga is a space fantasy, but moments of battlefield terror like those portrayed here can cement the emotional investment in the audience, and take a good fight scene to the level of epic battle.