One aspect of the Star Wars mythos that I was always interested in, speaking as somebody who falls more on the Star Trek side of the fence in the grand scheme of galactic conquest (sorry Wars fans, but Trek was introduced to me first), was the notion of the Clone Wars, a long period of conflict that takes place almost entirely offscreen in the prequel trilogy. That was an odd choice at first, especially when you consider how much those films could have done with a shot of adrenaline to perk things up.
But then they announced that the Clone Wars would be explored in detail in an animated series, and there was much rejoicing. There was even more rejoicing when it was unveiled that Genndy Tartakovsky’s animation studio was going to provide the series. While this isn’t a comment on the subsequent series that this film launched (because the series is rather splendid indeed), the Clone Wars film manages to get it all horribly wrong.
Most disappointing is that, despite the vast canvas available to the makers of this film, that canvas has resulted in a narrative that is every bit as dull as the very worst parts of the prequel trilogy, and almost equally as lifeless for vast stretches. How was this even possible? I’m going to do what I always do when something inexplicable happens for no good reason – blame the T-Virus from Resident Evil and then promptly move along to another subject.
If the animation was anything to write home about then that might resolve a few problems, but alas it’s a surprisingly lifeless feature in that respect too. Somewhat ironic given that Genndy Tartakovsky, the brain behind animated gems such as Samurai Jack (a classic of animation with minimal storytelling, in my opinion), has provided us with something that barely manages to claw its way out of the garage, let alone have the opportunity to fire on all cylinders.
It’s not all bad though. This animated feature was designed to lead into a full animated series which, thankfully, is a much more pleasant viewing experience. And having seen both, it’s not actually necessary to watch this film before you jump into the serial run. The only moderately important plot point you’d miss is Anakin being assigned a padawan (a Jedi trainee, but you knew that anyway didn’t you?) of his own, which is explained briefly in the series in any case.
The other positive is the introduction to the clone soldiers. Despite all having the same voice and the same face, they are still clearly defined individuals with their own lives. It also helps that they’re given a wide array of varied hairstyles just to help the audience differentiate them further. It’s a clever route into what would otherwise be a massive headache for the writers, the animators and the audience.
It’s easy to criticise this film, essentially a three part story of the series adapted to feature length, for not living up to expectations. But then there are many series that have shaky starts that grow into some truly exceptional pieces of entertainment. This is one such television show and we should be grateful that it was given the opportunity to progress despite the less than thrilling start it was provided.