Reel Society

Reviews for the latest movies in theaters and on DVD.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars

Review by Eoin O’Faolain

Just when you think George Lucas has gone far enough...

A long time ago, in a galaxy quite close, I spent some time as a child recuperating from an operation, and I spent a day watching all three Star Wars films (the original ones) in a row. It was a joy, a delight, my discomfort completely bypassed by being engrossed in a fantastic world. I had joined the millions of people who held these films close to their heart, and their inner child. Then came the prequel trilogy, which felt wrong. Perhaps it was the terrible dialogue, the awful attempts at humor, the inability to emote with anyone (we had no Han Solo wise-cracking character), etc. Despite the financial success (and some delusions by fanboys that the final film, Revenge of the Sith, was actually good in any way), I had hoped that Lucas, as he once claimed, would quit the Star Wars business and move on. However, like malaria or a latent fungus, Lucas gets revenge on those who still had good feelings for the original trilogy by giving us Star Wars: The Clone Wars, an animated film kick-starting a forthcoming TV series of the same name.

The plot is rather flimsy, but it’s set in between Episode 2 and 3 of the prequel trilogy. Anakin Skywalker is a teenager and refining his fantastic abilities with Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi. In the midst of a war against an uprising against the Intergalactic Republic, Obi-Wan and Anakin are sent to investigate the kidnapping of the child of a key ally (Jabba the Hut, the big blob from Return of the Jedi) However, Anakin has been mistakenly assigned a trainee Jedi of his own, a sprightly teenage girl named Ahsoka Tano.
I had mild hopes for this flick. Despite the rather poor animation evident in the trailers, this is the first Star Wars film in 25 years that Lucas didn’t write or direct. Perhaps in leaving the franchise with the fans, we could get something a bit more entertaining. Alas, the clunky animation is one of the least irritating aspects of the film.

Probably the most noticeable problem was the voice-acting. Director Dave Filoni must have studied toothpaste commercials when making this film. While Obi-Wan’s voice matches Ewan McGregor’s rather droll performance, it’s Anakin’s voice that grates the most. Almost every sentence is enunciated with no semblance of realism, making Mark Hamill’s Luke sound like a Cassavetes film. Ahsoka’s lines are delivered with such whiny irritation that any attempt to present a likable character were flushed down the proverbial crapper.

The direction of the action is notably dull. Any expectations of originality or true thrills are kept on a tenuous thread until enough of the physical gags (usually based on the incompetence of enemy droids) deflate your sense of enjoyment. And almost every scene is deeply derivative of a moment from the previous movies.

The evident problem with this film is that it’s not a film. Lucas decided to release the show’s pilot in feature-film form. This means that we get no story, and especially no sense of character development (Anakin’s gradual lean to the Dark Side is utterly ignored). It may work as an extended TV series, but as 90 minutes of cinema, The Clone Wars feels insignificant and dull.

But what’s worse is that the genius of the original Star Wars trilogy was an adventure that could inspire children and adults alike. As of late, it feels as if Lucas has lost sight of this. The Phantom Menace has blatant scenes and characters to appeal to the youngest age group possible, and it was often embarrassing to an adult audience. The Clone Wars is even worse, a series aimed solely for children, with appropriately unnatural kids-TV voice acting, deliberate marketing strategies (you almost feel as if the introduction of Ahsoka is a result of Lucas’s PR agents targeting a lagging demographic- teenage girls), and humor inaccessible to only the youngest age groups. The enjoyment of Star Wars really does feel like a long time ago.
1 / 5 stars

Review by Matthew Frendo

It is now official.  I am no longer a Star Wars fan.  I'll be honest with you: I wanted to leave this movie 15 minutes in.  I could not stand to see my favorite childhood fantasy get raped like an altar boy in the Catholic Church circa 2001.  It was horrible.  I loved Star Wars.  I grew up collecting the little figures, hell, I even had Return of the Jedi bed-sheets when I was younger (and yes, I have grown out of them by now).  I was one of those idiots who waited in line for 6 days to see (expletive) Jar Jar Binks not get killed.  I saw The Phantom Menace six times, trying to convince myself that I liked it.  Which I didn't.

And therein lies the problem: I have spent the last nine years trying to convince myself I don't hate the series I fell in love with as a kid.  The problem is, all the new Star Wars movies pretty much suck.  We all talk around them like they exist in a vacuum away from the original three flicks, the way that Republicans talk around Bush's real motives for starting a war (ahem, money).  We try to kid ourselves and find parts of the new films that we like, convincing ourselves and our friends that they are good movies and add some sort of depth that wasn't there before.  But, alas, all fairy tales must end and I, once again, am left to be the one to finally scream out that the Emperor is not wearing any clothes.  In fact, not only is he not wearing clothes, but his body is deformed into an ugly specimen that not even Gollum would find precious.  I could write an essay on the first three movies and how they are premonitions of the Rapture as predicted in Nostradamus' prophecies, but that would digress farther than I want to.

When I exited the theater, I tried to relax my eyes by staring at a wall to make the designs move (which, by the way, was way more interesting).  First off, the makers (conspirators of the proverbial devil, though even Satan himself would probably not want his name attached to this travesty either) did not take our beloved characters and make them into cartoons.  No, they took regular cartoon characters and put Star Wars names to them.  If they're not going to keep the same characters, why use pre-existing characters at all?

Yeah, my head is shaking along with yours.  Anakin gets a female apprentice (without ever becoming a Jedi master...once again, I don't get it either) who ends up being, quite simply, the most annoying character in Star Wars history.  Combine Jar Jar Binks, C-3PO at his whiniest and Salacious Crumb and multiply by ten, and you’ll get the picture.  I never thought a cartoon character could rile up my hatred to its most penetrating boil, but it happened.  The animation was straight out of 1981, the battle scenes we saw were nothing special, and no one explained why Jabba the Hutt (a MOB boss, if you remember) would turn to law enforcement (re: the Jedi) for help, when he's doing a bunch of illegal acts.  And why would the Jedi help him anyway?  Aargh, it's more infuriating than, well, the last Star Wars movie. 

So, if you want to sit through this nonsense and pretend there's a good story, and that all is still hunky-dory with the Star Wars universe, go ahead.  You have been warned.  For myself, I'd rather watch the walls move (oh, wait, that's what I did...)

0 / 5 stars (and that is a first)

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