General Release 2008
98 minutes approx
Directed by -
Written by -
Henry Gilroy, Steven Melching and Scott Murphy
The Republic's war against the Separatist movement is not going well. Half of the Clone Trooper army has been cut off from their commanders by an annexation of the space lanes. In order to find a new way of getting around, the outer rim space lanes have become critical and the Separatists make a bid to close them to the Republic by kidnapping the son of Jabba the Hutt (whose clan control the outer rim routes), making it look like the Jedi were responsible and turning the Hutt against the Republic. Anakin Skywalker and his new apprentice (Ashoka) are sent to get the child back whilst Kenobi must negotiate a treaty with Jabba.
Whatever you think of George Lucas's second trilogy (which is actually the first trilogy speaking chronologically), there is no denying that the STAR WARS franchise changed the face of science fiction, of cinema and of popular culture irrevocably. Steven Spielberg may have invented the modern summer blockbuster with JAWS, but it was STAR WARS that cemented the concept in Hollywood, a legacy that is rumbling along to this day. Perhaps that's why Lucas can't leave STAR WARS alone. He doesn't need the money anymore, that's for sure.
Whatever the reason, here is THE CLONE WARS, set between ATTACK OF THE CLONES and REVENGE OF THE SITH (or Episode 2.5 if you prefer), this animated feature is to whet the appetite of those waiting for the forthcoming TV series and it manges to combine all that is both good and bad about the franchise.
Let's start with the spectacle, which is something that the film series has never skimped on. Opening with an extended battle between Republic forces commanded by Obi Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker and the droid armies of Separatists it sets out its stall from the start. A CG cartoon it might be, but it's a CG cartoon with a real sense of scale. Droids and clone troopers are perfect material for computer animation and so there are a lot of them blowing each other to kingdom come in a sequence that could have easily have graced the climax of other stories. Later on there's a battle up the sheer side of a cliff and lightsabre duels all over the place. When the action is flowing, this is STAR WARS doing what STAR WARS does well.
Unfortunately, it then stops pauses for the plot and, oh dear. The original STAR WARS was a simple enough pitch (Farm boy and rogue save princess from wizard and save the village from Wizard's monster revenge - with spaceships). Try putting the plot of the this film into such a simple pitch and you can't. You start getting bogged down with space routes and battle plans and... well you get the idea. It also doesn't make that much sense. How do the Hutt control the space lanes? Since ships travel through hyperspace, why do they need space lanes? How can you prevent a ship in hyperspace going wherever it wants to go? Why do the separatists come up with such a convoluted plan to discredit the Republic instead of simply blackmailing Jabba with the life of his kidnapped offspring?
Then there's the characters. Animating them and taking the actors out of the equation might be Lucas's idea of nirvana, but it doesn't make them any less stiff or any more likeable. The voice actors do passable impressions where they are not the originals (Samuel L Jackson, Christopher Lee and Anthony Daniels return whilst Ewan McGregor and Hayden Christiansen do not), but the dialogue is still stilted and occasionally dire and everyone is so po-faced and, well, dull. Only newcomer Ashoka, shows any sort of life at all. Of course, if you have seen REVENGE OF THE SITH then you already know who is going to be alive at the end of this film and so there is no real threat other than that to Ashoka and that's why she has such a large part over the established characters.
Apart from the question of why we needed this film (it advances none of the major plotlines of the franchise) other than it is set in the STAR WARS universe, it is possible to switch off your brain and enjoy the spectacular action sequences. When the shooting stops and the characters start talking, you'll want the shooting to start again.Top
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