STAR WARS: THE
STARRING: Christopher Lee, Samuel
L Jackson, Dee Bradley Baker, Ashley Eckstein, Catherine Taber, Matt Lanter,
Ashley Drane, Grey DeLisle, Anthony Daniels
2008, 98 Minutes, Directed by:
of all the astonishing sights and sounds plastered to the big screen by the
George Lucas franchise juggernaut Star Wars, I think
the last item on the average fan's wish list of things to see was Teen Girl
Jedi. Not that the inclusion of more female warriors is something to be shamed,
but this puberty-bound knight is indicative the infantilized experience put
forth by The Clone Wars.
With the Clone Wars raging on,
spreading out across the galaxy, a new predicament has appeared to challenge the
Galactic Republic: the kidnapping of Jabba the Hutt's infant son, Rotta.
Dispatching Anakin Skywalker (voiced by Matt Lanter) and Obi-Wan Kenobi (James
Arnold Taylor) to return the baby to Jabba so critical space routes can be freed
up, the Jedi are accompanied by young Ahsoka Tano (Ashley Eckstein), who is
given to Anakin as is Padawan Learner. With Obi-Wan off to thwart Count Dooku's
evil schemes, Anakin and Ashoka are left in charge of the smelly little slug,
eager to return the child to Tatooine safely before Jabba sides with the
Separatists and the war plunges further into chaos.
Essentially a pilot episode for
the upcoming Clone Wars televisions series due this autumn, this
CG-animated effort is making a pit stop on the big screen to goose some
excitement for this unique detour in the Star Wars universe. Directed by
Dave Filoni, Clone Wars attempts to drum up a few fistfuls of conflict within a
plotline that runs between Attack of the Clones and
Revenge of the Sith. The audience already knows
how the whole Skywalker saga concludes, but there's a horde of other action
tangents and unanswered question to pursue here, such as: did Jabba have a gay
uncle named Ziro?
"Clone Wars isn't shy about reminding the audience
that it's solely a cartoon meant for kids . . ."
Turns out he does! Clone
Wars isn't shy reminding the audience that it's solely a cartoon and more or
less meant for kids, not nitpicky, thirtysomething message-board vultures who
hold all things canon dear to their plastic-light saber hearts. Instead, the film
is a romp; a burst of wall-to-wall action and high-energy duels that plays
merrily in the Star Wars sandbox without the burden of narrative
connection. It's slight, but effective, only requiring a crash helmet for a few
of the script's more outrageous and ill-conceived characterizations.
Rooted firmly in prequel
iconography, Clone Wars takes what Lucas started with his controversial
live-action efforts and embellishes the fantastical fringes further. While
limited by stiff, budget, exaggerated CG animation (the lip-sync is
distractingly terrible), the film works past the monetary limitations with a
strong emphasis on adventure and smash mouth military campaigns. Filoni
concentrates on the explosions and epic grandeur of intergalactic warfare,
embedding the camera with the expendable clone troopers as they battle against
clueless robot infantry. The action comes fast and furious, utilizing famous
Star Wars vistas and sound cues while ratcheting up the velocity of the
combat in a manner that live-action could never match. This extends to the
light saber and spaceship skirmishes, which now ring with a cartoon polish that's
immensely satisfying and often positively electric.
While Clone Wars remains
a kick both in animated bravado and Skywalker nostalgia, the reality of the
screenplay is a matter that pins the film down from true matinee greatness.
the traditionally-animated Clone Wars series of shorts released years
back relied on silence to hook the viewer into Jedi precision, the new picture
is a verbose affair, with each character breathlessly informing the audience of
their every thought. And we're not talking Algonquin round table bon mots, but
juvenile dialogue aimed directly at the nose pickers. It fits accordingly with
the overall intent of the upcoming series, but remains extremely off-putting
with these characters, who nickname the infant Rotta as Stinky, and offer
withered comedic retorts with every step they take.
Because the action is so
forceful and imaginatively animated, it's easy to ignore the relentless chatter.
However, it's hard to turn a blind eye toward a character like Ziro. A
cocktail-hour Hutt stationed in a jazz bar on Coruscant, Ziro has painted
himself purple, wears feathers around his head, and speaks with a lispy Cajun
drawl. What this character means to the overall Star Wars universe is not
for me to answer, but it's a strange, self-aware moment in a rather stoic
picture. It's already a house of horrors thinking about how Jabba even conceived
a child, I don't think introducing his party boy uncle was an artistically
necessary detour. Well, at least Jar-Jar Binks can take a breather as the most
loathed character to emerge from the Lucas magic wand.
With appearances by Jawas, sail
barges, and familiar voices (Samuel L. Jackson, Anthony Daniels, and Christopher
Lee contribute); a few impressive light saber and blaster duels; the rise of a
formidable Sith apprentice threat in Asajj Ventress; and a delightful new
elasticity to all things a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, Clone Wars
can be a complete gas to more open-minded fans, and assured catnip to children.
The occasional sexually-ambiguous Hutt or sass-mouthed, premenstrual Jedi aside,
it's an exciting picture and a tempting commencement for the television series.
- Brian Orndorf