Before I get started with this review, let me make a few things clear. First, this is a negative review. If you are one of those Star Wars fans whose self-worth is predicated upon other people loving a film series that sucks, please don't read this review. Second, I already know how much Star Wars fans hate people who don't agree with them about the franchise; which means there is no reason to send me hate mail telling me how stupid I am, or wishing death upon me because we disagree. And finally, I'm serious, if you don't agree with me about Star Wars, DO NOT send me emails telling me what an asshole I am. I already know what an asshole I am.
First of all, let me state for the record that I didn't always hate Star Wars. I loved the original movies when I was a kid--at least the first two. But by the time Return of the Jedi came out, my brain had developed beyond that of the nine year-old that I was when the first film came out in 1977. I was a bit disgusted and insulted by the crass marketing of the Ewoks, and felt that the redemption of Darth Vader was bullshit. Little did I know it would only get worse, and that when The Phantom Menace came out, I would discover what it truly meant to hate a movie. My disdain for Star Wars grew with Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith; but now, with the release of the animated The Clone Wars--which I watched purely out of masochism--I have reached new depths of contempt for the beloved franchise of George Lucas.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars is an animated feature film that is not really an animated feature film. It is, in fact, the first three episodes of a new television series that will be airing on the Cartoon Network. Translated in more simple of terms, The Clone Wars is three episodes of television series, slapped together to appear like a real film, and released in theaters to make even more money for George Lucas. None of this would be a problem--even the making money for George Lucas part--if the three episodes in question were better, but they aren't. The Clone Wars is not an example of television so incredible it can't be contained by the tiny box, and must be seen on the big screen. If anything, it is television-quality "entertainment" that begs to remain trapped in the smaller medium, where the less-than-impressive animation isn't nearly as larger-than-life. And keep in mind that when something is created for television, but then deemed worthy of a theatrical release, you're usually looking at something along the lines of Buck Rodgers in the 25th Century.
Taking place in between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith--which is a lot like drowning in a sea of fecal matter while vomit rains down on your head--The Clone Wars strives to flesh out the history of the Star Wars universe as it relates to Obi Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker. The film/television series opens with narration instead of the standard title crawl, which may be simply because of the limited time afforded by TV, but is more likely an indication that the series is intended for youngsters too lazy or too stupid to actually read. Like the title crawls of the last three movies, the narration does little to help make sense of the thread-bare plot that is overly complicated by characters with silly names, and lots of special effects-heavy action that is nothing more than smoke and mirrors designed to keep anyone from noticing that they are watching garbage.
In this case of The Clone Wars, the garbage is animated, but not in any sort of groundbreaking manner. Sure, if The Clone Wars were relegated to television, where it belongs, the animation might seem more impressive. But on the big screen, in a world dominated by the quality work of Pixar, the sometimes clunky animation of The Clone Wars looks just plain sad. Yes, there are vibrant colors, and even some sequences that on television would appear incredibly executed, but the reality is that there are video games out there that look better, with better, more smooth animation.
Truth be told, if I were nine years-old, and watching The Clone Wars on television, I would be impressed. But as an adult with discerning taste, it is impossible to be fooled by this nonsense, especially as the silly story unfolds. In its first story-arc-turned-feature-film, The Clone Wars finds the battle between the Jedi Knights and the evil Count Dooku raging in a galaxy far, far way. When the son of galactic gangster Jabba the Hutt is kidnapped, the Jedis are called in to the rescue. You don't have to be smart enough to add two plus two and come up with something other than twenty-two to realize that Dooku is behind the crime, and trying to frame the Jedi for the kidnapping of Jabba Junior.
The problems that plague The Clone Wars are, in many ways, the same problems that plague the other films in the franchise, especially the three most recent movies. Most notably is the overwhelming desire to paint Anakin Skywalker as a brooding, sympathetic hero, even though we all know he's going to become Darth Vader. The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Cones and Revenge of the Sith failed on so many levels it was monumental, but the biggest failure came from trying to make Anakin a hero, when he is destined to become the villain of the overall story. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, trying to turn Anakin Skywalker into a hero is not unlike trying to make a teen-friendly movie called Hitler: The Wonder Years, that portrays a teen-age Hitler as a great guy with pressing emotional issues that lead to him becoming the fuehrer.
The film's only true redeeming moments come courtesy of Hiro the Hutt, Jabba's uncle. Hiro a garish looking slug awash in colors of pink, purple and lavender, with a Southern-fried lisp that sounds vaguely like Truman Capote, who could quite possibly be the most homosexual cartoon character since Snaggle Puss. Though entertaining for the wrong reasons, the sequences with Hiro come across as if they were farmed out to a different team of writers and animators who weren't paying attention to the rest of The Clone Wars. The result is a hilarious sequence--though I suspect unintentionally so--that is at the same time so homophobic that it is jaw-dropping.
Perhaps if it were viewed on television as three-part story, as was the original intention, The Clone Wars would have seemed not nearly as bad. Okay...it would have seemed as bad...only it would have been confined to the smaller screen of television, the run time would have been divided in thirds, there would have been commercials to provide a break from the all-action-little-story plot and, most important, you would not have to fork over hard-earned cash to watch this nonsense. Admittedly, the film is for children, but children deserve something better than this--something that is not so overwhelmingly style over substance or obviously geared at getting parents to spend money. But as it is, The Clone Wars is nothing more than an extended commercial for more Star Wars action figures, video games and other merchandising meant to rob you of your money, and its release in theaters is nothing more than shameless greed.
David Walker is the creator of BadAzz MoFo, a nationally published film critic, and the Writer/Director of Black Santa's Revenge with Ken Foree now on DVD [Buy it now]