Pre-1999, the Star Wars fan universe was a loyally committed group in the millions and deemed George Lucas a surrogate God. The release of “The Phantom Menace” on May 19th, 1999 saw the many fanboys feeling utterly spited by their holiness and after two other films (the third of which was not completely unappealing) the masses had turned in their memberships and vowed that their once lord and savior was actually the devil himself. While this is all a bit of an exaggeration, it still hurts to hear anyone dare mention the unconscionable Jar Jar Binks or to reminisce the hack acting of Hayden Christiansen.
Last week saw the unprecedented theatrical release of “Star Wars: The Clone Wars.” There was a glimmer of hope in many a fanboy/girl’s eye that there was a new hope for a Star Wars film that wouldn’t re-open the wounds and reestablish a relationship with Lucas, who had become even darker than any Sith Lord in the galaxy.
Unfortunately, Lucasfilm’s new movie (directed by Dave Filoni, who only has a few “Avatar” episodes to his directing credit) is assuredly useless. “Clone Wars” takes place somewhere in between the second and third film, in the middle of the title’s disharmonious struggle. Generals/Jedi Knights Obi-Wan Kenobi (voiced by James Arnold Taylor) and Anakin Skywalker (voiced by Matt Lanter) are the leaders against the Separatist army, in a war that seems to be endless and unwinnable.
In an act to cut off trade routes and create more allies, the Separatist leader Count Dooku (voiced by Christopher Lee) kidnaps Jabba the Hutt’s baby Rotta the Huttlet and shows Jabba evidence that it is a Jedi plot to destroy him. This doesn’t sit well with both Hutt and the Jedi – Jabba calls for their termination while Anakin and Obi-Wan are sent to save the adorable Huttlet. Unfortunately, Anakin is set back by the surprising introduction of his new apprentice/annoyance Ahsoka (voiced by Ashley Eckstein).
The reason this movie is such a disappointment is its theatrical release. With its kiddie characters and its dependence on slapstick humor over serious dialogue makes it more for kids, rather than the lifelong adult fans who would never pass up seeing a Star Wars film in theaters. “Clone Wars” would be a much more credible feature as a Cartoon Network made-for-TV movie or as direct-to-DVD fodder.
The film is poetic in its absurdity. The dialogue is ridiculous and the new characters such as the irritating Ahsoka and the disrespectfully effeminate Ziro the Hutt (a vile, homoerotic Hutt that is behind the kidnapping – a stereotype that doesn’t necessarily teach the kids a good lesson) makes it really hard to take any of the movie seriously, and one can’t help but laugh at all the wrong times. Also disappointing is the uninteresting voice acting featuring a group of people who are completely unfamiliar to the masses and have up until now mostly worked as video game voicers.
Also, like Lucas’ new trilogy, the entire movie is a gracious ad campaign. Not only can you take your kids to see “Clone Wars” in the movie theater – you can buy them the video game, the action figure, the book, the officical “CW”-themed Lunchable, and the whole line of Gap t-shirts. So really, this film has nothing to do with the fans and never planned on it.
The only thing “Clone Wars” has going for it is excellently rendered battle sequences. Although they are flooded with egregious dialogue, the explosions and lightsaber fights are consistently fun. However, the rest of this mess is unforgivable and one really can’t blame the once tame Anakin Skywalker for turning to the dark side. The film is only faithful to Lucas’ butchering with his three previous features – and in fact is the worst Star Wars film to date (John Williams famous score is even omitted, while a despicable new version is tried out).
While this could have been “Star Wars: The Clone Wars or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Series,” it is in fact another reason to un-convert from a life-long religion. An utter disappointment, only fun for kids and not fans (the scrolling text at the beginning – a staple and something we could always rely on – is bypassed for a ludicrous narration), “Clone Wars” delivers the final nail in the coffin for Lucasfilm and forever kills the series. Can someone please bring in Christopher Nolan to save “Star Wars?”