Review: Star Wars – The Clone Wars

August 16, 2008 at 11:06 am 4 comments

It’s painfully obvious that this was meant to be a 2-hour television series premiere.  What Lucasfilm was able to cram into the 98-minute runtime, however, is entertaining, despite the usual Star Wars flaws.  Star Wars – The Clone Wars fills in the gap between Epsiodes II (Attack of the Clones) and III (Revenge of the Sith), continuing on what was started in Cartoon Network’s animated mini-series (also called Clone Wars), created by Dexter’s Laboratory mastermind Gendy Tartakovsky.

During the height of the Clone Wars conflict between the Galactic Republic and the Confederation of Independent Systems, Outer Rim gangster Jabba the Hutt’s son is kidnapped.  This leads to a race between the Republic and the CIS to find him in order to win the allegiance of Jabba, whose hyperspace lanes each side needs for the war effort.  Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker are sent to investigate.  To top it all off, Anakin is given a padawan learner, Ahsoka, to train; a duty Skywalker does not want.

The good news is that there’s plenty of action to keep an audience occupied.  What downtime there is only lasts a few short minutes before we’re off to the next big battle.  The action comes fast and hits hard; the opening battle, on a planet called Christophsis, is really well-done, rivaling many of the action sequences in the live-action movies.  The explosions are big and loud, clones and droids get shot and blown up, and the camera always seems to be in the thick of it.  A very eye-catching scene.

The Jedi battles are also fun to watch, but definitely no where near as cool as watching Qui-Gonn and Obi-Wan vs Darth Maul n The Phantom Menace, or the epic Obi-Wan vs Anakin duel in Revenge of the Sith.  Staying true to the animation, the melee combat moves a bit jerky and, well, cartoonish, but considering the visual style, it doesn’t seem out of place.  Director David Filoni and the writing team do a decent job of setting a more militaristic mood for the series, giving us a little more time with the Republic’s clone soldiers.  On a side note, the video game Battlefront II gives a surprisingly deep and detailed account of the lives of these seemingly faceless clones.

The animation itself is fine.  While, quality-wise, no where near as good as something like the amazing Wall-E, it is in step with the original mini-series.  There are times, though, when the CG looked so good, I thought it was an actual model.  Some close-ups of the ships, clone soldiers, and even R2-D2 are rendered very well.

The bad news is that most of the flaws apparent in the live-action films are present here, most notably bad dialogue.  What really bothered me was the bantering between the CIS droids.  Do battle droids really need to talk in the first place?  Fine, I’ll accept that, but they’re constantly bickering and they sound inept, making them seem like innefective soldiers.  They’re supposed to provide some comic relief, but they make the CIS less of a threat to me, and not this peace-threatening revolt that’s destroying the galaxy.

Also, Ahsoka calls Anakin ‘Sky Guy’.  Really?  That’s stupid.  Anakin has a nickname for her, too, but Sky Guy is just retarded.  Obi-Wan’s dialogue isn’t really that much improved from the series, either.  Everything he says, especially to the villains sounds like some smarmy comment.  Jedi are supposed to be humble, and Obi-Wan doesn’t sound like it half the time.  The story itself is pretty segmented; you can tell that this was a 2- or 3-part series premiere strung together.  The overall story arc remains intact, but it’s obvious where one episode ends and another begins.

The music is OK, but it certainly doesn’t feel like Star Wars music.  I would’ve liked to see John Williams return to compose the music for the movie, but it’s not terrible, just out of place.  There was definitely some modern-day influences, especially with the percussion and some electric guitar riffs.  And there’s something to be said about the opening logos.  It’s just not the same without seeing and hearing the 20th Century Fox Fanfare right before the Lucasfilm logo.  The Warner Bros. logo just isn’t that cool.  I had the same feeling when watching Casino Royale and having the Columbia Pictures logo (I prefer just the MGM lion, thank you very much).  It’s just…weird.  And no opening title crawl?!  I don’t really care if there isn’t one in the beginning of each episode of the show, but this is supposed to be a Star Wars movie!  Put in a damn title crawl!

For those that are confused with the new Sith villain, Asajj Ventress, she was introduced in the 2D animated Clone Wars a few years ago.  He scenes are actually kind of cool, and the battle between her and Obi-Wan was nice.  She also has a funny moment involving a battle droid asking for a status update.  Darth Tyranus is back, but doesn’t really do much.  His character does set up some plot elements, but that’s really about it.  I expect there’s going to be much more from him in the show.

The voice cast is fine, but the only actors reprising their live-action roles are Anthony Daniels (C-3P0), Christopher Lee (Count Dooku/Darth Tyranus), and Samuel L. Jackson (Mace Windu).  The actors playing Anakin, Obi-Wan, Yoda, and Padme do sound a lot like the actors that originally portrayed them, but it’s not the same.  Not surprising, though, as they don’t want too many voice discrepancies between this movie and the show.

Star Wars – The Clone Wars is really for die-hard fans only.  It is really made for kids, although adults with a soft spot for the franchise will find some enjoyment out of this.  I’m actually glad they turned the series premiere into a movie, because on the technical side of things, it’s very much like the live-action counterparts: loud and colorful.  There’s also some elements of old-school Erol Flynn-type swashbuckling here, which was present in The Empire Strikes Back, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith.  I am very much excited for the Cartoon Network series (as well as the planned live-action show that’s supposed to take place between Episodes III and IV), and I hope the show is a better format for this type of storytelling.  Still, it’s a decent movie that hardcore fans shouldn’t pass up to see on the big screen.

7/10

Was it me, or was Ahsoka calling R2-D2 by some other name?  Sounded like, R2E, or something like that.  Weird.

(images from Yahoo!)

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. laurynomaly  |  August 16, 2008 at 2:29 pm

    You gave it a 7? That’s a lot of credit to give where there wasn’t much due. I do like it simply because it carried the Star Wars name. It’s really not fair for me to be so harsh or so critical, considering the series is mainly directed at kids, but too bad. George Lucas should really appeal to its old fan-girl and fan-boy audiences too.

    Reply
  • 2. laurynomaly  |  August 16, 2008 at 2:30 pm

    Star Wars 3-D, though. What do you know about that?

    Reply
  • 3. Laurelai  |  August 19, 2008 at 7:12 pm

    Is the domestic box office report that you gave me adjusted for inflation?

    Reply
  • 4. Fortress Guy  |  April 23, 2009 at 7:11 pm

    Nice review. I like the pics and the dry humor. Yeah, the battle droids were a little chatty. And “Sky Guy”? Yeah, I agree with you that they could do better.

    The movie was not so good overall. It should have been three episodes instead. The series is better.

    Here is my take on the whole first season (with pics) if you are interested:

    http://fortresstakes.wordpress.com/2009/04/23/star-wars-the-clone-wars-2008-season-1-22-episodes/

    Reply

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