Film Review: Star Wars: The Clone Wars



Situated chronologically between "Attack of the Clones" and "Revenge of the Sith" in the "Star Wars" saga, "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" serves as the maiden voyage for Lucasfilm Animation, but despite the exclusively CG rendering, this anticipated new episode is at best a reasonable facsimile.

Frankly, given the newer installments' increasing reliance on CG effects, the transition from live action to animation isn't really all that dramatic -- and that's part of the problem with the latest adventure.

Without the need for actual bodies and expensive sets, the sky truly was the limit for where the imagination could go here, but the largely uninspired "Clone Wars" feels landlocked.

In the absence of any extensive innovation, the video game-ready results play more like a feature-length promo for the imminent TV series of the same name than a stand-alone event.

Given the prolonged awareness factor, the fanboys and junior Jedi Knights should still be out in full force -- at least in the opening weekend -- producing stellar though unlikely out-of-this-galaxy results.

Briefly alluded to in "Episodes II" and "III" as well as the subject of a very different-looking animated TV series from a few years back, "Clone Wars" finds Anakin Skywalker (voiced by Matt Lanter) reluctantly paired with overeager Padawan learner, Ahsoka (Ashley Eckstein), on a mission to rescue crime lord Jabba the Hutt's kidnapped baby.

There are admittedly some eye-catching sequences in the production, directed by Dave Filoni (Nickelodeon's "Avatar: The Last Airbender"), from a script credited to Scott Murphy and TV animation veterans Henry Gilroy and Steven Melching.

But the distinctive animation style eschews photorealism in favor of something more of a high-tech marionette look recalling Sylvia and Gerry Anderson's vintage "Thunderbirds" and "Fireball XL-5" '60s series.

Unfortunately, that wood-carved appearance is all-too-fitting considering the less-than-fluid movement of the characters (they all appear to walk like C-3PO) and the lifeless dialogue.

Strained attempts at comedy are reserved for the constant bickering between Anakin and Ahsoka, who form something of a bizarre dysfunctional family along with the Hutt-let.

While the vocal talents of originators Hayden Christensen, Natalie Portman, Ewan McGregor and even Yoda's Frank Oz are nowhere to be heard, a welcome bit of continuity has been provided by Samuel L. Jackson, Christopher Lee and Anthony Daniels, who lend their voices to Mace Windu, Count Dooku and C-3PO, respectively.