Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008) ReviewSPOILER WARNING: The following review contains major spoilers, and every review in this series assumes you've seen all six Episodes in the main Star Wars saga.
Well now, not off to a very good start, are we...
To rewind the clock a ways, I actually did see this on DVD back in early 2009 when it was fairly new. Back then I was unaware that it was really a pilot for a television series and found the movie to be a random and wholly unsatisfying interquel. Recently I watched it again just before beginning the show itself, to see if my opinions of it changed at all. Spoiler: They pretty much didn't. So if you want to stop reading there, feel free, but if not, here's me going into spoilerific detail now.
Two things are immediately striking(And not in a good way) when this movie begins. 1, Rather than the Star Wars crawl we all know and love, it opens with Tom Kane giving us the story setup. And 2, the animation style is - and there's no two ways about this - downright ugly. I get what they were going for, taking inspiration from the 2003 series, but something was lost in translation between 2D and 3D and it simply doesn't work well. Initial impressions, quite off-putting, but as it's bad form to give up on a movie within the first ten minutes, lets hear what the great Narrating Kane has to say. Galaxy's at war, same old same old, and Jabba the Hutt's son has been kidnapped. Wait, Jabba has a son? Strike three. Thankfully we're not given much time to dwell on that however, as the movie drops us into the 'war' portion of the story first, where we find Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker on the crystalline planet of Christophsis.
|Ugly animation aside, I think I like it. In a Wizard of Oz sort of way. Okay movie, you haven't lost me yet!|
Anyway, a Jedi youngling named Ahsoka Tano arrives, but due to a paperwork screw up(Or something), she is to be Anakin's padawan, not Obi-Wan's.
|Trolling you, Obi-Wan and I were.|
It's not all negative though, we're also introduced to the clone Captain Rex. He seems alright, and has a bit of personality to him despite being a clone.
|Copy Paste? Roger roger!|
Now that we've got the characters out of the way, it's time for the Battle of Christophsis! Which just like the animation and dialogue thusfar, is simply not very good. The sequence consists of a shielded droid army walking in a straight line across a straight bridge toward a squad of clones behind cover, while Obi-Wan is elsewhere pretending to surrender to General Loathsom(No comment) in order to stall for time. The battle half of things is just as boring as it sounds, and shines a real spotlight on the shoddy animation, with clones' feet clipping through the ground, jerky motion, and empty environments. Usually phrases like this would sound like exaggeration, but I'm serious when I say a better looking battle could likely be achieved in a Battlefront II machinima. Obi-Wan's negotiation scene on the other hand, is mildly amusing(Sadly that score makes it the best scene so far), if rather pointless.
Actually the whole battle's rather pointless to the narrative, as Yoda shows up once it's over and gives the Jedi the real premise for this movie, retrieving Jabba's son, Rotta the Hutt. And thus the quest is on, taking our heroes to another new planet, Teth, Tatooine, and... well, that's it actually, Teth and Tatooine.
|AT-TE following Rex up a cliff? AWESOME.|
A&A find Rotta without too much trouble, only to discover that - surprise - this is all a Separatist plot to frame the Jedi for the huttnapping. Dooku's assassin/apprentice Asajj Ventress also shows up, which would no doubt be very confusing for anyone unfamiliar with Tartakovsky's 2003 animated series. She's a fairly intimidating presence and gets a cool, but brief scene with Rex. Teth has some other good character moments as well, including Ahsoka and Anakin coming to terms with each other, and more poignantly, Anakin choosing to leave Rex and the clones behind for the sake of a mission. While the dialogue still mostly sucks, this Anakin already seems to be more mature than his live action counterparts.
The climax of the movie takes place across parallel scenes on Coruscant and Tatooine. I'll go into the Coruscant side first, just so I can try to end this review on something that resembles a positive note, because the Coruscant side not only involves Padme, but introduces...
The worst character in the history of STAR WARS. I just don't know how else to put it. Jar Jar has nothing on this guy. Even that two-headed announcer from The Phantom Menace couldn't hold a shoto lightsaber to the cringe-inducing abomination that is Jabba's treacherous uncle, Ziro the Hutt. Before this movie, I'd had the pleasure of never hating a Star Wars villain before - even the lesser ones such as Dooku, Gunray, and Grevious still ranged from Okay to Pretty Good and had some good concepts behind them, but Ziro? Damn you movie, just stop giving Jabba relatives!
Thankfully the Tatooine side of things is a lot more watchable, with Anakin and Ahsoka splitting up so Ani can fight Dooku while Ahsoka ventures forth to Jabba's palace alone. While there's never much doubt that the Jedi will fail here, the movie does manage to create some tension and urgency by sending Ahsoka on her lonesome into the lion's den, and Dooku revealing to Anakin that he's got a trap for her. It's not great, but the execution works thanks to the well-placed musical cues and good editing, and it's about as good as one could hope for in a finale to such a weak setup.
|Could be worse.|
- Returning characters are more or less as good or bad as you remembered them from the live action films, with the exception of Jabba who in no way shape or form resembles the menace he was in Return of the Jedi. Huge step down.
- Ahsoka Tano is obnoxious, though shows flickers of potential for future improvement... for all the good it'll do her anyway, considering this show has to wrap everything up in 3 in-universe years.
- Captain Rex is the one newcomer I actually liked, though not enough to make me like the movie.
- Asajj Ventress didn't make much of a splash here, but it was enough to get me vaguely interested in her future role in the series.
- Ziro the Hutt can die in the fires of Mustafar.
-Role in the larger saga-
Taken as a standalone, theatrical movie, it is absolutely terrible. Doing so feels a tad unfair though, as it was intended to be three or four TV episodes and were edited into a movie more or less on one of George Lucas' whims. So if taken as the extended pilot for a TV show, it... is still pretty bad, and certainly doesn't inspire any confidence. In fact it put me off watching the show for over 4 years, and I only returned for a second go because the series got good reviews by the end and it was the only piece of EU to make Disney's cut.
-Score and Recommendation-
3/10, not as good as Attack of the Clones - Bad writing, bad presentation, mostly bad characters, and good moments that I can count on one hand. The Star Wars nerd in me says this sucks, and the movie critic in me says it really sucks. If you're getting into the show, yes, give it a watch just for the character introductions. Otherwise, steer clear.