I saw Star Wars: The Clone Wars a couple of weeks ago. At the time I thought, meh, it was all right, there were things I liked and things I didn’t. I held off on posting a review, and since then I’ve come to realize that that my reaction was a pretty mild one in the grand scale of things. Clone Wars has inspired some truly epic diatribes over on Ain’t It Cool and elsewhere.
Yes, in all truthfulness, it is not a very good movie. The voice-over at the beginning sounds like Regis Philbin. The plot about Jabba’s son is just beneath contempt. (I mean, even as a little kid I could tell when I was being pandered to. So who is that stuff for?) Jabba’s gay English-speaking uncle is really unfunny. The banter between Anakin and his sassy new padawan is sitcommy and lame. (If it were a 70s TV show they would have called this movie Sky Guy and S.N.I.P.S.) I can remember when Star Wars was exciting and dark and actually meant something. It’s one of the Great Cultural Conundrums of our time that Lucas and co. have chosen to opt out of that.
But I think I’m just getting too old, or too heavily medicated, or too something to get outraged about it. You just watch it and get what you can out of it it. The battle scenes — particularly the vertical one, as Anakin and Snips claw their way up a fortified tower — are quite beautiful. They made smart choices about the animation — instead of going for photorealism, and failing, they essentially created animations of wooden puppets. Obi-Wan’s beard is so stiff you could crack a walnut with it, but in a funny way it works.
And there’s lots of hyper-realistic effects mixed in with the stylized stuff, camera shake and motion blur, that keep the movie from looking completely cartoonish. In places the sense of deep 3D space, and the weight of the heavy droids and ships, is really startling. And Ventress — the foxy evil one — is a great character.
Bottom line, Clone Wars is lame, but it isn’t so lame that it permanently diminishes the franchise. Someday somebody will do something great with Star Wars again.