It’s a hard thing being a Star Wars fan these days. While those memories of the fantasy that was the original movie trilogy are hard and fast, ever since George Lucas started fixing something that wasn’t broke with 1997’s Star Wars Special Editions being a Star Wars fan has been a long series of disappointments.

We suffered Episode I and II to get to episode III, which was little more than Lord of the Rings in outer space. Continuing on that list is the current theatrical release of the animated “Star Wars: The Clone Wars”

From the opening credits; which use a cheaply synthesized rendition of John Williams’ classic score, through the lack of much background animation and the fact that everyone would rather see the main character as a bad guy you start to ask yourself “is this Star Wars?” The answer is unfortunately: yes.

The original trilogy needed no explanation outside of the three films. In fact the one attempt to do something outside of the films lead to the abomination called the “Star Wars Christmas Special” Lucas seems to be trying to explain the prequels as if they were a joke that nobody got. That never makes the joke better. In fact this is the second attempt to explain the Clone Wars, lest we forget 2005’s animated “Clone Wars” as airee on Cartoon Network.

Clone Wars follows the adventures of Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi as they command clone forces against Count Dooku’s droid armies. This takes place sometime between Episode II and III. While sharing a title and several characters the continuity between this film and the previous Clone Wars seems loose at best.

Anakin and his Padawan

While Obi-Wan (James Arnold Taylor) seems to be the most likable character, the action follows Anakin (Matt Lanter) mostly and his newly introduced Padawan student Ahsoka Tano (Ashley Eckstein). These two characters are wholly indistinguishable. Ahsoka is little more than a female version of Anakin as his edginess foreshadows his turn into Darth Vader. Their character dynamic doesn’t fit their roles and while they seem to grow over their issues in about 22 minutes, they revert back at minute 23.

The bad guys are laughable idiots that come off as cartoony (yes I know this is animation we’re dealing with, but it’s just not realistic). Once again the best bad guy in the Star Wars universe is still a good guy. This does, however, provide laughs for the children, which seems to be the target audience.

While the character animation is actually done quite well, in fact there are some action scenes you’d never be able to have in a live-action film and even some violence, while bloodless, I did not expect.

On the other hand, some of the character models seem somewhat inconsistent. For instance Jabba the Hutt and Obi-Wan have very squared off features reminiscent of Bruce Timm’s DC Animated Universe, other characters seem more rounded and life-like. Their movements and done quite well, however some of the backgrounds seem static, something Pixar has successfully raised the bar for.

While there is one overall plot arc, the action feels obviously sub-divided into four distinct episodes. This makes sense as the film is the elongated pilot for an animated series, so many loose ends were left untied. That being said, if you’ve already made up your mind to wait for DVD, fear not, it will likely be re-aired as four episodes on TV for free.

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