Friday, August 15, 2008

Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008, Dave Filoni)

Ever since the days of Walt Disney, animated films have appealed largely to family audiences, and most movies that have appealed to adults have done so for a limited audience of fans, generally of Japanese anime. But there's always been some degree of hope that a movie might emerge that transcends the usual kids/nerds audience to pull in a mainstream, grown-up audience. I suppose one couldn't blame me for thinking The Clone Wars might be that movie, seeing as how the Star Wars imprimatur has always guaranteed box office, even with the shabby prequels of the past decade. However, I underestimated how much the franchise has been pitched to children in recent years, something that has long left Star Wars curiously bloodless and sanitized. So while there's a certain thrill in seeing the Star Wars universe freed from the corporeal realm into the freer format of animation, The Clone Wars is still very much a product, slavishly engineered to sell video games and toys. Worse yet, it turns the saga that has captivated three generations into the space-opera equivalent of a Disney Channel sitcom, giving Anakin a sassy female apprentice name Ahsoka who refers to her new master as "Sky Guy." Blech in my opinion. In addition, much like the "prequel trilogy", the story gets entirely too bogged down in intergalactic politics, as if the negotiation over trade routes through the Outer Rims was what drew millions of people to Star Wars in the first place. I suppose the best thing I could say about The Clone Wars is that it's better than Attack of the Clones, but I mean jesus, it'd pretty much have to be. But if you're looking for a true breakthrough in non-kiddie animation, you'll have to content yourself with Ratatouille, a movie I'm still not convinced was actually made for children. And bless it for that...

Edited 8/18 to add: The more I think about this, the more I hate it. It's not simply that the filmmakers take the Star Wars mythology as the springboard for a bit of third-rate fan-fiction, then sell it to a crowd who's clearly clamoring for more Star Wars-y goodness. It's also that it's numbing (the action sequences go on forEVER), cut-rate (the backgrounds are OK, but the characters are stiff and un-pleasing aesthetically), and worse yet, soulless. The biggest problem with the prequels- worse even than the shitty dialogue and overly glossy effects- is that the human element that made people fall in love with the original movies just isn't there. The major characters in the prequels are almost all Jedi, which gives them cool powers that can be exploited to full effect with modern CGI, but also places them on a different level than normal everyday humans. One major reason the original films worked is because the human audience had non-Jedi characters to serve as surrogate characters. It's the reason Han Solo was such a fan favorite- not only was he super-cool, but he was savvy enough to fight alongside the Jedi, even if he didn't share their powers. But there's none of that here, merely a boring Jedi and his annoying apprentice, who keeps saying stupid shit like calling R2D2 "R-twoey." Gag me. Honestly, when the laws of physics don't apply to your characters, you'd better make them really damn interesting if I'm supposed to care. And man oh man does this movie ever fail. Rating: 3 out of 10.

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