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The Cynical Optimist Vs. The Clone Wars

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Star Wars: The Clone Wars
Still Strong with the Force

One has to wonder if putting ”Star Wars: The Clone Wars” in theaters was nothing more than a marketing ploy to make money and sell toys. Though it’s being released as a stand-alone film, ”Star Wars: The Clone Wars” is actually just the big screen launch of an upcoming Cartoon Network series by the same name.

The ‘film,’ which takes place between ”Attack of the Clones” and ”Revenge of the Sith”, follows Generals Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker as they fight alongside the clone troops of the New Republic. The Separatists, led by Count Dooku and controlled by Darth Sidious, have kidnapped Jabba the Hutt’s son. The Jedi send Skywalker and his new Padawan, Ahsoka Tano, to save the stolen slug.

Fans of the almighty saga will immediately notice differences between the films and this new animated series. The Twentieth Century Fox Fanfare, which has always preceded the Star Wars films, is gone – and in its place is the Warner Bros. emblem, which shouldn’t make a difference, but it does. It just doesn’t feel like Star Wars.

Then there’s the score. Legendary composer John Williams’ contributions to the Star Wars universe are limitless, but his beautiful signature tracks are scarce here. Also missing is the initial crawl, that is, the scrolling text that explains any story necessary in order to jump right into the action.

We still get the backstory, only in the form of a World War II-inspired newsreel clip. A voice straight out of 1940s radio explains that the Clone Wars have swept through the galaxy and the heroic Jedi Knights are struggling to maintain order and restore peace.

After the WWII newsreel ends, the story picks up in the middle of a large battle. Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker are leading their clone troopers into battle against the Separatists’ droid army. The action sequences are on par with anything you’ve seen in the live-action Star Wars films, and the animation is smooth and super-stylized.

Soon thereafter the audience is introduced to Ahsoka Tano, Anakin’s new Padawan learner. She’s a feisty little one, but she’ll soon learn some respect. Ahsoka is cute, adorable, and precious. And that’s not a bad thing. Ahsoka will finally allow sisters across the world to join in the fun of playing Star Wars with their brothers. No more playing the damsel in distress, the princess chained to Jabba – now girls can engage in epic lightsaber duels as Ahsoka Tano, their own female warrior.

The animation, while not on the same level as recent films like ”Wall-E” or ”Kung-Fu Panda”, is smooth and beautifully colored. The backgrounds almost look as realistic as many of the backdrops in the prequel films. The character animations, however, tend to be as wooden as the acting of the prequels.

While ”Star Wars: The Clone Wars” doesn’t include Jar Jar Binks, there is one new character that will probably join the list right behind Binks as one of the most hated characters in the Star Wars universe. Ziro the Hutt, Jabba’s drag queen uncle, is a strange and pointless addition to the universe. Aside from Ziro, fans may be bothered by some of the film’s misplaced humor. Ahsoka is mainly to blame for saying annoying things, such as giving Anakin the nickname of “Sky-guy.” She’s young, and while she doesn’t deliver any “Yippees” like Jake Lloyd’s Anakin in ”The Phantom Menace”, it will still no doubt anger fans who think every film should be as dark as ”The Empire Strikes Back”.

Overall, diehard fans of the universe George Lucas created will no doubt find some subtle charm in this animated introduction to the Cartoon Network series, regardless of the lack of real story. For those casual fans, ”Star Wars: The Clone Wars” will be a fun, entertaining romp through familiar territory. As a film, this just doesn’t compare to the six-film saga (nor does it mean to) but as a premiere for a television series, the quality of this ”Clone Wars” is superior to other cartoons out there.

Ultimately, ”Star Wars: The Clone Wars” is geared solely toward children. It’s light and fluffy and fun – the kind of fun that will hopefully hook a whole new generation of bright-eyed kids who love to dream of galaxies far, far away.

It’s hard not to love Star Wars, it’s even harder not to smile when you see Yoda or hear the familiar beeps of R2-D2.

3 Stars

____________________________________________________

A Letter to George Lucas

Dear Mr. Lucas,

Each and every time a fellow Star Wars fan mentions how dreadful Jar Jar Binks is, or how incredibly bad the dialogue is in ”Attack of the Clones”, I’ve had your back. I’ve defended you time and time again. When a friend brings up Anakin riding a giant tick and romping around in the grass with Padme during a Naboo picnic, I’ve apologized and explained your true intentions.

But I’ll be honest with you Mr. Lucas, it’s getting harder and harder to defend you. It seems that, slowly but surely, Star Wars is losing its soul. Perhaps the franchise truly jumped the shark years ago, but for me I’ve been blinded by own unconditional love for your creation. I enjoyed ”Star Wars: The Clone Wars”, I truly did, and I have great faith in the animated series – BUT I worry that your drive, your only motivation in making it, is money.

There isn’t much of a story to be told in ”The Clone Wars”, and even though us diehard Star Wars fans are screaming for more – that doesn’t mean we want something that isn’t up to the high quality Star Wars was once known for. Was this some marketing ploy by Hasbro to sell action figures, or did you honestly felt a theatrical release was justified?

I have never once said, “George Lucas raped my childhood,” and I never will. I love the special editions! Hell, I even love the prequels! But the magic is beginning to fade, like an old Yoda becoming one with the Force.

And what of the live-action television series? Are you going to take the first three episodes of that and edit them together in hopes of getting a theatrical release? I can’t imagine how sad it must be to realize you’ve become the thing you hate most – the Man. You fought against the system as an experimental young director, and now you are the system. I pray the live-action series is treated with more respect than a simple scheme to make money and sell toys.

I don’t regret all the money I spent on your toys, trading cards, and the multiple trips to cinemas to see your films. What I do regret, is investing so much of myself into something that is now seen by and large as a joke.

I had dreams that I’d work at Lucasfilm one day – that I’d go to work every day at Skywalker Ranch and get to talk about Star Wars all day and somehow craft the mythology – tell new stories that had meaning and magic and that touch of inspiration you installed in my soul. I realize now that working for you might not be too dissimilar from being Grand Moff Tarkin or Vader himself, a pet at the mercy of a power-hungry Emperor who didn’t know when to hang it up.

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