Star Wars: The Clone Wars

Lesley Smith

In Clone Wars, one battle seems exactly like the last (and the next): the 'droids shoot like amateurs and the Republican troops always prevail, whatever the odds.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars

Director: David Filoni
Cast: Matt Lanter, Ashley Eckstein, James Arnold Taylor, Tom Kane, Catherine Taber, Nika Futterman, Samuel L. Jackson
MPAA rating: PG
Studio: Warner Bros.
First date: 2008
UK Release Date: 2008-08-15 (General release)
US Release Date: 2008-08-15 (General release)

Any new Star Wars movie immediately prompts the question: “Where does it fit?” Star Wars: The Clone Wars comes after Revenge of the Sith, when Anakin Skywalker was hero of the universe. As a way of perpetually deferring the moment when Anakin goes bad, this tactic has creative merit. But it is only dramatically intriguing if it foreshadows those latent vulnerabilities in Skywalker that precipitate his descent into darkness, a concept which never seems to have crossed the minds of director David Filoni and lead writers Henry Gilroy and George Lucas.

This feature-length installment, clearly conceived as a 98-minute trailer for the Clone Wars Cartoon Network series debuting in the Fall, offers nothing more than a series of spectacular animated battles, linked by the slender story of the Jedi knights’ quest to save the kidnapped son of Jabba the Hutt and thus secure his allegiance to the Republic (at least for this episode of the saga). In this superficial rites of passage story, Obi-Wan Kanobi (James Arnold Taylor) and Yoda (Tom Kane) seek to discipline Skywalker into maturity by ordering him to train a padewan (a trainee Jedi knight), Ahsoka Tano (Ashley Eckstein).

Ahsoka is visibly not human, which potentially opens up space for the story to explore genuine difference. But her alienness is only superficial: she is indubitably a young female, condemned to suffer Skywalker's jocular contempt and pant gratefully at any crumbs of praise. Although Ahsoka is allowed minor retaliation when she starts calling her trainer “Sky Guy,” her rewards for showing initiative are slim indeed. For example, she saves Skywalker’s life twice with aplomb, yet must accept in response only a grudging promise from Skywalker of future excellence if she trains and works hard. On the evidence of this movie, it’s Skywalker who needs the training and the work.

As in so many movies targeted at younger viewers, Clone Wars cloaks its indoctrination into conventional behaviors under superficially liberating images. In the early '70s, an active role for Princess Leia, however subsidiary to the male story-drivers, seemed a victory. More than 30 years later, the same secondary role assigned to both Ahsoka and Galactic senator Padme Amidala (Catherine Taber), focused on saving of Skywalker or refining his behavior, offers no inspiration at all to young female viewers. Padme is one of the apparently powerful adult female characters, the other being Separatist assassin, Asaji Ventress (Nika Futterman); both women begin the movie swathed in long dresses and end it stripped down to figure-hugging spandex (decisive women are turned into semi-naked spectacles).

The animation underscores this retro tone, mixing old-school looks (say, puppets), stylistic quirks (Skywalker and Ahsoka recall the Bambi-eyed, perpetual adolescents of anime), and the hyper-reality of the best immersive shoot ‘me up video games. With the virtually unlimited options available to the animators, the decision to ape such a narrow emotional and physical palette is inexplicable, and often unintentionally funny. Unconvincing dialogue is another problem, as the characters (not only Yoda) must contend with silly mouthfuls. When Obi-Wan Kanobi is negotiating with the field commander of the android army, he looks and sounds more like one of the campier mediaeval knights resurrected from Monty Python’s Holy Grail than an intergalactic commander.

Only the battle animations provide compensation. Here the range of camera angles, detailed movement, and quick editing suck the audience so thoroughly into the center of the action that it seems, for a moment, as if Lucas, Filoni, and co. have achieved a seamless immersion of the actor/player at the core of 360 degree action. While this smart move should transport its target audience of kids and fans into a familiar environment, immersion in a game that offers zero agency quickly palls, even for hardened aesthetic thrill-seekers. One battle seems exactly like the last (and the next): the 'droids shoot like amateurs and the Republican troops always prevail, whatever the odds. The only solution then is to wait for the end, and hope perhaps that the young viewers targeted by the TV series will find being the passive spectators to adrenalin-pumping action and old-fashioned stereotypes equally dull.


In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.