Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008)

December 28, 2008 § Leave a comment

When I was a kid in 1977, Star Wars was the coolest thing I’d ever seen. It had stuff going on in the background that would have been the centrepiece of another film, and the world had never seen lightsabres or thought of people tapping into a spiritual energy called the Force for vaguely godlike powers.  Finally, all of it was wrapped up in a rousing score, great effects and a classic good vs. evil story (with good as the underdog, of course). Luke Skywalker was taught to tap into the Force in a reserved, noble way in the name of peace, and not in a lustful, greedy way.

Arguably, that’s all George Lucas really needed to do, creatively. And about all he had to offer. The rest of the original trilogy extends the narrative to give us a fuller picture and allows Darth Vader to redeem himself.  On really generous days, I’m willing to say the three prequel films (produced much later) suffered from even clunkier acting and dialogue, but manage some kind of stunted message about the perils of giving in to hate and the perceived comfort of centralised power.  But then, that’s kind of what I said above, isn’t it. I guess it can at least be said the prequel films illustrate how it was with the best of intentions the characters populated the galaxy with troops that became the grumpy empire of doom.

But wait, there’s more.  And then, there’s more.  Along the way, we were given (I should say, sold) various refurbished versions of the original films that always seemed to improve some element while sabotaging another, and then a Clone Wars animated series produced by the same outstanding animators that made the Samurai Jack TV series. OK, fine.  I enjoyed the impressive visuals and disarmingly simple plots of Samurai Jack (how often is a TV series willing to go without dialogue?) and thought they made an enjoyable enough Star Wars romp in their own unique style. But wait, that Clone Wars was a sort of test run for a new 2008 Clone Wars film with computer animation and character faces so still they look like mannequins. And, the 2008 Clone Wars film is an appetizer for a new Clone Wars TV series.

The original trilogy told the story of a farm boy rejecting his father’s cold, hostile, increasingly mechanical way of doing things, and the father eventually redeeming himself after his original tragedy. There’s something interesting in the archetypes there, and a little relevance to modern life. But now I’m supposed to care about attacking octopus droids and a dude needing to blow up a generator so some clone troops can win. Jabba the Hutt was originally a throwaway line in the first film, and after a certain amount of suspense, he becomes a surprisingly well-realised archetype in the third film — the fat gangster as an alien slug. Kind of nifty, but not worth more than one appearance. Since then, he’s been inserted into the original 1977 film, and now features in this new Clone Wars film.  This film even introduces a Jabba relative, and guess what? He’s also a fat slug who presides over a room with alien dancing girls and an alien band.

If these new productions explored some hidden corner of the Star Wars world, and had better writing, I might not mind, but the 2008 film is proof Lucas is strip-mining his own, decades-old creative ideas to produce the same lightsabre-droid-I’ll-get-you-and-your-little-dog-too tedium. If it was about the slightest thing I might care. But it isn’t, so I don’t. All I can say at this point is please stop, George. All the magic is gone, and every little background critter has come forward to have his own moment. I won’t be seeing anything else, and I feel like a clone for seeing this much.


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