Review 4 – Star Wars: The Clone Wars Movie
The Clone Wars is something that, prior to 2008, we knew little to nothing about. All we knew was that it began on Geonosis in Attack of the Clones, and that it ended very suddenly in Revenge of the Sith. That all changed however in 2008, when Lucasfilm released the Star Wars: The Clone Wars movie. The movie was originally supposed to be the first four episodes of the TV show that came out later that year, but was instead put together into a feature length film that was released in theaters. Now, this review is not going to be a play-by-play of the movie; rather, it is going to talk about the key concepts and stories that it builds off of the other movies, and some that the movie itself introduces.
The movie focuses on Jedi Knights Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi, along with a few new characters. Most prominently, we are introduced to Ahsoka Tano, a Jedi Padawan who has been assigned to Anakin Skywalker (more on that later). Equally important, we also meet Captain Rex, a clone officer in the 501st Legion of the Grand Army of the Republic, serving under Anakin Skywalker. We also get to see some other old faces, like Commander Cody and Jabba the Hutt. Anakin, Obi-Wan, and Ahsoka’s mission is to return Jabba the Hutt’s son, Rotta, to him after he was kidnapped by pirates. We later find out that the kidnapping was orchestrated by Count Dooku and the Separatists in order to turn Jabba against the Republic.
From the very beginning, we can tell that this movie is going to have a different feel to it. By now in the overall story, the Jedi Knights have become generals of the Grand Army of the Republic, and are currently embroiled in a brutal civil war. This movie latches onto this concept, showing how different the Jedi have become since we last saw them. Some obvious things are that Anakin is no longer a Padawan, and they are now players in a massive war. They have made the shift from being keepers of the peace to all-out soldiers. This movie also shows how gritty war can be. We see many clones get killed in the first battle of the movie, in one case a clone’s head gets taken clean off. They show that war isn’t pretty, and that victory comes at devastating toll.
This movie also does something interesting: the military logic is sound. This movie was geared for children. Yes, the creators had to of known that longtime adult fans of Star Wars would watch this with their kids, but at the end of the day, their target audience was children. This doesn’t have to mean that sound logic is thrown out the window, as seen in this movie. At multiple times in the movie, we see that the Jedi are actually making shockingly smart military decisions, especially at the Battle of Christophsis. This also helps paint the narrative that at this point in the Jedi Order’s existence, the Jedi are changing, and in some ways they may never be able to go back. During the planning of the second Battle of Christophsis, Obi-Wan shows just how good he’s become at military strategy. He suggests that the Jedi and the clones could draw some of the droids into the buildings, in order to increase their odds of stopping the droid army on the ground, which is a good plan when outmatched and outnumbered. They end up going with the plan that we see play out on screen. Obi-Wan, Cody, and Rex mount a brave defense of their heavy cannons against a shield-protect Separatist onslaught. Meanwhile, Anakin and Ahsoka sneak behind enemy lines in order to knock out the shield. This is actually a great plan considering how outnumbered they are.
At some point, Obi-Wan gets captured, and this brings me to something else the movie does extremely well: it really lets the characters’ best attributes shine. Obi-Wan gets the chance to surrender to the leader of the Separatist attack in order to buy time. He then negotiates with the Separatist leader about his troops surrendering, diverting the general’s attention from the raging battle. He is able to distract the general long enough for Anakin and Ahsoka to knock out the shield and for reinforcements to arrive. This whole scene plays right into who Obi-Wan is. He is known as “The Negotiator” across the galaxy, and is famous for being able to talk his way out of nearly anything. The movie does a great job of showing this, and it comes up again later in the film.
We also get to see some more details and attributes of Anakin’s character get fleshed out. Anakin shows his reckless side from start to finish. At the beginning of the first battle, Anakin leads an attack on three massive droids that are as big as the skyscrapers around him. He leaps into the fray, cutting them down with his team of clones in no time. Another scene shows him jumping off of a platform onto a massive flying bug that he hopes will carry his weight. His attitude of act first and think later is widely known, and it’s good to see that the creators played off of this. Another cool concept that the creator’s chose to showcase is Anakin’s hatred of the Hutt Clan. The plot of the movie centers around Anakin returning Jabba the Hutt’s son, who is the leader of the Hutt Clan. The Hutt’s are famous for slave driving, and Anakin, having been a slave, harbors a not insignificant amount of hatred for slave drivers. The fact that the fate of the Clone Wars hinges on Anakin returning a child to one of his greatest enemies is
Ahsoka was a controversial character when she made her debut in this movie. Viewers found her annoying, and they didn’t really see why Anakin needed a Padawan. However, this is exactly what Dave Filoni had planned. He wanted her to be immature and annoying so that over the course of the show that followed she, would grow and develop as a character. As the TV series went on, Ahsoka soon became a fan favorite, but that’s a discussion for another day. (It is worth noting that he wanted to be in control of why people disliked her, as opposed to merely fine tuning her later based on however people responded).
The villains in this movie are nothing special. Of course, we have Count Dooku and Darth Sidious disguised as Chancellor Palpatine, but Palpatine doesn’t do much and Dooku doesn’t really have a role to play until the last half of the movie. The villain who most directly interacts with our heroes is Asajj Ventress, Dooku’s secret apprentice. Ventress is the one who actually captured Rotta, and we see proof of this in the TV show that followed. The Clone Wars show is not necessarily following just one storyline or timeline; it is actually a collection of stories, at least for the first few seasons. They have a couple of prequel episodes that are set before the timeline of the movie, giving greater depth to the movie. At one point, Ventress and Obi-Wan fight, and you can see how far she really has to go in her abilities. Obi-Wan soundly defeats her, and throughout their duel he never seems worried about losing. He toys with her, letting her think she has the advantage, and then finally forces her to flee. This is another thing that the TV show builds upon, to great success.
I have heard some people say that Star Wars: The Clone Wars isn’t a good movie. They say the plot and the characters are boring, and they can’t get over how annoying Ahsoka is. They say that the movie lacks depth and a meaningful conflict. However, we have to remember that this movie was never meant to be a one-off movie. It was made to set the foundation for a TV series that would end up spanning seven seasons. The show had some of the biggest plot twists and outstanding stories in the history of Star Wars. The characters gain depth and overcome their own struggles as the show goes along. None of that could have happened unless the creators laid the groundwork for growth. If the characters weren’t immature or reckless or had any other flaws at the beginning, how are they supposed to grow? How are we, the audience, supposed to relate with a cast of flawless angels for a movie and seven seasons of a TV series? This movie was not comprised of Rey’s or Finn’s; it was comprised of flawed characters who later grew to their fullest potential. Star Wars: The Clone Wars was a movie that had one specific purpose: to set up Lucasfilm’s first ever CGI animated series for success, and that’s what it did.