04 April 2009

Star Wars: The Clone Wars

Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008)
Directed by Dave Filoni. Featuring the voices of Matt Lanter, Ashley Eckstein, James Arnold Taylor, Tom Kane, Christopher Lee, Samuel L. Jackson.

When the CGI-animated Clone Wars came out in movie theaters in August, nobody noticed. The film, a last-minute tweaking of the early episodes of the Cartoon Network television series for the big screen, blipped on the radar and then fell right off again. I had tossed the movie into my Netflix DVD queue and then, like everybody else on the Planet Earth, forgot about it. But while managing various films in my queue for the developing “Public Enemies Symposium,” Star Wars: The Clone Wars, like some sneaky Jedi using a mind trick, got to the top of the list and into my mailbox.

So I watched it. I think I did. In fact, I think I just finished watching it about ten minutes ago. But I can’t for the life of me remember anything about it.

Okay, I can’t dodge reviewing it that easily. Wish I could. But I have to do the review now, because I really will forget the movie tomorrow.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars is really really really awful. It’s Mystery Science Theater 3000 ready, and it even makes Phantom Menace feel like Edgar Rice Burroughs at his height. It’s a film where you get the feeling that everyone involved didn’t care about it, emailed in sloppy jobs, grabbed a paycheck, and then went to see if Pixar and PDI were hiring. Everything about the film comes across as lazy, and that Lucas felt this should actually get released in theaters is one of the most depressing things ever to happen to animated cinema in years. I had problems with Monsters vs Aliens, but now I feel like I should apologize to everybody at DreamWorks animation after seeing how much LucasFilm Animation loused up CGI science-fiction. It doesn’t matter if you love the Star Wars franchise, hate it, or don’t care about it, you will find much to utterly despise about The Clone Wars . . . provided you recall anything about it aside from endless generic action scenes and a lavender slug given the voice of Truman Capote.

The plot was probably dashed out on a napkin in three minutes. Some time between events of Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi get an assignment to rescue Jabba the Hutt’s kidnapped son, a miniature Hershey Kiss called “Stinky,” from Count Dooku so that Jabba will allow the Republic to use Outer Rim trade routes. Anakin gets an apprentice he calls “Snips,” they banter with flat dialogue, and there’s lots of laser guns and repetitive lightsaber duels to the accompaniment of world-music rhythms and electric guitars. (I don’t mind trying to get away from John Williams-style music, but Kevin Kiner’s work here is distractingly awful.)

The CGI animation works adequately when dealing with the machinery and the technology—at the very least it’s smooth and in-focus—but the characters look like Gerry Anderson puppets, with all the facial expression that that implies. Charlie McCarthy and Mortimer Snerd have everybody in The Clone Wars beat in the mobility department.

Is there anything good I can say about The Clone Wars? Christopher Lee does add dignity to Count Dooku with his sepulchral voice, even though the character looks like something whittled out of a piece of driftwood. And Ziro the Hutt, Jabba’s traitorous pink-and-neon uncle, is hilarious with his Truman Capote-whine. This voicing decision must rank as one of the most creatively bonkers in Lucas’s career, but it’s so off-the-wall and “I can’t believe they did this!” weird that it’s more entertaining than anything else in this dreadful film. This isn’t meant as criticism of skilled voice-actor Corey Burton—he was only doing what he was told. I wonder if he did a double-take when informed that Ziro the Hutt was going to be done as if auditioning for a production of Tru.

I’ve heard some episodes of the TV show actually deserve viewing. But let’s just say the movie has made me immensely skeptical.

The best review of the film comes from Lucas himself, who described it as “almost an afterthought.” No kidding.