Rated PG despite a lot of violence. Like, there wasn't much educational in this movie. There isn't exactly a phenomenal moral that I can take away from the movie. It's pew-pew-pew for an hour-and-a-half. But I also didn't feel like the violence was graphic. I never really had to shelter my kids from what was on screen, which may be a commentary on how Americans view violence in media. It's mostly fine. It's animated violence and I think most people are cooler with lasers instead of guns. PG.
DIRECTOR: Dave Filoni
This isn't the first time watching this movie. I keep hearing from my students and from my hardcore Star Wars fans that Star Wars: Clone Wars, the TV show, fixes the prequels. It makes them so much better apparently. I watched Filoni's other show, Rebels, and kind of enjoyed it. It wasn't perfect, but it was a watchable show for the most part. But Star Wars: Clone Wars has seven seasons plus this movie. I keep watching this movie, hoping it gets me excited to power through a weak first season...and it doesn't.
I want to like this movie so much. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse proved that film franchises can take risks and expand into animation with as much or greater success than the live action films. I remember seeing previews about the theatrical release of this movie and thought that it was going to be a big deal. Why weren't people losing their minds over this movie? Well, I kind of get why. For all of its space battles and pew-pewing, the movie overall feels like a pilot for a TV show sooner than it feels like a fleshed out movie. This is an attempt at marketing. I get the importance that Star Wars was going to make the jump from cinema to television and that there was an interest to get audiences excited about that prospect, but this feel much more like a studio stunt than it does a well-developed film. If this was a pilot, I might be more forgiving for what it is. But as a film, man, this has a lot of stuff to deal with. Frankly, it's just boring. There's a pacing that is more in line with what we would see in television episodes. There's all this cool stuff that, like with The Rise of Skywalker, ultimately has little emotional investment. Part of that is on me. I have a really hard time wtih the prequel trilogy. If you read my stuff on the prequel movies, it is because the movies were never really tailored to me. But the central flaw of approaching a film like The Clone Wars is that I don't really understand what we're fighting for in this one. I know that Obi-Wan, Anakin, Asoka, and the Jedi are the good guys, but that's really about it? Really, the film sets the stakes way too small for the film.
The Clone Wars television program, from what I can tell, is meant to take a war that mostly happens off-screen and actually explain the beat-by-beat moments for it. It's fictional military history, in a way. Lucas's Clone Wars in the films have a really convoluted good guy / bad guy system. One of the elements of dramatic irony is that we all know that the clone troopers are the beta test for stormtroopers. We know that the Jedi are unaware that they are fighting the wrong battle. But then, who are we supposed to be rooting for? The only thing that makes us attached to any kind of sense of right and wrong are characters that we're supposed to care for. Obi-Wan Kenobi, R2-D2, and C-3PO are there's as indicators of whom we are supposed to be rooting for. But this dramatic irony just lowers the stakes over all. To begin with, if this is fictional military history, this is one battle in a much longer war. We know that the Jedi can't win the war because of this battle. We know that if they lose this battle, there's still a long war ahead of them. This one moment doesn't really mean anything. On top of that, even if the film telegraphs that this battle is important by SAYING it is important, we know that the whole war ultimately is a ruse. There is no winning. That's actually a really cool concept to show in film, but the movie never really explores the futility of war and battles. Rather, it treats its central goal as something noble, despite the fact that this is all of Palpatine's impossible plan. Because the film is really kind of three episodes squished together, I'm going to pick what the central goal based on how much screen time each battle gets. If I had to, gun to head, decide on which plot is the central thread, it has to be the return of Jabba the Hutt's son. (What happens to this kid? I'm sure that there's probably an entire line of extended universe books about Stinky and the adventures that stop him from appearing in Return of the Jedi.) Regardless of whether or not they return Stinky (I'm writing these words and thinking about how I have yet to write about The Seven Samurai), changing Jabba's mind means that they can travel through certain space? Who really cares? Filoni is smart to make the conflict about the life of a child, but the motivation is mind-numbingly boring. Also, let's give props to Clone Wars for getting a baby Jabba out before baby Yoda ever was a thing.
By making this a theatrical release, there's a really big problem. The jump from TV to film is always a problem area. Most movies based on television shows take place after the show is over. Okay, except for The X-Files: Fight the Future. It's not perfect. We tend to watch stories for character growth. By the time that the film comes out, the arcs have already been completed. What this does to the characters is a little bit limited. The film acts as a test for the character's growth. Has the person really changed? Will a larger budget mean that the conflict will be testing the character on a greater level? I'm really looking at the Star Trek films. Star Trek: First Contact took the arc that the series had given when Picard recovered from becoming Locutus and amped it up. That's really fun for fans of the show, but it doesn't do much for a new audience. But there's a bigger problem that Clone Wars kind of introduces. As a pilot, the characters are really limited in the amount of growth that the characters can really have from the outset. The point of Anakin Skywalker is that he's meant to slowly take baby steps over the course of seven seasons towards becoming Darth Vader. (That's not even all that fair because I'm sure that Dave Filoni didn't know that he was going to have seven guaranteed seasons.) Instead, we have to have these moments that are small moments of growth. Anakin starts the film not wanting a padawan. He's above teaching. When he's given Asoka Tano, someone I've been promised is worth the effort, boy, is his life chaotic! He didn't even want to be a teacher and now he has a student who clashes with him? Man alive, how are they going to get along? Well, like the rest of the Star Wars prequels, it kind of just light-switches. Pilots tend to do this. They introduce a conflict that often take years to resolve. Instead, we get this artificial growth that really means nothing. There's no greater realization that Anakin has to make when it comes to accepting Asoka as his padawan. Instead of being this reflection on his own character, he's simply aware of his responsibility and Asoka basic aptitude. It's an engineered conflict. It's kind of the difference between Lethal Weapon, the film, and Lethal Weapon, the show.
Can we talk about Ziro the Hutt? Boy, that's a problematic character. First of all, it's an uncomfortable stereotype. But secondly, what is it with the Star Wars movies and their desperate attempt to tie into Earth standards? I guess I was cool with Mos Eisley, because the idea of a bar seems universal. But in Attack of the Clones we had Dex and his diner. Then there are death sticks? Ziro seems really out of place in the Star Wars universe, especially when it comes to the Hutts. Part of the argument could be that Ziro is meant to be overt and obvious so we get the message. But on the other hand, Ziro is pretty gross as a character. He's completely unsympathetic, and that's coming from someone who is supposed to share traits with Jabba the Hutt. Why is this character even in the movie? There's nothing funny about the characterization, even without the problematic stereotype. It's this moment that is so eye-rolling that it actually might be my biggest takeaway from the movie. There's all these cool fight sequences with Obi-Wan and an Inquisitor (I think) and the only thing I can remember in detail is Ziro the Hutt and Stinky. That's really weird.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars has the proper scope without the proper story. I hear that this changes over the course of the show. But the film does very little to change my mind about powering through season one. My wife was bored with it. My kids aren't super excited to watch it. I think it might have been just enough of a burnout to justify ever continuing on with Star Wars. I actually believe that I might enjoy The Clone Wars if I give it the largest chance I've ever given a TV show. But 1) do I have time to do that? 2) Aren't there a lot of other things I would rather watch? 3) What if I'm still pretty let down by the Star Wars prequels. I don't know. I have some decisions to make.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.