On Clones and The Clone Wars

I just returned from seeing The Clone Wars. It’s not going to revive the Star Wars franchise, but it’s a passing afternoon’s entertainment. Is The Clone Wars to Star Wars what Star Trek, The Animated Series is to Star Trek? Yes, in a way. And that’s not a bad thing.

The plot is simplified, two characters are added to appeal to younger audiences–one a young girl, who acts about 12, and two, a baby she must look after through the last half of the film. Target audience seems to be Babysitters who enjoy Star Wars. I think it’s odd why Lucas chose the main character of the film to be female and to have this stereotypically female task–safeguarding a baby. Star Wars seems to me to be very male-oriented: wars, “sword” fights, power struggles, technology, dark hoodies. This film seemed as if Disney took over scripting and added a young female lead and a horrible female villain to match her. I kept thinking “Snips” would break out in song. “I wanna be where the Jedis are….I wanna swing, wanna swing light sabers!”

What it does right: the settings are amazing and truly in the tradition of Lucas’s previous films–he often tries to do radically different settings–the vertical battle was stunning ; the action sequences are full of camera angles that are challenging and interesting;

What it lacks: Why did Lucas insist that the characters look like “marionettes”? These folks are worse than watching a Sims Youtube video. Expressionless, their eyes are either blinking or squinting or blank. I wish Pixar would have done this show….it might have even been funny.

There’s no tension. All the jedis can do amazing things. If the plot needs them to move from point A to point B, there’s no doubt they will make it. They just cut through a few droids, leap from one flying jet to another, tumble, roll and they are safe. It was a film of maneuvers without tension or fear. It’s funny. I actually felt fear during The Incredibles. Even though it was animated, there were rules set up–characters could die, things could go wrong.

This is then a plotting and character problem. The Jedis are plotted to do these things and those things they will do. It’s never a question that they won’t accomplish their mission, really. And with them animated, the characters don’t sweat, don’t umph, don’t act as if anything ever hurt. It’s the problem Superman writers faced when Supes could do anything. Kryptonite had to be written into every script, or his powers had to be limited–else there’s no audience identification. But, added with bad animation, there’s no feeling that these automatons even represent humans.

I did not identify with Snips. “Snips” was a bad character. She’s whiny, a twelve-year old brat whose animators make her float around and jump with ease. She’s constantly smarting off to her boss, Anakin, when she’s supposed to be a learner of a higher order of thought and power. Oh, she needs no physical training to be as powerful as Anakin. Never got that idea at all. She does everything she’s called to do–with complaint.

Anakin nor Obi Wan are fleshed out either. They are trapped in a kid’s plot and they must play their roles. Anakin is the unwilling mentor figure; Obi Wan the parental figure; Snips the bratty sidekick/trainee character. This is a long version of a Saturday Morning cartoon.

Which is to say that it finds the audience it needs on Sat. Morning. It is good for kids. It places them in a simplified, watered down version of the Star Wars universe–and if they have plots like this, the series will be entertaining for a target age of 5-14. So, in a way, it does exactly what it set out to do: advertise the new series coming to Sat. mornings; appeals to kids; continues the Star Wars universe in a way that doesn’t mess up Lucas’s vision. It is not more harmful to its original than Star Trek, the Animated Series was to Star Trek.

Is it for adults? Not really. The simplified plots, the flat characters, the watered down version of Star Wars will cause afficionados to run for the door. But then so did Episodes 2 and 3, and those were with real actors, sets, and expensive special effects. The Clone Wars, while a faded clone of the original films, achieves a level of entertainment for children. And that’s what it wanted.

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