Imagine you’ve just suffered through the worst possible three-course dinner; the salad was soggy, the appetizer cold and the main course was a dry, burnt, flavorless steak. As you force yourself to finish chewing that last bit of gristle (after all, you were hungry), you happily put the fork down, toss your napkin on the plate and just thank god that it’s finally over. You look forward to spending the rest of the night at home, snuggling up with a nice, smooth, pink bottle of Peptol Bismol. Suddenly the host reappears with yet another covered tray and proudly proclaims, “dessert!” You slump back in your chair, prepared for the worst. The cover is lifted up and what do you see? Twinkies! You happily pick up one of the spongy, yellow treats and scarf it down with glee, savoring every bite and thrilled as can be that it wasn’t yet another failed attempt by the host to reach beyond his means. And, ladies and gentlemen, that’s the best way I can describe Clone Wars – a much welcome Twinkie.
I should know – that was me on Sunday as the lights went down at the Egyptian in Hollywood.
ONLY WHAT YOU TAKE WITH YOU
I think part of me still harbors so much resentment for seeing Star Wars (and therefore my childhood) go down in smoke with the prequels, I almost want everything George does to be bad so I can keep hating him for it. And so, while watching Clone Wars, I paid extra special attention to all the moments that bugged me, annoyed me and were just plain stupid.
And as I left the theater, smug that I hadn’t been disappointed by a great movie, my friends and I began to go over the laundry list of things that made us roll our eyes and want to barf.
But you know what? There weren’t that many of them! Make no mistake, Clone Wars still contains some of the cliches and dramatic clumsiness we have come to know and (not) love from Star Wars of late – but much less of it. In fact, the ERPM rate of this movie (that’s Eye Rolls Per Minute) had dropped to a rate well below that of the prequels. The greatest offender to me – out of place, cringe-inducing slapstick humor – takes up less than a minute of screen time (and mostly involves Battle Droids).
Not bad for a Star Wars movie these days!
One of the primary reasons the Phantom Edits of Episodes One and Two work so much better is because most of these bits – the little moments so awful they take you out of the movie – have been removed, allowing you to stay focused on the story and characters. If you’re listening to a CD and it keeps skipping, no matter how much you want to enjoy it, you can’t – that little annoyance keeps preventing you from getting lost in the music. Once the CD has been cleaned, even if it’s not a great album, at least getting through it uninterrupted will let you appreciate what’s there.
Out of the gate, Clone Wars has far fewer of these moments, allowing you to actually get immersed in the film and enjoy it at whatever level it deserves. Personally, I think it’s mediocre movie, but without so much crap constantly being thrown at you, it’s at least consistently mediocre. That may not sound like a glowing review, but guess what? We haven’t had a consistently mediocre Star Wars movie since Return of the Jedi!
LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION, ACTION, ACTION!
But let’s be honest, the script is only half the reason we go to a movie like this. We’re also there to see ion cannons on auto-fire and big things go boom, and on this level Clone Wars does not disappoint. I don’t care what anyone else tells you, the computer-generated animation fucking rocks (hats off to not only the key Lucasfilm artists, but the brand new sweat shop animation studio in Singapore).
Not that I’m the end-all-be-all judge of these things, but please remember, I’ve been working in CGI for over fifteen years now. My tastes may not be the same as everyone, but bad CGI, no matter how subtle, leaps off the screen and stabs me in the eyes.
But Clone Wars looks great. The models, texturing, lighting, camera work and effects are top-notch, and not once (and I mean not once) were my professional sensibilities molested by a moment that made me so much as raise an eyebrow (ok, the much-ballyhooed character design is a little stiff, but once you get ten minutes into the movie you just accept it and move on).
I’d go as far to say that some of the action sequences (notably the opening scene and the ascent up the cliff), both conceptually and in execution, beat just about anything we saw in the prequels. The previous films had battles that were so chaotic and packed with hardware you just couldn’t focus on anything; in Clone Wars, we get a chance to really see what some of those ships and vehicles can do and actually appreciate the design and functionality. For the first time since the original trilogy, some of the hardware is actually memorable!
One of the reasons we were let down by each prequel was their failure to meet our expectations: a great movie telling the story of galactic struggle and epic tragedy on a grand, sweeping scale. On the other hand, Clone Wars does not have to shoulder that burden – the epic story, no matter how poorly, has been told. It’s done. Now we’re just filling in blanks with some basic, good guys VS bad guys action in a TV show for tweens, with just enough plot and character interplay to keep the story moving.
And speaking of this movie’s target audience, please, please, please remember – while the prequels may have only seemed that way, Clone Wars actually is aimed at a younger audience. Just as you wouldn’t watch an animated Batman episode expecting the dramatic complexity of Dark Knight, Clone Wars should be viewed in the same light.
George may have failed to deliver on his promise of a five-star culinary masterpiece, but now he just wants you to enjoy a box of Twinkies. Remember those? As long as you know what’s in the box and what to expect, a Twinkie can be really, really good.
When it comes to Clone Wars, I think those who will enjoy it most are those who will heed the words of a very wise, old green guy: you must unlearn what you have learned.
IMPORTANT UPDATE: If you’re going to eat a Twinkie, you should be made aware of the ingredients: Enriched Wheat Flour, Corn Syrup, Anakin Skywalker, Ben Kenobi, Yoda, Mace Windu, Cullulose Gum, Amidala, Jabba the Hutt, Soy Lecithin, Wheat Gluten, R2D2, C3PO, Palpatine, Sorbic Acid and Various Clones. NO MSG, JAR JAR OR GENERAL GREVIOUS WAS USING IN THE MAKING OF THIS PRODUCT!
————-WOULD YOU LIKE TO KNOW MORE? ————
CLICK HERE to see pictures from the Hollywood premiere of Clone Wars
Want to see some hot Lightsaber action? Check THIS out!
In the mood for some Star Wars and other sci-fi dance music? Listen to THIS
Rare Star Wars pictures and some amusing tidbits can be found HERE