Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008)

(In theaters, August 2008) It’s one thing to laugh at Star Wars as being for kids, but it’s another to see the franchise deliberately lower the bar to a point where there’s no possibility for derision: Clone Wars is not just for kids, it’s a pilot for a kid’s TV series. The cut-rate computer animation is sub-par (the dubbing is notoriously off), the plot is meaningless and there’s a teen heroine alongside Obi-Wan and Anakin to make it all even more attractive to the younger set. Not that the problems stop there: Voice impersonators have been hired to fill the roles of most of the live-action actors, the action once again returns to the familiar stomping ground of Tattoine, there’s little freshness to the sights, the anime-style designs are ugly, the beat-by-beat plotting is weak (Let’s hide in a box!) and the dialogue is dull enough to compete with lower-tier sitcoms. Not to mention that in the grand scheme of things, this entry in the Star Wars mythos is basically meaningless: it takes place between movies, doesn’t introduce any new revelation beyond what’s needed to set up the TV series: fans of the movies should adjust expectations accordingly to a quick cash-in product. On the relatively scarce upside, Ahsoka Tano becomes less annoying as time goes by (though making her a teen rebel makes little sense given what we’ve been shown of Jedi indoctrination practices: It would have been better to make her a by-the-book apprentice fit to be corrupted by Anakin’s go-for-broke style.) Some of the shots are set up in interesting ways, though the rest of the film is usually far more ordinary. Finally, Angelina-Jolie-styled antagonist Asajj Ventress gets more dialogue and time than the much-over-hyped Darth Maul, showing that Clone Wars is better than Episode One in at least one respect. But there isn’t much to report otherwise: This is a kid’s TV show pilot branded with the Star Wars logo, and nothing more. In a way, this film was oversold in theaters: it will feel a lot less pretentious once it’s part of the series’ DVD box-set.

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