Letter From The Editor - Issue 69 - June 2019

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At The Picture Show
August 2008

A lifeless drone

'The Clone Wars' further prostitutes the 'Star Wars' brand

Star Wars: The Clone Wars
Warner Bros. Pictures
Director: Dave Filoni
Screenplay: Henry Gilroy, Steven Melching and Scott Murphy, based on characters created by George Lucas
Starring: The voices of Matt Lanter, James Arnold Taylor, Ashley Eckstein, Nika Futterman, Ian Abercrombie, Catherine Taber and Samuel L. Jackson
Rated PG / 1 hour, 38 minutes
Opened August 15, 2008
(out of four)

Are you quite finished, George Lucas? I mean, is this absolutely necessary? Can't you just give it a rest for a while? Aren't you sore?

Star Wars: The Clone Wars is the latest in a string of digressions deriving from the original trilogy, and in its brazen attempt to sell itself as anything more than a long episode of a Saturday morning cartoon, is arguably the most pathetic entry in the Star Wars canon. (Although, to be fair, I never did see the Christmas special.)

The more of this kind of stuff we get, the harder it is for people to see any of it - even the great original three - as anything more than a commercial property. Perhaps that's reductive and obvious, but when a film like this exists that accomplishes nothing more than to remind us of the Star Wars brand name - and ohbytheway, watch our new Clone Wars cartoon series this fall! - it's difficult to be anything but harshly cynical.

Lucas no longer specializes in filmmaking, but merchandising. Perhaps that's been true for a while, but never has it been more evident than it is here.

But what am I saying? Sometimes, struggling artists just have to make do with what they can get. George Lucas is one such artist. He's been so put-upon over the years, forced to churn out Star Wars title after Star Wars title, in one form or another, just to keep the hot water on. I mean, for years he's been insisting that all he really wants to do is make those small little art films about "light, movement and color." But he keeps having to go back into the vault for more. The poor guy. Why can't we just leave him be so he can go make his personal art films?

Naturally, I assume he will do so once he finishes his current work on the upcoming Clone Wars series. And after he's finished work on that new live-action Star Wars series. And, of course, after he's done remastering all six Star Wars movies for 3D. (Anything, of course, except for the dastardly task of remastering the original versions of the trilogy that everyone fell in love with in the first place. Not even as a thank-you for making the guy a billionaire.)

As for this latest entry, there's nothing much to say about The Clone Wars beyond its basic plot details, which don't merit much examination in the first place.

Taking place between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, The Clone Wars is a standard-fare conflict between the Jedis and the Republic on one side, and Count Dooku's Separatists on the other. Old familiar characters like Anakin (still, as in the prequel trilogy, showing absolutely no evidence that he's the great, legendary Jedi he was always purported to be), Obi-Wan, Emperor Palpatine, Padme Amidala and Mace Windu show up, not to mention Jabba the Hutt, who is thrust into the idiotic plotline when his baby son is kidnaped. (Which also throws some needless goo-goo-ga-ga-ing into the proceedings, a jarring departure from the tone of the rest of the movie, and the rest of the series as a whole.)

But I'm boring myself just remembering the plot. What sticks out is how all the intelligence of every character, on both sides, has been sapped out in favor of easy plot solutions.

I hate acting like I can tell filmmakers what to do with their creations. Unless there's a legitimate ethical issue at stake, I don't think it's anyone's place. But what I can do is judge the results, and the results, in the case of The Clone Wars, are undeniable.

This is cheap fan fiction unleashed upon the masses, and nothing more. If box-office receipts for this one are any indication, maybe interest in the series is finally waning now that the six-movie saga is over and done with. Maybe the commercial prospects for the two upcoming series don't look as good as they once did. I don't know. If so, maybe this will all finally fade away so we can just think about the good times.

Or, in a more likely scenario, that will just put Lucas to work on Episodes VII, VIII and IX. Ouch.

Read more by Chris Bellamy

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