August 15, 2008

‘Clone Wars': Just Kids’ Stuff?

By Anthony Breznican

The new Star Wars movie may be less for Jabba than for Jabba's baby.

(Yeah, Jabba the Hutt has a baby this time.)

The animated The Clone Wars, with its brightly colored computer animation, characters designed to look like wooden Thunderbirds-style marionettes and a decidedly silly tone to the action, suggests Star Wars Jr. more than the dark psychodrama that adults preferred in the franchise's core films.

Some grown-up Star Wars fans have scorched the new movie in online reviews, and many feel that creator George Lucas has abandoned them for the lucrative kiddie market.

Lifelong Star Wars fan Adam Homan, 37, a metal sculptor from Boulder, Colo., is among those who have low expectations.

"The original Star Wars movies were designed for kids, but the mythology behind them was very much adult -- the hero's journey and destroying your father and finding your own place in the world," says Homan, who saw the first movie when he was 7.

He figures Clone Wars won't measure up but will see it anyway. "We still go no matter what because we hope to get some bread crumbs of the original feeling of Star Wars," he says. "I'm hoping for a few thrills, but not expecting much. I guess I gave up on that a long time ago. I just don't think Lucas has that in him anymore.

"He's really focusing on the kid market. ... There's a sense of abandonment. When I go see The Lord of the Rings or something like that, that's what I hope for from the Star Wars universe."

Lucas shrugs at the notion that aiming at kids alienates grown fans. "Star Wars is just for kids, but everybody seems to like it," he says. "This is really at exactly the same level as the feature films. We didn't dumb it down. The series is really designed for adolescents, kids going from being children to becoming adults."

That would be around ages 12 or 13, he says. "Eventually, we may do a TV series that is skewed for younger kids, 5- and 6-year-olds. But this isn't that."

The PG-rated Clone Wars does have some modest intensity, with lots of troopers getting blasted to oblivion. And a new character, Jabba's uncle Ziro the Hutt, has raised eyebrows for his effeminate mannerisms mimicking the late Truman Capote.

The movie also serves as the kickoff for a Clone Wars TV series done in the same animation style, which starts Oct. 3 on Cartoon Network.

Clone Wars director Dave Filoni (Nickelodeon's Avatar: The Last Airbender) says his movie's and series' success hinges on a lighthearted approach, and he hopes another generation of kids may become fans through a new character: Ahsoka, the 14-year-old Padawan apprentice who is the series' first girl Jedi to play a major role.

"People always want to see someone like themselves up on the screen," Filoni says. "Luke did that for a whole generation. I think Anakin was that again for another generation. Ahsoka was a chance to add to Anakin's character in a way that could surprise us and give us a new dimension to him."

She's also exotic, a rust-colored Togruta alien with blue and white head-tails instead of hair, and a penchant for back talk.

Lucas says Ahsoka's role as Anakin's apprentice makes him "suddenly responsible. He's a parent, a teacher. That transition from 'I am being taken care of' to 'now I am taking care of others' is in all of the stories. That is the repeating theme."

And he hopes it appeals to Hutts and their larvae alike. (c) Copyright 2008 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc. <>