Star Wars: The Clone Wars

Animation film voiced by Matt Lanter, James Arnold Taylor, Ashley Drane and Tom Kane. Directed by Dave Filoni
Running Time: 98 mins
Rated: Rated PG (animated violence)

This is the first animated Star Wars feature film that has been released in cinemas, and it follows "Star Wars: Episode III- Revenge of the Sith,' which was released in 2005. It has been produced to lead into a weekly US animated TV series of the same name, on its Cartoon Network. The film uses state-of-the-art computer-generation and takes up the intergalactic struggle between good and evil and continues the Star Wars story. Its animation style (technically called, CG-animation) is quite distinctive.

As the galaxy retreats under the influence of the Separatists and their droid army, the Jedi Knights continue their struggle to keep order and restore peace. The film focuses on Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi and their relationship as their Mission leads them to Jabba, the crime lord, to seek his cooperation. New helpers (such as Ahsoka Tano, the Padawan apprentice to Anakin Skywalker) and new villains are presented in this version in the struggles to rule the galaxy. The fate of the Star Wars universe rests in the hands of the courageous Jedi Knights, and they are being double-crossed by Count Dooku who tries to convince Jabba that the Jedi have kidnapped his son, who he wants back at any cost. The movie's adventures and exploits produce action-packed battles that place the movie on the upper edge of its PG classification. The animation style aims for wood-cut facsimile realism and achieves it and that may not disappoint true fans, providing they are content to watch a cartoon version of Star Wars instead of filmed displays of real struggles produced in cinematic style with special effects. The flooding of the market with copious literature and video games has undoubtedly stretched the market pull of Star Wars in ways that have prepared us for the acceptance of new media forms; and this is one of them.

Some actors from the live-action films have returned to voice the characters, but the film is entirely cartoon in form and structure and new characters and plots are introduced to justify a continuing TV cartoon series. One has to ask what would make someone go to a version of a series that previously gave us the past cinematic productions. The answer to that is complicated. The cartoon version will be accessible to more people - more children and younger children will want to see it and will do so; but by way of warning, the cartoon version is quite violent because it can explore the dark side without the constraints of realism and in so doing it can push aggression to the edges where realistic movies can't go, using fantasy as its justification. But what is the real appeal of a cartoon version of Star Wars to adult fans of the Star Wars genre? That has to rest in the quality of the animation, but also on the smartness of the dialogue and the quality of the characters' voiced asides, and, of course, on the fact that there will be new plots that continue the Star Wars fascination. The smartness of the dialogue has worked very well for other cartoon feature films (e.g., the recent Kung Fu Panda); in this film, however, that potential appeal disappoints. The movie is not smart enough, probably because the Star Wars story overtakes its attempted translation. As a consequence, adult fans may feel cheated by this fully animated version. A new era of Star Wars entertainment has begun, but it does not continue the Star Wars adventure; rather, it presents it in another form that some will like and others won't. For the truly dedicated, the new format will stretch the story-line possibilities, but sitting through this movie is like being in an entertainment arcade where your task is to push as many buttons as you can within the time period allowed to explode as many spaceships and marauding machines as possible; and over time that task becomes repetitive and a little boring.

There is a commercial- exploitation feel to this film in its full-on cartoon treatment, and many, I'm sure, will miss the old Star Wars films they have come to know and love.

Warner Brothers Out August 14

Peter W. Sheehan. Associate of the Australian Catholic Film Office for Film and Broadcasting.

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