No wonder George Lucas originally chose, with his Star Wars prequels, to skip over the Clone Wars—they’re dull and monotonous even by the new trilogy’s low standards. A for-kids-only animated saga that fills in the gaps between Episode II and III, Star Wars: The Clone Wars focuses on the (nonexistent) intrigue surrounding the abduction of Jabba the Hutt’s baby son, which threatens to destroy the Republic’s use of the Hutt’s vital supply routes. Given that the Clone Wars’ outcome has already been established by prior films, and that this incident—which finds Anakin (voiced by Matt Lanter) paired with an impudent apprentice named Ahsoka (Ashley Eckstein) who likes to call her mentor “Sky Guy”—sheds no new light on the future Darth Vader’s forthcoming shift to the dark side, the story is quickly revealed to be merely an insignificant chapter in Lucas’s pseudo-operatic space saga.
Inconsequentiality is a pox upon the proceedings, draining any trace of narrative tension from countless large-scale conflicts that soon overwhelm the screen with stormtroopers, droids, explosions and laser blasts. This barrage of largely identical action sequences is borderline brain-numbing, though director Dave Filoni’s computer-generated animation, which draws equally from animé, The Thunderbirds and action figures, is at least well-suited to kinetic movement. Like the popular toys with which Lucas made his mint, however, Filoni’s characters feature moveable appendages but fixed countenances, and their inexpressiveness, coupled with typically wooden Star Wars line readings, sabotage the few scenes when human relationships steal center stage from the flurrious cacophony of warfare.
Still, no amount of CG excellence could fully offset Clone Wars’ grating teacher-student rapport between kindred spirits Anakin and Ahsoka, two insufferably smug, petulant know-it-alls whose bickering is like nails on a chalkboard. Nor, ultimately, could any aesthetic artistry overshadow the script’s jaggedness (epitomized by the abrupt third-act inclusion of Senator Amidala and Jabba’s apparently gay uncle Zero the Hutt) and the illogicality of Jabba’s dramatically crucial behavior, both of which help make Clone Wars more than a little—to borrow the nickname Ahsoka gives Jabba’s Ewok-ish offspring—stinky.