Ticket price: 10.99
Seat: mid right
Attendance: approximately 20
Weather: clear, warm
Food: popcorn, Dasani Lemon
Expectations: N/A (already viewed)
Pre-show ads: Toyota, Coke, Telus
Trailers: Igor, Madagascar 2, Yes Man, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
What is the difference between TV and movies? It seems to be less and less all the time. An original series becomes popular on TV (or not popular enough, as the case may be), and a few years later someone makes a film to tie up loose ends or leverage fans who remember it fondly. Just as often, an original film captures the public imagination and is converted into a television series. Actors, writers, and directors travel freely between the two without any apparent backlash from the public; indeed, the public often goes to the cineplex and behaves as if they were at home.
Consider, then, Star Wars: The Clone Wars; a feature film that is essentially the first three episodes of a new animated TV series. It’s unusual for a TV series to begin on the big screen in this manner; indeed, the only other occasion I can recall is the original Battlestar Galactica series, whose first two episodes were released theatrically in the hope of building on the hype created in the wake of the original Star Wars. Ironically, the current remake of Galactica has become one of the best shows on television and one of the best SF franchises ever, leaving Star Wars to play catch-up after a series of uninspired and often depressing prequels.
The new Clone Wars series, if this film is any indication, should close some of that ground. It has a lot of things going for it: Lucas did not write it; the animation is 3D, but it also uses hand-painted models, giving the characters a warmth that is absent from the other prequel films; Lucas did not write it; the characters have a sense of humour, and even Anakin is kind of likeable instead of being a rat-tailed prat; and perhaps I mentioned that Lucas did not write it.
I saw this film yesterday as well as today, electing to take my son to a Saturday matinee. He is only 6 years old, so I was unsure as to how well he would handle it, since I have not let him watch any of the movies yet due to their increasingly relentless darkness and moments that would be too scary for a child that young. I have no problem with films being dark: but I am also very relieved as a parent when creators find a way to take a franchise that is beloved by all ages (and marketed to all ages, through Happy Meals and toys and other licensing) and actually make it watchable by all ages.
My son liked the Clone Wars a lot, and so did I. I am old enough to remember how super-cool the lightsaber battles and Millennium Falcon and Vader force-choking people was when it was new. As a grown-up writer, I have little patience for George Lucas’ endless exposition about trade routes and Republic politics, his atrocious attempts to appeal to a new generation of kids, his clunky dialogue and his reactive fan-servicing. What a relief to see a new film that is just fun. I’m sure it also has a lot of details that hardcore fans will chew on, but you don’t need a PhD in Republic lore to understand what is going on.
I think the key to the film’s success- and certainly the series to follow- will be the new character of Ahsoka, the apprentice assigned to Anakin. Not surprisingly, Young Vader isn’t very keen on having a 12-year-old girl follow him around, but she is headstrong and it soon becomes apparent that Anakin is the only Jedi who can mentor her. Like the film itself, Ahsoka is young and cheerful, confident and charming; and for the first time in over 25 years, I found myself actually caring about Star Wars characters.
Part of the reason I care, of course, is the fact that we already know the big picture as to how the series will end: all of the Jedi will be dead except for Obi-Wan, and Anakin will become so dark that he murders all of the younglings in Episode 3. The fact that George Lucas has hired the director of “Avatar: The Last Airbender” to oversee this project should signal that it is in the hands of someone who understands how to deal with long story arcs. I am looking forward to watching more episodes of The Clone Wars on Saturday mornings with my son; I suspect that is exactly what Lucas was hoping for.
Crowd reaction at end of movie: none
Credit cookie?: none
For further consideration: I am surprised at how low the attendance was for this movie, and the general negative critical reaction, with many film critics complaining that The Clone Wars doesn’t match the tone of the other movies. As if that’s a bad thing!
Opening next week: House Bunny, The Rocker, Death Race, Hamlet 2, The Longshots
Hoping for: Hamlet 2