More noise than signal

Star Wars: The Clone Wars

This review has been ‘repurposed’ from my other site, theOneliner.com

I rather suspect your opinion of this will be colored based on how you’ve dealt with George Lucas’ continued exploitation of his IP, if you’ll forgive the horrid term. You’ll either view this as a continued effort to bring the mythology that was so defining to our, or at least my, childhood to a new generation, or you view it as picking at a scab that should best be left to heal. Indeed, I rather suspect that you’ve already made your mind up about this film already, but let’s crash on regardless.

Set somewhere before the 2D clone wars series, seemingly, halfway between episodes two and three, this introduction to the impending T.V. series sees the stylized 3D versions of the Jedi continuing to face off against Count Dooku’s droid armies. With shipping lanes coming under seperatist control, it becomes increasingly difficult for the alliance to move materials and reinforcements in their war effort.

As such, when Jabba the Hutt’s slugling is kidnapped it seems the ideal opportunity for the Jedi to save the day and earn a valuable, if morally questionable ally in their efforts to secure space lanes. Obi Wan (voiced by James Arnold Taylor, given the uncomfortable job of impersonating Ewan McGregor impersonating Alec Guiness, which works as well as you’d expect), Anakin Vader and Anny’s new padawan learner Ahsoka are dispatched to get shit sorted, while Dooku and his new apprentice Asajj Ventress attempt to play the situation to their advantage. Cue the usual nonsense, but in more obvious CG than in the “live action” version.

It’s very easy to snippily dismiss this film, and looking through some of the Rotten Tomatoes links it’s rather clear that most folks have done just this. There’s a few good reasons to dislike this film, although everyone seems to be picking the one that isn’t valid. If you’re going to deride this based on it not being identical to the old Star Wars films and being full of soulless CG, you have to show equal blind disdain for the three ‘real’ prequels, which most of these guys haven’t. Let us for the moment not discuss those prequels apart from this – I’d remembered that I thought that Episode III was the only one worthy of the name. Then I watched it last week. Oh dear, what a pile of mince.

At least Clone Wars has the saving grace of not featuring CG stuntmen pretending to be real people, instead having an interesting stylised look to the characters that’s pleasing enough, to me at least. Certainly it looks better than the 2D animations, and if you’re going to whine about Lucas finally replacing these incovenient humans with CG characters entirely please go back and rewrite all of your reviews of every Pixar film, immediately dismissing Finding Nemo for not featuring trained fish rather than CG.

So, more valid reasons for not liking this film then, and there’s certainly a few. First off, this pulls the irritating Star Wars trick of introducing the disposable second fiddle villain out of the blue. Now, I didn’t like it when they did this with Darth Maul in The Phantom Menace, or when they pulled the same trick with Count Dooku, or General Grievous, and I don’t like it here. This all rather ties in with its status as Episode Zero of the telly series.

Being as we already know what happens after this series, it’s somewhat limited in terms of where it can go. When Dooku has what I assume was meant as a climactic battle with Anakin, it’s almost entirely pointless as there’s no way that it can end in anything interesting happening without rather contradicting Episode III‘s events. As the general thrust of the story needs to continue in both Episode III and in the telly series, there’s little sense of conclusion in the final reels and this film does rather seem to peter out rather than end, which is just about the only bone I have to pick with this film, abeit a big ol’ bone at that.

In a very real sense, this is a film full of filler material. However, it could at least be interesting filler material. This movie is, well, sort of vaguely okay filler material. Put it this way, it’s a lot more worthy than Episode I, and it’s a great deal more fun than the bulk of the dreadful Star Wars novels that choke the Sci-Fi isles of bookstores. I’d actually argue that this feels more Star Wars-y, if you can accept that as a description, than most of Episode I, II & III.

This endless barrage of new Star Wars stuff has had an unfortunate side effect. I am starting to come round to the notion that even my beloved Proper Three Films where Han Shot First were, in fact, sorta crappy, and I’m now slowly dispelling the nostalgia haze that prevented me from recognising this. As such, Clone Wars fits in well enough. I’m not about to recommend that anyone rush out and see it, in exactly the same ways as I wouldn’t have recommended anyone rush out and see Episode I, II & III. If you need to pacify you kids for a few hours its a more palettable choice that The Mummy In China, but it’s not a damn thing more than that.

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