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? "Star Wars: The Clone Wars," which is a continuation of an earlier animated TV series, is basically just a 98-minute trailer for the autumn launch of a new series on the Cartoon Network.
The familiar "Star Wars" logo and the pulse-pounding John Williams score now lift the curtain on a deadening film that cuts corners on its animation and slumbers through a plot that (a) makes us feel like we've seen it all before, and (b) makes us wish we hadn't.
San Francisco Chronicle:
The movie's tone will probably send original-trilogy loyalists over the edge, the final shove that sends their Hoth Ice Planet action play sets into exile on eBay. Meanwhile, children will thrill at the notion that the latest part of the saga was made especially for them.
So who's right? That's a more complicated conversation. "Clone Wars" looks fantastic, and the production bodes well for the forthcoming animated Cartoon Network series, which should be one of the more impressive kid shows in Saturday morning cartoon history. Dave Filoni, who directed "Avatar: The Last Airbender," was a good choice to shepherd the project, and the battle scenes have a vibrant and adventurous style. But the film suffers from the TV-to-feature transition, as if a couple of episodes were stretched and tweaked but never intended for theater exhibition. The visuals are worthy, but the big screen brings the movie's script shortcomings and pacing problems into sharper relief.
"Clone Wars" was executive-produced by George Lucas, who may be feeling a tad sheepish about the results. The film's purpose is clear. It is a full-length teaser for the forthcoming TV series of the same name. The animation style, according to Lucas and director Dave Filoni, owes debts to Japanese anime and manga and the marionettes of the old "Thunderbirds" series. What we see in this grinding bore, however, resembles photographs of woodcuts, moving herky-jerky, swinging their light sabers here and there while the battle sequences pound on and on and on and on and on, as surly young Anakin Skywalker and lippy young Ahsoka Tano trade the flattest exposition and the most witless witticisms in the galaxy. There's a Hutt in this thing by the name of Ziro with a voice like Truman Capote, and he appears to be a bit of a cross-dresser. There. You now know the most interesting thing about "Clone Wars."
This one shucks off all pretense that "Star Wars" has a wonderfully universal appeal and instead unfolds with all the entertainment value of watching somebody else play a video game.
Lucas fulfills his lifelong dream of completely dehumanizing his space opera, replacing it with a digitally animated style that is somewhere between cartoons, Christmas specials and panoramic paintings on the side of a van. One thing is definitely intact from the most recent prequel episodes: From the first frame, all but the learned geeks in the audience won't know what the heck is going on.
Los Angeles Times:
Despite excellent animation, 'Star Wars: The Clone Wars' fails with bad dialogue and plot machinations.