Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008)

“He means your past can ruin your future if you allow it. But you forget it was Master Skywalker who said, “I don’t want to talk about my past.”

Taking place chronologically after the events of Episode 2: Attack of the Clones, the newest entry into the expansive Star Wars universe offers a refreshing take to the world – animation. At the end of Attack of the Clones, Jedi Master Yoda (voiced by Frank Oz) proclaimed that “begun the ‘Clone Wars’ have” and that’s exactly what the Dave Filoni helmed Clone Wars film centers around. Going back to Episode 2 that released in 2002, during the final sequence that would conclude the film, the battle between the newly formed clone army and the droids leaned heavily, almost too heavily on CGI to get the scope of two full grown armies taking part in a battle foreshadowing the exploration into an unknown for the saga.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars clocks in at 98 minutes, much shorter than the prequel trilogy that has just concluded in 2005’s Revenge of the Sith, the commanding favorite among the prequels. In that time, writers Henry Gilroy, Steven Melching, and Scott Murphy introduce a lot to a universe that has focused on the Skywalkers and the immediate circle of characters. That focus is still here with Anikan Skywalker (voiced by Matt Lanter) and Obi-Wan Kenobi (voiced by James Arnold Taylor) leading the charge as the most notable characters. Where The Clone Wars comes in to play however, is a bridge – between episodes 2 and 3 to fill in the missing pieces while introducing some key new characters.

The plot of The Clone Wars follows Anikan and Obi-Wan, tasked to go on a rescue mission to save everyone’s favorite Hutt, Jabba’s son from a group of kidnappers, who just so happen to be led by Count Dooku (voiced by Christopher Lee) and the separatists. Some time has passed between Episode 2 and when The Clone Wars begins – both Anikan and Obi-Wan are older and Anikan is no longer a padawan. In his new role as a jedi, Anikan is given his own padawan to teach and protect in Ahsoka Tano (voiced by Ashley Eckstein).

Following the 2003 animated series of the same name, this film version serves as a jumping off point, a 98-minute pilot episode for a Clone Wars series that would use the same voice cast and animation style. Speaking of, it’s the sharp robotic edges and rough character designs that are enough to cause distraction from the meager story playing out. Though the resemblance is there for the familial characters like Anikan, Obi-Wan, Yoda and Mace Windu (voiced by Samuel L. Jackson), the animation style is hard to stomach – hair looks like carved wood and faces are aged up by 50 years.

The Clone Wars is very much a Star Wars story – full of Jedi and Sith, political corruption and battles. And just like the prequel period this movie takes place in; the writing is the biggest flaw. Episode 2 saw the change in Anakin’s demeanor after killing Tusken Raiders. His thirst for the dark side grew even more after Dooku cut his arm off. The Clone Wars version of Anikan is not the same sand loathing, youngling killing, self-brooding character, although Ahsoka does badger Anikan on why he hates Tatooine at nauseam. Knowing the character, hearing him call Ahsoka ‘Snips’ for 98 minutes retracts his development into the ultimate villain we all know.

Opposite ‘Snips’ is a rather annoying nickname given to Anikan by Ahsoka – ‘Sky guy’. Once said aloud the look on Anakin’s face resembles all of us. Who in the world would ever think to call the chosen one ‘Sky guy’. I know Ahsoka is a kid and Filoni is aiming both the film The Clone Wars and the follow up series toward a younger audience, but the writing is nothing like what made Star Wars this cultural phenomenon.

Getting past the weakly written script that bears no resemblance to a feature film – structurally, the film stays at the same wavelength, never gaining an ounce of momentum to pay attention to whats happening on screen. The lackluster script allows The Clone Wars to be uninspired and devoid of any charm or heart, something to throw on in the background just for the constant noise for an hour and a half. What makes The Clone Wars the worst representation of Star Wars is the lack of care put in by Lucas and Filoni. The animation is rough from all angles of each character model, aging most beloved ones by about 50 years. As many other critics have put it, it’s mechanical, uninviting and robotic – everyone moves the same way, distinguishing one from the other is a tough task.

As someone who grew up with the prequels, they aren’t so bad after all. The Clone Wars is by far the worst of the franchise that has a true polar opposite. A lot of work will need to be done to get back to those early glory days.

Screenplay By: Henry Gilroy, Steven Melching & Scott Murphy

Directed By: Dave Filoni

Music By: Kevin Kiner

Starring: Matt Lanter, Ashley Eckstein, James Arnold Taylor, Catherine Taber, Tom Kane, Dee Bradley Baker, Christopher Lee, Samuel L. Jackson, Anthony Daniels, Nika Futterman, Ian Abercrombie

Where to Watch: Disney Plus

Release Date: August 15, 2008

Running Time: 1 Hour 38 Minutes

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 18%

Based On: Star Wars by George Lucas

Rating: 1 out of 5.

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