Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008) Review

Star Wars: The Clone Wars
And you thought the prequels were bad

The day I lose interest in Star Wars entirely is the day a part of my childhood has died. I love this series; yes, even the prequels. They have huge flaws for sure, but at the same time the stories that they were telling logically fell within the same universe presented in the originals, even if the execution didn’t always captivate (as with some really bad acting). Despite many people’s claims, I don’t believe George Lucas has lost his mind. I think he really wanted to create a worthy follow-up trilogy to the original three. It’s just that many of his judgment calls weren’t well thought out or kept in check by the producers. Whatever you may think of the man, he really knows what makes the franchise so appealing to audiences. You may cry “blasphemy!” on that statement, but if you ever catch The Clone Wars somewhere on TV, online, etc., then you will understand how a Star Wars movie can turn out without Lucas’ direct involvement beyond the basic story idea.

Plot Synopsis: Note: This movie takes places between Episodes II and III for those wondering about its placement in the timeline. While on far away mission to keep the Separatist Army from controlling new systems in the galaxy, Anakin and his Jedi master Obi-Wan receive a new order from master Yoda. Apparently, the Separatists have kidnapped crime lord Jabba the Hut’s son, maybe holding him for ransom, and the two are to find and return him to Jabba. If the Jedi succeed in their goal, then Jabba will be on more friendly terms with the Republic, allowing them to have easy access to the planetary systems he has influence over. Aiding them on their mission is a young padawan named Ahsoka, newly appointed as an apprentice of sorts for Anakin. The two don’t really get along together, but they’re going to have to help each other out if they are to stop the Separatists, who have a much grander scheme in mind than previously thought.


I can’t quite understand whether the animation style of Clone Wars is unintentionally stilted, or some sort of meta expression of the same wooden acting from the prequels. Either way it makes the movie look cheap, like a 90-minute cutscene that would be found in a videogame. The action scenes, which come at a rapid-fire pace, never really come alive because of the jerky animation, an unfortunate thing since action seems to be the only thing this movie has to offer. There is almost no time given to settle down and develop some form of character relationships or plot weight. The characters barely even feel like their previous incarnations, only really resembling them by name and vague looks. Those who have seen the prequels know that Anakin and Padme are lovers, but you wouldn’t know that going by this movie. It also doesn’t help that the voice actors hired to replace their characters’ live-action counterparts aren’t very good. James Arnold Taylor does a fair Ewan McGregor impression for Obi-Wan, but Matt Lanter’s work as Anakin only succeeds at matching Hayden Christensen’s annoyingly forced delivery. It was a nice touch to have Samuel L. Jackson, Anthony Daniels, and Christopher Lee reprise their roles as Mace Windu, C-3PO, and Dooku though.


The most troublesome parts of the endeavor however are the side characters that are new to the series. The first being Anakin’s new apprentice Ahsoka, who is more punk teenager than trained padawan learner. She almost completely disrespects his orders at times, painting her more as an obnoxious nuisance than a likeably brash sidekick. She also has the annoying tendency to call Anakin “Skyguy” at times, proving that even others can write dialogue just as bad as Lucas’ tin-eared love stuff in Attack of the Clones (slightly less so in Revenge of the Sith). One of the very few positives that I found was a quiet moment where we sense Anakin is beginning to understand Ahsoka more because he seems to see a little of himself in her. But the award for most embarrassing addition goes to Jabba’s uncle, Ziro the Hut. First of all, bad name, second of all, his voice and personality come off as cringingly flamboyant. If Jar Jar was racially offensive, then Ziro will put off many pro-gay activists. All of this is in the name of making the franchise even MORE kid-friendly than it was before, stripping away any form of tension or seriousness that was still left in the storyline, which feels more like an extended TV episode rather than a cinematic adventure.

This makes sense in that The Clone Wars is meant to be the start of a Clone Wars animated show, but then the question is, why couldn’t it have just been shown on the tube as a pilot episode? It’s certainly not compelling enough for the big screen and bears an unfortunate resemblance to the similarly dull trade route conflicts found in The Phantom Menace. There’s nothing truly inspiring to be found in Clone Wars, and as a result the final product feels more like an inconsequential side plot that was only created to milk the Star Wars cow in ways that only resemble it in name only. It’s a soulless offering, topped off by a generic, guitar riffing music score that made me beg for John William’s classic chords to come back. I had no such luck.


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