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“Star Wars: Clone Wars”

by Bob Garver

            “Star Wars: Clone Wars” is a second-rate production, so it was probably meant to go straight to television or DVD.  Someone decided that this time of year was lacking in family-friendly adventure films, and a movie with the “Star Wars” label would thrive in theaters.  While it is true that the film has a built-in audience, it cannot hold its own in a multiplex alongside more competently-made blockbusters. 

The film takes place between Episodes II and III of the “Star Wars” saga.  The Republic (good guys) is at war with the Separatists (bad guys).  Both sides need help from disgusting crime boss Jabba the Hutt.  Jabba’s son is kidnapped and he promises his loyalty to the side that can rescue him.  Of course, it is the Separatists who have taken him, and are planning to “find” him as a way of gaining Jabba’s favor.  Or at least kill him and blame the Republic. 

Anakin Skywalker and his teacher Obi-Wan Kenobi are high-ranking Republic generals.  They are given the task of rescuing Jabba’s son.  For a character crucial to the “Star Wars” saga, Obi-Wan isn’t given much to do in “Clone Wars”.  His biggest contribution is stalling a rival general with a pointless negotiation.  He also has a lightsaber battle toward the end with a mid-level villain named Ventress, but it’s nothing pivotal. 

It is Anakin who serves as the film’s main character.  Of course, his plate isn’t full enough trying to make an ally that could make or break the Republic in the war.  He also has to be saddled with a teenage student named Ahsoka.  She is proficient, but reckless, while Anakin more experienced, but still prone to making an occasional mistake.  The dialogue between the two mainly consists of arguing, usually involving some variation of “I told you so” followed by “Fine, but there’s no time for that now!”  Ahsoka is basically a kid, and is clearly in the film to give kids a character they can relate to. 

Because she is constantly pandering to the children in the audience, Ahsoka has already earned a reputation as one of the worst characters in the “Star Wars” universe.  She certainly isn’t one of the best, but there are far more irritating characters in “Clone Wars.”  There is also an army of evil droids with robotic voices that somehow sound nasally.  But the film’s most annoying character has to be Jabba’s uncle Ziro the Hutt. Ziro has all the disgusting habits of his nephew, and his voice sounds like a bad Truman Capote impression.  It is an incredibly off-putting combination. 

Other, more popular “Star Wars” characters put in brief appearances.  Yoda is the leader of the Republic, still talking in that inside-out way of his.  Senator Amidala tries to negotiate a deal with Ziro.  C-3P0 saves the day during a tense situation.  It all reeks of the filmmakers trying to “work in” popular characters. 

People do not go to see “Star Wars” movies for their plots and dialogue, which is good because both are weak in “Clone Wars.”  The writers keep alternating between necessary “dignified” dialogue and kid-pleasing “casual” dialogue.  The results sound awkward.  There are also a number of gaping plot holes, not the least of which involves Jabba objecting to his son being in the custody of the very people he sent to protect him. 

The film does a little better in the visual department, but not much.  The aliens and robots are well-designed as always, but the humans just look silly.  Specifically, their hair looks strangely solid, like they’re wearing helmets.  The same holds true of beards.  Obi-Wan has a pointy beard; I was afraid he’d tilt his head forward and stab himself in the throat with it.  Even worse than the hair problems is the mouths’ failure to stay in sync with the dialogue. 

“Star Wars: Clone Wars” does not look or sound like a movie that belongs in theaters.  It belongs in the Super-Discount section of a chain store that doesn’t care about having good movies.  Sadly, the “Star Wars” logo alone will make it a hundred times more successful than it deserves to be.

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