At the sneak preview for Star Wars: The Clone Wars, two hard-core adult male fans sat immediately behind me. Apparently under the impression that they were in one of their living rooms, they loudly talked, laughed and whooped their way through the entire movie. Normally, I would have asked them to be quiet, or at least shot them the skunk eye every few minutes until they settled down, but I held back because I hoped their enthusiasm might help get me juiced up. It didn’t work, but I’m glad to know that somebody liked the film as much as they did.
I loved the original Star Wars trilogy and most certainly didn’t love the most recent three films. As for this animated feature, it was OK, I guess.
A bit of background. Oct. 3, an animated TV series called Star Wars: The Clone Wars will debut on the Cartoon Network. There will be at least 100 installments and 30 are already finished. Supposedly, Star Wars Grand Poobah George Lucas was so excited when he saw the first batch of shows that he decided a movie should precede their premiere. So here we are with a movie reportedly cobbled together from the first three episodes of the TV series.
Should you see it? If you’re a devoted Star Wars fan, you already have purchased your tickets. If you’re a more casual fan, you probably would be better served waiting and watching the show on TV. If you’re a non-fan, I suggest you check out one of the three engaging documentaries opening this Friday: Man on Wire, Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired and American Teen.
So what’s the plot? I dunno. I heard a lot of exposition, just like with the most recent three live-action movies, and the words flew by my ears like confetti on a windy day. Two big factions are fighting each other and treachery is involved, I’m pretty sure about that. More immediately, the son of Jabba the Hut, the big slug-like gangster we first met in The Empire Strikes Back, has been kidnapped and the Jedi are trying to rescue him so that Jabba will allow their side of the conflict to pass through his turf.
Obi-Wan Kenobi (voiced by James Arnold Taylor) and Anakin Skywalker (Matt Lanter) are joined by a spunky young Jedi trainee named Ahsoka Tano (Ashley Eckstein). Anakin is assigned to train her and to trade quips in the midst of battle. If the actors’ names are unfamiliar, remember, this is a TV cartoon. Of the movie cast, the only returning members are Anthony Daniels as C-3PO, Samuel L. Jackson as Mace Windu and Christopher Lee as Count Dooku.
The film is basically a series of big battle scenes punctuated by exposition, comic relief and a bit of character bonding. The non-human animation is fine, but it takes some time to adjust to the people, who are drawn in a stylized fashion. Some have said that the blocky characters resemble the Easter Island statues, but I thought they looked like the kind of wood carvings you see on totem poles. Regardless, they aren’t very expressive and they move awkwardly, except during the battle scenes.
Battle scenes are really what this all boils down to — if you like lots of fighting, you will get it. But there’s no sense of wonder here, none of the charming character moments that made the first three films so memorable. The film plays like what it is: a cartoon made-for-TV spin-off. Serviceable, but not enough.