Star Wars: The Clone Wars

September 9 2008 at 9:36 pm (Cinema reviews)

Star Wars films are like Bond films: they all open in the same way. Even before the film starts there’s the 20th Century Fox fanfare, followed by (or preceded by; I can’t remember which) the glittery Lucasfilm logo. Then along comes ‘A long time ago…’, and then bam, the Star Wars logo is right there in your face, before floating away to reveal the opening crawl to the sound of John Williams’ legendary theme.


Star Wars: The Clone Wars ain’t no ordinary Star Wars film though. You get the ‘long time ago’ bit, the Lucasfilm logo and a version of the music, but that’s about it. From the outset, you know that it’s not going to lightsaber the mustard.


The absence, also, of an episode number hides the fact that it’s essentially episode 2.5, so Anakin’s just had his hand lopped off by Count Dooku and married Amidala in secret. The plot that sits between this and the disappointing birth of Darth Vader is preposterous even for such a fanciful franchise. Jabba the Hutt’s son has been kidnapped and the big green slug has promised to help whichever party rescues him. The Jedi council dispatches Anakin and his new Padawan Ahsoka Tano to bring back Rotta the Huttlet (seriously), but Dooku is hot on his tail.


As a story it’s rather a departure from the Star Wars formula. For a start, it includes something that has been largely missing from George Lucas’ previous intergalactic excursions: a MacGuffin, here in the shape of cute little Rotta, who resembles a big bogey with a smiley face drawn on it. The action is even more cartoony (understandably) than we’ve come to expect which means that the film lacks the sense of import that the build up (which, let’s face it, has been over for three years now) required.


As an animation, it does stand up and has some decent scenes, especially the vertical battle of Teth that takes place up the side of a wall. And with more lightsaber action than ever before, it keeps you entertained most of the time.


Still, director Dave Filoni seems to think that because he’s working in animation he can get away with a lot more – he can’t. What we get is the clunkiest dialogue in any Star Wars film yet and some ‘interesting’ (read: bad) interpretations of familiar Star Wars performances. Save for Anthony Daniels, Samuel L. Jackson and Christopher Lee, none of the cast of the prequels has lent their voices. Try not to laugh at Obi-Wan being voiced by a Californian imitating a Scot impersonating a Londoner.


Visually, however, it’s a real treat even if some characters’ hair looks like it’s carved out of wood and marble. There are even a few familiar touches from the original trilogy including the return of the Jawas and the Cantina band. The new characters are typically colourful but not always direct hits. Ashoka is as cute as a button rather than a kick ass superheroine, and Jar Jar Binks can relax now that he’s not the most ludicrously misjudged character in the franchise: enter Ziro the Hutt, Jabba’s camp uncle who seems to be covered in face paint and voiced by Eric Cartman.


Because of the medium, it’s aimed more at kids than any other Star Wars film, even though there’s still a fair bit of political talk and military speak. Adult fans won’t be left wanting more because as it feels like an afterthought, like one film too many. It’s not a total disaster, but it’ll always be remembered as the Never Say Never Again of Star Wars films.


Rating: 3/5


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