Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Battle Meditation on Star Wars: The Clone Wars: The Movie

Episode Title & Number:  Star Wars: The Clone Wars Movie

Original Air Date:  August 15, 2008.

Review Blurb:  A fun though slightly disappointing ride through the galaxy far far away, introduces audiences to Anakin's new Padawan Ahsoka Tano, but the attempted  comedy and animation makes this one fall a little short of feeling like a Star Wars movie. 

Jedi Fortune Cookie:  No fortune cookie for the movie, but if I was writing,  "A child lost is an opportunity lost."

Episode Dramatis Personae:

Obi-Wan Kenobi, Male Human, Jedi Master
Anakin Skywalker, Male Human Jedi Knight
Ahsoka Tano, Female Togruta, Jedi Padawan
Chancellor Palpatine, Male Human, Supreme Chancellor of Republic and Sith Lord.
Count Dooku, Male Human, CIF Head of State and Sith Lord.
Asajj Ventress, Female Dathomiri (Hybrid species), Sith Apprentice to Count Dooku.
Jabba the Hutt, Hutt crime lord.
Gen. Whorm Loathsom, Male Kerkoiden, Separatist General. 
Captain Rex, CC-7567, Clone Commander Torrent Company, 501st Legion.
R2-D2, Astromech Droid for Anakin Skywalker.
Rotta the Hutt, ("Stinky") son of Jabba the Hutt.
Ziro the Hutt, Hutt crime lord and Uncle of Jabba the Hutt.
Senator Padme Amidala, Female Human, Senator for Naboo.

Plot Summary:

While Obi-Wan and Anakin fight Separatist forces on the planet Christophsis, Crime Lord Jabba the Hutt's young son is kidnapped and he demands the Republic intervention.  Meanwhile the Republic interested in opening up hyperspace lanes through Hutt space to help in their war against the CIF, seeks a treaty with Jabba the Hutt in return for finding his son.  Obi-Wan is sent to negotiate with Jabba as Anakin and his new Padawan Ahsoka Tano are sent to track down and return young Rotta the Hutt.  Amidst all this the Sith, Darth Sidious, Count Dooku and Asaaj Ventress scheme and plot to foil the Republic and the Jedi.


I) Story/Writing:

 At the time of the writing of this review, we are currently in season 3 of TCW, and in the course of the series we have seen a large swing in storytelling quality and writing in the episodes.  Some times the crew of TCW tries new ways to tell the Star Wars story, it often works but sometimes it doesn't.  For me in the movie the biggest example of this was the divergence between the quality of the writing when the story focused on its dramatic elements as opposed to its comedic elements.  Aside from the dumb Battle Droid humor, most of the attempted comedy in the movie failed to elicit the desired effect.  On the other hand, when they stuck to drama the story was told very well. 

My favorite scene from the movie is after the battle of Christophsis when Jedi Master Yoda is talking to Obi-Wan Kenobi regarding Anakin Skywalker and his future. 
Obi-Wan Kenobi: Let's just hope Anakin is ready for this responsibility.
Yoda: Ready he is, to teach an apprentice. To let go of his pupil, a greater challenge it will be.
 This scene works on tons of levels, it foreshadows the future, brings up Anakin's critical flaw as a Jedi, and serves to illustrate why he was given a padawan in the first place.  Ahsoka was paired with Anakin, not just so that she could be trained as a Jedi, but so that he could train himself to let go of someone when she graduated to Knighthood or some worse fate. 

The comedy on the other hand was cringe-worthy;
Captain Rex: Who's the youngling?
Ahsoka Tano: I'm Master Skywalker's Padawan. The name's Ahsoka Tano.
Captain Rex: Sir, I thought you said you'd never have a Padawan.
Anakin Skywalker: There's been a mix-up. The youngling isn't with me.
Ahsoka Tano: Stop calling me that! You're stuck with me, Skyguy.
Anakin Skywalker: [Rex bursts out laughing] What did you just call me? Don't get snippy with me, little one. You know, I don't even think you're old enough to be a Padawan.
Ahsoka Tano: Well maybe I'm not, but Master Yoda thinks I am...
The whole 'Snips' and 'Skyguy' thing should have been left on the cutting room floor.  It served no purpose and wasn't particularly clever.    

The other thing that stands out was the over use of 'Stinky' the Huttlette, really just call him Rotta and mention that he stinks once or twice and thats good enough. 

If the had just removed some of this silly comedic stuff, this movie would instantly look a lot better and I bet would be much more well thought of by fans, because the underlying premise and story is pretty good. 

II)  Acting:

Interestingly Samuel Jackson and Christopher Lee reprise their Prequel Trilogy film roles and provide the voices for Mace Windu and Count Dooku, while the rest of the voice acting cast are series regulars.

Of the regulars, I once again really enjoyed Nika Futterman's portrayal of Asaaj Ventress, that voice is just syrupy evil and it works very well.  Tom Kane who is our opening announcer, Admiral Yularen and Jedi Master Yoda does a great job as Yoda.  While James Arnold Taylor who does a masterful job as Obi-Wan Kenobi in the series sounded a little different in the movie, not sure if that's just me or if his portrayal has grown as the series has gone along. 

III) Animation:

In many ways this movie did the series that followed it a disservice,  while there are some visuals in it that are very nice, this particular animation style developed for The Clone Wars was in its infancy when the movie was produced.  If they were to remake the movie now with the techniques and character modeling that the show currently haves it would look 100 times better.

The character models often look wooden, both in terms of their facial expressions and in terms of their body movements.  It takes you out of the experience at times because of how obvious it is.  The other thing that bothered me was that the voices often didn't sync up well with the animation and the effect is akin to badly dubbed Kung Fu movies. 

One thing that I didn't notice originally when watching, is the backgrounds.  They look much less real, while for example the buildings in the foreground on Christophsis look good, the background looks like it was hastily drawn.

Overall, the animation is a major flaw in this movie, but mostly because of how uneven it is, parts look really cool while others still needed lots of work. 

IV) New Characters/Planets/Vehicles:

Ahsoka Tano

Admiral Yularen

Ziro the Hutt

Rotta the Hutt




V) Continuity Clashes:

To summarize, Anakin has a Padawan, Jabba has a son, Anakin and Dooku have dueled between Episode II and III, etc.

George Lucas has a sandbox called Star Wars, occassionaly he lets other people come and play in his sandbox, but its still his.  Sure the introduction of Ahsoka is a nuclear missile into continuity, but so what?  The character of Ahsoka provides for great storytelling opportunities and allows us to see more sides of Anakin, who was before his fall a hero of the Republic and brother in arms to Obi-Wan. 

Next on the Clone WarsClone Wars Episode 1.1 Ambush

Special Video Featurette with both George Lucas and Dave Filoni talking about The Clone Wars Movie:

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