News From Terre Haute, Indiana

At the Movies

August 13, 2008

‘Clone Wars’ cartoon is fun though forgettable

HOLLYWOOD — You’ll know you’re in a different galaxy within the first seconds of “Star Wars: The Clone Wars,” which substitutes the Warner Bros. logo and theme music for the familiar 20th Century Fox searchlight and fanfare.

While anything remotely “Star Wars” potentially is a welcome trek for hard-core fans, however, it will be a mixed thrill given that the saga returns to the big screen as a cartoon.

George Lucas’ prequel trilogy was so overloaded with computer-generated imagery that the digital animation of “Clone Wars” isn’t much of a leap. The somber tone of those three movies — chronicling the downfall of Anakin Skywalker from snotty, brooding teen to black-hearted Darth Vader — is gone, replaced with a variation of the campy humor and camaraderie that characterized the original trilogy.

Still, a “Star Wars” movie should be an event. But whether because of its cartoony format or its relatively lightweight story, “Clone Wars” definitely is not an event.

For fans, it serves as a fairly promising introduction to the “Clone Wars” animated series debuting on Cartoon Network this fall. The movie centers on a fresh adventure of Anakin and his Jedi knight elder Obi-Wan Kenobi during the Clone Wars that have been so pivotal to “Star Wars” since the beginning — but about which we’ve heard so little.

There was a passing reference to this civil strife in 1977’s “Star Wars” and a few glimpses of its onset in “Star Wars: Episode II — Attack of the Clones.” The action here and in the TV series takes place between that movie and “Episode III — Revenge of the Sith,” before Anakin goes bad.

The new movie sets up a seemingly bottomless well of story possibilities for the TV show. There are plenty of returning characters, new faces and bit players around which Lucas’ team can build episodes, so the series hopefully won’t be merely another ’Droids-vs.-Clones battle every week.

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