My Clone Wars review

Repost from my LiveJournal entry

A couple of weeks ago at Comic Con, after I missed the fan club breakfast and had to pop a lot of meds because of my neck, I looked to the sky and said, “God, you owe me.” Well, I think He was returning a favor by having this preview pass inexplicably dumped in my lap. Really, had I not been out of town last Wednesday-Thursday for my brother’s wedding, I would’ve picked up my copy of KOTOR as per usual and not been in the store when they were giving out passes for this screening.

I had never been to a preview screening before. I read the legalese on the paper I’d received and saw that the pass wasn’t a guarantee of admission. If I got there late and the seats were full, too bad. So I got to the theater an hour beforehand and saw that there was a big line out in the hot sun. There were lots of SW fans of all ages and I noticed that many people brought their younglings. While waiting to get in, a theater employee told us we couldn’t bring in any electronic devices whatsoever. No Game Boys, no iPods, no digital cameras, and…no cell phones. Of course, I had a cell phone with me. Fortunately the people in line with me were cool so they held my spot when I went back to my car to leave my cell phone there.

Finally I got in and before they let me into the auditorium, security guys checked my purse. The auditorium was already mostly full and it wasn’t easy finding a decent seat not marked off for the press. Ultimately most of the seats were filled by the time the flick got rolling at 10:30.

Howdy ClubJade, TFN’s Jedi Council, and EU Cantina.net readers!

WARNING: SPOILERS BEHIND THE CUT. TURN BACK NOW!

I really, really enjoyed it!

As an animated film and as an appendix to the SW saga, it wins. In a lot of ways, it’s an easy sell because the film is fast-paced and very action-oriented and there’s a lot of the kind of bantery humor found in the first three SW films. Because Clone Wars doesn’t have to work at setting up The Anakin Skywalker Psychological Train Wreck, it can just kick back and have fun. The plot is simple: Anakin gets a padawan, baby is Huttnapped, chaos ensues. But there are enough twists and turns along the way and suspense to keep things engaging throughout. For my A/P peeps, there is some very brief and subtle shippyness. For Padmé fans, she’s not in it very much but I think you will be pleased with how things work out with her.

Clone Wars is essentially the shot across the bow from Lucasfilm Animation. The animation is on level with anything DreamWorks is putting out now and about what Pixar was putting out five or so years ago. It is amazingly detailed and while the characters are stylized and are indeed reminiscent of those Thunderbirds puppet shows from the 1960s in regard to how they move, everything else is photorealistic and detailed. You’d think ILM worked on it, not an animation studio. It shows they really studied the SW films carefully. The battle scenes are AWESOME. Let me tell you, there’s so much going on in those scenes, your eye goes all over the place. The angles that they use are very sophisticated. In fact, there are some fancy pants shots that I think wouldn’t work at all with live actors and CGI, but work great in animated format. They don’t pull any punches with the battles either. Clones and droids get whacked left and right. In one cool shot, you see some clonetrooper’s helmet get blown clean off.

There is also a great deal of attention to fan geek detail on the story and characters. Who remembers Oddball the clone pilot? Looky here, there’s Commander Cody. The Separatists try to pull a fast one on Jabba and you can see Jabba believing it because we know he’s a crime lord not on anyone’s side. A transport has a Twi’lek babe painted on the side, a la the WWII pinups painted on planes. Obi-Wan and Anakin not only have distinctive fighting styles, they also have distinctive ways of dealing with sticky situations. Anakin prefers to kick a lot of butt and improvise, while Obi-Wan’s good at talking his way out. At another point, Anakin quotes Qui-Gon as “a wise Jedi.” There are all kinds of cool little touches like that.

Old friends from the PT return and it appears the same people who voiced Obi-Wan and Padmé/Ventress are back this time around. I thought the guy who voiced Anakin did a pretty good job. The only one who really doesn’t sound too much like the original is Ian Abercrombie as Palpatine, but that’s okay.

There are of course newbies introduced. Right off the bat, I’ll say that Rex is going to be a big fan favorite. He is a bad@$$. Tough, smart, and a soldier’s soldier, it’s a pity he’ll go bad once Order 66 is underway. Then there’s our girl Ahsoka. I really liked her. Reckless, cocksure, a little disrespectful, and witty, she is desperate to be taken seriously despite her age. In a lot of ways, she is the kind of Jedi Yoda and Obi-Wan were talking about in AOTC, too sure of themselves. But she is good-hearted, compassionate, and for a young padawan, good in a fight. She manages to stay on this side of being too cute, her worst offense referring to Artoo as “Artooie.” I think she’s a good hook for the kids. People don’t realize part of the reason why the small fry looooooved TPM was because it had heroes their age.

In fact, the chemistry between Ahsoka and Anakin was one of my favorite things about Clone Wars. It sort of reminds me of Han and Leia, only between a big brother and a kid sister. Anakin at first is annoyed with the idea of having a padawan but Ahsoka soon wins him over. Yay, another person to become attached to! Yoda says something at one point that has me a little suspicious about what plans the Council has for this arrangement. Anyway, having a padawan adds a new dimension to Anakin. I also like the way he’s characterized, as though writer Henry Gilroy lurked in all of that fan fic the A/P Defenders wrote 2002-2004 ;). He’s heroic and somewhat matured since AOTC, not some perpetually p.o.-ed guy who’s a hair trigger away from the Dark Side. His issues are hinted at and Ahsoka tries unsuccessfully to get Anakin to open up about his past on Tatooine. But for the most part, he’s the Anakin his fans know and love.

There’s a lot of humor in this, mostly from our friends the battle droids. Really, this is the most humor you will see in the PT era. And wait until the end of the credits for some extra laughs.

Fans have to be prepared for some stylistic differences between Clone Wars and the SW films. For one thing, no opening crawl. Instead there is a newsreel type segment straight out of Starship Troopers that establishes the setting. Starship Troopers is one of my least favorite movies ever but I won’t hold that against CW. John Williams’s music creeps in every now and then, but this is mostly composer Kevin Kiner’s show. There are a lot of sequences with Middle Eastern-style music, even rock music. If things seem to develop rather quickly, remember this was originally written as 30-minute episodes (the first three were cobbled together for the theatrical release). And that there is a lot more coming once the show debuts in the fall.

Clone Wars not only assumes you’ve seen all of the SW films, it also assumes you also know your Clone Wars-era lore. A casual fan who has only seen the movies may wonder who the hell is that goth chick. There’s not much exposition on the characters, but again, all of that can be explored in greater detail on the show.

The audience applauded appreciatively at the end and at an hour and half, it was just long enough for the younglings to sit through without squirming too much. It’s an addendum to SW, not a SW Movie unto itself per se. But it comes as close to matching the sweep of the SW films as anything I’ve seen so far, including the 2003-2005 microseries. This was made by fans who care and really wanted to get it right.

On the way back to the parking lot, I overheard some fanboy grouse about how Clone Wars “was for kids.” Dude, where have you been the past 31 years?

Do yourself a favor. See this at a digital theater if you can and before the show premieres, go buy yourself a flat screen HD t.v.. Or make friends with somebody who has one ;). It’s the only way to fly with Clone Wars.

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5 Responses to “My Clone Wars review”

  1. Tragiclove Says:

    Thanks for the review! I’m glad the movie turned out great. It should be interesting to see how this film is received overall.

  2. Christopher Says:

    Hey, I saw it today at the premiere. I thought it was pretty good too.

  3. Master Devwi Says:

    Nice review! I can’t wait to see the movie!

  4. media boy Says:

    i guess George Lucas finally got to make (or a least approve of) a whole Star Wars movie after his love for CGI, looks fun though

  5. EU Cantina.net » Clone Wars Reviews Says:

    […] SW Prequel Society […]

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