This is the first theatrical Star Wars release with minimal involvement from George Lucas. What kind of difference does that make?

Cast and Crew Information

Matt Lanter as Anakin Skywalker
Ashley Eckstein as Ahsoka Tano
James Arnold Taylor as Obi-Wan Kenobi
Tome Kane as Yoda
Catherine Taber as Padme Amidala
Iam Abercrombie as Palpatine
Samuel L. Jackson as Mace Windu
Anthony Daniels as C-3P0
Christopher Lee as Count Dooku
Nika Futterman as Ventress
Kevin Michael Richardson as Jabba the Hutt

Written by Henry Gilroy, Steven Melching and Scott Murphy
Directed by Dave Filoni

Premise

The republic and the separatists are at odds in the Clone War, and both need Jabba the Hutt’s support to move through his transportation lanes to effectively fight the war. Jabba’s son has been kidnapped, so it’s a race between the Jedi and Sith to recover the infant and win Jabba’s favour.

High Point

The action sequences are at least as good as anything they’ve produced for live action.

Low Point

The really juvenile droid humour.

The Review

This isn’t original. It’s the kind of plot and counterplot that we’ve seen many places before, and by its very nature of “filling in gaps” between two other episodes, it’s quite restrictive in the impact it can have long term. It introduces two new characters, but when the series it’s launching concludes, they’ll need to explain why these characters aren’t mentioned again. I give it 2 out of 6.

The animation effects, like the writing, felt more like a video game than a movie. When it comes to the detail in terms of the objects on screen, it’s very good. When it comes to motion, we get repetitive movements like you’ll have in a video game, rather than the distinct movements you’d have with the “puppeteering” style of CGI that usually hits the big screen. This could well be the short production time frames that apply to the T.V. series this was originally intended to launch (premiering this fall on Cartoon Network and TNT.) The level of interaction with the environment bothers me, too. The characters rarely touch solid objects, interacting primarily with objects they are touching when we cut into the scene, or with holographic objects which aren’t solid, thus shortcutting the time needed for appropriate “hit detection” when they touch the environment. (R2-D2 even rolls over the Sarlaac pit as smoothly as if he were on linoleum, despite the fact that his flying jets were undeployed and the holes in the floor were often larger than his wheels.) There’s a very telling moment in the opening minutes in which a Clone Trooper jumps onto and off of a piece of slanted metal. The plane defining the bottom of his foot stays parallel to the ground he was jumping off of, and not the slanted piece of metal he lands on, so he does his one legged jump while he’s entirely supported by the geometric edge of his foot. Again, to me it looked more like a video game quality animation than theatrical level material. I give it 3 out of 6.

The story also feels a lot like a video game. It’s not a three or four act structure by any means, but rather feels more like a multi-mission video game, right down to points that felt like the player was being offered choices about how to complete the mission for non-linear gameplay elements. There’s a cursory storyline filled with the customary plot holes you’ll find in any Star Wars flick, which seems designed to move directly from combat scenario to combat scenario. Fortunately, the frequent action scenes were very well done, so if you go into the theatre expecting a mindless Star Wars action romp, you’ll leave quite satisfied. I give it 3 out of 6.

The voice acting was quite good, using some of the best sound-alikes I’ve heard. They’ve got the voices down, and provide all the emotional range the script calls for. I give it 5 out of 6.

The production was generally good. The editing and cinematography were very impressive. The lighting effects were very much in line with a video game’s ambient lighting, and the character designs could get outright ugly, but when it came to choreographing large scale battle sequences, they did a fantastic job. I give it 4 out of 6.

The emotional response was pretty good. As a movie, a like it. If I were playing it as a video game, I’m positive I’d love it. (Looking at the Amazon.com listings, it seems there will be video game adaptations available for Nintendo DS and Wii on November 11.) If you head into the theater expecting a Star Wars action sequence that works best if you actively try not to think about the story, you should find it quite enjoyable. As that’s exactly what I was trying to do (given that it’s a Star Wars movie with relatively little advertising and a mid-August release) I found I enjoyed myself. I give it 4 out of 6.

Overall, it’s a finished product with some very good elements (the action) and some very poor elements (the story). Die hard Star Wars fans will enjoy it in theatrical release regardless of what I say in this review. Those who are trying to decide whether or not to see it in theatres or on video will probably enjoy it if they go in with the kinds of expectations I’ve outlined above. As the filmmakers gave me the impression that they’re trying to focus on action rather than story, I can forgive some of the flaws. I give it 4 out of 6.

In total, Star Wars: The Clone Wars receives 25 out of 42.