A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that these volumes of cartoons are not the same as the 2008 Star Wars: The Clone Wars computer-generated animated feature, released to theaters (though they certainly cover the same territory). There is much action-violence -- pretty much nonstop in Vol. 1 -- mostly under battleground conditions, committed against spaceships, aliens, robot troops, monsters, etc. No (human) blood shown, but death and dismemberment get pretty intense. Young Jedi hero Annakin shows off his bravado by eating live insects (a don't-try-this-at-home moment as far as a lot of parents will be concerned).
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What's the story?
STAR WARS: CLONE WARS is a DVD set that puts together a serialized bunch of George Lucas-authorized animated shorts that originally aired on the Cartoon Network in 2003 as a run-up to the opening of Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. Done by the animators of Dexter's Laboratory, they cover the Clone Wars so much referenced throughout Lucas' blockbuster live-action sci-fi/fantasy features. A noble Galactic Republic is under attack from separatists and droid robot soldiers under the control of a shadowy mystic order called the Sith. Leading the Republic's offensive are the righteous, swashbuckling Jedi Knights, chiefly the valiant Obi-Wan Kenobi and his impatient apprentice Annakin Skywalker. They and other Jedi skip from one planetary system to another fighting a gallery of marauders, mechanical monsters, and machines.
Is it any good?
Star Wars: Clone Wars is animated with simplistic, clean-line art (it avoids looking like cheaply Xeroxed Saturday-morning stuff of yesteryear). It seems to have been made for viewers who thought the Star Wars series didn't deliver enough on the "wars" part of the title. The first set of adventures is practically nonstop combat and explosions. Boom! Whoosh! Whew! Titanic battles unfold between high-tech armies and space pilots, while good and evil knights duel one-on-one with light-sabers. Many of these setpieces are spectacular in concept and scope -- but pretty deadening in large doses.
The voiceover actors (nearly none of whom carried over from the movies) speak so infrequently you wonder if they were being paid by the word. Not until Vol. 2 do we get some actual dialog and relatively meaningful dramatic plotlines, with hints of ill-fated Annakin Skywalker's emotional turmoil as he ascends prematurely to the rank of Jedi, gives in to fits of violence and vengeance, and hides his taboo romance with Princess Padme Amidala. Viewers unfamiliar with the Star Wars universe (unlikely they'll even be watching) may be hopelessly confused about the reason for the wars, the clones, etc. But the young and the hardcore LucasFans will enjoy cameo appearances by many of the non-human creatures who flickered through the past features. Yes, there are wookiees. No, there is no Jar-Jar Binks.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the Star Wars series. Ask kids if they like this animation as much as the live-action ones. Do Clone Wars segments help you understand the heroic character of Annakin Skywalker any better, and why he changed into the evil Darth Vader? When Star Wars movies and DVDs come out, do you notice all the toys and themed fast-food for sale? Do the movies make you want these things or not?
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