In anticipation of the brand new Star Wars films, I will be expressing my thoughts on the original trilogy plus its prequels. Thought I was done? Well, I’m sorry, but I couldn’t resist:
I dunno where you get off thinking it’s a good idea to combine the first three episodes of a TV series – episodes which are barely linked together – and not only release that as a movie, but also have it play in theaters. I say this not only because the film in question is an animated one and its graphics are no more interesting than those of any given video game.
Following the pretty lovely cartoons by Genndy Tartakovsky, and preluding the 2008 CG series that would become their “sequel”, Star Wars: The Clone Wars is a special case in the Star Wars franchise as even apologists of the prequel trilogy don’t seem to like it. It almost makes sense since even as it gets started things seem off. We don’t get the cool opening title with expository text set against a space background and a powerful John Williams score that every movie thus far has had. We get the much cheesier remix from the TV show and all the exposition delivered in an off-throwing rush by a narrator that even the 80’s would deem too corny. As Star Wars movies go, that’s pretty bizarre. And I’ve seen Hayden Christensen act.
The word “rush” is important here, by the way, since the entire “movie” feels that way, starting at the beginning. Even if you’ve seen all the live-action movies before this one, it still seems to assume a lot of knowledge on your part in how much info it throws at you within a short time frame. The first act, or “first episode” rather, jumps straight into the action and introduces our first important plot point 30 seconds in. Remember Jabba the Hutt, the slug-like crime lord from Tatooine? His son has been kidnapped by the bad guys, the side ruled by Sith master Darth Sidious (Ian Abercrombie), to cause an unhappy relationship between the Jedi and the Hutts. That’s the new Star Wars movie. How riveting.
The movie takes place, obviously, during the clone wars in-between Episode II and Episode III. The leaders of the good guys are Jedi knights Anakin (Matt Lander) and Obi-Wan (James Arnold Taylor), and leading the baddies/Separatists is Sith lord Count Dooku (Christopher Lee, one of few returning actors). I won’t try to remind you what all these alien words mean as I assume you and your entire bloodline haven’t lived under a rock in the Endor forests.
More returning characters include wise little Yoda (Tom Kane), Mace Windu (Samuel L. Jackson), C-3PO (Anthony Daniels as per always) plus R2, and Padmé Amidala (Catherine Taber), while a brand new character, and a big one in the series, is Anakin’s first apprentice Ahsoka Tano (Ashley Eckstein). Don’t worry, she is sufficiently whiny and difficult to make up for the fact that Anakin is relatively tolerable in this compared to the earlier films. There is also a new villainous character named Asajj Ventress (Nika Futterman), Sith apprentice of Lord Dooku, who battles with “crooked” lightsabers. We just hadn’t seen ’em all yet, I guess.
I have actually viewed quite a few episodes of the Cartoon Network show that this film spawned and despite no longer having Tartakovsky on board, it still wasn’t too bad. It is, admittedly, a lot easier to stomach than the film, which I know confused and disappointed a lot of fans. My dad saw this movie when it came out and he was on a business trip to, I believe, Los Angeles. Either way, it was the first movie he ever saw in an IMAX theater. He still regrets the way he was introduced to the format.
I must be frank and say that the film’s biggest problem is that it’s a poorly put-together selection of so-and-so stories that ends up mostly feeling awkwardly paced. I still found some things in the film that I liked from the show in spite of all this, such as the character interactions and dialogue scenes feeling more natural than anything the prequels threw at us and also the improved characterization of certain background characters (of which there is much more in the show). Yes, it is sometimes goofy and too brisk in its action, but I still think something has to be said when stiff-looking CGI puppets feel more human than any character from George Lucas‘ “mostly live action” Star Wars films. I’ll take Ahsoka arguing and bonding with CG Ani over Christensen-Ani whining his ass off about sand.
I suppose, since there are miraculously those who defend the prequels to this day, I can be that one guy that’s an apologist when it comes to The Clone Wars. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a bad film. I just think it could easily be cleaned up and sold as a fun straight-to-DVD romp. Something like The Phanton Menace, meanwhile, needs to be erased from Earth’s archive memory.
This will be my final Star Wars-related review before the new movie hits. I’ll be uploading a masterpost of all Star Wars reviews thus far when it’s an entire month left until the release. Basically: soon. Thanks for the ride.