A tinge of Anakin Skywalker's coming dark side clearly isvisible in Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Yet the animated adventure mostlyharks back to the fun, swashbuckling times of the original Star Warstrilogy.
Lucasfilm Animation has crafted a movie nicely tucked in toAnakin's early heroic days, before his transformation into the evil DarthVader. Along for the ride arenoble-hearted clone soldiers with the camaraderie of Marine grunts, ineptandroid warriors as idiotic as the Three Stooges and a young protege who rivalsAnakin for cockiness and affectionately calls him "Sky Guy."
Dave Filoni, director of the movie, said the idea was toreturn to the wisecracking tone of the original Star Wars in 1977,before the gloom of Anakin's fall. "I wanted this to have the banter. I wanted this to be funny,"he shared. "Telling that dark story of Anakin Skywalker was important forGeorge, but this was a chance to show Anakin before that. Anakin as a hero,Anakin as the good guy, Anakin more like his son, Luke Skywalker, of theoriginal trilogy."
The Anakin in Clone Wars is a hybrid of Luke and hisrascally ally, Han Solo, Filoni said. "He's cocky like Han, he can do a lot of things like Han, he'sclever with machines like Han. But he's naive like Luke. The whole galaxy is a bitoverwhelming," Filoni said.
The movie presents all of the key characters from Anakin'sworld: Jedi masters Obi-Wan Kenobi, Mace Windu and Yoda; Anakin's future wifePadme Amidala; androids R2-D2 and C-3PO; gangster Jabba the Hutt; villain CountDooku; and Palpatine, the galaxy's evil emperor in waiting.
Characters not seen in the live-action movies includeconniving assassin Asajj Ventress; Jabba's sinister uncle, a giant slug thatspeaks with a Truman Capote-like Southern drawl; and Captain Rex, a loyalmember of Anakin's clone crew.
The main newcomer is Ahsoka Tano, a teenage girl from anexotic alien species who's assigned as Anakin's Jedi apprentice. Withmischievous wit, Ahsoka breaks down Anakin's stiff facade and reluctance totake on a student, the two establishing a flippant rapport as they slice updroids with their light-sabers, scale a daunting summit on a rescue mission andplay nursemaid to Jabba's kidnapped baby son.
"She definitely brings a fun side out of Anakin. Ithink they have such a great relationship," said Ashley Eckstein, whoprovides Ahsoka's voice. "Ahsoka is very eager to prove herself, and Idon't think she would allow Anakin not to accept her."
The movie offers a glimpse of the inner turmoil thatcontributes to Anakin's turn to the dark side. Crash-landing on his home planetof Tatooine, Anakin momentarily bears a haunted look as he's asked about thedesert world, where he exacted a savage revenge over the death of his mother inAttack of the Clones. "Iwas hoping I'd never have to lay eyes on this dustball again," saysAnakin.
Opening with a variation on John Williams' familiar StarWars theme, the movie is heavy on humor. Anakin devises an amusing low-techway for him and Ahsoka to sneak inside a droid energy shield. Obi-Wan engagesin a witty surrender negotiation with a general who speaks in a Sean Connerybrogue. When a droid falls off a cliff and smashes on the ground, his superiorleans over and barks: "Get back here, sergeant."
A few veteran Star Wars performers provide voices forthe movie, including Samuel L. Jackson as Mace, Christopher Lee as Dooku andAnthony Daniels as C-3PO. Taking over from Hayden Christensen as the voice ofAnakin is Matt Lanter, while James Arnold Taylor does Obi-Wan, who was playedby Ewan McGregor in the prequel trilogy.
Anakin remains a bit rash, but he has graduated fromapprenticeship to Obi-Wan to take the lead on his own missions as an equal tohis former master. "With thismovie and also the ongoing series, we're going to see the banter betweenObi-Wan and Anakin. We're going to see them as comrades, as buddies,"Lanter said. "It is reminiscent of some of the original Star Wars.It's got that comic relief in it and has kind of that old-school feeling."
Lucas initially planned just a TV show. But as he viewed thefirst footage, he said, "This looks great. The fans should really see this onthe big screen," said Filoni, who came to Clone Wars after working onthe animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender.
Filoni and his collaborators reshaped a story arc developedfor the series into a stand-alone tale they could tell as a theatrical movie.
The computer animation borrows from the striking panoramasof Japanese anime, while the characters have a chiseled look and movementsvaguely reminiscent of the 1960s puppet adventure series Thunderbirds.
Though animated, the world is recognizably Star Wars,from Yoda's twitching frowns to the hum of the light-sabers.
"A lot of people have said to me that have seenit—well, the few people that have seen it at this point—that they feel likethey're watching Star Wars," Filoni said. "They feel like they'reseeing those characters again. Even though we've done this style that'spainterly, if you want to call it that, it's still Star Wars."
Opening across the Philippines today, August 20, StarWars: The Clone Wars will be distributed worldwide in theaters by WarnerBros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company.