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‘Clone Wars’ Stiff, Lacks Suspense

August 15, 2008

STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS — ** — Animated feature starring the voices of Matt Lanter, Samuel L. Jackson and others; rated PG (violence, vulgarity, slurs, mild profanity, brief drugs)

George Lucas was involved in “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” only peripherally — as the executive producer of this digitally animated, science-fiction feature, which is another “prequel” to his beloved, original “Star Wars” trilogy.

Yet strangely, the film has several of the same problems that afflicted Lucas’s live-action prequels — there are stiff, almost cardboard performances, some tin-eared dialogue and a few moments of cornball humor. And even though it was clearly made for younger audiences, there is some questionable violent content.

But worst of all, the digitally composed animation looks and feels as if it was made for the small screen. Which it was. When it’s blown up to full, 35mm proportions, these cartoon figures look ridiculous.

“The Clone Wars” feature fits between the second and third prequel films and finds Jedi knights Anakin Skywalker (the voice of Matt Lanter) and Obi-Wan Kenobi (voiced by James Arnold Taylor) trying to hold off invading Imperial forces.

While he tries to contend with that, Anakin has another worry: He’s recently taken on a student, a young padawan named Ahsoka Tano (Ashley Eckstein). She is constantly questioning his methods and takes actions that even he thinks are risky.

If these Jedis and their trainee do survive the Imperial attacks, they still have to get off the planet to rescue the young son of Jabba the Hutt, who’s been kidnapped. This is part of a plot by the evil Count Dooku (Christopher Lee) to discredit the Rebel Alliance.

As with the Lucas films, there’s not a whole lot of suspense here. Most of us already know what happens with most if not all of these characters.

And as Anakin, Lanter’s voice performance is as flat as Hayden Christensen’s was in the live-action prequels. To be fair, the animation is inexpressive, which doesn’t really help in that regard.

By the way, there are a few names in the voice cast, such as Samuel L. Jackson (Mace Windu), Anthony Daniels (C-3PO) and Lee.

“Star Wars: The Clone Wars” is rated PG for some strong violent content (lightsaber duels, laser blasts, vehicular and explosive mayhem, and violence against women), vulgar flatulence humor (including a belching gag), derogatory slurs and language, scattered, mild profanity (religiously based), and some brief drug content and references (medicines). Running time: 98 minutes.




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