Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008): **
Directed by Dave Filoni
This movie got hideously vilified when it was released into theaters,
but really there isn't very much that is actively bad in it. It's
only real problem was that it should never have been released into
theaters to begin with.
SWtCW is really just the three-part pilot of the Cartoon
Network television series, crammed together and released into theaters
to make a quick buck (at which it succeeded admirably; it had a
budget of about $8mil and easily made $35mil) and promote the up-coming
TV show. The movie doesn't have any appreciably higher budget than
the TV show, leading to some scenes having some awkward animation
and lazy compositions. So even at its best it still just kinda felt
like a big long advertisement for something you should watch later.
One thing I did appreciate about the film was that it brought back
the old-school Star Wars story formula that appeared in 4 of the
6 films: The Interrupted Quest. Episodes 1, 4, 5, &
6 are all based on the idea of having one simple, clear
goal throughout the movie that the protagonists are trying to accomplish,
but they keep on getting side-tracked by all manner of problems
being thrown at them. In Episode 1 they're trying to get
Padme to the senate so she can plead for help. In Episode 4
it's that they have to get the plans in R2D2 to the rebellion. In
Episode 5 they're just trying to meet up at the rendezvous
point. Episode 6 has two Interrupted Quests back-to-back:
first they try to save Han from Jabba, then they're trying to blow
up the shield generator on Endor. In Clone Wars they're
trying to rescue Jabba the Hutt's son and return him to his home
on Tatooine. But first they gotta deal with all kinds of problems
being thrown at them. Here's some bad: Jabba's kid, when they rescue
him, turns out to be a Snarf character, and is horribly annoying
every moment he's on the screen.
Since the movie was made from three episodes crammed together,
there are really three very clear acts to the movie. Easily the
most successful one is the 2nd act, where the protagonists raid
a cliff-top monastery where Jabba's kid is being held captive. There
are some very entertaining action sequences here, such as a large-scale
battle on a vertical surface, and some air-based fighting. There
is also a well-done lightsaber duel between Asajj Ventress and Obi-Wan.
The over-arcing character story of the movie deals with Anakin.
The Jedi council is (justifiably) concerned about his maturity level.
And so they assign him a student (padawan), a youngish girl named
Ashoka, in a hope that being thrust into a teacher role will help
him grow up and settle down a little bit (it worked for Obi-Wan
after all). And it does seem to work some as Anakin changes from
his inital resentment at being saddled with this burden to coming
to respect and honor the responsiblity. But it brings up some ominous
thoughts: we know this movie takes place before Episode III,
and we know that at the beginning of Episode III Anakin
does not have a padawan. So what happenes to her before Episode
III? Why doesn't Anakin mention her even once? I guess we'll
have to watch the show to find out.
A nice detail was the voice work of Christopher Lee and Samuel
L. Jackson reprising their roles from the prequel movies. And of
course Anthony Daniels as C-3PO. The other voice acting is hit-and-miss.
James Arnold Taylor sounds almost exactly like Ewan MacGregor's
Obi-Wan. Matt Lanter is actually a bit more charismatic than Hayden
Christensen's Anakin. Tom Kane just doesn't quite do Frank Oz's
Yoda justice. And Ashely Eckstein as Ashoka is horribly un-appealingly
"sassy" and made it very, very difficult to care at all
about the character.
The very stylized art style of the movie grew on me as I was watching
it. I kinda liked the way all of the surfaces--even skin and clothes--looked
as though they'd been painted with brushes. It was as if they were
going for more of a stop-motion, physical puppet look rather than
a more contemporary CGI style.
So there is nothing in this film to inspire the resentment it garnered.
Reviewers, I think, were just angry that it was in theaters at all
when it is clearly just a TV show. That's a legitimate complaint,
but let's not make a mountain out of a molehill. As at TV pilot
it's pretty good; as a movie it's only okay.