Friday, August 15, 2008

Star Wars: The Clone Wars

“You’ve got spunk… I hate spunk!”
—Lou Grant, The Mary Tyler Moore Show

Taking place between Episode II: Attack of the Clones (read the review) and Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (read the review) this new animated film follows Generals Obi-Wan Kenobi (James Arnold Taylor) and Anakin Skywalker (Matt Lanter) in their continuing battle to put down the resistance of the Separatists and their near-endless supply of droid armies.

When Jabba the Hutt’s (Kevin Michael Richardson) son is taken hostage Anakin, along with his spunky new tweenage padawan Ahsoka Tano (Ashley Eckstein), is sent to retrieve the young Huttling from Count Dooku’s Dark Jedi assassin Asaji Ventress (Nika Futterman). Control of Hutt space in the Outer Rim could be a deciding factor in the war and the Republic can not afford the Jedi to fail.

Only a few of the supporting characters are voiced by those who played the roles in the three prequels. Christopher Lee returns as Count Dooku, Samuel L. Jackson as Mace Windu, and Anthony Daniels shows up in a cameo as C-3P0. Here’s one of the few times you’ll see me give props the the casting coordinator as Jenn Berry does a terrific job in finding actors with similiar voices and inflections for almost all of the iconic characters. She even fooled me once or twice as when Amadala showed up voiced by Catherine Taber and not Natalie Portman.

In terms of story and plot the film isn’t as strong. More than any Star Wars film yet this one is really for the kiddies, and it seems like Lucas is really going after young girls with the introduction of the spunky Asoka. There’s enough fun to keep your interest, but there’s nothing all that memorable about this entry into the franchise and there’s simply too much sitcom-style adolescent humor.

There are some other odd changes as well. We don’t get the scrolling marquee to open the film (replaced here by some clunky naration instead) and even the iconic opening theme has been tweaked. Yes it’s still Star Wars, but some of the magic is gone.

In terms of animation the CGI style of the film is a little hit and miss. The look of backgrounds, creatures, droids, and the like is quite good, but the human characters, at times, come off looking more than a little like moving marianettes or dolls than actual people (I wonder if that will hurt or help merchandising sales). And this style of animation still hasn’t mastered the look of human hair (which is especially noticeable in Obi-Wan’s rectangular jawline and beard). Although better than some CGI, the format still hasn’t worked out all the bugs which is a little disconcerting going into the 100+ episodes of the new series Lucas has envisioned.

Originally aimed for a television audience as part of the Star Wars: The Clone Wars cartoon series for Cartoon Network the new film is a mixed bag, though as a Star Wars fanboy I’ll admit I had some fun. I’d recommend this for fanboys who can’t get enough Star Wars, but casual fans would be better off waiting until the series makes its debut later this fall on Cartoon Network and TNT.

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