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Star Wars: The Non-Episode

  • Apr 13, 2013
Star Wars: The Clone Wars works best if you're able to accept it as what it was: The pilot episode for the TV show.

Much as detractors can be loathe to admit it, The Clone Wars is a necessary part of the Star Wars canon. Think about what we actually KNOW about the Clone Wars when Obi-Wan Kenobi first mentioned them in the original Star Wars: It's a war that involves clones. Although I'm one of the Prequel Trilogy's defenders, I'm certainly not blind to its flaws, and one of its flaws is that it skimped on the little details of this epic conflict. We got the beginning of the Clone Wars serving as the finale of Episode II, and the last battle of them in Episode III. So what happened in between all that?

Well, to again turn to Obi-Wan in A New Hope, we knew he taught Anakin Skywalker the ways of The Force. We know that Anakin was the greatest fighter pilot in the galaxy, a cunning warrior, and a great friend. And in the Prequel Trilogy, George Lucas so busily retcons the crap out of everything to squeeze in fanservice for the Original Trilogy, so we got to see very little of any of those things. That's the big area where the Prequel Trilogy messes up: Where it should have revolved entirely on the friendship of Obi-Wan and Anakin and where everything started going wrong, Lucas was trying to tell the story of how the whole universe of the Original Trilogy got started.

There's a real gap of information is what I'm getting at.

Among Star Wars fans, Star Wars: The Clone Wars has picked up a very devoted following in its televised form. It gives us insight into Anakin's side as a warrior, pilot, and friend, story arcs that expand on other battles in The Clone Wars, and new, highly developed characters like Commander Rex and Ahsoka Tano to get attached to. It also has a very serialized format which allows for gradual development of stories and characters.

The Clone Wars movie provides a quick glimpse of many of the TV show's elements. Unfortunately, a movie should never come in a serialized form, because we have to wait too long between installments and because even with the running times, the serials can't develop story and character as thoroughly. The Clone Wars movie feels like an incomplete serial and, taken as a standalone movie, it can't even equal Episode I. Although Jar Jar Binks isn't anywhere in it, so that's a plus.

What The Clone Wars gives us is the fast and furious action associated with the Star Wars saga, but that's really about it. It introduces Commander Rex and the wonderful Ahsoka Tano - currently one of my favorite characters in the Star Wars universe - but we don't get any real insight into the characters they become on the show. As a result, a casual moviegoer or non-Star Wars fan will shut off The Clone Wars under the impression that Rex is a strict, mission-oriented officer and Tano comes off as a reckless brat. Anakin Skywalker actually seems to be encouraging Tano's behavior sometimes.

The opening isn't traditional Star Wars, so that may throw off fans of the Star Wars movies who aren't familiar with the expanded universe. Instead of the blaring John Williams score, we're given a voice-over narration which brings us up to speed about the current goings-on of the Clone Wars. For the movie, the plot is the simpleton stuff you would expect from an action movie: Jabba the Hutt's son was kidnapped! It's up to the Jedi to return him!

And just why, people familiar with Star Wars are asking, are the Jedi so concerned with the son of a crime lord on some Outer Rim backpost? Because the reach of the Hutts goes far into the galaxy, and the Republic Army and Separatists are fighting for the right to use the Hutt line trade routes. So yeah, it's time for the Jedi to sell their souls and suffer their indignity at the thought of recovering Jabba's boy and getting him back in one piece. Of course, the Separatists, led by Count Dooku, aren't making it very easy. They'll be there to block Anakin and Ahsoka at every turn on their journey.

It sounds like the plot to a silly, time-waste action movie. It IS the plot to a silly, time-waste action movie. That's because that's what Star Wars: The Clone Wars basically is. Now, in one respect, this is the best news you've heard all day: Star Wars doing pure action looks really cool, and it's a lot of fun. The Clone Wars actually has a very video game feel to it. The characters go through one obstacle, and right after that, they have to face another. The quipping between Skywalker and Tano is witty, and the two of them play pretty well off each other. For what little character development exists, we see more human sides of most than we did in the prequel trilogy, and it mostly isn't handled in your typical action cliche manner. In one scene where Ahsoka saves Anakin's life by bringing a huge wall down on top of attacking droids while positioned so Anakin goes safely through a whole in the center, Anakin chides her for nearly killing him. While Ahsoka defends the action, she clearly feels bad about it. In another early scene, the brash Ahsoka points out to Rex that her being a Jedi(-to-be) gives her a higher rank than him when he refuses her sound-seeming advice. Instead of getting into a giant fight over it, Rex casually tells her that in his book, experience outranks everything, something the young and inexperienced Ahsoka implicitly concedes.

As befitting of all pure action movies, though, The Clone Wars begins and ends with the action alone. There's even a stupid plot twist forced in during the last half hour in order to prolong the running time.

What makes The Clone Wars different from all the other Star Wars movies - including the Prequels - and The Clone Wars TV show is that it has a real candy attitude. It tastes great but it's no substitute for the fulfillment offered by the actual meal. All the mystical elements associated with Star Wars are gone, so while Yoda has a role, he won't be dispensing any wisdom about the ways of The Force. There's no real conflict between characters which leads to lasting development. The only conflict is black and white, between the good guys and bad guys. We don't watch the relationships between the characters develop very much, not even between Skywalker and Tano, who are Master and Padawan on the show.

Perhaps the most crippling aspect of The Clone Wars is that it robs us of the aspects of the Star Wars universe we don't see. There's no sense of in-universe history, and no sense of the mythology we've come to know and love. Those are things even the Prequel Trilogy contained. The Clone Wars demands its non-Star Wars viewers be practitioners of The Force themselves: Always focused on the here and now in order to become one with it, letting it flow through. The past and future of The Clone Wars are distractions, and they'll disrupt the presence of The Force.

That will work just fine for Star Wars fans because many of them are familiar with the TV show, so they know where The Clone Wars leads and how good it gets. For Mr. Casual Movie Guy, though, The Force method of viewing isn't going to do because it's not going to explain anything. As one Han Solo said, "Kid, I've flown from one side of this galaxy to the other. I've seen a lot of strange stuff, but I've never seen anything to make me believe there's one all-powerful Force controlling everything."

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More Star Wars: The Clone Wars (mov... reviews
Quick Tip by . June 10, 2013
Much better than expected, but totally unnecessary. The series started off sort of weak as well, but became quite impressive as the seasons came and went.
review by . May 13, 2009
The Clone Wars is George Lucas' latest attempt to capitalize on the Star Wars franchise and not a bad attempt at that. Since this is animated the cast are able to fully utilize the arsenals at their disposal, and boy do they. The story goes a little something like this: Count Dooku has kidnapped Jaba's son in an effort to frame the Jedi and gain control of the space around the outer rim. Anakin is sent to retrieve the little slug affectionately named "Stinky" with his padawan Ahsoka Tano. From the …
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Hi! I'm here in part to plug my writing and let everyone know that I'm trying to take my work commercial.      Now, what about me? Well, obviously I like to write. I'm … more
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About this movie


Star Wars: The Clone Wars is a 2008 CGI animated science-fiction film that follows the continuing adventures within the Star Wars universe. It is set between Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, and Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.
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Director: Dave Filoni
Genre: Sci-Fi, Fantasy
Release Date: November 11, 2008
MPAA Rating: PG
Screen Writer: George Lucas
DVD Release Date: November 11, 2008
Runtime: 98 minutes
Studio: Warner Home Video
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