Star Wars: Something Something, etc.
Chris "The Tingler" Capel was once arrested for five accounts of incesterous rape. Oh, and he also wrote this review.
Let me clarify – this is the review of the Clone Wars movie. It is not a review of the Clone Wars game, the Clone Wars cartoon, the new Clone Wars cartoon, the Clone Wars DVD, the Clone Wars books, the Clone Wars comics, the new Clone Wars games, the Clone Wars toys, Ewoks: Battle for Endor, or the Clone Wars movie. Wait, scratch that last one.
Yes, a Star Wars movie, in cinemas, that doesn't have the word 'episode' in the title. And nary an Ewok in sight. It's quite a jarring experience (although so was watching Episodes I-III admittedly), especially as – gasp – it doesn't begin with the Fox Fanfare! Frankly that's the most shocking thing about this film. It's like Indy without the Paramount mountain/molehill! Instead we get the Warner Bros logo.
There's no opening crawl either, instead some British guy reads a prologue in a 1930s News Broadcast-like voice. At first I thought it was for a Republic propaganda film akin to Starship Troopers, which I thought was a rather cool idea until I discovered it actually was just clips from the cartoon series with a crap voiceover. Not a good start.
That bad start continues for a while, with the animation proving unnervingly lifeless at times, and the voices having a pause between characters talking just like in the worst adventure games (like LucasArts had eliminated in theirs by about 1993). The introduction of Anakin's unwanted padawan Ahsoka is a bit uncomfortable, as the script tries a bit too hard to force tension between them (new power – Force Tension!), with the following sarcasm-off being so annoying Obi-Wan buggers off.
The first battle comes mercifully quickly, and that's really the best of what this film has to offer. I'll get to the later fights in a mo, as the first one is unfortunately a bit rubbish too. Basically a retread of that fight in Episode III where Penis-Head-Jedi-Master (aka Ki-Adi-Mundi) was killed on a bridge, and where Star Wars: Battlefront II coincidentally had a map of, it contains some of the worst strategic planning I've ever seen. I wanted to yell 'JUST BLOW THE BLOODY BRIDGE UP!' at one point, and if you see the film you'll understand. It's not helped by Anakin and Ahsoka using the Solid Snake-method for not being seen by hiding under a box.
Then, suddenly, out of nowhere, the film became enjoyable. It became exciting, suspenseful, and surprisingly genuinely funny in places (George Lucas obviously isn't writing anymore). Even the music, which at first is just a pale imitation of John Williams, suddenly tries doing new things and becomes cool. It occasionally reminded me of the Republic Commando score, which if you've heard Jesse Harlin's songs for that game you'll know is a big compliment.
There are some brilliant scenes, like Obi-Wan having a cup of tea with the enemy leader in the middle of a battle, or the incredibly imaginative vertical battle up a sheer cliff-face, or indeed any scene with Asajj Ventress, who is as cool as Darth Maul and has a lot more screen time.
I even warmed to Ahsoka over time, despite her obviously being aimed at the young teen girl audience that I really doubt is watching. Speaking of characters, almost all of the major characters from the prequel films turn up (still alive at this point anyway), with the one major exception of General Grievous. He gets name-checked and his bodyguards put in an appearance, but not the phlegmy Transylvanian wheel-rider himself. Oh, and thank Christ – no Binks either. The little sluggy cute-fest that is Jabba The Hutt's son Rotta may make a few people sick, but at least he doesn't talk.
As for voices they all do a pretty good job, with Ventress in particular sneering through every line. Christopher Lee returns to voice Count Dooku and is thankfully used to the fullest (he even gets a nice evil laugh), and Anthony Daniels puts in a cameo as C-3PO, but the most surprisingly return is Samuel L. Jackson as Mace Windu. Not because he's such a major actor, but because he has all of thirty seconds of screen time. I would've much preferred Ian McDiarmid as his replacement sounds completely wrong, or even Frank Oz, who you'd think would be used to voice-acting by now.
The story is quite nice and self-contained, and while it doesn't matter in any way to the overall story arc of the Saga that probably helps it. The action is what we're here for, and for once we have a proper Star War. The film is downright brutal in places, like Jabba having the severed heads of his bounty hunters delivered neatly in a line to him, or a Super Battle Droid snapping a trooper's neck and using his body as a shield. Incidentally, the Supers are back to their Republic Commando-level of malevolence, and not the wimpy Episode III versions.
There's no denying it's a simple film, and the dodgy animations and puppet-like models may put people off, but I enjoyed it – definitely more than The Phantom Menace at least. There is one lovey-moment between Anakin and Padmé, but amazingly it's actually subtle (again, no Lucas). It may wind back the clock after we spent years getting more and more desperate to have done with the whole saga, but give this a go, you may enjoy it as much as I did. I may have mocked the whole idea of this film endlessly recently, but the actual product ain't that bad.
And I'll always love a Star Wars movie that introduces Big Gay Al The Hutt. I am not kidding. And if you really want to hate it, just remember that most of the characters in this film are dead by the end of Episode III, with the few survivors all expiring by Episode VI. Apart from C-3PO of course.
Pros: Action, some good humour, Asajj Ventress and Chris Lee
Cons: Cheap animation, it's another Prequel film, crap start