Sunday, August 17, 2008

Review: Star Wars: The Clone Wars (***)

Featuring the voices of Matt Lanter, Ashley Eckstein, and James Arnold Taylor
Directed by Dave Filoni
Rated PG for sci-fi action violence throughout, brief language, and momentary smoking
99 minutes

Imagine my surprise after the horrid trailers for Star Wars: The Clone Wars that the film works, despite a somewhat uneventful beginning that includes some of the worst narration ever spoken. Its animation is rather standard, but like the rest of the film, it’s better than expected from those hideous advertisements, some moments genuinely beautiful to look at. This may not quite be the Star Wars you’re familiar with, but it’s a fun little diversion.

Clone Wars acts as nothing else than filler for what happened between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, but luckily it’s entertaining filler. Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi are animated this time, in what is basically a theatrical pilot episode for a future Cartoon Network series. Their mission this time around is to retrieve Jabba the Hutt’s son from the clutches of an unknown villain. Obi-Wan and tiny Jedi master Yoda are stumped, but Anakin thinks Count Dooku is involved (and he isn’t wrong).

What works here is none other than the insanely exciting action sequences (my favorite is an impressively mounted—and vertical—battle on the side of a mountain that goes on for at least fifteen minutes and never feels it), rather than characters or exposition. Really, the action is what Star Wars fans are going to see, and it’s wonderfully animated.

If you want to talk to a true Star Wars fan, talk to me. I have grown up with George Lucas’ original three-film series, as well as the impressive (to me, at least) “prequilogy”. Now this. As with Attack of the Clones, by far the weakest of the live-action films, second-rate Star Wars movies are still better than some. This is no WALL-E, but after that Space Chimps debacle, I liked this film just fine. It does service to the Star Wars universe, and it’s fun.

Are there flaws? Yes, many. For instance, would it be so hard to stick to the original musical score? It’s weird enough not seeing the Twentieth Century Fox logo in front of a movie in this series, and weirder still to hear a murdered version of the famous tune. Also, the characters are poorly animated, like a cross between humans and the characters in a Legos video game. This sometimes proves to be a hindrance to enjoying the movie. Finally, the dialogue is worse than usual for a Star Wars film, most of the humor by way of jokester droids. The words that Ahsoka has to say are bland, not revealing her character at all.

But, all-in-all, Star Wars: The Clone Wars is a success, if not an overwhelming one. I liked the spirit of the film over everything, as well as its stubborn refusal to avoid going to surprisingly dark places for a PG-rated, animated film.

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