Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008)

star wars the clone wars

“The wise and powerful Jabba has one more small condition: he demands you bring back the slime who kidnapped his little…punky muffin.”

The Scoop: 2008 PG, directed by Dave Filoni and starring Matt Lanter, James Arnold Taylor, Ashley Eckstein

Tagline: No tagline

Summary Capsule: Anakin, Obi-Wan and friends fight battle droids a lot. Also, Dooku.


Al’s rating: Remember the last time they tried to bring Star Wars to television? Yeah.

Al’s review: So, um, I enjoyed The Clone Wars.

I know! I know! I’m sorry!

I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. Come back, please!

Listen, I feel really, really bad about it. It’s entirely the fault of people like me that this kind of meat scrap is culled from the bottom of the Lucas grinder and served up to the public year after year. I know. It’s a low-rent, mind-numbingly bad, occasionally offensive cash grab that I’m only helping to facilitate by telling anyone that I liked any part of it. …But I did.

I didn’t want to enjoy myself. The plot of The Clone Wars, for starters, is painful, focusing on the adventures of Anakin Skywalker and Obi Wan Kenobi during the gap in between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith.  It’s been done before, most notably in the fun, frenetic Genndy Tartakovsky Clone Wars cartoons from 2003, and the dark, powerful, and almost uniformly excellent Dark Horse comic series that ran between 2002 and 2005. This story centers on Anakin and Obi Wan’s quest to rescue Jabba the Hutt’s infant son so the Republic can gain access to the Outer Rim hyperspace routes under his control. The Huttlet has been captured secretly by Count Dooku and his pupil Asajj Ventress in an attempt to frame the Jedi, so we can be guaranteed an umpteen number of lightsaber battles before the credits roll.

The story’s three parts break neatly into episodes that will doubtless be aired for free in two months at the start of the Clone Wars cartoon show this fall, and each focuses on a specific battle that will take up the majority of its segment. Like a video game, each part gets an exposition scene telling us where they have to get to, how they ought to get there, and who is likely to get in the way. The rest of each setpiece consists of them fighting their way through hordes of enemies, encountering some form of ‘boss battle’ at the end, and then accomplishing their objective.

Of course, The Clone Wars isn’t just here to create Playstation plots and get the kids geared up for the show, it also needs to allow for as many happy meal toys as possible, so we’re given some new characters. The most prominent is Anakin’s irritating new padawan, Ahsoka. She’s a hyperactive little Robin to Anakin’s Batman, designed for the preteen demographic to latch onto and buy action figures of. She looks ten and talks like she became a Jedi by way of the San Fernando Valley. Among other offenses, she nicknames Anakin “Sky Guy,” which he responds to by calling her “Snips,” since she’s so snippy. Note to Lucas: The word ‘snippy’ should not be in my action hero’s vocabulary. Ever. My only consolation may be the knowledge that she will be murdered by the end of Episode III.

Then again, Ahsoka may as well be Han Solo compared to The Clone Wars’ other major introduction to the series, Ziro the Flaming Homosexual Hutt. Ziro is Jabba the Hutt’s uncle and in charge of the underworld on Coruscant. He wears pink feathers on his head; chunky, gold rings on his fingers; and speaks like Truman Capote. Yup. Not only does he speak perfect English, but it’s a high, Southern voice delivered with a lisp that has all the subtlety of a frilly, rainbow-colored anvil. I’ve often thought the ‘offensive’ accents that Star Wars gets accused of — lazy, buffoonish Jar Jar as Caribbean or stingy, haggling Watto as Jewish or Arab — have been blown way out of proportion. It never bugged me or even entered my mind that they sounded like an ethnic group from planet Earth. But Ziro—Ziro is something that so blatantly exploits a stereotype that I can’t help feeling offended as a person and embarrassed for the movie.

The CGI animation is anime-based, giving everyone a distended, goofy look that will likely appeal to kids and kids alone. All of the truly interesting ideas brought up elsewhere in the Expanded Universe about political intrigue and the ramifications of turning the Jedi from philosopher/protectors into military generals are forgotten in favor of swinging lightsabers and merchandisable accessories. And, naturally, the creeping grip of the Dark Side that should be building up inside Anakin is totally absent so he can appeal to as many kids as possible and sell as many action figures as he can. I hate all these things. In fact, I hate everything about the purpose, production, and release of Star Wars: The Clone Wars.

And yet I enjoyed it. I guess deep down inside, maybe next to that instinct to club a woman over the head and drag her into a cave, part of me enjoys watching battle droids chattering like The Three Stooges and AT-TEs ascending mountain ledges amid a rain of blaster bolts. There’s no politics, no gravitas, no pretentions about providing anything beyond lightsabers, lightsabers, lightsabers. It’s like the Dragonball Z of the Star Wars universe: mindless and pointless, but a whole lot of fun if you can let yourself go with it.

So, in conclusion, I would like to reiterate: I’m sorry. For all its faults (and there are many, many more than even what I’ve listed here), I can’t pretend that I walked out of the theater spitting vitriol at The Clone Wars. It’s neither a movie I can recommend, nor one I can righteously condemn. I will say that it is maybe the best example of what’s wrong with George Lucas and what’s wrong with Hollywood, but, by extension, doesn’t that make me a prime example of what’s wrong with audiences? They shoveled this tripe down our throats long enough that we’ve just learned to say “Yeah, its good enough.” As for me, it’s entirely possible that I’ve been seduced by the dark side of this franchise; that I’m more machine now than man. Twisted and evil. So, I’ll tell you: please don’t listen to any positive-sounding paragraphs above. Please don’t see this movie. Once you start down this path, forever will it dominate your destiny.

Lissa’s rating: At least I don’t call my kids punky muffin.

Lissa’s review: I’m a child of the seventies and eighties, and like pretty much everyone else from that era, I love Star Wars. Sure, it’s not pure brilliance in terms of acting, story, cinematics (these days), or anything else, but it’s Star Wars. And like all of us, I had my heart broken by the prequels. But note I went to all three anyway.

However, as much as I like Star Wars, I’m not all that into it. I’ve only ever read one of the novelizations, and I’ve never read any of the tie-in novels, although I’ve heard that some of them are quite good. I don’t write fanfiction for it. (And given that I do actually write the stuff for a couple of other franchises, that’s actually a good indication of my interest level.) Basically, I pretty much stopped at the six movies. But the other day I had an opportunity to see The Clone Wars for free and entertain my offspring at the same time (yay, Regal Family Film Festival!), so we went. And I learned a few things:

1.) Exposition can be really annoying.

Since the movie is geared at kids, I get why they didn’t do the traditional introductory scroll. When your target audience either can’t read or is still sounding out words like “pickles”, tossing words like “separatists” or “Federation” or made-up alien names at them just isn’t the most effective means of conveying information. But at the same time, having Obi-Wan or Anikan reiterate the plot in a “as you know, we are pinned down by the enemy and are now sending for more reinforcements” sort of voice can get a tad… tedious.

2.) It’s really obvious how much of the prequel movies was CGI.

People done in computer-generated animation still have that weird, stick-like look to them, no matter what movie you watch. However, robots and backgrounds look fantastic. While Anikan, Obi-Wan, and any other humans looked a little… funny… the battle droids and the settings looked almost exactly like they did in the prequel movies. Yeah, we all knew George Lucas was more concerned with flash over story, but this REALLY showed it up.

3.) But the Jedi have REALLY cool powers.

This was one area where CGI actually did benefit. Seventies/early eighties effects being what they were, we all could appreciate that light sabers were cool and Jedi were supposed to be powerful, but watching in animation… this was the first time I really saw how having a Jedi around was more of a threat than having a samurai around. Before, they were just guys with cool sticks that could throw things around with their minds. This time, I really got it.

4.) There are ways to make Anakin Skywalker less annoying.

Yes! It’s true! The first? Don’t give him any romantic dialogue. I actually liked the Anakin/Padme romantic hints in this one. But second, give him a sidekick more annoying than he is, and I promise he will start being less annoying simply by comparison. Ahsoka was easily one of the most annoying sidekicks in cinematic history, and wow, I wanted to smack her pretty much every time she opened her mouth.

5.) The majority of the kids of today aren’t as bad as everyone makes them out to be.

But the thing is, she was just annoying. She wasn’t actually bad – just a total know-it-all Mary Sue of a character. But actually, the real reason I had this point was because we were in a packed movie theater with 2/3 of the seats occupied by people under 10. And the behavior was amazing, and I mean that in a good way. Sure, it wasn’t silent, and sure, some of them got restless. But no popcorn throwing, no gum spitting or spitball fights, and the kids were relatively quiet. I was impressed.

6.) Hutts have sex.

It’s a repulsive image, yes, but apparently, it’s true.

The first way we find this out is that Jabba the Hutt has procreated. Someone has kidnapped his infant son “Punky muffin”, and it’s up to the Jedi to get him back. Of course, the fact that we never see a Mrs. The Hutt could imply that Hutts reproduce asexually, and Punky just split off from Jabba one day. However, then you have Ziro.

Okay, who the heck came up with Ziro the Hutt, and what decade do they think it is???? We’re supposed to be making strides forward in the way we view the homosexual community, not strides back. It’s not that I object to a gay villain, per se, but for crying out loud, could he have BEEN any more of a stereotype? Lots of pink, feathers, a lisp… head, meet desk. I’m normally willing to cut a lot of slack, but on this one… no. There is no WAY they couldn’t have known what they were doing.

7.) Not only did The Clone Wars fail at LBGT issues, it failed at gender issues.

Ah, gender issues in scifi. The thing is, I usually wouldn’t accuse Star Wars of having them. For the time period, Princess Leia was pretty forward in terms of butt kickers. Yes, she needed saving, but so did Luke and Han at different points, and as soon as they rescued her she grabbed a gun and took charge. She was competent, sassy, and held her own against Han, making him actually improve to HER level before she’d give him the time of day. So, yeah, I didn’t really have much in the way of gender issues with the original trilogy.

But now, I’d like to see scifi writers and filmmakers thinking more about gender issues. And in the prequels, we still have a strong, male dominated cast. There’s Padme, but aside from that… there aren’t many female characters.

The Clone Wars ups the ante a bit with two. Oooh. But notice how they’re both apprentices. Notice how they both wear revealing clothing while the male Jedi wear armor. (At least Leia dressed practically, and the slave girl bikini doesn’t count as that was supposed to be misogynistic.) I’ll give them the credit of making Ahsoka fairly competent for a young kid, but who also turns to goo in the face of a baby slimeball? I’m just saying- come on guys. It’s the 21st century. A prominent non-apprentice female Jedi with a decent-sized role wouldn’t kill you.

8.) I really split hairs on point 7.

For all that I’ll complain about the female characters being apprentices, and Ahsoka being freaking ANNOYING, I actually found myself liking the mentor relationship between her and Anakin. It was odd, because I couldn’t stand her and I normally can’t stand him and their dialogue was often lame and if I talked to my tae kwon do master like that I would have been kicked out of class, but I still liked the affection they developed.

Go figure.

9.) The Clones are kind of neat. It’s nice to see the Stormtroopers-to-be without helmets.

Hey, it’s the little things in life. Actually, it’s a line in Clerks, about wondering if your average Stormtrooper knows how to install a toilet main. It sort of makes you think a little about what life as a grunt in this society must be like, and it was kind of nice to see a few hints of that.

10.) It’s definitely a kids’ movie, and it’s already leaving my brain.

Granted, Star Wars movies aren’t always the deepest and most ponderable of movies, but they are memorable. At least the first three are, anyway. The Clone Wars had its ups and downs, but 48 hours later, I’m already forgetting a lot of it. While it might partly be because I took the kids and spent half the movie making sure Ducklet didn’t get swallowed by his seat and the other half keeping T2 from bothering the nearest neighbors, I don’t think that’s the whole explanation. It wasn’t terrible, it was fun for a few hours, but it wasn’t something I feel the need to buy myself, either.

Unless I can use Ahsoka for target practice. Then I’m all for it.

Jedi Padawan or annoying Thundercat? You decide.

Intermission!

  • There’s no opening scroll and no John Williams music.  Weak.
  • Are they fighting a blue, Scottish walrus in the opening battle?
  • R2-D2 has a girlfriend!
  • Punky Muffin? Ugh.
  • A clone trooper Wilhelm Screams during the battle at the monastery.
  • R2’s jet rockets are way more powerful than I would have thought.
  • Anakin and Ahsoka are flying a B-Wing (I think) when they escape from Teth.
  • Asajj can lock her lightsabers together and form a staff.
  • No one says “I have a bad feeling about this.” This was easy fanservice, guys. Bad form.
  • I’m not sure if James A. Taylor did a great Ewan McGregor impression or a great Alec Guinness impression, but I applaud it nonetheless.
  • Anakin is shown here already sporting the facial scar we see in Episode III. Official continuity states he received the scar from Asajj Ventress approximately thirty months after the Battle of Geonosis (Episode II). According to the opening voiceover, however, the movie is supposed to take place ‘soon after’ the Battle of Geonosis.  Man, I’m a nerd.

Groovy Quotes

Captain Rex: Who’s the youngling?
Ahsoka: I’m Master Skywalker’s padawan. The name’s Ahsoka Tano.
Captain Rex: Sir, I thought you said you’d never have a padawan.
Anakin: There’s been a mix-up. The youngling isn’t with me.
Ahsoka: Stop calling me that! You’re stuck with me, Sky Guy.

Ahsoka: So what’s the plan?
Anakin: I thought you were the one with the plan.
Ahsoka: Nope. I’m the one with enthusiasm. You’re the one with experience which I’m looking forward to learning from.

Anakin: You’re reckless, little one. You never would have made it as Obi Wan’s padawan. But you might just make it as mine.

Jabba’s Protocol Droid: The wise and powerful Jabba has one more small condition: he demands you bring back the slime who kidnapped his little… punky muffin.

Battle Droid #1: Concentrate fire on sector 113274265!
Battle Droid #2: Sector 1132—what was that again?
Battle Droid #1: Just fire right there!

Asajj Ventress: Master Kenobi, always chasing after Skywalker. How predictable.
Obi Wan: Anakin leaves quite a mess — which always leads me to you, Ventress.

Ahsoka: Master Kenboi’s here. Now we’ll see some real fireworks!
Anakin: And what do you call what I’ve been doing all day?
Ahsoka: I dunno. The word ‘reckless’ comes to mind.

Ahsoka: You’ve got that ‘We’re in trouble’ look.
Anakin: There’s a look?

If You Liked This Movie, Try These:

  • Star Wars: Clone Wars (2003 miniseries)
  • Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace
  • The Star Wars Holiday Special

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