Sunday, August 17, 2008

Send in the Clones, there ought to be clones...

Sad to say, Star Wars: The Clone Wars was a letdown. The Star Wars saga is a thread running through my life, spanning from my teenage enthusiasm for science fiction, galactic empires and space travel to my middle-aged enthusiasm for world history, the Roman Empire and politics, so I feel a real connection to the characters, the story of their lives and the universe they inhabit. But this latest film just doesn't generate the "gee-whiz" feeling I got when I saw the first Star Wars film (Episode IV: A New Hope) in 1977, or the rich, dramatic overtones and sense of "closing the circle" projected in the last film, Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.

Cinematically, the lighting, camera angles and timing of Clone Wars evoked the style of the '40s cliffhangers from which a young George Lucas derived the whole Star Wars oeuvre. I especially liked the artist's-brush-like textures of the surfaces, and the almost sculptural feel of the character's facial expressions. The droids, even though we've seen them depicted in lifelike CG in the preceding three episodes, came across with the airbrushed sheen of '50s sci-fi star Robbie the Robot, especially the dwarf spider and super battle droids.

But the story line was thin and the plot ridiculously childish, especially after the high drama of Anikin's transformation into Darth Vader in Episode III. The story boils down to a long, drawn out sequence of battle scenes that revolve around rescuing Jabba the Hutt's grotesquely endearing child.

Where are the grand galaxy-spanning themes and character development of the previous episodes? The character of Asoka, the four-foot nothing Padawan "youngling" who tags after Anikin, is his guilty conscience annoyingly brought to life - "But remember, Sky Guy, your duty is to rescue this ugly but adorable Hutt baby..." or words to that effect. Asajj Ventress, who is perhaps Darth Maul's second cousin, reminded me of the Evil Queen in Disney's Snow White, but with a handy double-bladed light-saber.

Oh well, my 11-year old and his pal got a few giggles out of the baby Hutt's facial mugging. He'll probably turn up as a Burger King kid's meal prize. Let's hope not.

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