- "It's unusual for an animated film, because it's not really like say Beowulf and it's not a Pixar movie, so it kind of falls in between in this funny world where Star Wars is, which is kind of hard-edged but not really, sort of on the verge of PG-13, flips over once in a while, but sort of the high end of PG."
- ―George Lucas
Star Wars: The Clone Wars is a 2008 animated feature film directed by Dave Filoni and executive produced by George Lucas as well as the first Star Wars animated film made. The plot focuses on a struggle between the Galactic Republic and the Confederacy of Independent Systems—each vying for Jabba the Hutt's permission to use Hutt Space's trade routes. In an attempt to gain Jabba's favor, Sith Lord and Separatist leader Count Dooku kidnaps Jabba's son Rotta, in hopes of framing the Republic's Jedi Order as the true captors.
The film is set during the three-year time period between the films Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones (2002) and Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith (2005). The Clone Wars served as an introduction to the animated series of the same name that premiered on Cartoon Network on October 3, 2008. Lucas was inspired to make the movie while reviewing footage from the series and described the film as "almost an afterthought." The film was released August 15, 2008.
Though critical reception was negative, the film was a box office success, and grossed $68.3 million worldwide against an $8.5 million budget, and earned $14.6 million dollars during its opening weekend.
The film begins with a narrator explaining the state of the Clone Wars. The Separatists control the majority of the hyperlanes, leaving Republic forces stranded in different parts of the Outer Rim. An octopus-like craft heads for Tatooine to capture Jabba the Hutt's son Rotta as part of a plan to make the Hutts join the Clone Wars. Meanwhile, a fierce battle is taking place on the crystalline planet of Christophsis between the Republic's very limited clone army and the Retail Caucus forces.
With the help of Obi-Wan Kenobi, Anakin Skywalker, Rex, and Cody, the clones steadily advance on the Separatists' forces, gaining the Republic an early victory. The victory doesn't last long, though, as the droid army under General Loathsom soon returns for more bloodshed. With no communications or the ability to fly in reinforcements, the fate of the few remaining clone soldiers are in the hands of Obi-Wan and Anakin. A shuttle soon comes with an important delivery; thinking it's reinforcements, the Jedi go to investigate - only to find a young Padawan named Ahsoka Tano, who insists that she has been sent by Master Yoda to serve as Anakin's Padawan. The battle resumes, with Separatist forces advancing behind an expanding shield which the Republic's artillery is unable to penetrate. Tasked with taking down the deflector shield, Anakin and Ahsoka succeed in penetrating the enemy lines, using all their stealth, cunning and ability to improvise, while Obi-Wan stalls for time by holding a fake surrender negotiation with Loathsom.
Soon after the final victory for the Republic on Christophsis, Master Yoda arrives with the urgent message that a mysterious group of renegades has kidnapped Jabba's son, and it's up to Anakin, Ahsoka, Rex, and the clones to rescue him and bring him back home safely. Obi-Wan flies to Tatooine to assure Jabba that Rotta will be returned safely and to secure a promise by the Hutts to use their trading routes for safe passage within the Outer Rim.
After briefing in a Republic flagship, Anakin's forces descend through the clouds of the jungle planet of Teth for one of the many natural stone pillars which litter the landscape. Under heavy fire, Anakin, Ahsoka and Rex storm the monastery atop the pillar and find Rotta, who has gotten sick, only to be caught in an elaborate trap: Count Dooku has staged the kidnapping himself in order to blacklist the Jedi among the Hutts. First he has the Jedi retrieve the young Hutt to secure fake evidence and then Asajj Ventress, as the overseer of the operation, is charged with either retrieving or killing the young Huttlet.
While quarreling all the while about the proper procedure, yet slowly gaining respect of one another, Anakin and Ahsoka manage to escape the trap along with R2-D2 and hijack a derelict transport, which they use to travel to Tatooine. Ahsoka uses medicine onboard to treat the sick Huttlet. Obi-Wan, alerted by Anakin, arrives just in time to relieve Rex and the rest of his forces and engages Ventress in combat where he manages to defeat her, though Ventress flees in the face of capture.
In the meantime, Senator Amidala learns of Anakin's mission. Worried about him, she decides to contact Jabba's uncle, Ziro the Hutt, who lives in a shady part of Coruscant. The Hutt strangely refuses to cooperate, and soon Padmé finds out why: Ziro has actually conspired with Dooku to engineer the downfall of his nephew to seize the power over the Hutt clans for himself. Padmé is discovered and detained, but a chance call by C-3PO enables her to summon help, and Ziro is soon arrested by the Coruscant Guard.
Upon their arrival on Tatooine, Anakin and Ahsoka are attacked by MagnaGuards and shot down. Faced with a long way across desert sands and relentless opponents, Anakin devises a ruse; when Dooku corners Anakin, the pack he is carrying is revealed to contain merely rocks. Ahsoka and R2 travel with Rotta to Jabba's palace unmolested, but just as they near it, Ahsoka is ambushed by three MagnaGuards, whom she narrowly defeats. But as Anakin and Ahsoka enter the palace one after another, they are threatened with execution by Jabba's men even though Rotta is safely returned. Padmé calls just in time to convince Jabba of his uncle's duplicity, while Anakin and Ahsoka are triumphantly retrieved by Obi-Wan, Yoda, Cody and the clones.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars was designed to serve as both a stand-alone story and a lead-in to the weekly animated TV series of the same name. George Lucas had the idea for a film after viewing some of the already completed footage on the big screen. Warner Bros. had tracked the series' development from the beginning, and Lucas decided on a theatrical launch after viewing some footage, and deciding, "This is so beautiful, why don't we just go and use the crew and make a feature?" Lucas described the film was "almost an afterthought." Howard Roffman, president of Lucas Licensing, said of the decision, "Sometimes George works in strange ways." Producer Catherine Winder said the sudden decision added to an already large challenge of establishing a show "of this sophistication and complexity," but she felt it was a good way to start the series, and she felt budgetary constraints forced the production team to think outside the box in a positive way. One of the film's main plot threads—the kidnapping of Jabba the Hutt's son—was inspired by the film Shogun's Shadow.
The main part of the film was composed of three episodes with similar titles originally meant to form a trilogy: "Castle of Deception," "Castle of Doom" and "Castle of Salvation," while a standalone episode "The New Padawan," which was developed later in the production as a flashback episode during the series, became the opening sequence of the movie, eventually leading to the introduction of Ahsoka Tano.
Lucasfilm Animation used Autodesk software to animate the film. The Maya 3D modeling program was used to create highly detailed worlds, characters and creatures. The film's animation style was designed to pay homage to the stylized looks of both Japanese anime and manga, and the supermarionation of the British 1960s series Thunderbirds. At a Cartoon Network-hosted discussion, Lucas said did not want the Clone Wars film or television series to look like such movies as Beowulf because he wanted a stylized look rather than a realistic one, and he did not want it to look like the popular Pixar films such as The Incredibles because he wanted the film and characters to have a unique style. Lucas also decided to create the animated film and series from a live-action perspective, which Winder said set it apart from other CGI films because it "meant using long camera shots, aggressive lighting techniques, and relying on editing instead of storyboards." Animators also reviewed designs from the original 2003 Clone Wars series when creating the animation style for the film and the new series.
The film's music was composed by Kevin Kiner. Steward Lee is a storyboard artist. When it was decided to produce the film, Lucasfilm contacted all the major film Star Wars actors to see who was interested in voicing their characters for The Clone Wars. In the end, Anthony Daniels, Matthew Wood, Christopher Lee and Samuel L. Jackson returned to voice their respective characters. Several voice actors also reprised their roles from the 2003 series.
- "This is a breakthrough project -- returning Star Wars to the big screen in a completely new way while beginning an exciting new chapter in George Lucas' legendary saga. We immediately felt that it would be a fantastic theatrical event and are thrilled to be bringing it to moviegoers."
- ―Dan Fellman, Warner Bros. Pictures President of Domestic Distribution
At Hasbro's fall 2007 analyst event, it was announced that Star Wars: The Clone Wars would have a "theatrical launch" on August 8, 2008, with it beginning to be shown on TV during that fall. Although Lucasfilm had previously announced that it would produce an animated feature film in 2008, when initially asked for confirmation, an LFL representative replied that "It's one of the many things being discussed but we have no decisions yet. For us it's all about finding a creative way to launch a creative TV series."
At ToyFare 2008, a LEGO official announced that an animated feature film would be released in the UK in September 2008, and would be made up of the first three episodes of the series, with regular episodes airing later on television on an at-the-time unrevealed channel. It was officially announced on February 12, 2008 that the feature film would be released in theaters on August 15, 2008, with the TV series debuting in the fall. Warner Bros. showed a preview of the film in Las Vegas, Nevada on March 13, 2008. Lucas attended the event and held a question and answer session. The first theatrical trailer debuted on May 8, 2008 on five separate Turner Network channels. A second trailer was released in June 2008.
The film premiered at Grauman's Egyptian Theatre on August 10, 2008, and was later screened on August 14, 2008 at Los Angeles's Nokia Theater accompanying a Lucasfilm VIP party with special guests John Knoll and Dave Filoni. SpikeTV producer Terry Minogue speculated that his channel would debut the film on television at some point after its theatrical release. The film had its Canadian broadcast premiere on September 5, 2009 on the Canadian TV station Teletoon,[source?] and in the US on Cartoon Network on November 20, 2010.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars merchandise was first released on July 26, 2008. Hasbro Inc. released several 3 3/4-inch Clone Wars action figures, an electronic clone trooper helmet, a customizable lightsaber, and an electronic AT-TE. Toys "R" Us mounted digital clocks in all 585 of its stores that counted down to the release of the Clone Wars toys, and more than 225 of the stores opened at midnight for the debut of the Star Wars products. Two of the Toys "R" Us flagship outlets in Mission Bay, San Diego, California and Times Square in Manhattan, New York City held costume and trivia contests on July 26 and gave away limited-edition Star Wars toys with every purchase. A section of the Toys "R" Us website was also dedicated to The Clone Wars.
Due to the Lucas's sudden decision to make a Clone Wars film after viewing footage of the television show, Lucas Licensing did not have time to enter into agreements with previous Star Wars marketing partners like Pepsi, Burger King and Kellogg's, with which the Lucasfilm licensing company had a 10-year marketing plan for the other films; when questioned by The New York Times for a Star Wars merchandising in July 2006, a Pepsi spokesperson was unaware a new Star Wars film was even being released. Target and KB Toys also devoted shelf space for Clone Wars toys, but did not hold midnight releases or pursue the branding opportunities Toys "R" Us did. The McDonald's fast food restaurant chain held its first ever Happy Meal promotion for a Star Wars movie starting on August 15. For four weeks, 18 exclusive toys came in specially designed Happy Meal boxes.
DK Publishing and Penguin Group released tie-in books, activities and other merchandise, including Star Wars: The Clone Wars: The Visual Guide (published by DK) and Star Wars: The Clone Wars (published by Puffin in the UK and by Grosset & Dunlap in the U.S). The publishers also released storybook, picture books and an activity book. At the American International Toy Fair, LEGO announced a product line for the film and the TV series, to be released in July 2008 in the United States and August 2008 in the United Kingdom. LucasArts adapted the movie into Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Jedi Alliance for the Nintendo DS and Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Lightsaber Duels for Wii. A reviewer from PocketGamer.co.uk said his expectations for Jedi Alliance were low due to poor Clone Wars movie reviews, but he found the game "a varied and well-paced experience."
Dark Horse Comics published a six-issue digest-sized comic book mini-series. Randy Stradley, vice president of publishing for Dark Horse, said the sudden decision to release the Clone Wars film required the company to temporarily delay plans for two other Star Wars comic book series, Dark Times and Rebellion. The Clone Wars comics did not receive the promotional campaign it otherwise would have due to the abruptness of the theatrical and comic book releases. Topps, the trading cards company, released a series of 90 Clone Wars cards on July 26, which also included foil cards, motion cards, animation cel cards and rare sketch cards by top Star Wars artists and Lucasfilm animators.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack was released by Sony Classical on August 12, 2008. The disc begins with the main theme by John Williams, followed by more than 30 separate music cues composed by Kevin Kiner. Kiner is known for his work on such television series as Stargate SG-1, Star Trek: Enterprise, Superboy and CSI: Miami. The soundtrack uses many instruments never heard before in a Star Wars score, including synthesizers, electric guitars, erhus, duduks, ouds and taikos.
A Star Wars: The Clone Wars open wheel car for the IndyCar Series was unveiled at the 2008 San Diego Comic-Con International. The #26 car, which also included Blockbuster Inc. decals and was driven by Andretti Green Racing driver Marco Andretti, ran August 24 on the Infineon Raceway in the Sonoma Mountains in California; Andretti said, "I'm hoping that my upcoming battle at Infineon will be as exciting as anything in a Star Wars movie so I can win it for both Blockbuster and Lucasfilm." The car finished 14th at Infineon, which Andretti attributed to a slow pit stop early in the race; he added, "I just don't think it was a very good performance for us today." The Clone Wars car was the second collaboration between Lucasfilm, Blockbuster and Andretti Green Racing, which premiered an Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull car in the Indianapolis 500 in May 2008.
A Star Wars: The Clone Wars MP3 player was released in August 2008 for $59.99. The player includes one gigabyte of memory, which holds 1,630 songs or 64 hours of music and comes with three interchangeable faceplates: a green one with Yoda and a lightsaber on it, a silver one with a Captain Rex and a Galactic Empire logo on it, and one with two clone troopers on Coruscant. One review claimed it improved upon a Darth Vader MP3 player released in July 2008, which featured only 512 megabytes of memory and a dated visual display. A Star Wars iPod iSpeaker (a speaker/dock for iPods, iPhones and MP3 players) also released for $19; the speaker includes an image of Captain Rex and three other Clone Troopers.
Warner Bros. also has the home video rights, and had planned a DVD release of the film and TV series as early as February 2008. Star Wars: The Clone Wars was released on home video on November 11, 2008, as a single-disc DVD, a two-disc Special Edition DVD set, and a two-disc Blu-ray set. The single and double-disc standard-definition versions both include the widescreen film with Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround EX sound, and the feature-length audio commentary.
The two-disc editions include the above commentary plus:
- The Clone Wars: The Untold Stories: Preview stories, vehicles, planets, and battles from Season One of The Clone Wars television series.
- The Voices of The Clone Wars: Voiceover actors and animated characters in split-screen performances.
- A New Score: Composer Kevin Kiner establishing a new musical identity for the series.
- Gallery of Concept and Production Art
- Webisodes: Six making-of featurettes, as seen on StarWars.com
- Deleted Scenes: Cargo Bay, Platform Droid Fight, Rancor Pit and Through the Tanks
- Theatrical and video game trailers
- Digital copy of the film on the second disc
The Blu-ray editions include all the above features in 1080p high definition (deleted Scenes and certain trailers are not in HD) on a single 50GB disc. Audio commentary is not present.
- A Creative Conversation Video Commentary: Director Dave Filoni, Producer Catherine Winder, Writer Henry Gilroy and Editor Jason Tucker discuss bringing the Star Wars legend on the big screen again
- Take the Hologram Memory Challenge: Test your skill and memory and unlock three hi-def TV series sneak peeks
- Digital copy of the film on a second disc
Box office performance
The Clone Wars earned $68.28 million worldwide, including $35.16 million in domestic box office grosses and $33.12 million in foreign grosses. The movie earned $14.6 million on 3,590 screens its opening weekend, including $6.23 million on opening day August 15. It was the third-highest earning film of the weekend, behind the action comedy Tropic Thunder and Batman sequel The Dark Knight, which earned $26 million and $16.8 million, respectively. Dan Fellman, head of distribution for Warner Bros. Pictures, said the box office performance met expectations because two-thirds of the audience were families, and because the movie was meant to introduce the animated series. Fellman said, "It was targeted to a specific audience for specific reasons. We accomplished that mission, and it will continue in another medium." When The Clone Wars dropped to $5.7 million in the second week, ContactMusic.com described it as "the first bona fide Star Wars flop."
- "Has it come to this? Has the magical impact of George Lucas' original vision of 'Star Wars' been reduced to the level of Saturday morning animation?"
- ―Roger Ebert
The Clone Wars was almost universally panned by film critics prior to its theatrical release. The Clone Wars earned 19% "rotten" rating among 157 reviews compiled at the Rotten Tomatoes site, as well as 14% among 28 "Top Critics." This is the lowest Rotten Tomatoes ranking of any Star Wars film; the previous six theatrical films ranged from 57% to 97%, and even the made-for-television Ewok movies and the much-derided Star Wars Holiday Special garnered higher ratings. At Metacritic, the movie scored a 35% based on 30 reviews, earning it the status "generally negative reviews."
Ain't It Cool News, a movie review site, posted two reviews of the film during the week before its release, but pulled them down due to an embargo placed on those attending the screening its writers attended. The same reviews were reposted on the site the day of the film's release. The retraction prompted some readers to allege a conspiracy by LucasFilm to keep negative press out of circulation until the release of the film, but although the review by site creator Harry Knowles was negative, Drew "Moriarty" McWeeny pointed out to readers that his review was positive and that no such conspiracy existed.
Several critics compared The Clone Wars to a Saturday morning cartoon and described it as little more than a plug for the upcoming animated series of the same name. Linda Barnard, of the Toronto Star, said the movie "pretty much drives a stake into the heart of every loyal fan of the movies. And now he's out to stick it to those too young to know about Jar Jar Binks." Film.com writer Eric D. Snider wrote, "Remember how people talked about the Star Wars prequels like they were the worst movies ever made, when really, come on, they weren't THAT bad? The Clone Wars actually IS that bad." Variety magazine reviewer Todd McCarthy said, "This isn't the Star Wars we've always known and at least sometimes loved." Joe Neumiar, of the New York Daily News, wrote, "If this were a true Star Wars film, right about now somebody would say, '…I've got a bad feeling about this.'" Entertainment Weekly critic Owen Gleiberman gave the movie an F grade and wrote, "George Lucas is turning into the enemy of fun." Carrie Rickey, of The Philadelphia Inquirer, said, "The best that can be said about the movie is that it's harmless and mostly charmless. The Clone Wars is to Star Wars what karaoke is to pop music."
Many criticized the animation as cheap, wooden, unengaging and out of date; some reviewers drew negative comparisons to 1960s marionette-based shows Thunderbirds and Fireball XL5, although George Lucas previously said the animation style was a deliberate homage to such shows. Tom Long of The Detroit News said the animation "is downright weak compared to what's generally seen on screens these days" and said the characters are so stiff they look like they were "carved by Pinocchio's father." Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times and At the Movies with Ebert & Roeper said, "the characters have hair that looks molded from Play-Doh, bodies that seem arthritic, and moving lips on half-frozen faces -- all signs that shortcuts were taken in the animation work." McCarthy said "the movements, both of the characters and the compositions, look mechanical, and the mostly familiar characters have all the facial expressiveness of Easter Island statues." But some of the same reviewers who criticized the animation acknowledged some positive elements about it; McCarthy said it allowed for "somewhat more dramatic compositions and color schemes," and Carrie Rickey, of The Philadelphia Inquirer, said the scenery and backgrounds were "vivid and alive," although she said the characters "move as you would imagine the statues at a waxworks might."
Reviewers also criticized the dialogue, which Ebert said was limited to "simplistic declamations" and Claudia Puig of USA Today described as "stilted and overblown, a problem also in some of the live-action incarnations." Many critics also agreed that the battle scenes were repetitive and lacked tension; McCarthy described the action sequences as "a little exposition, an invasion; some more exposition, a lightsaber fight; a bit more blah-blah, a spaceship dogfight, and on and on." Linda Stasi, of the New York Post, also described the lack of character development in the film, writing that whereas the original Star Wars movies dedicated time to allowing viewers to get to know the characters, "Director Dave Filoni is so concentrated on the action that we're never given the chance to care who lives and who is blown into spare parts." Jason Anderson, of the Toronto Globe and Mail, wrote that although The Clone Wars is intended for younger audiences, "parents may be perturbed by the film's relentless violence." Ebert also found protagonist Ahsoka Tano clichéd and "annoying," and Michael Rechtshaffen, of The Hollywood Reporter, said the attempts at humor amid the bickering between Tano and Anakin Skywalker are "strained." Puig, however, said she enjoyed the character and that "her repartee with Anakin enlivens things."
Not all of the critical reaction to the film was negative. In a positive review, Kenny Lengel of The Arizona Republic said the lack of hype surrounding The Clone Wars, as opposed to the 1999 release of The Phantom Menace, allowed him to enjoy the film due to lower expectations. He said of The Clone Wars, "if you're willing to regress to the mental age of 12 for a couple of hours, it's an amusing ride." Whereas other reviewers criticized the fact that it was plugging the animated series, Lengel described it as an asset for the movie, writing "it's not trying to be anything more, so it works just fine." Associated Press film critic David Germain called The Clone Wars "reasonably fun, if generally forgettable" and that it "comes off as rather cute overall," but he said it would be better suited to television and that unlike the previous Star Wars films, it "definitely is not an event."
Chris Hewitt of the St. Paul Pioneer Press said he enjoyed The Clone Wars more than any of the films in the prequel trilogy, and said the female characters are handled better in this movie than in any of the prior three. He also said the animation heightens the lightsaber battles and although the style was "initially off-putting," he wrote, "there's a kind of logic to having all the 'Star Wars' characters resemble action figures." Baltimore Sun critic Michael Sragow admitted the movie was not innovative, but wrote, "young audiences will lap it up like ice cream, and its good humor and faith in the Force will put adults in a Saturday-morning frame of mind even at midnight showings." Many critics agreed that the return of Star Wars alumni actors Anthony Daniels, Christopher Lee and Samuel L. Jackson as voice actors in The Clone Wars was a positive aspect of the movie. Although Neumaier criticized the artistic style of the film, he described a vertical assault up a mountainside as an exception and called the sequence "creative."
Entertainment Weekly defended the film, saying "The Clone Wars is simply too well produced to justify virulent disdain and too insignificant to prosecute the Lucas-legacy argument. The movie is a small pleasure, which is only a problem when you expect huge things from a Star Wars film." Star Wars: The Force Unleashed actor Sam Witwer felt that the film would have been better received had it aired as part of the TV series.
Dave Filoni commented on the criticism:
"As a fan of 'Star Wars' for so long, I always knew there would be debate. No matter what you do with 'Star Wars,' you're going to have a huge debate about it. I actually think its part of the fun of being a fan; having the big arguments over 'I like this' and 'I didn't like that' or 'this aspect fit with what I thought' but 'this aspect didn't.' I think one of the greatest things is that people are still talking about 'Star Wars.' 'Anakin has a Padawan? I've never heard of that before?' But now everybody is talking about the fact that Anakin has a Padawan and the movie introduced that idea."
It was nominated for the Golden Raspberry Award, or "Razzie," for Worst Prequel, Remake, Rip-off or Sequel, but lost to another Lucasfilm production, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
- "The Sith and the Separatists are explored in great detail. The Separatist droids provide the comic relief. You'll recognize Lucas's dated corny-ness in every moronic thing the droids say."
- ―A. Clark, Amazon.com reviewer
Despite low box office and negative critical reviews, audience response over time to the film has proven favorable in some aspects. As of November 13, 2014, the film carries an overall rating of 4.0/5 user-reviewed stars at Amazon.com, with 145/284 reviews giving it a rating of 5 stars and only 43 giving it less than 3 stars. Amongst reviewer statements were that it's "good for what it tries to do" and that it "offers a subpar story but sort of makes up for it with pretty cool battle sequences and decent animation."
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Notes and references
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars at Box Office Mojo
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars at Allmovie
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars at Rotten Tomatoes