Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008)

Rating: **
Release Date: 8/15/08
Written and Produced by: George Lucas
Director: Dave Filoni
Cast: Matt Lanter, Ashley Eckstein, James Arnold Taylor, Tom Kane, Corey Burton, Samuel L. Jackson, Anthony Daniels, Christopher Lee

What the hell happened?!? After the amazing promise of the original "Clone Wars" series (2003), this loathsome effort rains shame upon the house the Lucas and even recalls memories of the dreadful "Star Wars Holiday Special" (1978). My jaw dropped in utter disbelief during the first five minutes of the movie as I watched the once great franchise reduced to mindlessly offensive swill for the 6-12 year old demographic. I even had to fight the urge to leave the theater on several occasions.

Taking place between "Attack Of The Clones" (2002) and "Revenge Of The Sith" (2005), the film focuses on the continuing struggle between the Old Republic and Count Dooku's Separatist movement. Jabba the Hutt controls valuable trade routes and a devious plot is hatched to kidnap his son for political leverage. Wait a minute... We're kidnapping Jabba's son and turning this into a pilot for "Star Wars Babies?" Seriously George, is that the best you could come up with?!? But that's just one of a continuous stream of insults that the movie relentlessly hurls at the audience. Moving on, General Anakin Skywalker (Matt Lanter) is assigned to rescue the young Huttlet and is also given the task of mentoring a young Padowan named Ahsoka Tano (Ashley Eckstein). No wonder the Republic is doomed to fail. This makes absolutely NO SENSE in ANY context, other than to introduce a young, hip, and feisty teenager with something to prove into the cast. Now, I'm all for hot female Jedis, but not the Hannah Montana type. What is this, an episode of "That's So Raven" with lightsabers?!? So Ahsoka and "Sky-Guy" (dear god, make it stop) wade through countless waves of moronic battle droids to return Jabba's cute little slug back to his loving arms and secure a treaty with the Jedi Council for rights to his shipping lanes.

The worst part is seeing so much lost potential. The new animated format could have been a great way to reinvigorate the series and do some truly awesome stuff, but instead it's wasted on tired clichés and some of the worst dialog ever conceived. The film never once takes itself seriously, and viciously rapes the source material with utter contempt and absolutely zero regard for anyone. It's almost as if George Lucas were intentionally trying to piss off every "Star Wars" fan in the world. What's so frustrating is that much like the prequel films, this one could have easily been a masterpiece with only a few minor tweaks. Instead, it embraces goofiness, abrasively painful dialog, and pre-adolescent mentality.

The only good thing I can say about the film is that it looks gorgeous, and the claymation styling gives the film a unique and fascinating look. The animation and choreography are good for the most part, but occasionally marred by awkward motion paths and a lack of motion blur. The music score is good, but lacks the vibrance of John Williams' work. As the first thing you experience in the movie, it can be rather jarring. Then the film further distances itself by replacing the opening crawl with an offensively cheesy Hanna-Barbera sounding voiceover, no doubt aimed at its non-reading target demographic. What is this, an episode of "Bullwinkle" in outer space? Apart from that and despite the horrific dialog, the voice acting is pretty good. Samuel Jackson, Anthony Daniels, and Christopher Lee lend their talents as supporting characters, while James Arnold Taylor delivers a fantastic Obi-Wan Kenobi and Tom Kane effectively channels Yoda. The film's banal dialog is matched only by its excessive violence, making it even harder to stomach as children's entertainment. Clone troopers get wiped out at an alarming rate along with overly humanized droids. I suppose the mentality is that wholesale slaughter is fine as long as the victims don't look like humans and you never see their faces.

I don't have enough energy left to be angry with George anymore. Now I just feel sad.