DIR: Dave Filoni • WRI: Henry Gilroy • PROD: Catherine Winder, George Lucas • ED: Jason Tucker • CAST: Matt Lanter, Ashley Eckstein, James Arnold Taylor, Tom Kane, Christopher Lee, Anthony Daniels, Samuel L. Jackson
Three years ago, as Revenge of the Sith was taking in squillions of dollars worldwide, George Lucas seemed to be trying to make one thing clear: THERE WILL BE NO MORE STAR WARS MOVIES. EVER. As it turns out, it didn’t take that long for him to decide that this wasn’t the case, and now Clone Wars, an animated feature-length introduction to a planned TV series, sees the saga returning once again to the big screen to force fans to shell out their hard-earned cash. If one was feeling particularly biting, you could comment that this film continues what Lucas seemed intent on doing throughout the prequels; making the franchise entirely computer generated.
Scepticism aside, Star Wars: The Clone Wars has a lot going for it once you get past the slightly cynical nature of the enterprise. Following on from a rather cool 2D anime series that was shown on Cartoon Network a few years back, this film, unlike it’s live-action cousins, has little interest in the political workings of the Star Wars galaxy, boasts a proper plot with a beginning, middle and end, and perhaps most importantly, worldwide hate object Jar Jar Binks is nowhere to be seen. This is a film made by Star Wars fans rather than its deep-pocketed creator, and as such, offers enough entertainment to make it worthwhile for hardcore fans (there’s plenty) willing to give it a try.
The film picks up somewhere in between Episode II and III, as Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi continue to lead the Republic against the Separatists. In order to aid the war effort, the Jedi agree to help Jabba the Hutt by rescuing his kidnapped son. Assisting them in this mission is Anakin’s new padawan apprentice, Ahsoka Tano, who, based on her non-appearance in Revenge of the Sith, seems unlikely to make it through the TV series. Just as well really, she’s pretty annoying.
Although it takes a little getting used to – purists may be shocked to learn that the traditional opening crawl is nowhere to be found – the animated universe of Clone Wars offers the filmmakers a chance to have some fun. Free of the problem of joining the dots between real actors and CGI, and budget no longer an issue, the film comfortably serves up some terrific set pieces, one of which – an vertical assault up the side of a cliff – is as good as anything in the live-action films. The animation itself is impressive; rather than going for photorealism, the directors have gone for a stylised, 3D anime look. What’s more, despite their caricatured appearance, the characters also prove quite emotive, some would say more so than the actors in the prequel trilogy. And surely even the most jaded fan can’t deny the thrill of a good lightsaber battle…
As visually impressive as it all is, however, there is nothing really here that warrants a theatrical release. The sensation of watching Clone Wars is similar to another comeback feature in cinemas at the moment; like the new X-Files movie, the film would certainly satisfy as a straight to DVD feature, but in serving it up as a big screen experience, casual viewers will no doubt feel a little short changed. Clone Wars will surely succeed in preaching to the converted, but people who don’t know their C3POs from their WD40 would perhaps be better to wait for the TV show.