Six live-action movies apparently weren't enough to tell George Lucas' Star Wars saga. Now there's Star Wars: The Clone Wars (PG), an animated feature filling in events between parts I and II, which were actually the fourth and fifth movies released.
That means no Luke Skywalker, Chewbacca or Han Solo, and Darth Vader is still only a gleam in Darth Sidious' eye. There's just Anakin Skywalker, who will eventually become Darth Vader, and dashing Obi-Wan Kenobi, who will age into Alec Guinness. Plus a lot of childish embellishments suitable for Saturday morning cartoon watching.
That isn't coincidence. The Clone Wars also serves as the introduction to an animated Skywalker series, debuting on TNT and Cartoon Network later this year. Lucas can gauge interest in the series by how many fans are willing to buy tickets for what amounts to a TV pilot.
Jedi-hards will be thrilled by The Clone Wars, especially hectic battle sequences that would be too expensive for live-action production. The plot leaves much to be desired, with Obi-Wan (voice of James Arnold Taylor), Anakin (Matt Lanter) and his punk-girl protege Ahsoka Tano (Ashley Eckstein) rescuing the kidnapped son of Jabba the Hutt.
Why would they do a favor for an enemy? Because Jabba isn't a bad guy yet in the saga's jumbled plot structure, and he can offer galactic access to Jedi forces battling the droid armies of the evil Separatists.
Notice that none of the live movies' main actors participate, although Samuel L. Jackson and Anthony Daniels make cameo noise as Mace Windu and C-3PO. Even John Williams' musical score is altered, creating as much possible distance from the trilogies while still carrying the Star Wars brand. Even Lucas sits this out except for final approval and bank deposits. C+
Steve Persall, Times film critic