I finally saw Star Wars: The Clone Wars.
The short version of it is this:
I went in expecting three episodes of a Saturday morning cartoon series jury-rigged and strung together to form a 90 minute movie. And I got what I want and a bit more. I loved it. If you didn’t already know, the movie is actually that: three episodes of the cartoon spliced together for a theatrical showing after George Lucas saw the episodes on the big screen during meetings with the production team. And I can’t wait for further episodes.
The story is nothing heavy or dramatic. Amongst the many battles of the the Clone Wars, Rotta the Hutt, Jabba’s infant son has been abducted and the Jedi assigns Generals Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker to investigate, pick up the trail and return the Huttlet back to its parent. In return, the Grand Army of the Republic would be allowed easy access through Hutt Space, which would allow better movement of troops and asset from the Core to the Outer Rim. However, the Confederacy of Independent Systems (a.k.a. the Separatists) will not make it easy for Kenobi and Skywalker to do so.
The story takes place between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. Let’s be a bit more precise. Based on Anakin’s hair length and his lack of a padawan braid, I’d say the series/movie takes place between Chapter 21 (where Anakin loses his padawan braid) and Chapter 22 (the events prior to the mission to Nelvaan) of Gennady Tartakovsky’s Clone Wars microseries.
And to be even more precise, their onscreen misadventures also take place some time after the comics Star Wars Republic #67 “Forever Young” where the clone troopers still wore the Phase I armour at Zaadja. However, Anakin gets his scar from Asajj Ventress (who also makes an appearance in this movie) in Star Wars Republic #71 “Dreadnaughts of Rendili Part 3″ when the Phase II armour (the Revenge of the Sith clone armours) have been long in use. So I’m guessing the troops serving with Kenobi and Skywalker were some of the last to switch over to the new suits. We also see reconnaissance troops wearing a camouflaged scout variation of the Phase II armour like Commander Gree’s aide on Kashyyyk in Revenge of the Sith.
Warning! Spoilers are dropping out of hyperspace beyond this point.
It’s got battles! But this time, there are they seem to have better tactics than when they were at Geonosis. The clone troopers take cover, communicate with hand signals, reconnoitre, fight with their jet packs, outflank their enemies and deploy artillery weapons for cover during retreat when at a disadvantage. Gone are the days when clone troopers swarmed out of their Acclamator-class transports and rush wholesale into a great big wall of battle droids.
And they die onscreen. Sometimes, they die brutally.
Not only are they intelligent and adept in combat, they’re honourable and are loyal to their generals – at this point in time, heh! Just like Obi-Wan had endeared himself to Commander Cody in this movie and Revenge of the Sith, Anakin is shown to have a close rapport with Captain Rex. The fact that he’s not in Revenge doesn’t bode well for the clone.
We see more of the Venator-class Star Destroyers, with a fleet commanded by Admiral Wullf Yularen, who was seen as an older character earlier in A New Hope at the Death Star conference room wearing a white uniform. Instead of just plodding along, firing and getting shot upon, AT-TEs do more here becoming cover for clone trooper during a firefight. Plus they are involved in a spectacular battle on Teth where they climb up a cliff while under fire from battle droids and STAPs. Anakin also gets to use a STAP in battle, which is something I’ve been waiting for since I saw their concept artwork months before The Phantom Menace was released. The same can also be said to Vulture droids. They can walk and fly, and we’ve never seen them fight on the ground… until now.
Ahsoka Tano, Anakin’s new Togruta padawan, might be brash and snippy but she’s not nearly as annoying as she could have been. She a skilled fighter, has good tactical skills and improvises well during battle. I can even live with “Sky Guy”. If they had infused her with the annoying, airheaded Valley Girl-speak I’d have dropped the movie like a bad habit. Finally the fact that she’s not in Revenge of the Sith also doesn’t bode her well. I wonder if her fate will contribute somehow to Anakin’s fall to the Dark Side.
Then there are the Hutts. Because I saw this film relatively late from its release date, I’ve heard the complaints online about Rotta and Ziro. Rotta is Jabba’s child, whom Jabba had recently when he was in female mode. Hutts, if you didn’t know, are hermaphroditic. He just coos with almost baby-like noises and doesn’t try to be one of those Hollywood Baby’s Day Out superbabies who can outwit and deliver the smackdown upon the unsuspecting bad guys. Anakin and Ahsoka have to work hard to keep him alive while evading bad guys.
After the movie’s release Ziro has been tagged as a negative homosexual stereotype (click on his name link and read the references there). These people should loosen up. His voice might sound like Truman Capote’s, but no kid will associate Ziro’s voice with homosexuality negatively. If anything a kid will probably think Ziro sounds like Droopy.
One nice detail is the reference to the B’omarr priesthood. The second half of the movie takes place at a B’omarr monastery, though it was deserted without any monk brain in BT-16 droids scampering in the shadows. Anyway, the detail I was thinking of is the apostrophe in the word “B’omarr” is an actual palatal stop, unlike a lot of other science fiction franchises with apostrophe laden alien words where the apostrophes do nothing (K’Ehleyr, I’m looking at you and your kinsfolk.)
Other Filmmaking Matters
The score by Kevin Kiner doesn’t subscribe to John Williams’ leitmotif method of composing. Thus there aren’t many themes that you can immediately latch onto. But it does its job well with a bombastic score with lots of horn and string when blasters are being fired and stuff are blowing up. Some parts of the score resemble pulp, old time serials like Flash Gordon much more than any parts of the prequel movies. At one time electric guitar is also used, which detracted a bit from the pulpiness. But the opening score… the rearranging of the Star Wars theme, didn’t sit well with me. I thought they should have created a completely new theme for the series, or use the old orchestration for the first few bars before moving on to an original theme.
There are some great camerawork, with better photography direction and editing than The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones. Someday I will rant about the editing for the Battle of Geonosis in the latter movie. But not now.
The computer generated models are stylised instead of realistic, like Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within. I have no problem enjoying Monster House‘s character designs so I have none with these as well. They look like the Gennady Tartakovsky designs, but more refined and with better textures. Again as opposed to being rendered in a realistic fashion, the colours on the backgrounds look as if they were painted which I thought gave it a good effect.
It might be a Saturday morning cartoon, but it’s definitely Star Wars, with blaster bolts, explosions, battles, space combat, crime gangs, stoic droids, goofy droids, bounty hunters (though we only see their heads, unfortunately)… I got to see clone troopers using their rocket packs, Vulture droids fight on the ground and STAPs in action. I’m going to enjoy this.
So, bring on the rest of the series. I can’t wait for the episodes written by Paul Dini and Kevin Rubio.