Star Wars: The Clone Wars is a lot of firsts. It's the first new Star Wars film since Emperor George Lucas wrapped up the canonical series three years ago. It's the opening salvo of a wave of Expanded Universe TV series—the film launches The Clone Wars animated series, and meanwhile a live-action one set between the prequels and the original trilogy is deep in development. It's the first animated Star Wars feature film. And most importantly, it's the first Star Wars movie you will truly loathe.
Let's be honest. We didn't hate the prequels, we were disappointed by them. There's a difference. Okay, maybe we hated The Phantom Menace, at least a little bit. Alright, yeah, Anakin was annoying in pretty much every single prequel film. Guess what? He's annoying here too. Yet he's not nearly as bad as his new Padawan, Ahsoka Tano, introduced to give the kiddies a protagonist they can relate to. Yoda assigns her to Anakin as a Padawan to make him seem more mature and less, well, all of those qualities we hate about him. Problem is, she's all of those things times 7.6, and he never stops being himself, so the onslaught of whine when they're onscreen together makes you wish you brought a bucket of cheese to the theatre. It's a heavy burden to deal with in order to watch The Clone Wars since she's a focal point of it. (Imagine Jar Jar getting 75 percent of the screentime in one of the prequels.)
Unfortunately, there's not a whole lot of reasons to want to look past the incessant snottiness. The 98-minute film is at least 20 minutes too long, propelled by what could've been a decent plot line that's instead twisted and stretched into a sloppy mess. Obi-Wan (voiced by a solid Ewan McGregor doppelganger) and Count Dooku (happily, still voiced by the inimitable Christopher Lee) offer brief moments of actual satisfaction in what's otherwise a series of disappointingly generic battles. Maybe the reason the battles are so lifeless is that they're droids vs. clones—essentially nothing against nothing. It could be the wholly uninspired, unexciting way it's "shot," combined with the woodblock animation style that makes it look like action figures against action figures. Regardless, after the second fight, they all kind of run together, and from all appearances, it's what we can look forward to in the TV series. Battles in Star Wars should not be boring.
Two of the movie's better moments actually come from new Star Wars tech, or at least stuff not seen in the live action movies. The first—which sets up the battle that gets the movie rolling, and establishes at least moderate hopes—is a giant red neighbourhood-sized forcefield that surrounds the invading droid army, shielding them from Republic's massive artillery canons. Okay, really it's borrowed from the Gungans in Phantom Menace, but it's different because it's red! It's a plot device that still works, anyway. Anakin and Ahsoka's first mission is to disable it, while Obi-Wan holds off the droids as long as he can—toward the end this battle is when your heart first drops into your stomach.
While we've seen the AT-TE before, it does something incredible here that we haven't—it vertically scales a goddamn mountain. Somehow, the director manages to make a vertical less enthralling than it should be, but to see this six-ton beast walk up a wall is one of the few times I said "Wow" during the movie.
Sadly, the few things there are to like are vastly overwhelmed by everything you won't. Here's a quick list of everything else you'll hate:
• The Huttlet (aka Stinky)
• Ziro the Hutt (aka Truman Capote + Black New Orleans Crack-Dealing Whore)
• Stupid droids
• The non-John Williams music
• The animation, mostly (Mace Windu looks ghastly, though Count Dooku looks awesome)
• The lightsaber battles (you'll see)
• Most of the dialogue
• The fact you paid to see it
In short, it's the worst Star Wars movie you'll ever see in theatres, if you go, so don't.