Before we get into things,let’s review. First, I’ve loved Star Wars my entire life. While I don’t know Plo Koon’s family history, I can’t tell you how much a mug of Corellian Ale costs at Dexter’s Diner, and I don’t know all of Jodo Kast’s vital statistics, I do consider myself pretty well versed in the Star Wars Universe. Secondly, I truly enjoy the prequels. I am well aware of the weaknesses of the what has become the red headed step child of the Star Wars saga, but I still love the movies.
Now, I feel like I need to explain why I am even reviewing this movie. Of course, it is encumbent upon me as the owner and operator of Geek Out Online (The website of which Geek Out Loud is the official podcast.) to write up a review for you the fellow geek. Moreso, however, I feel like there needs to be a balance of sorts to the quite negative reviews that are out there. So, quite honestly, this review is going to be more of a reaction to those reviews I’ve read that range from “I hated a Star Wars movie” to “George Lucas is the devil.”
In my opinion the biggest weakness of any of the prequel material we’ve been given over the past decade is not the acting, the stories, or the characters. It’s the expectations of the fans. Let’s face it. Lucas fought a losing battle with Star Wars fans by trying to tackle twenty plus years of the collective imaginations of fan-fic writers, toy collectors, and Star Wars fans of all walks of life. Nothing could have lived up to what people imagined the Clone Wars were, much less the stories surrounding the Wars.
I don’t think people who didn’t like the prequels are haters. I don’t think people who didn’t like Clone Wars are haters. I think they are real fans of Star Wars for a long time who built up a mystique and a certain amount of wonder that NO filmmaker could have satisfied. That’s not really a bad thing until that twinge of disappointment turns into attacks on the hard work and creative minds behind the movies. I guess what I’m saying is, I’m ok with criticism. People need it. It hurts, and it’s not fun to be criticized, but there is a fine line between legitimate criticism and pointless complaining, and I think a lot of fans have crossed that line way too much over the past nine years. Sadly, it’s become cool for geeks to hate what has been done. So, it comes as no surprise to me that there are many self-proclaimed critics out there with nothing good to say about what they have seen with the advent of STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS.
The biggest complaints I’ve heard and read so far have been the animation, the childish humor, the music, and…uhm…that’s about it. Seriously, those are really the biggest complaints I’ve seen. AND PEOPLE SAY THEY HATE IT!!! From this point on there may be spoilers, so you have been warned.
The movie opens with the Warner Brothers logo and the Lucasfilm logo. In the background there is the static filled transmission that hearkens back to the Clone Wars cartoon series from Cartoon Network a couple of years back. Then silence, and I was surprised to see in the classic blue letters, “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…”
As the Clone Wars logo appears on screen and backs away from the camera into distant space, the new theme plays before we are treated to 1940’s newsreel type voice over bringing us up to speed on the Clone Wars as they stand at the time of the movie. From there, it’s right into the action with the four minute clip we’ve seen online, with additional action of course.
As I watched this movie, I kept checking my watch. Not because I didn’t enjoy it, but because I was surprised at how much content was squeezed into the movie and yet how well it was flowing. I was seriously expecting a cliffhanger with a “to be continued in the Clone Wars television series” at the end.
However, what we got is a coherent story from start to finish with some neat character work on everyone from Anakin and his new apprentice to the Clone Troopers. Particuliarly, Captain Rex, who I am a big fan of now.
The action is ramped up throughout this movie. There is a ton of lightsaber action. The battle scenes are huge and intense. The stakes seemed to be greater than what they were even in the Tartovsky cartoons. I think this is due mainly to the fact that in the Cartoon Network series we were dropped into a battle here and there with very little explanation and more often than not, they were over in three minutes.
I heard someone say that this movie lacked the character development of the Cartoon Network series. To that comment I respond with a, “WHA-HUH?” There was little to no character development in the Clone Wars cartoon series. Don’t get me wrong. I loved that series. I had a blast with it. But to say there was actual character development is a bit of a misnomer. We got to see more of peripheral characters in action, but I don’t know that they were actually developed.
In this movie though, we see Anakin’s and Obi Wan’s relationship begin to develop beyond master/teacher. We see Anakin thrust into a situation that causes him to have to grow and expand his self centered way of doing things. We see Padme actually show a little of the fire of her character from Episode 1. There are just some really good things about this movie.
Is it geared toward kids? Yes. Is that a bad thing? Not at all. How many of us were kids when we got into Star Wars? A lot. So, it’s nice to see kids excited about this thing. It means it’s going to get to live on even longer.
One of the strongest points about this movie is how likeable Anakin is. I think the biggest success of the series will be that we come away actually liking Anakin and seeing how good he was, so when Obi Wan is shocked that Anakin would turn, we are able to better understand his surprise.
Asohka, Anakin’s new padawan, adds a new dimension to things, and the repoir that she and Anakin strike up makes for some fun as well as some nice moments of seeing not only how powerful he is, but how much he truly believes in the Jedi way. That’s a pretty big deal considering that he turns his back on it all.
Don’t be deceived though, there are the same struggles that we see in the prequels there for Anakin as well. It’s not lost on the film makers that Anakin has to return to Tattooine the planet that is home of the greatest personal tragedy of his life. The way he chooses to deal with it is pure Anakin, and it serves to set up concern from Asohka for her master. Then, as he duels with Dooku on the dune sea, his pain and loss come into play once again.
I was a little jarred by the animation style. Particularly, in the hair of the characters. It’s very static and doesn’t move at all, giving the characters a plasticky look. I wondered about this, knowing that Lucasfilm could pull off more realistic looking hair. Then it occurred to me…not on a weekly show they can’t. At least not for a reasonable amount of money. So, I can give it a pass.
The music is another point of contention for some viewers. No one can do John Williams as good as John Williams. I guess, knowing that they couldn’t get John Williams to score individual episodes of a television show, the film makers decided to go with someone they could use on a regular basis rather than simply recycling Williams’ music cues throughout. I like the music. I have the soundtrack. However, it is so much better when heard in the context of the movie. I know, I know, when you think Star Wars you don’t think electric guitars….until you listen to the Attack of the Clones soundtrack. (The Chase scene people….it’s there.) The music here sets up some great themes that I’m sure will be used in the television series and, as I said before, I think it all works quite well for the movie and the eventual TV show.
Finally, there’s a lot of talk about burp and fart humor. I expected a lot of it from all the complaining. There are two instances. So, not too much, and let’s be honest, Lucas likes that kind of humor. You do too, if it’s not in a Star Wars movie, so let it go.
In the end, I give this movie a solid 3 1/2 out of 5 of whatever I give on these things. I don’t give it a 4 or 5 because I don’t want to overhype. If you hated the prequels then you won’t find much to like here. If you liked the prequels, you will probably like this. If you love Star Wars in all its forms…you should enjoy this movie greatly. I know I did. So, have fun…that’s what it’s all about anyway. Oh…and…may the Force be with you.