Before I start the review, I should say that Jason and I had the misfortune of sitting in the theater behind an 8 year old who was, quite literally, freaking out with hyperactivity. He was cool whenever there was action on screen, but as soon as the flashing lights stopped, he was instantly hopping around in his seat and talking to his mom, who tried to shush him in vain. This kid was absolutely uncontrollable and my friend and I had to move to a different part of the theater to remain sane enough to watch the movie. I can understand a kid getting antsy if a movie is heavy on the plot, but this is the Clone Wars. Frankly, his behavior made me terrified to have children. What if I have a kid who is so hyperactive that he's absolutely unable to sit still for any movie? That settles it: no Lucky Charms in the house when I have kids. IF I have kids, that is. A vasectomy is looking less scary every day.
Anyway, on with the review! As I you can probably gleam from above, my expectations were less than zero. But surprisingly, this movie isn't as bad as the reviewers claim. Maybe I prepared myself for the super-cheesy stuff by reading all the spoilers from the negative reviews, but I would say that it's better than most, if not all, of the other Star Wars prequels.
That's not to say that it's a stellar movie. Actually, this movie truly is a kid's movie, so expect little more than a Saturday morning cartoon (which is what it was intended to be). That said, for a Saturday morning cartoon, it's very impressive. (And most Saturday morning cartoons are better than the prequel trilogy.)
The plot, in a nutshell, is that Jabba the Hutt's son has been abducted and the Jedis try to rescue him because they need Jabba's support for the war. Anakin discovers that he's been assigned a plucky padawan, Ahsoka, who he must train during the mission. But let's delve a bit deeper, starting with the good stuff:
Shockingly, this is the best depiction of Anakin yet. That's not saying much since the other Prequels did a horrifically poor job of developing the character, but there were a few nice scenes in this movie that showed Anakin as not only a capable warrior but also as an interesting teacher. And his dialogue is the least awkward in this movie than in the entire trilogy. Don't mistake this as gushing praise, as the character still needs a lot of work. A LOT OF WORK. But it's a start at least.
Ahsoka is considered by many to be the second coming of Jar Jar. But, as animated movie heroines go, she was pretty par for the couse. I will go so far as to say that I kind of liked the dynamic between Anakin and her.
Again, I must reiterate that, like Anakin, she is NOT a deep character. And she does tend to use some annoying nicknames, like Skyguy for Anakin and Ar-tooey for R2. Whenever she said that baby talk crap, I wished that Anakin would smack her with a Klingon pain stick. But she does her job and her personality is pretty much what you would expect from this sort of cartoon.
There were a few battle scenes that were downright cool. The cliff scene in particular was fun and innovative. And the space battles were pretty well rendered with detailed ships.
The villains were nifty, for the most part. Asajj Ventress was much cooler than I expected; I liked her more in this movie than in the previous Clone Wars cartoon. And this next statement will effectively destroy my credibility, but I actually liked Ziro the Hutt. He was a colorful character who was fun to watch because he was so goofy. But Count Dooku was as dull as he was in both AOTC and ROTS. And speaking of the bad stuff:
The animation was not executed particularly well. The backgrounds were often lacking and the textures needed help. In fact, I noticed that the overall resolution was pretty low, so this is not a movie to watch on a high-definition format. Compared to the CGI TMNT, the animation of The Clone Wars is pretty lame.
It was readily apparent that the music was not composed by John Williams. That's not necessarily a bad thing as I think that most of Johnny's work on the Prequels has been downright nub-ariffic, but the music in this movie was poor in comparison even to that crap.
Okay, it's official: Lightsabers suck. There's really nothing more they can do with a lighsaber at this point that would interest me. The last time lightsabers were cool was in The Phantom Menace when Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan were fighting Darth Maul. Since then, there have been few new developments with lightsabers, just a continuous rehashing of the same old crap. How many times do we need to see the same Jedi-Sith duels and Jedi chopping up droids? Yawn.
Clones vs. Battle Droids
Thousands of Clones fight thousands of Battle Droids. Haven't we seen all this before in countless other movies? The only thing that "epic" battle scenes like these show is that the animators are really good at Ctrl+C and Ctrl+V.
Since this movie lies in between AOTC and ROTS, we know exactly where all the important characters will end up. For example, Count Dooku can't die because we see him in ROTS. It's the perennial problem of prequels and it really deflates the suspense.
Is this a blatant attempt to funnel more of your money into George Lucas' deep pockets? Absolutely. But is this the worst thing we've seen from him? Absolutely not. There was nothing in this movie that came even remotely close to the horrors of the Jumping Jedi Yoda of AOTC. But don't get me wrong; I think all criticisms of this movie can be considered valid and as a movie, The Clone Wars is average at best. But as a TV cartoon show, it's actually pretty cool. I give it 3 out of 5 stars.
Pictures from the StarWars.com Clone Wars website.