New reviews: ‘Star Wars: The Clone Wars’ and ‘The Edge of Heaven’

Star Wars: The Clone Wars (dir: Dave Filoni)

Call it Star Wars: Chapter 2 ½, or Stories from the Clone Wars, or The Continuing Adventures of Obi and Anakin: When Darth Was a Boy.

I think we can all agree that the thrill left the Star Wars franchise a long time ago – the technology that once propelled the adventures increasingly started propping up Lucas’ desultory scripts and faltering direction and eventually became the entire reason for being, the author of the spectacle – but this animated sequel/prequel/TV series promo is really just going through the motions. The story – set between the live-action films Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith – is a bland boilerplate adventure. Young Jedi master Anakin (not yet seduced by the dark side, merely cocky and insufferable) is sent to rescue the kidnapped larva of Jabba the Hut and discovers an elaborate (well, actually fairly simplistic and bland) plot by Count Dooku (remember him? the bad guy in the last couple live action films?) to frame the Jedi with the kidnapping and thus prevent a treaty and blah blah blah. Oh yeah, he’s also saddled with a headstrong trainee, an orange-hued character with floppy dreads and doll eyes destined for action figure immortality, and together they fight their way through one laser-battle after another, escape, and then do it all over again on the next level. You can almost see the hit points counting down the side of the screen.

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Pretty colors, pretty stiff

What’s really distasteful about the whole thing, however, is the way Lucas films feel like colonial dramas of superior races deigning to take charge of armies of lesser beings. Droids are cannon fodder, dim-witted robots who are not even considered worthy of regard. They may talk like people and have a modicum of personality but they are treated like tools and blown up for easy laughs. For all the “democracy” of the interstellar parliament, it’s built on aristocracies and monarchies and authority granted as a form of privilege, and they act like it.

I review the film for the Seattle P-I:

The computer animation, while adequate, is a far cry from the richly textured and endlessly inventive standards of Pixar. The stylized designs have a comic-strip look to them and the mechanical action is right out of Japanese manga, but the character animation and body language is stiffer than the actors in “Revenge of the Sith.”

It might be impressive as a made-for-DVD production, but coming from producer George Lucas, it makes for a cheap excuse for a big-screen spectacle.

Read the complete review here.

The Edge of Heaven (dir: Fatih Akin)

Much more moving and human than Lucas’ feature-length toy commercial is The Edge of Heaven.

In Fatih Akin’s compassionate and affirming drama, a professor of German literature (Baki Davrak) travels to Turkey to atone for his father’s crime while a Turkish political activist (Nurgul Yesilcay) flees to Germany and finds refuge and love, but at a cost. The film travels freely between cultures and countries but ultimately finds its place somewhere between the realm of identity (of both ethnic Turks in Germany and ethnic Germans in Turkey) and the embrace of human kinship beyond ethnicity. Akin doesn’t hide the fatal destinies of major characters – he titles the first two chapters with death announcements – but it’s the lives of the survivors and how they choose to carry on that carry these crisscrossing stories.

Read the complete review here.

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