by Mel Valentin
"Star Wars: The Clone Wars," the 90-minute pilot for George Lucas’ television series of the same name, is, as expected, aimed primarily at the under-10 crowd and non-discerning diehard Star Wars fans happy to return to the science fiction-fantasy universe Lucas created more than thirty years ago. Given Lucas’ minimal interest in human relationships or interactions in the prequel trilogy, the computer animated "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" represents the end point for Lucas’ vision (such as it is) of the Star Wars universe: completely synthetic characters. With its focus on the obligatory light saber duels, space battles, lowest-common-denominator humor, and the political machinations that lead to Supreme Chancellor Palpatine’s ascendancy to Emperor of the Galactic Empire, "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" is more of what of what we’ve seen repeatedly over the last thirty years, albeit with completely synthetic characters.Star Wars: The Clone Wars is set between Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones and Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. as will the television series. Star Wars: The Clone Wars bears only a passing connection to the Clone Wars animated micro-series directed by Gennady Tartakovsky (Samurai Jack, Dexter’s Laboratory) that aired on the Cartoon Network over a two-year period beginning in 2003, the pilot and, presumably, the series carries over the setting, characters, and conflicts from Tartakovsky’s series, including a so-called “Dark Jedi,” Asajj Ventress (voiced by Nika Futterman), that only appeared in Tartakovsky’s series. Star Wars: The Clone Wars also introduces a new character unseen in the prequel trilogy, Ahsoka Tano (Ashley Eckstein), a Jedi-in-training or padawan (and sidekick) to a pre-Darth Vader Anakin Skywalker (voiced by Matt Lanter), still working on his anger issues (he fails, of course).
"George, I think it's time we ended it. It's not me, it's you."
Presumably working from a mandate from George Lucas, writer Henry Gilroy packs Star Wars: Clone Wars with wall-to-clone-to-droid action from the opening scene to the closing shot of the heroes walking off into their next adventure, the first of a planned 100 episodes spread out over five years. What Gilroy forgets to add into the mix is, unsurprisingly, enough of a storyline to justify the 98-minute running time. The conflict between the Galactic Republic, led by Galactic Emperor-in-Waiting Palpatine (Ian Abercrombie), and the Confederacy of Independent Systems (CIS), led by Count Dooku (Christopher Lee), a.k.a. Darth Tyranus. After another heated battle on a far-flung planet between the Galactic Republic’s Clone Army, led by Obi-Wan Kenobi (James Arnold Taylor) and Anakin Skywalker, Jedi Knights and Generals, and the CIS’ droid army, their Jedi Master, Yoda (Tom Kane), sends Anakin and his new padawan, Ahsoka Tano, to save Jabba the Hutt’s son, Rotta the Huttlet (David Acord), from Asajj Ventress. Jabba the Hut controls major space lanes that link the Galactic Republic’s armies to their supply lines.
Of course, the Clone Wars are just a pretense for Supreme Chancellor Palpatine to gain control over the Galactic Republic and turning it into the hated Galactic Empire of the first trilogy (second chronologically). While we get a few hints of Palpatine’s machinations, most of Palpatine’s planning is left offscreen. Instead, Star Wars: Clone Wars turns on Rotta the Huttlet’s safe return to Jabba, at most a minor incident in the larger war for control of the galaxy. Gilroy tries his hand at humor, mostly through the interactions between Anakin and Ahsoka or a dim-witted battle droid falling in battle, and fails, often miserably. Ahsoka is presumably meant to carry a lot of the dramatic and emotional weight of the new series, but there’s little to like or relate to in her character. That, somehow, she disappears or dies before the events depicted in Star Wars III; Revenge of the Sith is a given, her impact on the Star Wars universe will be, at most, minimal (and mostly likely, negligible). And that’s not even going into Lucas and Gilroy’s decision to include a Truman Capote sound-alike in Jabba the Hutt’s uncle, Ziro the Hutt (Corey Burton). Thankfully, Ziro the Hutt is onscreen for two or three scenes. Hopefully, he won’t show up again when the television series starts up in the fall.As a computer animated film and, soon enough, an animated television series, "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" offers Lucas the perfect opportunity to overwrite the Star Wars universe with completely synthetic, computer-animated characters, something he’s obviously wanted to do for at least a decade (i.e., before "Star Wars I: The Phantom Menace"). The smaller production budget for the television series and the pilot episode also gives Lucas the excuse (as if he needed one) to swap out human actors with computer-animated ones, albeit with human actors providing the voices for the characters. Lucas managed to convince Samuel L. Jackson (Mace Windu), Anthony Daniels (C-3PO), and Christopher Lee (Count Dooku/Darth Tyranus) to voice their respective characters from the prequel trilogy. All that’ll do, however, is remind you that the computer-animated characters look little like their real-world counterparts. Worse, they move awkwardly, clumsily through familiar CG backgrounds, only coming to “life” during the seemingly endless lightsaber duels.
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originally posted: 08/15/08 01:50:47