I had heard that the new Clone Wars animated Star Wars movie was “the suxxorz” via Ain’t It Cool News (no link because the review was taken down due to studio embargo) and other such sites. Even Ebert ripped the movie a new one. I was ready to believe it; I think Lucas somehow went crazy in the long intermission between the two trilogies, and I hated the second trilogy with a passion, especially Phantom Menace. In fact, I bet you didn’t know this, but your friendly Geek created the Death to Jar Jar Binks Home Page, which gained some popular and media note following the release of Phantom Menace. So I was quite prepared to stick it in and break it off Lucas with Clone Wars. I hadn’t planned on seeing it at all, but I took a father-daughter day with my six year old today and she wanted to see it; it’s the only new kids release out. “I saw Space Chimps for her, I guess I may as well see Clone Wars,” I thought.
“This is more betterer than the real people ones,” she whispered to me halfway through. And I have to say, I agree. Clone Wars wasn’t bad at all. In fact, it was kinda good.
Although the tween queen padawan Ahsoka was a little over-sassy, and her “Ar-twoey” nickname for R2D2 sounded more like something my six year old would say when feigning baby talk, there was a lot to like in the movies. The battle scenes were frankly much better filmed than the ones in the second trilogy – you could follow the action, and the “coolness” of the Star Wars hardware was showcased successfully. The grittiness of the action was notable – I grimaced as a lot of the clone troopers got taken out, and it’d be interesting for later episodes to look into how these people are treated as disposable troops to throw against robotic forces. The clone troopers got to show off a little bit of individuality, bravery, and even ingenuity (something Stormtroopers aren’t known for…). The Jedi characters had distinct relationships with them, which was totally lacking from Eps. II-III. The character interactions were better than Episodes I-III as well, where we got to see Hayden Christensen leer at Natalie Portman, her skin obviously crawling with distaste all the while. And the animation had a cool, distinct look, very classy. There were some super sweet little details, like when the Sith assassin Ventress was in close-up you could see how her black lipstick was unevenly applied on her lips. You got details that most animation styles make impossible. And it made shots that are simple but impressive in the movies simple but impressive in animation – a lot harder than it sounds. Some reviewers don’t like it, but I think it’s perfect for Star Wars.
Really the only issue, which I guess is natural since this movie is really a pilot for the fledgling TV series, is that there’s no significant plot development – the “rescue the baby Hutt” plot is servicable but not really movie caliber. And Anakin, besides being occasionally gruff with his new apprentice, didn’t show a single sign of “gonna be real EEEEEVIL” later, which I thought was a lost opportunity.
There were some little puzzling bits, like the new Hutt (Zero) who, though looking cool (skin decoration makes all the difference!) spoke with a woman’s voice. Some have complained about the “gayness” of it, I just found it confusing, they should have just called the character Aunt Zero rather than Uncle. Unless Hutts are hermaphroditic… (I’m not a super Star Wars geek, so though I love the original trilogy I am not learned in the faux biology, history, etc. of the universe.) Well, and I was more taken aback that this Hutt spoke – whatever English is called in Star Wars – unlike Jabba, who always seemed to understand it but require a translator to speak it. I always thought that, like Wookiees, Huts just couldn’t speak it right due to biology or whatever.
But in terms of look, character interaction, and action – overall, I thought it was good. I feel like a lot of the hate (18% on Rotten Tomatoes) is delayed “me too”-ism. These same critics gave Phantom Menace a 63%, even though it was a deeply terrible movie, on the strength of the previous movies, the Star Wars mystique, and the Lucasfilm marketing machine. Now, that it’s sunk in how much the new trilogy largely sucked (though it got better after Phantom) those same critics are following along in the back of the herd, and saying “huh huh yeah Lucas sucks now huh huh” when, in point of fact, this one’s decent.
And, for what it’s worth – it was better than any of the kid’s movies I’ve been subjected to over the last couple months. “Space Chimps” got a 33% on Rotten Tomatoes, nearly double Clone Wars’ score, which means that these critics are essentially feces-chewing idiots. I mean, really. “House Bunny” is getting a 42%, for a movie clearly designed to make all of America dumber. Clone Wars is not a classic like the first three Star Wars movies, but it’s not a bad movie, or even a bad contribution to the Star Wars universe.