- Rated PG
- Buy the DVD
All photos © Warner Bros.
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
here was a time when a new “Star Wars” movie meant something, but ever since the release of the prequel films, the fandom surrounding George Lucas’ sci-fi franchise has cooled down considerably. That doesn’t mean there still aren’t diehard fans who would gladly welcome any “Star Wars”-related project with open arms, but over the course of the last ten years, the series has gradually become geared more towards a younger audience.
“Star Wars: The Clone Wars” is the culmination of that devolvement – a proposed 100-episode animated TV series that fills in the three-year gap between “Attack of the Clones” and “Return of the Sith.” Apparently, Genndy Tartakovsky’s Emmy-winning miniseries didn’t do a good enough job, and while the new “Clone Wars” features improved visuals and increased action, the show’s big screen premiere fails to exist as anything other than a 90-minute commercial for the inevitable toy line.
The story picks up in the middle of the Clone Wars as Count Dooku (Christopher Lee) continues to make headway in his plot to bring down the Republic. Determined to get some kind of advantage over their enemies, the Jedi strike a deal with Jabba the Hutt that would allow them access to his trade routes. In return, they must retrieve Jabba’s son, who has been kidnapped by the Separatists. Yoda assigns his best men to the job, but when Obi Wan Kenobi (James Arnold Taylor) is stuck leading the Clone Troopers in battle against Dooku’s droid army, Anakin Skywalker (Matt Latner) and his new Padawan, Ahsoka Tano (Ashley Eckstein), are left to fend for themselves. Standing in their way is Dooku’s apprentice, Asajj Ventress, who’s been tasked with killing the young Hutt and blaming it on the Jedis.
Essentially four episodes strung together to form a full-length feature, “The Clone Wars” looks and feels like a TV show. The animation is solid, but not exactly mind-blowing, while the second-rate story feels like a piece of fan fiction. When the audience isn’t being bored to death by a series of meaningless battles (sure, Clone Troopers are dying, but they can just make more, right?), they’re subjected to one of the dumbest “Star Wars” subplots ever created. George Lucas has been known to put some pretty childish things into his movies (Ewoks, Jar Jar Binks, etc.), but he should have drawn the line at Baby Hutt. This little turd with arms isn’t remotely as cute as Lucas thinks it is, and yet he’s adoringly referred to as Stinko by Ahsoka throughout the film. The idea that Jabba the Hutt (one of the galaxy’s most ruthless criminals) has fathered a child is ludicrous enough, but then you’re introduced to his uncle, Ziro the Hutt, a flamboyant club owner who sounds like the unholy lovechild of Eric Cartman and Foghorn Leghorn, and all bets are off.
How a character like this even made it into a “Star Wars” movie (let alone one targeted towards kids) is beyond me, but it’s probably not the direction that older fans were hoping the series would take. Even if you could somehow look past this particular creative decision, “The Clone Wars” is still plagued with issues – like how Anakin and Ahsoka bicker like high-schoolers, or how most of the original talent (save for Christopher Lee, Samuel L. Jackson, Anthony Daniels and Ian Abercrombie) have all been recast by voice actors who, with the exception of James Arnold Taylor, sound like lousy impersonations of the characters they’re playing.
“Star Wars” movies have always been enjoyable (if flawed), but “The Clone Wars” is seriously lacking the spirit of its predecessors. One might usually find solace in the knowledge that the creator of their favorite movie franchise still has complete control over all projects, but when that person is George Lucas, people tend to get nervous. Only Lucas can truly destroy “Star Wars,” and while he hasn’t quite done that with “The Clone Wars,” he has knocked the franchise down yet another notch in quality. This was meant for the small screen, and it should have been left that way.