The latest Star Wars movie, Clone Wars, opens this Friday. We've done our homework on the new movie, and it actually looks pretty good. As the seventh movie in the epic series, we turned up seven reasons why Clone Wars will be worth seeing.
1. No More Hayden Christensen!
Many Star Wars fans found Hayden Christensen's portrayal of Anakin at turns wooden and whiny. In Clone Wars, the voice of Anakin is taken over by Matt Lanter (probably best known for his role as the evil quarterback Brody from TV's Heroes). Familiar returning voices include Samuel L. Jackson (as Mace), Christopher Lee (as Dooku), and good old Anthony Daniels (as C3PO). Unfortunately we don't get to hear from Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan -- he's been replaced by James Arnold Taylor, a voice actor with a resume a mile long, including the voice of Obi-Wan in the Clone Wars animated shorts, and the voice of Ratchet from the Ratchet & Clank games.
As far as I'm concerned, less Hayden Christensen means more awesome.
2. Awesome Anime-Inspired Art
The look of Clone Wars borrows heavily from anime, depicting characters with stylized, chiseled faces, huge eyes, and angular bodies. Count Dooku's face is comically elongated, and it looks like you could grate cheese on Obi-Wan's pointy, multi-segmented beard. But aside from that, the move to full animation from the "greenscreen extravaganza" of the last three films solves a crucial problem: we no longer have that sense of creepy fakeness that comes from mixing live action and computer-generated effects (see: the uncanny valley). In Clone Wars, everything's an effect, and the look hangs together better precisely because of its distinctive style.
The full animation look also frees up moviemakers to invent some insane battle sequences, including one in which the Jedi warriors and AT-TE walkers walk up a cliff during the fight. Another epic (though brief) battle scene has Anakin jumping from speeder to speeder in mid-air, cutting down droids.
3. Clone/Droid Carnage Galore
The Clone Wars are unique in Star Wars mythology because they were fought by the eponymous clones, versus a bunch of strangely fragile droids (probably shoulda up-armored those guys, eh?). Although the clones are portrayed as super-soldiers (they're all Jango Fetts, after all), we get to see legions of them cut down by droids -- and vice versa. And who doesn't love a little droid-on-clone violence? Part of the fun of Clone Wars is in seeing how many clones and droids we can blow away in each battle.
Amidst the carnage, we'll get to see more individuation among the clones. A major character this time is Clone Commander Rex, leader of the 501st Clone Trooper Legion. Rex is Anakin's second in command during the Clone Wars, and although he's a clone, he's also an individual. Other clones are shown with tattoos and an almost comic array of hair styles and colors. Check out the videos "The Clones are Coming" and "Clone Wars Clip: Battle of Christophsis" on the the official site (click on "Videos" at the top, then pick your clip at the right) for a taste.
Kids take note: you can get tips on drawing "Captain Rex" from Star Wars illustrator Grant Gould. Check it out. (Seriously.)
4. Jabba's Southern Uncle
Early reviews have mentioned an intriguing new character: Jabba's uncle Ziro the Hutt, whom David German of the AP described as "a giant slug that speaks with a Truman Capote-like Southern drawl." Um. Awesome? Although information about this guy is slim, Wookieepedia has a page on Ziro (warning: includes a minor spoiler related to action in Clone Wars), which includes some biographical info:
Starting out as a loan shark on Sleheyron, Ziro moved to Coruscant to pursue a bigger career. He eventually became a vigo of the criminal organization Black Sun, and had a tattoo of its symbol. He used a rundown tower that used to belong to the Lantillian Spacers' Brotherhood as his personal base. The tower was transformed into a gaudy-looking pleasure palace.
All I'm gonna say is, I have to see Truman Capote's Pleasure Palace at least once in my life. After that, I'm cool with finding a new definition of pain and suffering as I'm slowly digested over a thousand years.
5. It's Actually Funny
Although you can't tell it from the trailers, early reviewers have commented on the amount of humor in the movie. Some reviewers have even gone so far as to call Clone Wars a spoof, or a parody of Star Wars -- and I think that's a good thing. Much of the fun of the first three Star Wars films came from Han Solo's wisecracks. This character (and his sense of humor) are completely lacking in the latter three films, replaced with absurdly over-the-top, possibly-racist slapstick (I don't think I have to name names here); brooding and smoldering and whining (Anakin); and some "nice try" droid humor from C3PO and R2D2. In Clone Wars we can expect at least a return to the freewheeling '70s vision of Star Wars, where swashbuckling swordplay meets crazy high/low-tech hybrid technology on the battlefield, mixed with a healthy dose of family-friendly comedy.
6. A Female Main Character Who Fights
Clone Wars introduces Ahsoka Tano, Anakin's new Padawan. If there's one thing Star Wars has been sorely lacking, it's female characters who actually take part in the battle sequences. Sure, Princess Leia and Padme have been known to use a blaster in a pinch, but Ahsoka is actually on the battlefield, in the thick of things. Will this character bring girls to the Star Wars franchise? I guess we'll find out on Friday.
In many ways Ahsoka is standing in for the previous Star Wars Padawans (Luke in the early films, then Anakin in the prequels), so there are bound to be a few Padawan Moments -- which in the world of Star Wars means some kiddy whining followed by Important Lessons -- but it's encouraging to see a female warrior taking the stage after thirty years of male-dominated action sequences.
7. George Lucas Didn't Write, Direct, or Produce It
What a relief! Of course Lucas's fingerprints are all over this film (he kinda invented the franchise), but officially he doesn't get any of the key production credits. Director Dave Filoni seems squarely in charge of this one, and Indiana Jones hat notwithstanding, I think we're all glad to let others take the reins and bring a fresh perspective to the Star Wars universe. Clone Wars writers include Henry Gilroy (who has worked on lots of animated shows, including The Tick), Scott Murphy (whose IMDB page is slim, though he wrote two episodes of Angel and worked as an uncredited production assistant on Boogie Nights), and Steven Melching (who has done a ton of TV animation, and was a production assistant on 1991's House Party 2). While these may not be the most prestigious writers on the block, at least they're not George.
To Find Out More...
Watch the trailer in HD or check out the official site -- the latter actually has a bunch of good videos, although watching director Dave Filoni introduce the videos while wearing his Indiana Jones hat is a little disconcerting.
To whet your appetite, starting Friday you can grab a Clone Wars themed Happy Meal from McDonald's (the toy is -- no kidding -- a Clone Wars Bobble Head with a character's head attached to a vehicle). If you need something now, pick up some of the new toys and other merchandise. Unfortunately you'll have to wait until November before the Nintendo games (Lightsaber Duels for Wii and Jedi Alliance for DS) are released.
Did we leave something out? Share your hopes, fears, and critiques in the comments.