My three-and-a-half year old son, Jack, is a huge Star Wars fan. This weekend, he was able to experience the joy that many of us remember from our childhoods - that is, seeing a brand new movie from our favorite francise for the very first time on a big screen.
I'm not ashamed to admit that I felt much of the same excitement. As a long-time Star Wars fan myself, I love the moment when that John Williams score first kicks in. But unlike Jack, I was feeling some trepidation about this movie. I have felt that initial geeky excitement, only to be burned three times by disappointing prequels.
So, what would two fans - one three and a half, one thirty-tree and a half - think of Star Wars: The Clone Wars? Click on the link, genious.
The movie takes place between Episode II and Episode III of the non-animated movies. Anakin is introduced to a new apprentice, a young girl named Ahsoka. The two of them are charged with rescuing the kidnapped son of Jabba the Hutt, in the hope of improving relations between the Jedi and the Hutts as an advantage in the ongoing Clone Wars.
Where the prequels spent an enormous amount of time explaining the politics behind the Clone Wars, this movie pretty much goes from one battle scene to the next, which is a vast improvement. Jack was really into it, cheering, "Get him, Anakin! Go, Ahsoka!" I was less impressed by it - although the action scenes were a lot of fun, there was no real feeling of innovation. Episode II had its faults, but it did allow us to see a huge group of Jedi, lightsabers drawn, in the midst of a gigantic fight. The Cartoon Network's Clone Wars shorts were even better, particularly a battle between Anakin and Ventress that could have come from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. The action scenes in Clone Wars lacked that creative spark.
I really didn't like the style of animation that was used in the movie. Considering the technology available today, in which Finding Nemo looks practically real, having such artifical looking characters was a strange choice. I felt like I was watching a video game the entire time.
Only a few of the cast of the live movies were used in this one, to mixed effect. James Arnold Taylor played Obi-Wan like an imitation of Ewan McGreggor, but Matt Lanter was a vast improvement over Hayden Christensen as Anakin. His chemistry with apprentice Ahsoka (voiced by Ashley Drane) was a million times more believable than that between Christensen and Natalie Portman in any scenes the two of them had together. I also liked the fact that female characters played a larger role in this movie, and that one of the clone troopers, Captain Rex, actually had a bit of a personality. Jack obviously agreed, as he told me that he wanted action figures of Captain Rex and Ventress.
Clone Wars was written by Henry Gilroy, Steven Melching, and Scott Murphy - in other words, not by George Lucas. As a result, the dialogue - while not exactly Shakespeare - was considerably better. Attempts to break the tension with humor, particularly with the hapless droid army, were considerably more effective than C-3PO being dragged behind R2-D2 and saying, "what a drag."
Critics are slamming this new movie, and I can honestly say that Jack and I enjoyed it a lot more than they did. Jack declared that it was a "nice, nice movie," and "really cool, Mommy," and "We should buy this when it comes out on DVD." He actually got out of his seat and danced to the music that played over the credits. I am less enthusiastic. It's a far cry from the original trilogy, better than the prequels, but not nearly as good as the Cartoon Network cartoons. Jack would give it an A, but I'll settle for a C+