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Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008) *1/2

August 22, 2008

Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008) poster

writen by: Henry Gilroy, Steven Melching, SCott Murphy (screenplay) & George Lucas (story)
produced by: George Lucas & Catherine Winder
directed by: Dave Filoni
rated PG (for sci-fi action violence throughout, brief language and momentary smoking)
1 hr. 38 min.
U.S. release: August 15, 2008
DVD & Blu-Ray release date: November 11, 2008


I took my 8 year-old nephew to see this movie opening weekend and one of us had fun. As we sat in the large, barely-filled theater, I looked upon him in my sleepy haze of boredom and noticed how entranced he was at the intergalactic fantasia before us. I was saddened though. I wished more than anything that it was the summer of 1977 again and my dear nephew could witness the sheer wonder of the introduction to a world that shaped my childhood in a most amazing way. Alas, that is impossible. There is no way to physically and as in the case with this film, cinematically recapture that initial experience. Creator George Lucas couldn’t do it with his prequel trilogy and he’s proved once again that he cannot deliver the magic of the original trilogy in this animated form…..nor can he let go.

I’ll try to describe this formulaic story here with it’s plot contrivances, lazy expositions and inane characters but I gotta tell you….I fell asleep a couple times. That’s right. And I never fall asleep in a movie theater! Ever! Sure, it was boring but bottom line (except for a handful of scenes) it just didn’t hold my interest. I just had to put that out there in case I miss a few things as I tell the story. The film opens with a lazy intro, gone is the dramatic opening crawl of the yellow letters we are used to seeing in the other theatrical releases. Instead we get a “the story so far” voice narration panning several scenes in an effort to throw us into the raging Clone Wars spread across the galaxy.
Padawan learner Ahoska and Jedi mentor  Anakin Skywalker in Warner Bros. Pictures' Star Wars: The Clone Wars
Word is out across the universe that the kidnapping of Jabba the Hutt’s infant son Rotta presents a new problem for the Galactic Republic. The Jedi Council take Anakin Skywalker (voiced by Matt Lanter) and Obi-Wan Kenobi (James Arnold Taylor) out of battle and assign them the mission to return the baby Hutt to Jabba in order to ensure good standing with the gangster, so critical space routes can be available. The Jedi are accompanied by a padawan (that’s a Jedi intern) young Ahsoka Tano (Ashley Eckstein), who is given to Anakin despite his disapproval. As in the prequels, we see Yoda divvy out responsibilities in an effort to tell the audience who’s gonna go where and why. Obi-Wan is sent off to thwart Count Dooku’s (Christopher Lee earning a paycheck) evil schemes on Tatooine while Anakin (still petulant and whiny) and Ashoka (green and eager) are left in charge of the smelly little Hutt-let, eager to return the child to Tatooine safely before Jabba sides with the Separatists and the war plunges further into chaos.
Of course, there are some other familiar supporting Star Wars characters present here but none are ever really given much to do. Mace Windu (Samuel L. Jackson) hangs with Yoda and nods his head, Artoo shows off  his usual “save the day” action while assisting Anakin, and Senator Amidala (Catherine Taber) encounters Jabba’s uncle, the effeminate Ziro the Hutt on the wrong side of Coruscant in an effort to assist the Jedi. Ziro sounds like Truman Capote and is clearly a gay stereotype that makes what Jar Jar Binks represented to the island of Jamaica look subtle by comparison. He’s right up there with the lamest Star Wars characters ever created. Thank you very little, Mr. Lucas! 
Captain Rex  and Obi-Wan Kenobi in Warner Bros. Pictures' Star Wars: The Clone Wars
This all takes place between the last two live-action prequels, Episode II and III and the problem with that is….who cares? There’s already two excellent volumes of Clone Wars stories with superior quality animation by Genndy Tartakowsky, so why in the world would we need more filler? Anyone who’s seen the prequel trilogy knows the date of these characters from The Clone Wars, so why bother? There’s just no real drama here cuz we know the future. Does it really matter that Anakin Skywalker has a lightsaber duel with Count Dooku when we already know what happens in Episode III? No. It’s just an excuse to give the kiddies something to “Ooooo” and “Ahhhhh” over.
Now, the film does have a few impressive actions scenes, the most notable of which is a vertical assault on a cliff-side fortress. This allows for the Jedi characters to do something besides repetitively slice ineffective battledroids. The visuals are unique here as the large AT-TE walkers climb up the cliff. Another impressive scene features Anakin piloting a clunker of a ship around a Republic Cruiser while being pursued by enemy ships.  Still, if these scenes are the highlight of a Star Wars film, that’s just sad.
No matter what way you flip it, Anakin Skywalker was a selfish brat who gave into fear and anger while The Jedi Council were just too dumb, gullible or limited to know how to deal with him. So, I’m tired of seeing him as a hero cuz he just doesn’t cut it for me. You can show yourself a hero in action but if your heart ain’t in it and you’re not doing it for the sake of others, then forget about it. Yes, he redeemed himself in Episode VI, but all through the prequels he remained unfaithful to the Jedi Order and while that’s another topic entirely it does support why I cannot sit here and root for a guy who will go on to destroy anything good and of value.
It’s quite obvious to me who this movie was for. All I had to do was turn to the right of me and see my lil nephew’s gaping mouth. It’s too bad Lucas has to polarize the now thirty-something fans of the Star Wars universe who remember themselves sitting in the theater just like my nephew. Time does that I suppose, you can never go back and all that but I was hoping to live vicariously through another youth. I don’t like what’s being done with the universe I grew up not to mention the writing and style of animation is luke (pun intended) warm at best. That’s not to say that “The Clone Wars” cannot be enjoyed, just not by me. Of course, in the twilight of the summer movie season,  there are worse alternatives out there at the local multiplex but I would suggest skipping the theater altogether (gasp!) and spoiling the child on a heavy helping of  ice cream.


  Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008) 2

Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008) poster

Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008) poster 3

Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008) poster 4

Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008) 3

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