Star Wars: The Clone Wars


Matt Lanter as Anakin Skywalker (voice)
Ashley Eckstein as Ahsoka Tano (voice)
James Arnold Taylor as Obi-Wan Kenobi / 4-A7 / Medical Droid (voice)
Dee Bradley Baker as Clone Troopers / Captain Rex / Cody (voice)
Tom Kane as Yoda / Narrator / Admiral Yularen (voice)
Nika Futterman as Asajj Ventress / Tee-C-Seventy (voice)
Ian Abercrombie as Chancellor Palpatine / Darth Sidious (voice)
Corey Burton as General Loathsom / Ziro the Hutt / Kronos-327 (voice)
Catherine Taber as Padmé Amidala (voice)
Matthew Wood as Battle Droids (voice)
Kevin Michael Richardson as Jabba the Hutt (voice)
David Acord as Rotta the Huttlet (voice)
Samuel L. Jackson as Mace Windu (voice)
Anthony Daniels as C-3PO (voice)
Christopher Lee as Count Dooku (voice)

The good news… it’s “Star Wars.” The bad news… it’s ‘that’ “Star Wars.” “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” tries, but ultimately falls short in overcoming the obstacles put in place by the prequels and its awkward conception as a feature film.

Lodged between “Attack of the Clones” and “Revenge of the Sith,” “Clone Wars” is the first of many planned tales of the struggle between the evil Separatists and the galactic Republic. As the Separatists and their droid armies seek to ally (mostly by force) new planets to their cause, the Republic moves to keep more systems from breaking away and joining the movement. Count Dooku, former Jedi and Separatist leader, launches a plan to cripple the Republic’s routes to the Outer Rim, thus making the pickings easier for the Separatists and swinging momentum of the Clone Wars in their favor.

The Good:
Full disclosure first… big “Star Wars” fan here. I’ve seen the original trilogy countless times, bought the toys, dressed as Yoda for Halloween, the whole works. Not that Lucasfilm can do no wrong mind you… we all saw the prequels, right? But, to borrow a popular “Star Wars” phrase, ‘there is good’ in “The Clone Wars.” As much as it is getting slammed on the web, I liked the animation style adopted for film, and subsequent cartoon. No, its not Genndy Tartakovsky’s “Clone Wars,” but that doesn’t make it bad. The ‘painted’ and stylized look of the characters, especially during close-ups, offered a lot of detail not seen in other digitally animated films. There are some rough animation moments in the movie, but I’m a believer in the overall aesthetic.

I also dug the character designs for the most part. For instance, giving the bad guys more distorted, grotesque features – the extra-long face of Dooku or the gnarled fingers of Sidious/Palpatine. The animation crew did keep a lot of the anime style (read: big eyes) originally envisioned for the cartoon by Lucas, but it didn’t detract from the overall design scheme.

While a bit herky-jerky, I also liked the lion’s share of action sequences in the movie. Many of the battle scenes are laser-filled chaos, but it is how I would imagine “The Clone Wars” being.

As for the characters themselves, especially the new ones, I had little trouble with any of them. I believe Anakin’s padawan Ahsoka will either be loved or hated, with little grey area. I didn’t have much of a problem with her. A little cutesy with all the nicknames at times, but she’s a young girl… and a bit of a rebel to boot.

The voice acting was solid. The new actors that voiced established prequel characters did a fine job… Obi-Wan sounded like Obi-Wan. Yoda was Yoda, and so on.

(One benefit caveat here: I was lucky enough to be in San Diego a couple of weeks back and saw a good portion of one of the episodes of “The Clone Wars” that will air later this year. Having seen that helped me with the movie. It also opened up the scope of the show a bit more to me. There are not a lot of different characters in the “Clone Wars” movie, but there are a ton of both good and bad guys whose stories will be told in the show.)

The Bad:
Spoilers to follow, kids. The story is lame. Separatists kidnap Jabba the Hutt’s son (who knew, right?) in a bid to pin the crime on the Jedi/Republic. They then plan to ‘rescue’ the Huttling and win Jabba’s favor so that he would allow their armies, and not the Republic’s troops, to move freely in the space lanes the Hutts control. The party that can move freely in the Hutt’s territory would have a leg up on the other as the war stretches into the Outer Rim. Doesn’t sound too bad really, but it ends up being rather silly. You’ll need to remind yourself that this is a kid’s show. Given that, the move to jam a three-episode arc together and release it as a movie was probably a bad strategy. Mainly because these feel like episodes, and not a feature film.

Then there is the padawan Ahsoka Tano. Like I said above, I had no real problems with Ahsoka, save one. What the heck is she wearing?! This is supposed to be a tweenager or so, but she’s running around in a tube top and a mini-skirt! Now judging by the only other Togrutan (her species) I have ever seen, Jedi Master Shaak Ti, the outfit seems pretty out of place. Someone find this girl a robe… you’re Jedi, you have plenty! Probably not the best message to send young girls already bombarded with a slew of semi-clothed pop tarts on TV, in magazines and on the ‘net.

Another character that has generated a lot of ‘net rumblings is Ziro the Hutt. Ziro is Jabba’s uncle who holds court in downtown Coruscant. Is Ziro gay? Who knows. Is he effeminate? Most definitely. Does he sound like a cross between a deep-south cross dresser and Truman Capote. Well… yeah, kinda. He’s an awkward character, painted up half purple with good portion of his sluggy body all inked up with tattoos. He sports some sort of feathered headband as well. He’s a real head-scratcher. Not sure where the Lucasfilm crew was going with the creation of Ziro, but I don’t think they got there.

Lastly, the score. You’ll notice right off the the main theme has been altered. It straddles the line somewhere between hip update and bad remake. For me, it’s more the latter. The soaring battle music from “Star Wars” movies past is mostly replaced with canned alt-rock mush. Color me unimpressed.

The Verdict:
I’m going to grade “The Clone Wars” movie a ‘near hit’. Director Dave Filoni and crew came fairly close to making a cool little “Star Wars” movie. The movie is not as bad as it could have been, nor is it as good as it should have been. I liked it better than most of the stuff in the first two prequels, but that’s not saying much. In the end, “The Clone Wars” did not put me off wanting to watch the cartoon when it lands this fall, but it also didn’t make me plan to go out of my way to catch every episode. I’ll most likely check in when I remember to, and likely buy the DVD set once it lands in stores. I also need to remember that this film was not made for me… my generation… but for today’s group of younglings still getting acquainted with the “Star Wars” universe.