Full disclosure. I'm only a casual Star Wars fan.
Oh, as a girl, I waited with my family for the first movie in 1977, and eagerly anticipated the second and third (fifth and sixth?) a few years later. I know all about Ewoks and sand people. But, I was never rapturous over the arrival of Anakin et al, nor murderous when Mr. Lucas unleashed the maligned Jar Jar Binks in Episode One -- The Phantom Menace.
So, when the lights went down in the theater for Star Wars: The Clone Wars earlier this week, and the impassioned cheers went up for the Lucasfilm logo ... let's just say this was a new frontier.
True Star Wars fans (and those of us who cheat off of press notes) know The Clone Wars as the blink-or-you'll miss it reference from the original film. (Luke: "You fought in the Clone Wars?" Obi-Wan: "Yes, I was a Jedi Knight, just like your father.") Like everything else Star Wars, the reference has a back story -- in this case, an epic battle that took place just north of Anakin's marriage to Amidala and south of Darth Vader. It's in this Star Wars 2.5 chasm that we find Anakin, Obi-Wan and company still locked in combat against Separatists, now aligned with slimy Jabba to find his kidnapped son and gain the Hutt's favor against evil Count Dooku.
New adventure aside, one can only wonder how this latest installment will play with true fans. Stiff-jawed faces and plasticene hair left me feeling a little like I was watching Speed Racer circa 1960. In all fairness, Mr. Lucas indicated a desire for retro, but the cutesiness (Anakin nicknamed Sky Guy? Really?) seems so Saturday morning cartoon (and, in fact, a Clone Wars series arrives on Cartoon Network this fall). There were impressive light sabers and battles aplenty, and animation had impressive depth. But it was a strange assortment of characters inhabiting this universe, particularly Ziro the Hutt who seemed to be of questionable orientation. Who knew the black sheep of the Hutt family would turn out to be Edna Turnblad?
Whether The Clone Wars lives up to the legend is something only true fans will decide. The return of the franchise alone was cause for celebration, as evidenced by the 7-year-old who gave a definitive thumbs up, the 5-year-old gleefully waving around a light saber, and 10-year-old Hugo who, while elated, said he couldn't possibly comment on nuance as "I've only seen the movie once. It will take a few more times before I catch everything."
Is it a great film?
To them, it hardly matters.
Kids Will Like: The young Hutt, who looks like a slimy, oversized tadpole, is played entirely for laughs. Nicknamed "Stinky," he dispenses bodily sounds that will amuse children to no end. Clueless droids provide additional comic relief with their Abbot and Costello schtick. Anakin and his Jedi apprentice Ahsoka banter like an old married couple, particularly when it comes to taking care of young Stinky. And of course, there's the thing Star Wars is known for -- the battles. There are lots of them, with flashing light sabers and zooming lasers aplenty. Count on kids to look forward to the upcoming animated series arriving on the Cartoon Network and TNT this Fall.
Parents Will Like: This is aficionado territory, where those saddened by Anakin's turn to the dark side get a reprieve. It's a nice to see him on the right side again. Characters have a lot of dimension, particularly Jabba and some of the other non-human characters, but suffer a bit from comparison to recent 3-D flicks.