Probably one of the more interesting aspects of the Star Wars universe is the whole Clone Wars thingy. What started as a throw-away line in the original 1977 was finally shown beginning at the very end of Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones. Since Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith started basically at the end of the Clone Wars, there was a gap needing to be filled. Enter the Cartoon Network, with a two-season television series (“Star Wars: Clone Wars”) that tries to tell the story of the Clone Wars through animation, produced by “Samurai Jack” creator Genndy Tartakovsky. Bridging the events of Episode II and Episode III, the animated series was short but effective (and some would say, better written than the prequel films). However, it still only scratched the surface of the stories that the Clone Wars had to offer. So now, George Lucas is planning on bringing us a computer-animated television series with more Clone Wars stories, and to help kick it off (and remind everyone that he’s not gone) is the new CGI-animated feature film, Star Wars: The Clone Wars.
The story takes place somewhere in the middle of the Clone Wars. Anakin Skywalker (voiced by Matt Lanter) already has a scar over his eye (something we have yet to discover the exact cause of), and while he and fellow Jedi Obi-Wan Kenobi (voiced by James Arnold Taylor) are trying to get reinforcements to help them secure a planet against the Separatists, Anakin is given a new padawan to train. The youngling, Ahsoka Tano (voiced by Ashley Drane) seems to be almost as reckless as Anakin used to be, but she’s very resourceful in a pinch. The basic plot of the movie seems to focus around who gets to use Jabba the Hutt’s outer rim trade routes – whoever gets control of the routes will have a strategic advantage in the war. So of course, Count Dooku (voiced by Christopher Lee) wants to get control before the Republic can. To that end, he arranges for Jabba’s son to be kidnapped – and frame the Jedi for the deed.
The film is a pretty straightforward one, and it’s completely insular. That is, nothing gleaned in the story will affect your understanding of the previous Star Wars films, nor will it enhance your understanding of that universe. Anakin is still whiny and pouty, but the filmmakers did a nice job to include Lee as Dooku, and Samuel L. Jackson as Mace Windu and Anthony Daniels as C-3P0. The animation has a rather unique stylized feel to it, with objects evoking a claymation structural quality (no hair simulations here!), and a rather soft-light film-look to the whole thing. It’s pretty to look at, and certainly unique in appearance, but hardly groundbreaking animation. I didn’t quite understand why Jabba’s uncle Ziro the Hutt (voiced by Corey Burton) sounded (and even looked) like Truman Capote. It was a bizarre choice, to be sure.
The music in the film was composed by Kevin Kiner, it does a good job of picking up where John Williams left off, giving the movie a fresh modern orchestral animation score, but with plenty of allusions to the original Williams scores. I’m not sure I quite liked the syncopated version of the main title, but for the most part the score works fine.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars is more for kids than adults, and I suppose it’s a nice primer for the types of stories we’ll be encountering in the television show which will start airing later this fall. I like that there can be stand-alone stories within the universe that don’t necessarily tie in directly to the films (even though they feature characters from the films), but I don’t know if it’s something to run out and see in a theater. It might be better to save your money until home video, but I’ll definitely be watching the show this fall. With a series, there will hopefully be more opportunities to flesh out the characters and give us some more insight into their backgrounds.