Star Wars: The Clone Wars

3 out of 5

Directed by: Dave Filoni

I’m rather surprised at the amount of dislike the CGI Clone Wars film – a lead-in to the same-named / styled TV show – received at the time. I haven’t dug to see if there are revisionist takes on it, but as I’m going through Star Wars stuff somewhat chronologically recently, I can maybe guess that the film was still caught in the wake of dissatisfaction of the prequel trilogy, and that it would’ve been easy to go into it with expectations of something geared toward seasoned SW viewers – maybe an update / addition to the Genndy Tartakovsky Clone Wars series – when it’s very, very clearly (to me) aimed at youngsters, and thus extremely streamlined in writing and visuals for that purpose. Taken on that level, it’s better than any of the live-action prequel stuff, given that those are aimed at kids also – at least surely Phantom Menace – but have the mixed-message of an adult cast and unnecessarily complicated storylines that can’t properly be propped up by horrid dialogue and stiff acting.

But flat-delivered, here’s-the-plot writing and mug-for-the-camera phrasing fit acceptably into a kid’s cartoon, and I never feel like this movie is trying to be anything other than that, so it’s certainly never convincing as anything above dumb entertainment, but it dumbly entertains well.

A sort of revisionist take on that Genndy series, we’re again focusing on the titular Wars, with Count Dooku (Christopher Lee) plotting and battles on various fronts, as led by Obi Wan Kenobi (James-Arnold Taylor) and Anakin Skywalker (Matt Lanter) occurring. Dave Filoni is not – and I don’t think has changed much, to date – a great director, with inconsistent and unmotivated ideas for capturing scenes, and that flat line-reading staged and delivered in the most cookie-cutter manner possible. That said, the voice cast is able to make the most of it, and Filoni’s visuals at least are not distracting; they definitely get the job done. Writers Henry Gilroy, Steven Melching, and Scott Murphy also give Filoni plenty of varied (in scale and setting) action to deal with, and that’s where the indirect benefit of Filoni’s rather blase style comes into play, because you can always tell what’s going on, even if there was probably a more immersive and dynamic way to capture it. The story, as hinted, is fairly moronic at points, but that’s part of the kid’s show stuff again, in which adults can be misled via the most obvious subterfuge; the difference ‘tween this and Lucas’ works are that we’re not reveling in this silliness for longer than needed, and there’s always a clear throughline in the story, focusing on having Anakin and his new padawan, Ahsoka (Ashley Eckstein) transport a baby Hutt back to its daddy.

The character animation can be a little stiff, but the textures make a lot of difference to liven the look up, and because there are so many droids and machinery around, you can get away with it.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars – especially memorable? Worthy of its theater release? Maybe not, but I think if I had walked into this expecting a kids’ movie, I would’ve walked out at least satisfied, and definitely moreso than the slogs of episodes 1 – 3.