Oh no. Oh no no no. It wasn’t supposed to end like this at all. Remember when Star Wars was THE film series. It was THE trilogy, and all other film series were measured against it. The fans begged for more. We wanted to see the first 3 episodes of this brilliant saga. Those of us who weren’t born when the original series came out wanted to be able to wait in line at the cinema for ‘the brand new Star Wars film’. George Lucas responded in 1999, and delivered The Phantom Menace. It had Darth Vader as a annoying little boy, an outrageous minstrel-esque sidekick called Jar Jar Binks, and a story mainly about trade disputes. What a crushing end to a millenium. Ten years later – and The Clone Wars has managed to steal the crown from Phantom Menace as the worst Star Wars film ever.
I cannot, in any way, truly express the disappointment I felt while watching The Clone Wars. There I was, sitting in the cinema, expectations lowered considerably. I didn’t want to expect too much, because I didn’t want to be too hard on this film series I loved so dearly. After all, I knew it was a kids film. All I expected was some a) imagination, and b) excitement. Tell me, what is Star Wars without these two elements. It’s not a series known for its biting dialogue or oscar-calibre acting. But The Clone Wars did not deliver anything remotely close to what I would call “entertainment”, and not a single moment that deserves to exist in the Star Wars series.
The film is set between Episode 2 and Episode 3, focusing on the war between the Republic (aided by the Jedi) and the Seperatists (bad guys). Just to recap – the film is set during the war, and it’s called The Clone Wars. Was it too much to expect to see … a war. Of course it was, sorry. My bad. Anyway, back to the story. Yes, as I’ve mentioned it’s not a war film. The main story arc follows the Seperatists control of the intergalactic hyperlanes. This has led to trade restrictions for the Republic. Oh man. I AM DESCRIBING A CHILDREN’S FILM TO YOU! THIS IS THE STORY THEY HAVE GIVEN A CHILDREN’S FILM!
Anyway, Jabba the Hutt controls an alternate trade route, and the Republic want in. Unfortunately, they can only get it if they can locate Jabba’s recently kidnapped son and return him unharmed. Anakin Skywalker and his new female padawan Ahsoka are charged with saving the Hutlet, while Obi-Wan Kenobi attempts to solve the dispute with diplomacy. Neither of these plot-strands are interesting.
Considering most of the prequel trilogy was CGI, I thought a 3D-animated Star Wars film would at least have some visually interesting battles. While the dog-fights in space do look pretty, there is no-more than a couple of minutes worth. The opening battle between the Clone and Droid armies also had some promise. However, it’s not long before you realise that no major character is in any threat of death. In fact, there are numerous scenes of Jedi’s standing around talking with red and blue lasers flying about their head. I know, it’s a kids film, so of course they are not going to kill off any major characters. But not even a villain? It’s war, man! Even The Lion King had at least two grizzly death scenes.
The animated environments did look very nice, but the characters looked horrifically cubic (I understand they are a direct homage to manga and supermarionette designs, but that doesn’t make it work). The voice acting manages to be even more wooden than the new films, except for Anakin Skywalker’s, which is about the same. As if this character couldn’t be more annoying. How could the man underneath Darth Vader’s mask be so, so, ugh. There is no word for how much I hate this character. And what is with the sexual tension between him and his 14-year-old padawan? That was really creepy.
I cannot accept that this is a Star Wars movie. How could this happen. At least The Phantom Menace had that amazing lightsaber duel at the very end. For what it’s worth, I also really enjoyed the action sequences in Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. But The Clone Wars manages to strip away everything that made the Star Wars series the beloved box-office powerhouse it was. All sense of wonder and adventure is gone. The epic struggle between good and evil is out. The honour of the Jedi is dead. All that is left is pixels and midichlorians and Jabba the Hutt’s Truman Capote-esque Uncle Ziro.
Perhaps this is all a dream. Maybe in parallel universe, the Star Wars prequels weren’t disappointing. Maybe Anakin Skywalker is considered one of the great film characters in that dimension. Maybe George Lucas is still respected over there as well. But, this is not a dream. This is what we have to deal with. This is what kids will think Star Wars is really about – trade agreements, idiot Droid armies and a guy called Anakin who wouldn’t last one minute in a room alone with Han Solo.
Good films franchises shouldn’t have to die. They should be allowed to bow out with respect. I wish The Clone Wars was the shameful final frame. Instead, it precedes a new animated show that will follow Anakin and Ahsoka’s adventures. Imagine if it’s a success? How bad will it have to be before George Lucas sees some sense? He already let this one slip through.