Star Wars: The Clone Wars

Featuring the voices of Matt Lanter, Ashley Eckstein, and James Arnold Taylor. Rated G.

For all its many deficiencies, Star Wars: The Clone Wars does fulfill the Star Wars nerd’s fantasy of living out the series, specifically the scene in which Luke enters the evil tree in Yoda’s swamp. Nothing else in our world so severely tests your commitment to the Jedi.

In the Star Wars chronology, this movie covers the period between episodes 2 and 3, when Anakin Skywalker was still good, albeit petulant. Hence, there is not the slightest suspense in any moment that puts established characters in jeopardy.

The premise actually worked well enough when Genndy Tartakovsky, a gifted animator, directed a Star Wars: Clone Wars TV series from 2003 to 2005. Those were smart, visually creative, and concise tales that deepened our understanding of the Star Wars characters.

Here, the setting just seems to hamper and irritate. Much blame lies with Ahsoka, a female padawan who now replaces Jar Jar Binks as the Poochie of Star Wars. She is so suffused with peppy attitude—e.g., invariably referring to Anakin as “Sky Guy”—one wishes that her possible demise in the upcoming Clone Wars TV series (for which this is just an extended episode) be protracted and very, very graphic.

Unfortunately, that would require paying attention to some of the least watchable animation since Warner Brothers reinvented Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck as kung-fu swordsmen with laser eyes. Although the backgrounds are almost photorealistic, the characters look and move like marionettes in scenarios of constant noise and action—with everything but geography, pacing, and wit.

In this episode, we watch the future Darth Vader heroically saving the kidnapped spawn of Jabba the Hutt, a concept that makes only slightly more sense than the animated hero of Teen Hitler gallantly rescuing an infant Stalin.

Hmm”¦ What is Tartakovsky up to lately?