What to say about 'Star Wars' that hasn't been said before… in numerous languages, by journos and fans alike, over the last three decades. Still, the first ever animated feature from Lucasfilm Animation definitely offers something new - or does it?
'The Clone Wars' is an adaptation of the TV series, set during 'Attack of the Clones'. Anakin (Lanter) is still fighting for the Force, in his heady pre-Darth Vader days, against the recently discovered Clone army.
The story focuses on criminal mastermind Jabba the Hutt, whose son is kidnapped by Count Dooku (Lee - wonderfully good at being bad) and his seductive sidekick Ventress (Futterman). The duo plan to kill the alien baby, appropriately named Rotta the Hutt on account of his original Eau de Corps. The next step in their evil plan is to frame the Jedis for his murder, thereby ensuring the Hutts will join their battle against the Force.
The Jedis put their misgivings about Jabba to one side for the sake of the Republic's continued safe passage through his territory and vow to help find his child. Moving with the times, and bringing their earthly comparisons up to date, the 'Stars Wars' crew show that even celeb space cats need to up their personal security. Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi head up the mission despite the numerous obstacles, villains and wars trying to stop them.
Most of the recent 'Star Wars' stars are present and correct, matching their voices with their new animated forms. The only outstanding difference is Obi-Wan. He's become a bit of a legend - or maybe he always has been and his animated form has highlighted the fact. Or it could be that the character, recently played by Ewan McGregor, is voiced here by James Arnold Taylor. He gets all the best lines, action and scene-stealing moments. He's a monk-like version of 'The Big Lebowski's dude crossed with James Bond, minus the illicit nautical liaisons.
As you would expect from today's graphics, the characters are very similar to their celluloid forms, still Lucasfilm Animation has a way to go before Pixar are shaking in their boots.
The animation isn't the only aspect to imply the film is directed towards the younger fan; endless battle sequences plus Skywalker's cute new female Padewan Ahsoka Tano (Eckstein) help the cause. She'll keep pre-teens glued with her mixture of talent and edge. And in true 'Late Late Show' style, no doubt there'll be a snazzy version in shops for everyone in the audience by Christmas.
One glaring problem - which newbies will be blissfully unaware of - is that everyone, including the bad guys, will survive. They have to: they're all in 'Attack of the Clones'. Those in danger of dying are only the new characters, the clones and the funny/annoying (depending on their one-liner) droids.
Clearly this is aimed more at audiences who have yet to discover the exciting DVD boxsets and back catalogue than existing fans. Clever little Lucas.
But apart from benefiting the filmmakers, there's nothing here 'Star Wars' wise that hasn't been done already and better by Lucas and co.
The only obvious reason the film exists is that Lucas wants to jump on board the hugely popular and profitable world that is CG animation. What better, or at least safer, way to make your debut than with a recognisable, marketable brand? Apparently there is another run of the cartoon starting in the US in October on the Cartoon Network and this could be the precursor.
As animated, PG, sci-fi adventure fantasies go, 'The Clone Wars' isn't bad, but as part of the 'Star Wars' franchise, it’s a disappointment.