Once again Lucasfilm throws us right into the midst of robotic-human-creature battles, this time with the use of dazzling, light saber and laser filled digital animation. And the question that everybody stifles inside is: how much more can Dave Filoni achieve with an animated movie?
The never ending struggle of the Grand Army of the Galactic Republic with equally unvanquishable separatists and their army of quarter-brain droids unfolds with indispensible Obi-Wan Kenobi (James Arnold Taylor, who lends a tone of a second generation Brit mixed with a blasé psychoanalyst), Yoda (Tom Kane), the Clones and the utterly diplomatic senator Amidala (who looks amazingly like Natalie Portman, even though played by Catherine Taber). Clone Wars also introduces a young Jedi apprentice- Ahsoka Tano, (Ashley Eckstein), aka Snips, an adorably ardent Padawan who goes into a breathtaking fight side by side with the invincible, heroic and frat-boy-faced Anakin Skywalker (Matt Lanter); compensating her lack of experience with youthful enthusiasm and overly mature sarcasm. Together, they struggle to save the day and the Republic by rescuing the kidnapped son of Jabba the Hutt. They also face dark side of the force embodied in villainess Asajj Ventress (Nika Futterman) and her master, the obscure Count Dooku (Christopher Lee). The absent-minded droids are the main source of humor and cause the audience spontaneous bursts of laughter in between the ‘gasping scenes’.
I was particularly excited about the Asajj’s character, who, nota bene is created in a purely Disney-esque style of an evil woman—with her tall and extremely skinny silhouette and a weird skin color; and who particularly brings to mind a character once voted the most scary villain in Disney productions—the witch from Sleeping Beauty. Sadly, the gloomy villainess is only a tool in the hands of her big-fish patriarchal boss, Count Dooku; and the sword fights are restricted in general, in the name of more robotic/spaceship skirmishes.
To prove that there is nothing that digital animation cannot do these day, the makers “shoot” Clone Wars like a movie. Not only does the “camera” show the characters from different directions and semi-circulates around them, which could be assigned solely to the 3D video game techniques; but the movie applies high and low angles of perception (for example, if Master Yoda comes on the screen, everything is shown from a low angle). Plus, the animators obviously indulge in what costs huge amounts of money and effort in real life-- bombastic special effects, marches of gigantic war machines, breathtaking space battles and Jedi fly-jumping with the audience’s perspective fallowing from behind their backs. The way in which the “camera” quests through the battlefields (or battle-spaces) in long “tracking shots” gives an exciting notion of 3D reality and participation in the sci-fi disorder and Star Wars reel.
With all the state-of-the-art techniques, Clone Wars joins the ranks of made-in-Hollywood animated masterpieces that have been invading the market for a few years with a power of a digital tsunami; and becomes the season’s main competitor of Wall-E. Will the Star Wars-mania become a stronger publicity factor than sympathy for an “adorable” robot and bring the film the grandeur of such recent productions as Academy-Award-winning Ratatouille? Though I doubt Clone Wars would get much of the Academy’s appreciation, what really matters is the internal Star Wars affairs world and trillions of fans who constitute a never-critical audience and a piggy-bank that Lucasfilm can always rely on. Star Wars’ magic works, and though death reigns throughout the PG-Rated film in various forms (from death on the battlefield to triple decapitation), the 75% kids audience and the 20% parents audience in the New York advance screening (during New York International Children's Film festival) was nothing but delighted.
Clone Wars hits theaters Friday, August 15th.
Click for more information on Clone Wars.