2 Stars — Shallow
Watching Dave Filoni‘s cartoon episode of the Star Wars saga is like watching Shakespeare performed by preschoolers: the intention is good but the result is terribly lacking. What made the Star Wars films a pervasive success was the consistent quality of the story-telling. With live actors and what can only be described as “thrilling” special effects, the story of the struggle between good and evil, darkness and light, was told on a galactic scale. What Filoni and Star Wars creator George Lucas do in this episode, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, is try to take some of the most effective scenes of the previous films and repeat them. There is little that is new in either special effects or story line as the characters and special effects are both cartoonish.
Placed between the second and third live-action films, Episode II: Attack of the Clones and Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, the story expands the adventure of Anakin Skywalker (voice by Matt Lanter) and Obi-Wan Kenobi (voice by James Arnold Taylor). Fighting together as loyalists to the Republic, they face an expanding evil in the Separatists whose evil leader has the power of the dark side of the force.
In these days of the Republic, the Jedi Knights are leaders of the military and protectors of the Republic. In classic educational style, the Jedi take on a young Jedi-in-training known as Padawan. In this episode, Anakin, who has been under the training of Obi-Wan, is maneuvered into taking on a student of his own, a young woman named Ahsoka Tano (voice by Ashley Eckstein). Rejecting her at first, but nevertheless taking her by his side into a heated battle, Anakin soon realizes Ahsoka is a creative and talented Jedi whose courage and impulsive nature make her a perfect student.
This chapter of the story is full of deceit and betrayal as the Separatist leader, Count Dooku (voice by Christopher Lee) hatches a plot to turn the powerful Hutt leader Jabba (voice by Kevin Michael Richardson) against the Jedi and the Republic. At his bidding is a Sith warrior, Asaij Ventress (voice by Nika Futterman), who brandishes the double-sided weapon of the followers of the dark side of the force. As are the other episodes, this is only a chapter in the larger story as both Jedi and Sith continue their epic struggle.
Like the saga as a whole, the moral messages of this episode continue to speak of the struggle between good and evil with both sides having knights with special supernatural powers. This dualistic spiritual worldview is seen in such ancient religions as Zoroastrianism and such modern philosophies as Taoism. It implies there is an equality between the good beneficent forces of life with the evil malignant forces of darkness. The struggle is seen as eternal and enlists each human being to choose to serve either the dark or the light side of the force.
Although almost all of the violence and destruction in this film is machines being decapitated or dismembered, the tale is graphic even in cartoon form. But as a reminder that we are in a struggle of good and evil within ourselves and with others, it may be helpful.
» For those who know the larger story, Anakin Skywalker, the strongest Jedi, chooses to go to the dark side and becomes the greatest of all Sith Lords. What about Anakin in these early years sets him up for such a dramatic shift?
» When the Padawan Ahsoka is assigned to Anakin, he has little interest in her until he sees her skills. Although Obi-Wan had invested his life in training Anakin, Anakin feels little responsibility to train the next generation of Jedi knights. What do you think causes some people to invest in the next generation of leaders and some to not only avoid training them but also to compete with them?
» The betrayal within the Hutt family sets the stage for major loss of life within the political realm. How much of our nation’s military struggles do you believe is caused by conflicts within individuals and their families?
Cinema In Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is pastor of Free Methodist Church on the Mesa. For more reviews, visit www.cinemainfocus.com.