It's been years since something I'd written has gotten as much play and buzz online as what happened earlier this year when I wrote a scathing review of Star Wars: The Clone Wars. But when my boss over at Ain't It Cool News, Harry Knowles, and I were asked to remove our (already published) negative reviews and hold them until the day of release, we were both similarly reminded of the same moment from the first Star Wars movie. The scene in which Obi-Wan Kenobi stares down Darth Vader and says, "If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you could possibly imagine."
Published, we were two angry nerds who hated a movie. Squelched, we were two angry nerds who hated a movie and were being silenced by Lucasfilm, while other positive reviews remained online unmolested. And that meant something was rotten in Denmark. Or at least that's how it played in the press. Let me tell you, it's an odd experience to wake up to emails from friends that link to stories about you. It's even odder to hear yourself discussed on radio shows and podcasts. Frankly, it's an experience I was happy to put behind me.
The Clone Wars came and went and America shrugged.
I found the movie to be the very pinnacle of everything that has gone wrong with the Star Wars franchise. They continue to explain away the mythology rather than expand upon it; in the place of character development between Kenobi and Skywalker (which has already gone as far as it can go), we're offered a new, plucky, tween-girl Jedi sidekick who calls the man who will become the frightening dark Sith Lord Darth Vader "Skyguy." Cough. Ahem. It's a kids' movie, not a family film, and spends the bulk of its time on what-were-they-thinking concepts like a vomiting, burping Baby-the-Hutt and cutesy banter between Anakin and Asoka (aka Snaps). You know, when they're not busy offending parents with a flamboyantly gay Capote-the-Hutt. All of this completely turned me off to even bothering to watch the new animated television series from which three episodes were joined to create this "movie."
Oddly enough, it was watching the special features to this DVD that brought me back and renewed my interest in checking it out. While not exactly overflowing with features, there is plenty here to keep you busy, especially if you're one of the die-hard Star Wars fans that enjoyed the film. For starters, there is a half-hour exploration of the television series that aims to showcase how diverse each episode is. There are scenes from nearly a dozen of them, along with plot synopses of each one -- giving you a feel for just how large the series aims to be. Fortunately for me, the Asoka/Anakin storyline doesn't exactly dominate in what appears to be a large number of main-continuity character-free episodes. In this way, the show appears to be like some of the short-story compilations that were so popular with fans for years.
There's an interesting making-of feature that introduces you to the voice artists who make up the backbone of the show. This feature shows you how they modulate the voices and how many of the characters are created inside the booth. This was neat to see faces put on the many voices behind the film and show, especially since there are so few famous voices working on it (most of the actors from the live-action films did not return to their roles).
But there's also some making-of stuff that drove me up the wall. Most of it is very self-congratulatory stuff that spends more time on the producers' intent and the genius of George Lucas than it does on how they actually went about making the film. They talk an awful lot about how excited they are, what big shoes they have to fill, how great it is that they get to create new characters in the Star Wars universe, but there's never any real meat. All of the webisodes that appeared online are collected here as a doc on the composer who replaced John Williams as the musical maestro behind the saga.
Lastly, there are four long, deleted scenes -- though fully rendered, which is an oddity among animated films. Usually, because animation is so expensive, very little ends up on the cutting room floor as it's deleted during the scripting or pencil art phases. But these four sequences are complete, and a few of them are pretty good. A few of them are very action-packed fight scenes, which is going to delight the living hell out of fans of the series. One of them, however, features more goofy "aw shucks" antics of Asoka, as she once again tries to prove she's a badass only to learn she was being ridiculous. Again. Unfortunately, there isn't any commentary revealing why these scenes found their life only on DVD.
All in all, it is a disc that will no doubt excite established fans, but do little for those who have found that Star Wars has left them behind to become something much different than what they remember. Star Wars: The Clone Wars is available now from Warner Home Video.