Anakin Skywalker and his High School Musical ready padawan apprentice take on your TV set in The Clone Wars.
While doing more channel surfing, I stumbled across the new Star Wars animated tv series The Clone Wars on Cartoon Network (Fridays at 8pm). Although I skipped the theatrical Clone Wars animated movie, I thought for free I'll check the new Star Wars series out. And all I can say is, there is something to be said for lowered expectations.
That's not necessarily bad, it actually works in Star Wars favor this time. On the big movie screen, there is an expectation that you are seeing a singular event. It has to be something distinct and of some quality because at the very least you probably paid money to see it. With Star Wars movies in particular, that expectation built on the first two films (Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back) is extremely high. As a viewer, you want to feel the same thrills of blowing up the Death Star or lengthy lightsaber fights in the sequels as you did in the originals because otherwise what's the point? Since returning to the Star Wars brand in 1999, creator George Lucas failed to meet those heady heights repeatedly with the exception of Revenge of the Sith which got within striking distance of greatness (and then Amidala died of a broken heart. Couldn't she of died of a damaged larynx? Was that soooo much of a stretch?). With television, that expectation isn't quite as high. If what you're watching is better than reruns of Wings, you're halfway there.
Also, the switch from film to tv works to Luca's artistic advantage as well. The visuals don't have to be as mind blowing because it's on a smaller scale. In that category, Luca's team actually comes up with some pretty good stuff with the ships flying and fighting coming off very well. They actually exceed a lot of other TV shows in this category in my book. The computer animated people are just OK, their movements are a bit stiff and it feels a lot like the Starship Troopers computer animated tv series a few years back. So visually The Clone Wars is acceptable, though if this is what they did for the movie I'm glad I'm waiting 'til video.
But what ultimately hurt the prequel trilogy was mostly the storytelling ...you know, 80% of what makes a movie watchable. And here, The Clone Wars has both The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones beat. The action and plotlines are more thought out, providing more detail in the Star Wars universe. The characters interact better and are more believable than their live action counterparts. Even the hidden romance between Anakin Skywalker and Padme Amadala works here, no hold-me-like-you-did-at-the-lake-at-Naboo here. And the voice actors have more chemistry than Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman ever did. While the tone is decidedly tweenish in terms of characterizations (all characters act like they're 12) the first two prequels were like this too, but somehow seeing animated people do it works where real actors failed.
After watching two and a half episodes, I can say The Clone Wars tv series is a worthwhile thing to catch if you're a fan (and there are millions of people who are). It's not the greatest thing ever yet it does elevate the quality of the Attack of the Clones movie by at least continuing that storyline in more detail (the war after, that is). I find it interesting that Luca's vision is more fully realized here than in those prequels, for better or worse. Every once in a while during these episodes, I get a twinge of that old "Holy Crap it's Star Wars!" feeling that was missing from the adventures of Jar Jar Binks. At this point in time, I think much of the general public probably feels they've drunk enough of George Luca's Kool Aid but for me Republic Credits will do fine. Roger Roger.
Star Wars The Clone Wars Tv series trailer