Movie News & Reviews

'The Clone Wars' offers thick action, but thin plot

The nice thing about being a Star Wars nerd is that howevernerdy you may be, you can count on there always being a bigger StarWars 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 minorraces or the proper spelling of Wookiee, at least I'm not one of thethousands of Brits who identifies their religion as "Jedi." Toowishy-washy for my tastes. If it doesn't involve blood sacrifice underan alien sky, I want no part of it.

Yet I would like to live in the Star Wars universe. Moisturefarming? Get me in on the ground floor of that. Not that anyone onTatooine could afford a second floor. Burn on you, Outer Rim peasants.

Like millions of others, however, my simple dream of being transportedto a fictional universe of robots and mind powers grows a littledimmer with each new movie I see. The latest animated rendition ofthat world, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, makes me think I mightrather be oppressed by Cylons instead.

The battle between Count Dooku's Separatists and the Jedi-backedRepublic 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 toinvestigate the disappearance of the young Hutt. Opposing them areDooku and his prime minion, who would like nothing more than to turnthe Hutts against the Jedi, too.

Whatever its faults, the Star Wars franchise has always comethrough on the action. George Lucas has that sci-fi impulse to blowstuff up and it shows in his stories. He didn't write the The CloneWars -- that can be credited to/blamed on Henry Gilroy, writer ofmuch children's TV -- but Lucas' kablammo spirit is evident in this newinstallment'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 sureis pretty, though, even if the character designs look like they justwandered in from a rejected Final Fantasy game. But TheClone Wars is meant to appeal to kids, too; you could never haveslaughter on this scale if the people getting shot and chopped to helllooked too real.

I'm tempted to think the kids-appeal factor is why the dialogue is soflat and sparkless. On the other hand, that's nothing new in a galaxyfar, far away. The dialogue for most of the prequels was so tinny Iheard they sold the excess straight to Campbell's Soup. Their woodenspeeches required so much lumber it singlehandedly vaulted theCanadian dollar over ours.

The main culprits here are a bon mot-dropping Obi-Wan, who wasapparently become a homeless man's Oscar Wilde, and in the "banter"between Anakin and his new apprentice, which is about as engaging asgetting slapped in the face with a cold washrag.

Dumbed down for the kids? Maybe, but Pixar puts together films thatgenuinely appeal to all ages, and they make so much money the OEDrecently had to invent several new words just to describe Pixar's bankaccounts. Unlike their work, The Clone Wars seems to have beenapproached with an attitude of "Now let's see, kids aren't even realpeople until they're about 16, so let's make sure we don't go overtheir heads here" that ensures anyone over the age of 9 isn't going tohave to engage any more of their brain than the part that responds tostuff kerploding.

Don't get me wrong. Stuff kerploding is great. I have plans to drop abomb on my roommate's car this very afternoon. (I noticed he left aspot on the dishes the other day.) But threshings and lasergunningsare 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 keepsit brisk and bright, just don't expect to take anything more home withyou.

Grade: C