Anyone who thought the Star Wars theatrical run was over after Revenge of the Sith closed in 2006 were no doubt surprised to see an all-new film gracing screens entitled The Clone Wars. Although it switches up the formula by making this outing a full-length animated venture, complete with returning actors Samuel L. Jackson and Christopher Lee as they lend their voices to the Mace Windu and Count Dooku characters the portrayed the prequel trilogy. But, despite carrying the Star Wars name, The Clone Wars whimpered away from theaters with a paltry $35 million, despite opening in more than 3500 theaters.
In a galaxy far, far away…The Star Wars saga continues in this first-ever animated feature from Lucasfilm Animation! Featuring some of your favorite characters and a host of new ones, this is Star Wars like you’ve never seen it before. As the Clone Wars sweep through the galaxy, Anakin Skywalker and his new Papdawan learner Ashoka Tano plunge into a generous mission to rescue the kidnapped son of crime lord Jabba the Hutt. The renegade Count Dooku’s is determined to make sure that they fail, and with his deadly assassin Asajj Ventress in pursuit, this is a mission with grave consequences. Meanwhile, on the front lines, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Master Yoda lead the massive clone army in a valiant effort ot defeat the droid army and resist the forces of the dark side. Lightsabers ready! A new era of adventure awaits!
I feel I should divulge something before I proceed any further: I was a huge Star Wars fan growing up. I don’t mean just being really into the movies, I mean literally collecting rooms full of toys and merchandise for all of the films and even getting my feet planted in the online world with my first job as a webmaster and co-webmaster (for a brief time) of a Star Wars collecting website. Needless to say I lived and breathed the franchise from 1996 to 2006, before I finally realized that, as I looked around my room after coming back from an A.M. showing of Revenge of the Sith that it was finally over. While I held onto the collection for another year, I eventually began to sell it off and I’ve condensed the rooms of collectibles into a single box of items I truly wanted to keep. Kind of sad, really, but that should give you an idea of just how much I love the series.
While I ultimately felt burnt out on the series, I do still love it more than any other trilogy in existence. While I have as many issues with the prequels as most fans, I don’t dismiss them no matter how annoying a certain amphibian like species may be. When Clone Wars was announced, I was looking forward to it but when it finally hit theaters I had absolutely no desire to go and see it. I can’t even say for certain why I didn’t either; it certainly looked action packed enough, but I simply ignored it during its theatrical run.
So how does the film work in my eyes? Well…quite frankly, it doesn’t. Unlike the Star Wars films and animated Clone Wars shorts that preceded this film (and series), they were done not only for kids to enjoy but for all audiences. The problem I’m seeing with Clone Wars is that it’s too much focused on entertaining the younger ones and as a result the adults who are a massive audience of the series have to suffer through ridiculous dialogue and jokes. The banter between an oddly chipper Anakin Skywalker (seriously, we know he’s a big whiney man in the films, how did this happier version come about?) and his new padawan is highly annoying at times, but that isn’t even the worst of it. The worst moments come from the Hutt’s in the film, notably Zero the Hutt who has the most annoying voice known to man (yeah he speaks English. What the hell?) and the Seperatist Droid Army, who seem to have had their memory modules downgraded as they talk and act like bumbling buffoons. Exactly how robots in the future can act so incredibly stupid, I have no idea.
Perhaps that’s my main issue with the film—unlike the other Star Wars efforts before it, this series seems to have no real regard for continuity or keeping characters in check with their past representations. I became so disgusted with this element of the film that I gave up on it early into it. What annoys me is there’s such a massive universe they could pull from, yet Lucas and Company keep returning to the Clone Wars, insisting there is a ton of stories to tell. There really aren’t—a bunch of clones fight battles, that’s it. That’s all the Wars have ever been and it quite frankly is getting kind of old.
Of course the action sequences in the film are, admittedly, quite bad ass. From the lightsaber duels to the Clone/Droid sequences, the films action never lets up and if it succeeds anywhere, it’s in these pieces. The animation used in the film looks so real when it comes to the aerial battles that it looks like sequences torn straight out of the prequel films (until you see the characters themselves, then you lose it—but the designs and animation are far from being a weak point and, for me, was one of the films strongest aspects).
In terms of voice acting it’s a bit of a mixed bag. The aforementioned Zero the Hutt is both awkward from a voice acting standpoint as well as a Star Wars universe aspect. The rest of the cast, however, seems to be quite well adapted to it all, with Amidala’s voice actress, Catherine Taber, sounding quite a bit like Natalie Portman. Unfortunately the music for the series isn’t quite as impressive, with Kevin Kiner’s score sounding incredibly awkward at times, with 50’s gangster music and metal guitar riffs creeping up in very strange places.
In essence the film wouldn’t be nearly as bad as it was if it hadn’t been forced to use established characters of the series already. I’m sure six year olds will be much less picky than I, but as a former die-hard Star Wars nut, I just found this film to be so incredibly disappointing on multiple levels. Even if you’re a Star Wars fan, I’d say this one is worth a Rental at best. I’m happy that the series is doing gangbusters for Cartoon Network, but it’s nothing I’ll be tuning into.
Warner Home Video (as opposed to Fox for some reason) is handling the release of this film on the home video format and without a doubt the ultimate edition to check out is the Blu-ray edition. Coming housed in a standard Blu-ray two-disc case (second disc is the digital copy) plus the usual Warner inserts, the film is actually a first for Warner in that it contains a menu system that pops up as the disc loads, rather than auto-starting the film. This makes me wonder if Fox didn’t really manufacture this disc and Warner is merely releasing it, although the single menu page for all of the extras is in-line with Warner’s usual efforts, so who knows.
Video for the film may very well be the most impressive thing about the release, although with a brand-new CGI film being put into a 1080p VC-1 encoded transfer, you wouldn’t expect anything less. Bright, vibrant colors pop off the screen and the black levels are nice and deep for the entirety of the film. There isn’t a single flaw you’ll find on this animated feature and quite frankly I’d be surprised if such a thing would even be possible to spot on a modernly animated feature pushed on the Blu-ray format. The accompanying Dolby TrueHD 5.1 EX audio is equally as impressive, with superb surround work during all of the action sequences and crystal clear dialogue (for better or worse) coming through loud and clear in the front channels. It’s certainly a lively mix and one that will leave your windows and walls shaking for its duration. DD5.1EX English, French, Spanish and Portuguese tracks are available, as are English, French, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles.
Moving onto the extras we have a pretty extensive dose of goodies to check out for this release, which can be either a good or bad thing depending on your feelings about the film. First up is the exclusive to the Blu-ray release “A Creative Conversation Video Commentary” by Director Dave Filoni, Producer Catherine Winder, Writer Henry Gilroy and Editor Jason W.A. Tucker. This is basically just a visual commentary and runs the length of the film. Plenty of fun anecdotal stories to be heard here and well worth checking out, even if you found the film to be lacking as I did.
Next up are a series of documentaries and extras, most presented in high-definition. First up is “The Clone Wars: The Untold Stories” (24:50, 1080i), which discusses the origins of the film and series, “The Voices of Clone Wars” (9:49, 1080i) talks about the voice talent used in the film, while “A New Score” (10:43, 1080i) discusses Kiner’s score done for the film. A gallery of “Gallery of Concept and Production Art” is included, as are “Webisodes” (20:59, 1080i) and “Deleted Scenes” (10:50, 480p). A round of Trailers wrap up the regular extras on the disc with a “Take the Hologram Memory Challenge” game included that allows one to view clips from the TV series in high-definition.
Overall this film is only appealing to those who are fans of the series or still wake up and eat Trix in front of the TV on Saturday’s. It’s simply not something that everyone is going to enjoy, which is the real shame as that was always the case with the feature films. Sure, the release may be rated PG for “Brief Language” and “Momentary Smoking”, but don’t let it fool you—it’s your standard animated children’s fair. Worth a Rental only.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars arrives on DVD and Blu-ray on November 11th.