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Animation is a Stretch Too Far

August 17, 2008

Just when you thought George Lucas had milked his intergalactic cash cow dry with endless re-issues of the Star Wars saga on DVD, he executive produces this computer-animated adventure that slips neatly into the narrative divide between Attack Of The Clones and Revenge Of The Sith.

Little more than a glossy teaser for a forthcoming television series, Star Wars: The Clone Wars boasts lots of eye-popping action sequences, including a terrific opening skirmish between the Jedi Knights and the Separatist droid army.

Shaky camerawork, viewing the showdown from the perspective of a clone trooper on the ground dodging enemy cannon fire, is a neat touch, and subsequent battles are choreographed at breakneck speed.

However, since we already know the full narrative arc of Lucas’s sprawling opus, there’s no dramatic tension.

All of the central characters must survive the film unharmed.

When the Dark Jedi assassin Asajj Ventress (voiced by Futterman) challenges Obi-Wan Kenobi (Taylor) to a duel to the death, the most excitement we can hope for is that one combatant might develop a nasty blister from gripping their lightsaber too firmly.

The plot of The Clone Wars is absolute nonsense, revolving around the kidnapping of Jabba The Hutt’s son, Rotta, known affectionately as “Stinky”.

Obi-Wan visits Jabba to broker a deal and the Hutt leader grants the Galactic Republic one planetary rotation to rescue his beloved boy and return him to Tatooine.

Anakin Skywalker (Lanter) and young padawan Ahsoka Tano (Eckstein) lead the charge to planet Teth, where Asajj and her minions are holding Stinky hostage in an abandoned monastery.

“There’s more to this kidnapping than it seems,” ponders Mace Windu (Jackson).

“Greater than we think this mystery may be,” affirms Master Yoda (Kane) in his trademark gobbledygook.

Anakin and Ahsoka subsequently discover that the abduction is part of a dastardly scheme masterminded by nefarious Count Dooku (Lee) and Jabba’s power-hungry Uncle Ziro (Burton).

Star Wars: The Clone Wars overstretches a simple linear plot, which would fit snugly into a 30-minute TV episode, relying on technical wizardry to paper over the myriad cracks in the screenplay.

Fans of Lucas’s gargantuan universe will no doubt thrill to every clash of lightsabers, but truthfully, there is nothing here that couldn’t be accomplished just as well on the small screen.

While the action set pieces are well suited to computer animation, certainly effects cannot be replicated realistically using a hard drive: billowing smoke from a crash site, the cloud of sand disturbed as a Republic transporter touches down on Tatooine.

Also, the weight and inertia of human and alien characters isn’t convincing.

In many cases, movement as they walk or run is as stiff as C- 3PO, whose brief appearance late in the film ensures Anthony Daniels remains the only actor to have appeared in all seven films.

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