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August 18, 2008

Star Wars: The Clone Wars: DadCentric: The Review

Clone_2 I didn't hate it.

We first saw a preview for Darth Lucas' latest infomercial a couple of months ago, and every day since Lucas (my kid, not George) has been asking me the same question: "Dad, is today the day we go see Clone Wars?" The kid is a Star Wars fiend at the tender age of four; he's already worked out the plotlines for Episodes 7 through 32. I shit you not - Episode 29, for instance (spoiler alert) involves Darth Vader turning yellow (literally - "Dad, Darth Vader's suit and his eyes turn yellow and the Clone Troopers are scared of him but Luke Skywalker and Chewbacca fight him and then he turns GREEN!"). Episode 14 involves "the Boba Fetts and the Jedis fighting the Battle Droids and the Ewoks". He's seen Episodes 1, 2, 4, 5 and 6 at least two times each. We haven't let him watch Revenge of The Sith; watching Anakin kill a bunch of kids and subsequently get burned to a crisp is probably not good for a preschooler. Then again, neither was exposing him to Jar Jar Binks, but to his credit, Lucas (my kid, not George) really didn't seem to like Episode 1. Lucas (George, not my kid) - a four year old boy didn't like The Phantom Menace. Failed, you have.

So, The Clone Wars. The movie, as you may have heard, isn't really a movie - it's the first three episodes of the animated TV series that kicks off this fall. The plot, such as it is, involves Count Dooku and Jabba the Hutt's uncle Big Gay Ziro's (more on him in a second) scheme to kidnap Jabba the Hutt's baby (yeah), thus forcing the Republic to...uh...something something trade routes? Anakin gets a sidekick, a Padawan with Erykah Badu hair named Ahsoka; there are lightsaber fights, space battles, ground battles, and lots and lots of screen wipes. The kids in the audience ate it up. I spent large chunks of time studying my watch.

For those of us that recall that moment, waaaaaaay back in 1977, when we sat in a dark theater and watched as that massive Star Destroyer first rumbled across the screen - the closest that many of us would ever get to a religious experience - the new movie can only disappoint. There are a few moments that shine - the vertical battle on the planet Teth kicks ass, and the Clone Troopers themselves get a little personality injected into them. But the clunky dialogue (it ain't Star Wars: Episode 2.5: My Dinner with Darth Andre, that's for sure) and the staggeringly tasteless Truman Capote-esque caricature that is Ziro the Hutt make it a bit of a drag for grownups.

But you know, maybe that's our problem. Look, I'm as big a Star Wars geek as they come (the next time Beth tells me that we have to do laundry and I whine "But I was going to Tosche Station to pick up some power converters!" I'm going to get served with divorce papers). But let's face it - it's been 25 years since Return of the Jedi hit the big screen. We view Star Wars through the rose-colored glasses of sentimentality; we think of The Empire Strikes Back as high art, rather than just a damn good sequel that had many of the same problem as the first flick (Lando's "Hello...what have we here?" when he lays eyes on Leia is laughably, awfully bad, in the writing as well as the delivery). We set the bar with the expectations of our 10-year-old selves, and we are inevitably disappointed when George Lucas delivers movies that are aimed at, well, 10-year-olds.  That's no excuse for mediocrity, though, and that's the bottom line here - there's some cool stuff to look at, and my kid loved it, but ultimately it's as hollow as Utapau.



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