Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008) – Directed by Dave Filoni – Starring Matt Lanter, James Arnold Taylor, Ashley Eckstein, Tom Kane, Dee Bradley Baker, Christopher Lee, Samuel L. Jackson, and Anthony Daniels.
STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS gets a lot of heat from people, but I can appreciate it. Yeah, it’s an action-centric excuse to have droids and Jedis and clones fight pretty much non-stop for 90 minutes, but that’s a bad thing why, exactly?
I’m glad we’re living in a time when George Lucas is doing something with the Star Wars universe other than collecting checks and tinkering with the past. And yes, he’s still doing both of those things, but we’re not only getting new content, I don’t really think it’s all that bad. If that’s faint praise, so be it. I can understand how some feel let down or betrayed or disgusted with a movie and show like THE CLONE WARS. (This movie is really the first few episodes of the second CLONE WARS series – the CGI one, not the one Genndy Tartakovsky did.) The original trilogy had been so lionized over the years that it had taken on an almost religious significance, and if you want to dismiss this movie out of hand, I don’t blame you, I won’t stop you, and I’m not going to try and convince you you’re wrong.
As important as STAR WARS was for the pre-teen me, though, I’ve long since lost that religion. Maybe all of us of that generation had to confront that STAR WARS wasn’t ever really anything to Lucas but a story to tell and a product to sell. Maybe it did mean more to us than it meant to him. Or maybe it just meant something different.
For me, it happened sometime during the prequel trilogy when I walked into a Walmart or Target and saw Yoda on a bag of Sour Cream and Onion Lay’s potato chips. “What part of Yoda’s nature corresponds to Sour Cream and Onion?” I wondered mockingly to myself. “Oh yeah, he’s green.”
After that, I lost the faith.
So when something like THE CLONE WARS comes along, it’s just another piece of entertainment for me. Well, maybe not “just” another piece of entertainment but like going back to my old church, it’s not what it was anymore.
THE CLONE WARS is an action film on fast forward, rarely stopping as it goes from an assault raid to a kidnapping rescue caper. Jabba the Hutt’s son has been kidnapped and the Separatists and Republic are fighting to get her back in order to curry favor with Jabba, who controls shipping lanes in the Outer Rim. The Separatists, led by Count Dooku, have actually stolen and poisoned the kid in an attempt to frame the Jedi because … well, because it’s easier for evil people to do evil things rather then just bring the little Hutt back to Jabba, I suppose.
CLONE WARS focuses on the relationship between Anakin and his new Padawan Ahsoka. He’s too young and rebellious to have a Padawan and she’s too young and rebellious to be a Padawan, so they clash.
There’s lots of fighting and lots of clashing and while THE CLONE WARS is never really good, it is plenty diverting. The look of CLONE WARS has been dogged, but I really kind of like it. Yeah, it’s big and blocky, but it’s distinct, clean, and bright. I have a larger issue with the vocal aspect of the show; characters tend to talk a bit to simply and slowly. I get that this is a kid’s movie, but characters in other films find a way to talk at regular speed.
The movie manages to bring in Yoda, Amidala, Palpatine, R2-D2, C-3PO, and Mace Windu to keep things moving forward and uses most of them to good effect.
The big problem with CLONE WARS is that Anakin just not a very interesting character. Lucas seems to be caught between actually transforming him into Darth Vader and wanting him to be completely heroic. Given what Lucas has done to Han Solo and shooting first over the years, I’m half expecting we’ll actually find out at some point that the Anakin of Revenge of the Sith isn’t actually Anakin at all.
The Anakin-Ahsoka relationship doesn’t have much bite to it, either, but at least there’s an arc here.
On the whole, while CLONE WARS isn’t great, it is a decent shoot ‘em up and it’s fun to see all of these characters again (well, except for Anakin) in a mildly diverting story. The idea that both sides are trying to curry favor with Jabba is a good one. There might be too much violence in this film for the kids it’s intended to reach but kids are usually smarter than we give them credit for. They can handle it.