Opening 14 Aug 2008
Writing credits: Henry Gilroy, George Lucas, Steven Melching, Scott Murphy
Principal actors: Matt Lanter, Ashley Eckstein, James Arnold Taylor, Dee Bradley Baker, Tom Kane
Over 30 years ago in the first Star Wars film (for the young pups, it has been renamed Star Wars: A New Hope), there was a chat between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Luke Skywalker about Obi and Luke’s father, Anakin, fighting side by side as Jedi knights in the Clone Wars. There you have it: from four lines of dialogue; a new film, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, has come to life.
I wonder what it is like to be producer George Lucas. Does he sleep in Jedi garb, eat at the galactic canteen, practice his light saber moves for sport? It has to be more than monetary motivation that keeps him stuck in his fantasy creations; I’m sure he was an intense, lonely child to raise with the powers of fixation he has displayed in his adult years. Regardless of his one track mind, The Clone Wars is a break from the six previous “real films”, as it is in computer animation form. It was only a matter of time before Lucasfilm and animation married and ran off into the sunset. Prepare yourself for a whole new level of beating a dead horse.
Anakin (aka future Darth Vader) has been assigned a young Padawan apprentice, Ahsoka (orange skin, blue & white tentacle hair á la Jabba slave girl) from Master Yoda. The two are sent on a mission to free Jabba the Hut’s baby son (a little blob that stinks a lot) from the clutches of Count Dooku’s agent Asajj Ventress, in order to garner Jabba’s imperative help in fighting the Clone Wars. Obi Wan Kenobi is also zipping around in his cruiser on Tatooine, working behind the scenes to drum up some more plot and double-plot, but this whole story reeks of Saturday morning cartoon shows. The writers obviously pared down the script to compete with the usual Asian export fantasy fodder that dominates after-school programming for the last decade (One Piece, Yug-I-oh, Bionicles, etc).
Although it does help to understand the Star Wars’ sextuplet “real films”, The Clone Wars is just a jumble of laser fighting, blasts, busy screenwork and dark shadows. I was expecting the cream-of-the-crop in animation, but instead found myself wondering what happened to all those advancements in software. The characters are rendered like they have been stretched too tall, with a lot of grey shadowing and stagnant details, perhaps a slight notch above video game quality (ouch!). Director Dave Filoni got his start playing with the Star Wars action figures with his brother: it shows. Although the angles, backgrounds and fighting sequences are well-done, nothing holds together as it should, resulting in a tiresome, non-epic, noise parade.
Hardcore Star Wars fans will probably love the new venture into animation, salivating over the prospect of unlimited tangents for Lucas to chase (without investing in highly paid actor’s salaries) like a junkie craving the next fix. The merchandise is already stocked on the toy shelves for the 2008 Christmas season or the next Star Wars convention, depending on your age. May the force not to yawn be with you. (Kirstan Böttger)