Forcing the series

Review by Vives Anunciacion
Inquirer Libre August 26, 2008
(English version)

Star Wars: The Clone Wars
Directed by Dave Filoni
Lucasfilm Animation/ Warner Brothers

There’s a different Anakin Skywalker here. He’s not as uptight like before. Maybe because it’s computer animation. At least there’s no Jar Jar Binks.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars is the first animated movie of the series and the first movie from Lucasfilm Animation – the studio that George Lucas established a few years ago which has a unit in Singapore. This is also the first time Yoda isn’t voiced by Frank Oz, and the first Star Wars not to use original music from John Williams. One can almost say this is outside the Star Wars universe if George Lucas hadn’t produced this movie.

The good news is it’s a movie meant for kids. The bad news is that it may have one too many action pieces to make it appropriate for them.

In this version of The Clone Wars, the Galactic Republic under Chancellor Palpatine is engaged in an all-out-war with the separatist Confederacy under Count Dooku (still voiced by Christopher Lee). The events in this movie are between the stories of Episode II: Attack of the Clones and Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. After liberating one planet from occupying separatists, Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi are sent by the Jedi Council to search and retrieve Jabba the Hutt’s kidnapped infant child.

Unknown to the Council, Count Dooku and his assassin Asajj Ventress are behind the kidnapping, designed to instigate a three-way war between the Republic, the Separatists and the Outer-rim planets controlled by Jabba’s crime mafia. Helping the two Jedi Knights in this assignment is a new Padawan learner, Ashoka Tano, Anakin’s incessantly annoying young apprentice.

The CGI movie as a theatrical event is not entirely awful – maybe noisy and juvenile (just like its target market) – but decently executed by the same director of Avatar: The Last Airbender. However, this CGI version pales in comparison in storytelling, action, music and characterization to (and should not be confused with) the 2D hand-drawn animated Star Wars: Clone Wars series by Samurai Jack and Dexter’s Laboratory creator Genndy Tartakovski aired in Cartoon Network in 2003. Let’s just say that one was targeted for older kids.

The Clone Wars is one giant videogame which doesn’t add anything new to the entire Star Wars saga, save for the introduction of Ashoka. She’ll fare better in terms of story line and character development in the upcoming series – she does nothing here but annoy Anakin like a pre-teen sister would. Apparently Padawans can be disrespectful to their Masters as long as they’re good with the lightsaber.

Having proven time and again that film franchises are the most lucrative in the business, it’s not surprising for the producers of Star Wars to stretch its merchandising to the furthest reaches of its universe. Star Wars: The Clone Wars the movie is basically a theatrical advertisement for the upcoming CGI animated series on Cartoon Network, the resulting videogame titles for Xbox, Playstation, PSP and Wii, and a lot more action figures.

Here’s one loud reason how Star Wars has become the cartoon that it is. The Force may not be strong in this movie, but somewhere inside, it’s still there.

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