Movie Reviews

Star Wars: The Clone Wars

Reviewed by: Scott Chitwood
Rating: 7 out of 10
Movie Details: View here

Cast:
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)

Summary:
"Star Wars: The Clone Wars" has some nice animation, some good action, and a great new 'girl power' character in Ahsoka. Kids will especially love it. However, it still feels episodic rather than like a feature length story, there is little suspense, and some of it feels repetitive after the prequels.

Story:
Some time between "Attack of the Clones" and "Revenge of the Sith," the Clone Wars rage on. Amid the spreading conflict, Obi-Wan and Anakin continue their battle against the Separatists. But in the middle of this, Anakin gets an unexpected surprise – a new apprentice. Young Jedi Padawan Ahsoka Tano is assigned to be his new student. The two don't get along, yet somehow they manage to work well as a team.

Ahsoka and Anakin face a new challenge when Jabba the Hutt's son, Rotta, is kidnapped by Count Dooku and Asajj Ventress. Yoda and Mace Windu assign them to recover the infant Hutt in an effort to win Jabba's help in the war. But little do the Jedi know that the kidnapping is part of a bigger plot by the Sith Lords.

"Star Wars: The Clone Wars" is rated PG for sci-fi action violence throughout, brief language and momentary smoking.

What Worked:
As a "Star Wars" mega-geek, I have to admit that it's fun to see "Star Wars" on the big screen in any form. Any time I can take my kids to the theater to see a "Star Wars" movie, it's an entertaining experience for me. And my kids thoroughly enjoyed "Clone Wars." What surprised me is that my 9-year-old daughter enjoyed it, too. That was probably in large part to the new character, Ahsoka Tano, and the years of brainwashing I've subjected her to as a "Star Wars" loving Dad.

That being said, Ahsoka Tano is a great new addition to the "Star Wars" Universe. Her character has a cool design, she makes the story accessible to both girls and boys, and she's a great apprentice for Anakin Skywalker. She's like a mirror that reflects all of Anakin's flaws and strengths. Plus she adds some much needed humor to the otherwise dark prequels (I'm blocking Jar Jar Binks from my memory). And while this new character is fun to be introduced to, seeing old favorites like Jabba, the Jawas, R2-D2 are what make this feel more genuinely 'Star Wars.'

The animation takes a little getting used to, but it is impressive. The animation of the character's mouths is pretty awful, but the style of the characters catches the eye. The far backgrounds look painted while the characters, when shown close up, have an almost painted look to them. There's nothing revolutionary about the animation, but it is pretty. They also add cool little touches here and there. For example, one of the gunships has a dancing girl painted onto its nose. Way cool.

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 cool 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. Finally, a battle in the Tatooine desert between Anakin and Dooku features some cool visuals.

I also have to mention the battledroids. Some of their antics may annoy adults, but my kids were cracking up at all their funny moments. It's always a good laugh when one is horribly destroyed.

What Didn't Work:
"Clone Wars" has several big flaws. One of which is the fact that this was originally intended to be three TV episodes, not a feature film. Unfortunately, it still feels like three TV episodes. The story is broken up into distinct chapters, there are three distinct 'endings' of each chapter, and some of the dialogue is a bit repetitive as it would have been a recap between previously-aired episodes. The makes the movie lack a continuous narrative and there's no satisfying 'big finale'.

Another big problem is the fact that you already know what will happen (also a problem in the prequels). You know exactly what will happen to Anakin, Obi-Wan, R2, Padme, C-3PO, Mace, Yoda, Palpatine, Dooku, etc etc etc. The only character you don't know the fate of is Ahsoka and that's probably a part of what makes her interesting. This utter lack of suspense makes the story less engaging.

A lot of the story is somewhat repetitive. There are only so many battles between Clone Troopers and droids that you can watch before you've seen it all. As big as the action was, it wasn't anything we hadn't seen before. And I think that's what made anything that wasn't Jedi chopping droids all the more interesting. When the story finally broke from the Clone Wars and took us to Jabba's Palace, that's when things got better in the film.

"Clone Wars" also lacked two important features – the "Star Wars" theme and an opening crawl. Instead of the usual scrolling dialogue at the opening of the movie, we're bombarded with a newsreel narrative that is a bit jarring and does nothing to really ease you into the story. It was too abrupt. And the lack of the theme did nothing to help give the movie the old "Star Wars" feel. In fact, a lot of the music was a big departure from John Williams' orchestration. In some scenes, rock music plays with drums and an electric guitar. In other scenes, drums and wailing lyrics feel like they were ripped out of "Battlestar Galactica." The music fit the story, but it seemed to copy the notable TV score.

I also have to mention Ziro the Hutt. The character has an interesting look, has some cool IG-88 guard droids, and gives us a glimpse into the underbelly of Coruscant. However, he's otherwise a disaster. He speaks English rather than Huttese, and that was always a charm of Jabba. Then, on top of that, he speaks with an annoying, whiny, Southern accent. Imagine an effeminate high pitched Boss Hog and you get the idea. And the character is supposed to be male, but it looks and sounds female in many respects. Changing the voice and the gender of the character would have helped a lot.

The Bottom Line:
"Star Wars: The Clone Wars" is a great start to the TV series but maybe not the best feature film. Nevertheless, kids will love it and adult "Star Wars" fans will want to check it out. I'm going to give it 7 out of 10, but I freely admit that may be generous.

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