The nice thing about being a Star Wars nerd is that however nerdy you may be, you can count on there always being a bigger Star Wars nerd than you.
Like, I'll admit I referred to a new character as "that twi'lek chick" in my notes (hello, ladies), but while I might know the names of minor races or the proper spelling of Wookiee, at least I'm not one of the thousands of Brits who identifies their religion as "Jedi." Too wishy-washy for my tastes. If it doesn't involve blood sacrifice under an alien sky, I want no part of it.
Yet I would like to live in the Star Wars universe. Moisture farming? Get me in on the ground floor of that. Not that anyone on Tatooine could afford a second floor. Burn on you, Outer Rim peasants.
Like millions of others, however, my simple dream of being transported to a fictional universe of robots and mind powers grows a little dimmer with each new movie I see. The latest animated rendition of that world, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, makes me think I might rather be oppressed by Cylons instead.
The battle between Count Dooku's Separatists and the Jedi-backed Republic is catching fire across the galaxy. Every advantage matters, including the Outer Rim trade routes controlled by Jabba the Hutt.
When Jabba's son gets kidnapped, the Jedi are quick to respond, pulling Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi off the front lines to investigate the disappearance of the young Hutt. Opposing them are Dooku and his prime minion, who would like nothing more than to turn the Hutts against the Jedi, too.
Whatever its faults, the Star Wars franchise has always come through on the action. George Lucas has that sci-fi impulse to blow stuff up and it shows in his stories. He didn't write the The Clone Wars -- that can be credited to/blamed on Henry Gilroy, writer of much children's TV -- but Lucas' kablammo spirit is evident in this new installment's near-constant assault of lightsaber duels, droids vs. clones ground battles, and starship dogfights.
There's so much action it threatens to overwhelm a thin plot. It sure is pretty, though, even if the character designs look like they just wandered in from a rejected Final Fantasy game. But The Clone Wars is meant to appeal to kids, too; you could never have slaughter on this scale if the people getting shot and chopped to hell looked too real.
I'm tempted to think the kids-appeal factor is why the dialogue is so flat and sparkless. On the other hand, that's nothing new in a galaxy far, far away. The dialogue for most of the prequels was so tinny I heard they sold the excess straight to Campbell's Soup. Their wooden speeches required so much lumber it singlehandedly vaulted the Canadian dollar over ours.
The main culprits here are a bon mot-dropping Obi-Wan, who was apparently become a homeless man's Oscar Wilde, and in the "banter" between Anakin and his new apprentice, which is about as engaging as getting slapped in the face with a cold washrag.
Dumbed down for the kids? Maybe, but Pixar puts together films that genuinely appeal to all ages, and they make so much money the OED recently had to invent several new words just to describe Pixar's bank accounts. Unlike their work, The Clone Wars seems to have been approached with an attitude of "Now let's see, kids aren't even real people until they're about 16, so let's make sure we don't go over their heads here" that ensures anyone over the age of 9 isn't going to have to engage any more of their brain than the part that responds to stuff kerploding.
Don't get me wrong. Stuff kerploding is great. I have plans to drop a bomb on my roommate's car this very afternoon. (I noticed he left a spot on the dishes the other day.) But threshings and lasergunnings are best experienced when they're fleshed out by the little things, like plot and character.
The Clone Wars doesn't have any of that. All that action keeps it brisk and bright, just don't expect to take anything more home with you.