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Overall Rating
2.31

Awesome: 7.84%
Worth A Look: 15.69%
Average: 5.88%
Pretty Bad41.18%
Total Crap: 29.41%

5 reviews, 21 user ratings


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Star Wars: The Clone Wars
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Needs More Lumpy"
1 stars

Although it may seem like a decidedly heretical opinion for a person of my age, gender and belt size to have, I must confess that I have never been the biggest “Star Wars” fanatic. Oh sure, I still find the original to be as exciting and entertaining today as I did when I saw it for the very first time nearly 31 years ago as part of Neal Schaffer’s sixth birthday party and I thought that the follow-up, “The Empire Strikes Back,” was just as entertaining, though I seem to recall a vague sense of dissatisfaction back then that you had to wait three years to see how the story ended. However, when that conclusion finally came around in the form of 1983’s “Return of the Jedi,” I walked away from it feeling completely disappointed--instead of coming up with a truly satisfying ending to his saga, it seemed as if George Lucas just lazily threw together stuff that we had already seen in the previous installments (yet another attack on the one pregnable portion of a theoretically impregnable Death Star), overly cutesy stuff to mollify those put off by the darker tone of “The Empire Strikes Back” (those damned Ewoks) and what-the-hell? plot twists tossed into the mix seemingly at random (such as Luke and Leia’s sudden family connection. (Not even the sight of Carrie Fisher in her now-iconic space bikini was enough to rouse me, mostly because I had already seen the glory that was Sigourney Weaver modeling the finest in corporate-issued underwear during the climax of “Alien.) As for the prequel trilogy, I found “The Phantom Menace” to be a massive disappointment that transformed a storyline designed to appeal to viewers of all ages into a straight-ahead kiddie flick, I felt that “Attack of the Clones” was only slightly better (mostly due to the welcome presence of Christopher Lee as one of the bad guys) and while the conclusion, “Revenge of the Sith” was by far the best of the bunch, it still paled in comparison to “Star Wars” or “The Empire Strikes Back.”

And yet, while I stand firm in my conviction that there hasn’t been a truly impressive “Star Wars” film in over 28 years, that isn’t to say that I have found all of the post-“Empire” installments to be utterly without merit. They have all managed to come across as at least somewhat watchable, though maybe not worthy of repeated viewings along the lines of the first two films, and even the worst ones managed to include enough nifty moments to juice things up momentarily--I’m thinking of the pod race in “Phantom Menace” or the Yoda-Christopher Lee light-saber battle in “Attack of the Clones.” In other words, while they may have been bad, they never quite managed to sink to a level of complete worthlessness. However, with “Star Wars: The Clone Wars,” the latest big-screen depiction of George Lucas’ ever-expanding empire, not to mention the first to be done as an animated film instead of live-action, that particular streak has come to a sudden and disastrous halt. Created to simultaneously fill in some of the blanks between “Attack of the Clones” and “Revenge of the Sith” and to serve as the launching pad for a weekly TV series for the Cartoon Network that will be premiering later this fall, this is an insipid rip-off that even the most devoted fans of the saga will find almost impossible to defend on any artistic or aesthetic level. It is so bad, in fact, that it could well rival the infamous “Star Wars Holiday Special” as the single most useless piece of “Star Wars”-related entertainment ever made and ironically, at least the animated aspect of that legendary disaster was actually not too bad. Then again, the segment in which Bea Arthur led Harvey Korman and the cantina denizens in a sing-a-long was a masterpiece in comparison to the sins committed by this botch.

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away--better known as the period of time between “Attack of the Clones” and “Revenge of the Sith” (which, now that you mention it, was already partially covered in a previous Cartoon Network miniseries a few years ago)--the heroic Jedi Knights are continuing to defend the Republic in their long-running battle against the increasingly powerful Separatists and their seemingly infinite droid army. In the midst of one such battle, legendary Jedi warrior Obi-Wan Kenobi and young upstart Anakin Skywalker are called away from the front by the wise and syntax-mangling Yoda with gravely important news. It appears that the beloved infant son of the nefarious Jabba the Hutt has been kidnapped by an unknown group of renegades and taken to parts unknown. If the Jedi alliance can find the tyke and bring him back to his father, he might return the favor by allowing the Jedi to utilize his shipping lanes, a move that could decisively shift the momentum of the ongoing Clone Wars in their favor at last. While Obi-Wan returns to the front lines, Anakin goes off in search of the Huttlet but what he doesn’t realize is that he is walking into a trap. It seems that the tyke has been snatched by Asajj Ventress, a no-goodnik working for the fearsome Count Dooku and their plan is to “rescue” the child themselves and pin the crime on the Jedi themselves in order to sway Jabba to their side.

I know what you are thinking, “Hey, this is a sequel to a George Lucas production--shouldn’t there be some utterly annoying sidekick character introduced into the proceedings in a desperate attempt to attract youngsters who might otherwise be bored with all the excitement and spectacle?” Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Ahsoka Tano, a spunky young Padawan girl whom Yoda has assigned to Anakin to serve as his apprentice. This is an assignment that pleases neither of them--Anakin is a bold and resourceful lone wolf who doesn’t want to be tied down with an inexperienced wannabe who won’t listen to instructions while Ahsoka is a brash and impulsive type who resents the idea of this older guy cramping her style with his boring rules and strategies. They so dislike each other at first that they even give each other dismissive nicknames--Ahsoka repeatedly refers to him as “Skyguy” while Anakin dubs her “Snips” after her snippy behavior. (Yes, this is a “Star Wars” movie in which one character actually describes another as “snippy”)--but luckily, they eventually learn to work together and trust each other and by doing so, they just might be able to defeat Dooku and his forces and return the Huttlet safe and sound.

There are many problems with “The Clone Wars” but for my money, the biggest and most mystifying one is how incredibly lazy it is. No matter how lame the previous installments were, they at least took the time to create intricate storylines (perhaps too intricate as things progressed) and set them in vast and fully-developed worlds that contained more colorful details tucked away in the tiniest corners than most sci-fi extravaganzas could muster up front and center. With the shift from live-action to animation, a field in which pretty much anything is theoretically possible, you would think that the imaginations of the filmmakers would expand and that they would present viewers with images and story ideas that not even the greatest efforts of Industrial Light and Magic could quite pull off in the physical world despite all of the advances in computer-generated imagery. Instead, Lucas (who came up with the story), screenwriters Steven Melching and Scott Murphy and director Dave Filoni have given us a tale that is almost shockingly puny and devoid of ambition both as a narrative and as a visual spectacle. I understand that the film is essentially serving as a pilot for a television series but couldn’t the filmmakers have come up with a story that didn’t feel like a weak and seriously overlong episode of a show a couple of years past its prime? And if they did have to do that, couldn’t they have done so in a way that didn’t feel so completely juvenile--from the chaotic battles in which no one ever seems to be at risk to the forced cutesiness of such characters as Ahsoka and Jabba Jr., this film comes across almost exactly like the kind of dreadful and soulless pabulum that family-oriented filmmaking had devolved into before the original “Star Wars” came along to save the genre from itself. From a visual standpoint, the film is lacking a certain something as well--it is completely lacking in the awe-inspiring creativity and grandeur of the original films. Granted, this was presumably produced on a budget far smaller than that afforded to the recent films but a huge budget is not necessarily required to make something look interesting in animation--the previous “Clone Wars” television series probably cost even less to produce but it actually had a striking and creative visual style that overcame the lack of money By comparison, “The Clone Wars” looks and feels less like a full-fledged movie and more like the kind of second-rate videogame that you play once or twice and then just toss into a pile after a while out of boredom.

The other thing about that previous “Clone Wars” series is that while it may have lacked the size and scope of the live-action versions, it still felt like it was as much of a part of the “Star Wars” universe as the other feature films. By comparison, even though “The Clone Wars” is technically a member of the family as well, it has the same off-brand look and feel of a bootleg T-shirt--it may say “Star Wars” on it and it may contain several familiar “Star Wars” characters but it just doesn’t seem like a real “Star Wars” film. This feeling hits right at the start when the film kicks off without the three elements that have opened each installment since the very beginning--the familiar 20th Century Fox fanfare is gone (which is understandable since the film is actually being released by Warner Brothers), the even-more-familiar John Williams theme has been replaced with a new piece that contains just enough elements of that classic piece of music to underline the fact that we aren’t listening to it and the long crawl of exposition setting up the chapter we are about to see has been replaced by a bit of narration so breathlessly incoherent that we are pretty much lost even before the story has properly begun. This sense of vague unfamiliarity continues throughout--the returning characters just don’t feel like the people that we have gotten to know over the years (a sensation that is not helped in any way by the fact that, outside of the very brief contributions of Samuel L. Jackson as Mace Windu, Anthony Daniels as C-3PO and Christopher Lee as Count Dooku, none of the original actors are on hand to supply the voices--the loss of Frank Oz’s inimitable delivery as Yoda is especially disconcerting) and the new ones feel as if they have been trucked in from some utterly anonymous sci-fi property and never really fit in with their surroundings. And since the film willfully throws away whatever tension it has managed to build for sickly sentiment (wouldn’t you know that the wee Hutt becomes deathly ill and may die if he is returned home in time), silly humor (regarding the ailing Hutt, someone remarks “He’s turning every shade of green except for the one he is supposed to be!”) and what-the-hell-were-they-thinking? moments (introducing Jabba the Hutt’s treacherous uncle into the proceedings is one thing--giving him a voice that is reminiscent of nothing so much as Truman Capote in “Murder by Death” is quite another), the sense of relentless momentum that even “The Phantom Menace” and “Attack of the Clones” managed to muster up is lost and a feeling of utter listlessness winds up dominating the proceedings instead. Frankly, the only element on display that really connects it to the series is the astonishingly clunky dialogue, including such gems as “Bring us something liquid,” “We have only one planetary rotation” and “I don’t talk to Separatist scum!”

In every long-running film series, there comes an entry that is so disastrous on every possible level that it forces the powers-that-be behind them to finally realize that the old ways aren’t working anymore--I’m thinking of such complete flops as “Batman & Robin,” “The World is Not Enough” or “Star Trek: Nemesis”--and that they require either a long rest or a complete artistic overhaul if they are to ever work again. While the jury is still out on “Star Trek,” the combination of a few years off and new creative approaches did wonders for the Batman and James Bond franchises and their creative and commercial rejuvenations seem destined to supercharge them for the next few years. Seeing as how “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” is just as bad as those films, I suppose there is the hope that George Lucas might be similarly inspired to give the whole thing a rest for a few years and, if duly inspired, eventually come up with a reintroduction to the saga that is as bold, imaginative and inspiring as “Star Wars” has been for generations of moviegoers. The only problem, though, is that “The Clone Wars” is so terrible that even if he does somehow manage to one day pull off such a miracle, there may no longer be anyone left who will care.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=17269&reviewer=389
originally posted: 08/15/08 14:00:00
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User Comments

4/16/13 George Lucas Folks, I apologize for making this movie. I know why it sucked: it needed more Jar Jar. 1 stars
2/12/10 Jim The most god-awful film I've ever seen. Thanks for killing Star Wars for us all Mr Lucas 1 stars
4/24/09 GordonD Awful. But the TV series is great! 2 stars
1/08/09 Shaun Wallner Fell asleep to this one. 2 stars
12/06/08 Jared Robb A movie for kids, not old fans. For entertainment value, its not bad. 3 stars
9/21/08 joe it was good, my kids loved it 5 stars
9/02/08 Joe Sampson More Lucascrap. 1 stars
8/30/08 Thomas It's the best movie I ever saw and I want to watch it again. 5 stars
8/29/08 Evie Aksucka was the most painful character ever 2 stars
8/28/08 Cathy our family liked it - we laughed a lot, kept our attention, but didn't like "Zero" 4 stars
8/27/08 j.c.s. it was good for a glorified pilot, but you cringe knowing how its allgoing to end 4 stars
8/26/08 Tom Brillient Film Why Did Noone Like It? 5 stars
8/25/08 mel blech 1 stars
8/25/08 zubidoo if you liked this movie you're a fucking retard 1 stars
8/21/08 Justin I'm a kid at heart. 5 stars
8/20/08 austin wertman holy crap 1 stars
8/20/08 PAUL SHORTT REASONABLY FUN IF GENERALLY FORGETTABLE 3 stars
8/18/08 George Barksdale Love the Star Wars Series, but this is not worth the time 1 stars
8/18/08 Bob made jar jar look like shakespeare 1 stars
8/17/08 D The plotline surrounding Jabba the Hutt's son was painful to watch, like the Muppet Babies. 3 stars
8/15/08 bruno priani it sucked big time it was depressing 1 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  15-Aug-2008 (PG)
  DVD: 11-Nov-2008

UK
  N/A

Australia
  15-Aug-2008
  DVD: 11-Nov-2008


Directed by
  David Filoni

Written by
  Henry Gilroy

Cast
  N/A



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