Star Wars: The Clone Wars = Big FUN!! **minor spoilers**

Official Clone Wars 1-sheet

Official Clone Wars 1-sheet

I’m a bit of a Star Wars nerd. To illustrate this point, I’m going to share a picture of myself with you. It’s clear at the end of this post. Enjoy.

I was, therefore, delighted that a Star Wars film was coming out this summer. Now, I need to characterize myself, because Star Wars fans fall into a lot of different camps re: all Star Wars material outside the original trilogy. Prequels. Overall, they were completely terrible. The scripts were bad, the acting was bad. They were a complete train wreck. But I still enjoyed them quite a bit, despite all the flaws. The only one I really don’t care for is Attack of the Clones, but even in that film I enjoy the fight scenes and if it’s on, I will watch it. So I have a love/hate relationship with them. I very much enjoyed the CN animated shorts. I loved the stories and the animation style. So when I heard we were going to get a full-length film that would launch a TV series, I was pretty stoked.

I was a touch nervous about it, because I wasn’t completely sold on the animation style, probably because I so unreservedly loved the style of the first CN cartoons. Also, the first trailer didn’t wow me. Still, I had

Perfect! Right?

Perfect! Right?

hopes that we’d get a good Star Wars movie this summer.

And you know what? We did. It’s freakin’ awesome! The thing I love the most about this movie is that it’s just unadulterated fun. It’s not particularly mature. In fact, I think a lot of people are going to absolutely hate this film for exactly that reason. There’s plenty of slapstick humor, which I guess maybe would be annoying except for the fact that it’s really funny. But if you look at Star Wars as a whole, we started out with this trilogy about a farm boy from nowhere who realizes his destiny and saves the galaxy from the oppressive empire all while redeeming his evil father. It’s a beautiful story about one person making a difference, about taking a stand, about redemption. The next trilogy is not beautiful. We go back in time to see an innocent child grow up and be corrupted and destroyed. Not very light hearted. Not hopeful. Bleak. Depressing. Ugly.

And that’s why I love this film. Because I know what happens to Anakin Skywalker. And the prequels didn’t do much to make me feel for him or sympathize with him. But in this film he’s just a Jedi Knight doing his job. He doesn’t spend the entire film tortured by his demons and we don’t see him being horribly manipulated. He’s the Jedi Knight his son heard tales of. He’s the hero who was “killed” by Darth Vader. And you can have hope for him and be happy for him even though you know how it ends. And it’s about time, because in Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith it was pretty hard to get behind this kid. He was petulant and whiny, and entitled, and not someone you’d be all that sad or surprised to see fall. For me, this movie’s success is that while I was enjoying the fight scenes and laughing at the slapstick humor, and for once, really enjoying Anakin Skywalker as a Jedi, in the back of my mind I know how it all ends. Sure, most of the jokes are targeted at 10 year olds and the newest addition to the Star Wars universe is a kid. Somehow it worked. It lightened the darkness of what came before and what is to follow.

A few plot and character spoilers here, so if you want to remain spoiler free, skip to the next paragraph. Plotwise, it’s pretty straightforward Star Wars. Basically the Jedi need to help Jabba the Hutt recover his kidnapped son, a favor he’ll repay by granting the Republic’s war and supply ships safe passage through the outer rim. But there’s always more than meets the eye when Palpatine’s in the mix. And I’ll leave it at that. It’s a simple plot overall. But the story was such that we got to see some of our favorite Star Wars characters in action, such as Jabba, and some of our favorite clone commanders. Commander Cody is present throughout. And while I enjoyed every second with Jabba and his disgusting, yet cute offspring, we meet a new Hutt who I really just couldn’t stand at all. He’s basically Jabba’s stereotypically flamboyant, gay, drag-queen uncle who sounds a lot like Eric Cartman. I guess I have to acknowledge that Cartman is a touch Huttesque. At least when it comes to chins. But I’m wondering what we’re going for here with this effeminate dandy of a Hutt who lives in decadence on Coruscant. He wasn’t particularly funny. Just irritating. Maybe they just wanted to give Jabba a creepy drag-queen uncle? Because he is creepy. And not entirely because of his make-up and feathers.  Also, he spoke English. LAME! Totally LAME. I have no idea where such a ridiculous character could have come from. I mean, seriously. You’re going to take a set of stereotypes that are usually applied (not always kindly) to gay men, and put them on a Hutt? Really? Thoughts on this topic welcome.

Note the curved body and additional chin

Note the curved body and additional chin

There were a few things that made me scratch my head a little. The first was when we got the traditional “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…” after which one expects John Williams’ Star Wars theme to come blaring through the speakers. Well that didn’t quite happen the way it was supposed to. Sigh. And there was no crawl. Maybe I’m being an old fart about that, but to me, that’s how a Star Wars film starts. And it was jarring to say the least. Also, the score overall gave me pause. It’s not Star Wars music. Which is fine, I guess. I think for the most part, while some of it was jarring at first, it grew on me, and I could see that maybe the music was appropriate, just not what I’m accustomed to when watching Jedi Knights kick butt. In one case, however, I thought it didn’t fit at all. I’m interested to see what others think of the score.

Also, I thought the dialog was a little bit forced in the beginning, for two characters in particular. The problem seemed to vanish, but it seemed like Henry Gilroy might have been pushing the characters a little bit too hard instead of letting us get to know them a little more organically. Although some of that could have been a function of the story–that these characters are uncomfortable with each other and hence trying too hard. Either way, as I watched that part of the film, I felt the writer’s presence saying, “THIS CHARACTER IS IMPULSIVE AND DOES NOT RESPOND WELL TO AUTHORITY.” But that problem did not last through the whole film, so it’s not a huge gripe.

A word about the animation. I thought it really served the battle scenes where you’re looking at droids battle clones, but the lightsaber scenes were not as fluid as they should have been. The characters seemed to have stiff joints or something. Also, when the characters were standing still, they looked like they were carved from wood, or maybe made of clay. That really bugged me at first, but by the end I’d gotten to kind of like it. My one hope is that for the TV show, the lightsaber battles will be improved upon.

So, to sum up, by no means is the film perfect. There’s a lot in it that will actually grate on Star Wars fans. But like I said, after all the doom and gloom of the prequels, I connected with the lightness of it all. You kind of have to have seen all the prequels to get the most out of what’s going on, but I think the film will still be enjoyable on its own for most non-Star Wars folks. It’s a great family flick–the kids will love it. And even if you’re old and cranky (like me) it’s a refreshing, fun Star Wars film, well worth the $8. Despite its flaws, I will probably see it multiple times, and I’m looking forward to the TV show. So even if you thought about seeing it but decided not to, for whatever reason, think again! Great action, lots of laughs, and a rare glimpse at some of our favorite Star Wars characters.

Oh. As promised. A picture of me:

Hoth Snowtrooper sporting shotgun. Vader's finest. Oh yeah.

Hoth Snowtrooper sporting shotgun.

Bonus points to anyone who can spot the two serious errors in my costume. Other than carrying a shotgun.

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One Response

  1. I’ll start by saying that I HATED the opening. I was first jarred by the logo not being “STAR WARS” but instead “CLONE WARS”. I also hated the opening music, but like you didn’t notice it much later in the movie. The opening narration sounded like someone announcing a pod race and irked me as well.

    With all that though, I did enjoy the film overall, especially seeing Anakin’s development. His inability to remain emotionally detached is demonstrated here, and you can almost see how the path to the dark side will open before him.

    I don’t disagree with anything you disliked about the film, but would like to add two more:

    First, (but not the most annoying) is Ziro. I agree with all you say about him. I actually thought they were trying to get the closest to Truman Capote’s voice they could, but I can see why you saw Eric Cartman. And the name Ziro….. really? Doesn’t seem very Huttian to me.

    *spoiler*

    My biggest annoyance (because it lasted throughout the film) was Ashoka’s outfit. I thought padawan’s dressed in Jedi attire. Maybe I’m not up enough on my lore, but I’m thinking the 2-piece aerobic workout suit she was wearing is not the norm. It would be annoying enough if she was an adult, but she’s a child! Yes, I realize that she’s a cartoon child, but that doesn’t change the impact her attire will have every time we see her in the show. Anakin (Jake Lloyd) was dressed in the typical Jedi attire when he became a padawan, I see no reason why Ashoka should be dressed differently.

    *end spoiler*

    Overall, not a bad film. I’m not the full Star Wars nut you are, but I am an appreciator. I think Lucas fell short again here, and I was reminded how well a tight story — Like “Avatar: The Last Airbender” — makes all the difference, but overall, this makes me look forward to the series…

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