March Movies: The Wind Rises and The Grand Budapest Hotel

Falling behind again with life in general.  But in the interest in not leaving a month gap in my blog history, I give you my thoughts on the movies I saw in March 2014.

Thoughts on The Wind Rises

The Wind Rises is the latest (and purportedly last) film from Hayao Miyazaki, the animation genius who gave us everything from Totoro and Nausicaa to Mononoke and Ponyo.  While this movie is as visually beautiful as one might expect of a Miyazaki film, it was not the lighthearted romp I have come to expect.

Part of that has to do with it being a fictionalized biography of Jiro Horikoshi, the designer of the legendary Zero fighter use by the Japanese in World War II.  While Jiro himself is portrayed as a visionary who loved flight, it is impossible to forget that for most of the film his work is exploited as a weapon of war.  There are aspects of his personal life, too, that do not go in happy directions.

Thus, though The Wind Rises flirts with the traditional sense of wonder found in all of Miyazaki’s films, there is always a feeling of tension pervading the film.  It can never quite make you forget that layer of darkness.  This is fully in line with the thematic elements of Jiro’s beautiful dreams being ultimately corrupted by war, but it is still unsetting.

All of this is to say that while The Wind Rises is a beautiful and interesting film, it is certainly not an uplifting one.  The film is definitely worth seeing, so long as you know going in that it is ultimately rather bleak.  If this is really Miyazaki’s final film, however, I kind of wish he had ended his career on a happier note.

The Grand Budapest Hotel

This latest movie from quirky director Wes Anderson is, perhaps, his best and most accessible.  It is certainly my favourite of his films that I have seen, in no small part because it has an actual coherent plot.  In general I enjoy Wes Anderson films, but they are admittedly slow-moving at times, with stilted characters, odd humour, and fractured relationships.  Most of that is present in The Grand Budapest Hotel, but thoroughly wrapped in a story that moves fairly briskly.

The main plot is portrayed within a deeply-nested framing device: a girl visits the grave of a beloved author, in whose memoir we get some writing advice, which gave an example of his visit to the titular hotel in his youth, wherein the hotel’s owner gave him the story of how he came to own the hotel.  (That last layer is, in fact, the bulk of the film.)

That story turns out to be simultaneously highly entertaining and bleakly morose, and lends the whole film a bittersweet air.  As in life, there are no happily-ever-afters, just happy-for-nows, but the ride from beginning to end is quite delightful.  Fans of Wes Anderson films will doubtless love this one, but I think that of all his films, The Grand Budapest Hotel is likely the most enjoyable to non-fans.  I’d certainly recommend it.

More Movies

You know, you’d think I’d get around to writing about something other than movies.  But I’m on vacation now, so this is all you’re going to get.  My thoughts on some July movies follow.

The Last Airbender

I really wanted this movie to be awesome.  I mean, I want all the movies I see to be awesome, but for this one I had  especially high hopes.  This is because it was a live-action adaptation of the animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender, which is one of the best things ever.

Now, I will admit to some trepidation when I heard that M. Night Shiyamalan was the driving force behind this film.  But, by all accounts, he was so excited by the cartoon that he fought to be able to make the movie, and at least the story was already coming from somewhere else, so there’d be no lame twist ending.  In fact, the first season of the show had one of the best endings to anything I’ve ever seen, so there’s no way he could screw that up, right?  And the trailers were looking pretty sweet, too.

But alas, all my hopes and dreams were dashed.  The Last Airbender had Lucas-esque dialogue, narrated montages that skipped over so much and explained character interactions rather than showing them, and just felt rough and unfinished.  It was also short.  I will grant they had a tough job, cutting 10 hours worth of TV down to a single movie, but they could have at least gone for a 2.5 to 3 hour movie rather than the abrupt 90 minutes we were given.

The ending also changed somewhat from the show, cutting out details making it just a little bit less awesome and a lot wussier.  Way to go, M. Night!  You could have filmed the last 3 episodes of the season shot-for-shot and had one of the best things ever on film, and you still managed to cock it up.

(It is my fondest hope that Shiyamalan was working busily away on a 3-hour awesome epic version of this movie when the studio told him it had to be released in a month, and so he whipped this version together in the little time he had, and that the DVD will have a super-cool Director’s Cut.)

The movie was not without *some* redeeming features: it did showcase a lot of cool ideas from the show, and the bending looked pretty good (though not quite right compared to the original).  Some of the actors were okay, but they weren’t given much to work with.

I wish I could recommend this movie wholeheartedly, but it was so rough, and so disappointing, I can’t.  About the best I can say is that if you do see it, the cool ideas that made it into the movie might inspire you to watch the original show, which is—as I have stated above—one of the best things ever.  (Also, if you do see the movie, see it in 2D—the 3D is the converted kind, not the filmed kind, and apparently sucks and makes the movie incredibly dim and an even worse experience.)

Despicable Me

This was a cute and funny CGI movie.  I saw this in 3D, but apart from a few token “wow” scenes nothing would have been lost seeing it in 2D.  It centers on Gru, a supervillain who gets scooped when a new villain steals the pyramids.  As part of his plan to regain his status as the most dastardly of supervillains, he adopts 3 orphan sisters.  Wackiness ensues.

From the setup, you can probably figure out the emotional arc of the plot, but it is still handled with charm and humour.  It doesn’t approach Pixar-quality, but it has plenty of laughs, some clever ideas, and some “Awwwwwww” moments.  A satisfying and entertaining summer movie.


This is the latest movie from Christopher Nolan, whose last movie (The Dark Knight) was all kinds of awesome.  As such, there was a lot riding on this to be a success, and a lot of hope from audiences that it would be different and good.  Thankfully, I think it succeeded on all fronts.

Inception is a sort of reverse heist movie.  Leonardo DiCaprio plays an expert at going into others’ dreams to steal ideas and knowledge who gets hired to *plant* an idea instead.  He has to assemble a team, make a plan, and then execute it (which inevitably goes wrong).  Wackiness ensues.

Now, the plot is more complicated than that.  A *lot* more complicated.  That may be the greatest problem in the movie.  They have to devote a lot of exposition to it in the first hour of the film, and then when the action kicks in it is somewhat-to-very confusing to follow what is really going on when the plan goes awry.  The overlapping action scenes are beautifully-constructed, though, and once you’ve given it a bit of thought, only the ending is left as ambiguous.

So, this is an excellent movie that is beautifully shot.  I saw it in IMAX, which was pretty sweet (except for sitting in the 3rd row like I did).  It’s not a simple action movie, it’s not quite a drama, but it is really good.  I recommend this one.

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice

I know, I know.  Disney movie, starring Nic Cage.  Why give it the time of day?  Well, we gave it the time of day because nothing was out that we hadn’t already seen that we might possibly find amusing.  But you know what?  It wasn’t bad.  In fact, I might even go so far as to say it was pretty good.

Nic Cage seems to have found his most natural role ever in playing a creepy, crazy old guy, and Jay Baruchel nailed his lovable nerd loser role (as he is wont to do).  The plot was a bit predictable, but it moved quickly, *mostly* made sense, and was pretty fun.  The visuals were good, and in some places genuinely clever.

So this movie was like the inverse of The Last Airbender: the trailers made it look awful, but it turned out to be surprisingly good.  It’s not the best movie of the year or anything, and it doesn’t really need a sequel, but it was a fun way to spend a couple of hours on a Friday night, and that is more than most movies can say these days.

2009: A Year in Movie Reviews

Well, the year is almost over, and I have realized that there are a lot of movies that I saw and failed to write about at the time I saw them.  To remedy this sad situation, and to punish myself for laziness, I thought I would recap my entire year in movies (seen in theatre).  It is possible that I have forgotten some, but I’ll update later if I remember more.

* * *


I already wrote about Coraline, which was a most excellent stop-motion movie based on the children’s book by Neil Gaiman.  Recommended for anyone who enjoys creepy fantasy, but perhaps not for very young (or especially wussy) children.


I wrote about this before, as well.  Watchmen was a good adaptation of the graphic novel that fell just shy of being great.  I enjoyed it nonetheless.

Dragonball: Evolution

I also wrote about this one.  (Clearly, I started the year with a bit more drive to do my movie blogging on time—or perhaps the summer movie season just overwhelmed me with frequency.)  This movie was not nearly as bad as it could have been, but it occupies some sort of weird zone between not being close enough to the source material to satisfy all the existing fans, and _too_ close to the source material to appeal to new viewers.  I had fun watching it, but I’m not sure who I’d recommend it to.  Perhaps my best endorsement is this: there is no need to avoid this movie.


I held forth on this film as well, and quite enjoyed it.  I’m not sure people who aren’t Star Wars fans would get quite as much enjoyment as I did, but it was still a funny road trip comedy, with a nicely dark vibe running through it too.

Monsters vs. Aliens

I also wrote about this one, which was okay.  It was an adequately entertaining CG movie.  I did not feel upset or angry after having seen it, or that I had wasted my money, so that’s a plus, I guess?

Star Trek

Despite my reservations with certain elements of the Star Trek reboot (see this previous entry), I loved this movie.  It was great fun, and was pretty successful at pulling together a young new cast to fill the shoes of the iconic classic actors.  ‘Nuff said.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

I also had a number of issues with this movie (see this previous posting), but was still entertained by it. The story had some problems, but the action was all pretty entertaining, and it was far and away better than X-Men 3, so kudos for that.  An adequate action movie, but it failed to live up to its potential.

Terminator: Salvation

That’s pretty much all I can say about Terminator: Salvation.  It was a passable action movie, but it turned out to be a prequel to the original trilogy, rather than showing an end to the war with Skynet.  So there was some combat sequences, and cool giant robots, and… well, that was sort of it.  Once we understood the timeframe, we kind of knew how things would end, since we’ve seen the other movies.  As a result, it was a rather disappointing conclusion to the Terminator movie saga, but in its own context it was reasonably entertaining.


Pixar’s Up was fantastic, despite (or perhaps because of) the incredibly sad first ten or fifteen minutes.  As usual, Pixar hit on all cylinders, with excellent voice actors, a great script that had a perfectly-paced story, nice humour, and wonderful visuals.  Up was another example of why Pixar movies aren’t great because of their computer animation, but because they do everything else right, too.

The Hangover

This movie diverges somewhat from the overall science fiction and fantasy skew of my general movie watching, but I do enjoy my comedies, so long as they’re funny.  Thankfully, The Hangover fit the bill, and was a fun entry into the wacky night they can’t remember/road trip genre that defied convention in a few clever ways and yet didn’t refrain from toilet humour.  Highly enjoyable.


I had almost forgotten about Moon, which is unfortunate, because it was one of the better proper science fiction movies I have seen in a long time.  A (comparatively) low-budget movie about a miner on the moon, most of the movie has only one actor on screen, unless you count Kevin Spacey as the voice of the robot companion.

That makes it sound a bit claustrophobic and corny, I know, but the lead actor (Sam Rockwell?) does an excellent job, and the story is quite clever.  I was able to predict some elements of it (likely due to my greater familiarity with science fiction as a whole genre), but in terms of science fiction movies, I can’t think of anything quite like it.  It is most definitely not a sci-fi action movie.  But it was good.  Really good.  I liked it.  My girlfriend liked it.  A definite recommendation from me.


Ponyo is, I believe, the latest movie from Hayao Miyazaki, the legendary master of Japanese animation, and was released in North America by Disney.  (Pixar’s John Lasseter is a huge Miyazaki admirer, and was a driving force behind Disney’s aquisition of North American distribution rights for the Studio Ghibli oeuvre.)

Ponyo is a traditional 2D animated movie, with the story loosely adapted from the original Little Mermaid fairy tales.  The animation was beautiful, and intense and terrifying in places, but overall it was a cute movie aimed at younger viewers.  More like Miyazaki’s “My Neighbor Totoro” than “Princess Mononoke”, for sure.  Still, any admirer of quality animation will appreciate this film.  I look forward to adding it to my Ghibli collection.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

I have only read the first Harry Potter book, so all my knowledge of the story comes from the movies.  As such, I can judge the movies by whether they work as movie, rather than by how well they adapt the book.  For example, I thought the third movie (Azkaban) was great, but a lot of people were upset by how much was left out from the book.  The fourth movie tried to put in bits of everything, and it ended up being practically incomprehensible as a movie without knowledge of the books.  Thankfully, they got back on track with the movies for the fifth one, and continued the trend with Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

It was a good movie.  It continued the story nicely (as you would expect), had some great visuals, intense moments, and a coherent story that came to the end leaving us wanting more.  We learned things we didn’t know, and did it because the characters were smart.  So I count this movie as a win.

Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen

This movie was so terrible that my rage moved me to write of it after seeing it.  I think the comedy group Hot Waffles needs to rewrite their song “George Lucas Raped My Childhood” to feature Michael Bay instead.  This may have been the worst movie I have ever spent my own money to see.

Unfortunately, it made a hojillion dollars, so there will likely be a Transformers 3.  My only hope is that, like me, everyone else who saw this movie was so appalled that they will avoid any future installments like the plague.

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra

Alongside Transformers, G.I. Joe was the other foundational toy of my childhood.  (Star Wars and Lego were also prominent, but Star Wars toys were adapted from the movie, not vice versa, and there hasn’t been a Lego movie yet, so I’m limiting myself to Transformers and G.I. Joe for the sake of comparison.)  After the abominable live action Transformers movies, I was less than hopeful for G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra.

Thankfully, it exceeded my (admittedly low) expectations, and turned out to be a fun, if ridiculous, action movie.  I’m not exactly sure I’d recommend it, but it was silly and enjoyable.  My biggest beef was that they revamped the background of all the characters, removing their diverse and long-established origins and making them all interconnected and less interesting.

They set up a sequel, which I’m sure I’ll go see.  This was much better than the first Transformers (live action) movie, so even if they drop the ball on the second like they did with Transformers, hopefully it won’t fall as far.


This is a Bruce Wilis movie.  A friend of mine said he expected that, at the end, Bruce Willis would survive, and win the day, and be beaten to a bloody pulp.  He was not wrong.

Surrogates was an enjoyable SF movie about a world of the near future in which people live primarily through robotic surrogates that they control remotely from their homes.  The Surrogates never age, and can look like anything, from an idealized version of the owner to someone completely different.  Trouble starts when some surrogates are killed and and so are the owners connected to them, which should be impossible.  Bruce Willis (a cop, naturally) is put on the case to investigate.

As the story unfolds, we encounter a number of twists and turns, some cool action sequences, and some interesting characters.  I hadn’t read the graphic novel on which this was based, so I don’t know about the _accuracy_ of the adaptation, but at least the quality is high.  I recommend this movie.

The Imgainarium of Doctor Parnassus

I saw the gala premiere of this movie at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), which I wrote about here.  I don’t have much more to say than that.  It was a good movie, very Gilliam-esque, with delightful visuals and quirky characters and storylines.  Not for everybody, to be sure, but it will definitely resonate with the right audience.

Time Trip: Curse of the Viking Witch

The other TIFF movie I saw was a Norwegian movie about some kids who travel through time to help and immortal viking become mortal so he can die.  Not bad, actually, for a kids movie.  Not so good that you need to figure out how to import the DVD or anything, but not bad.


This movie was a computer animated take on the classic Astroboy anime.  Clearly aimed at kids, but enjoyable.  From what I can tell, it changed some elements of the story from the original, but still retained the basic premise: after his son is killed in an accident, a scientist builds a super-advanced robot with all his son’s memories as a replacement.  Needless to say, this doesn’t work out well for anyone involved, but Astroboy is born.

The movie had a bit of an environmental slant like Wall-E, and absolutely nonsensical science, but it wasn’t bad.  It was surprised that it showed some characters dying on screen, even if they were non-bloody deaths—I had thought that most films coddled kiddies more than that nowadays.  If you’re looking for a good kids movie, you could do worse than this.


I wrote about Zombieland briefly after I saw it, because it was just so much fun.  I do loves me some funny zombie-killing.  If you like zombies, and comedy, and don’t mind lots of gore, this movie is perfect.

Twilight: New Moon

I saw this with my girlfriend as atonement for taking her to Transformers 2.  I now consider that debt paid in full.  I mean, Transformers was still without a doubt the worst movie I saw this year, but Twilight: New Moon gives it a close run.  At least I didn’t spend my own money to see New Moon.

New Moon fails to entertain at every possible opportunity, and instead has vapid, uninterested actors spouting terrible, repetitive dialogue while they do absolutely nothing, and then external forces conspire to end the movie by essentially negating everything that did happen (which wasn’t much).  Terrible terrible terrible.

Ninja Assassin

Ninja Assassin is one of those titles, like Snakes on a Plane, that gives you a perfect idea of what the movie should contain.  You can quite readily know, when going to see a movie called Ninja Assasin, whether you are likely to enjoy it.  In that respect, you may consider me the target audience for Ninja Assassin.

Unfortunately, I was a little disappointed.  There were, indeed, some awesome action sequences, full of impossible martial arts and ridiculous gore.  But there was also a sort of storyline, and some superfluous characters that bogged the movie down.  There were parts where _minutes_ went by with no one being killed.  MINUTES!  I had been hoping for a movie like _Shoot ‘Em Up_, but with ninjas and swords instead of guns, but instead they actually had a bit of a plot.

Now, I likes me some plot.  It is my favourite thing.  I think my problem with it in Ninja Assassin was that it wasn’t interesting enough for me to accept it in lieu of non-stop over-the-top action.  The movie starts with a cool assination sequence, which sort of sets the bar.  When we switch away from ninjas, though, the plot better be DAMN GOOD to keep me satisfied, but I think it fell a little short here.

So, I liked Ninja Assassin.  I though the action sequences were pretty good.  The storyline was adequate—I mean, it made sense, and all—but it couldn’t match the action, and so the movie was uneven.  A decent enough action flick, but not one that I’d call “must-see”.

The Princess and the Frog

This movie marks Disney’s return to 2D animation, after they abandoned it in favour of 3D (thinking that was the secret to Pixar’s success).  After a number of notable 2D and 3D bombs, Disney has finally put out a decent movie again.

The animation is good, but I’ve seen just as good or better from Studio Ghibli and other Asian studios.  I enjoyed the jazzy soundtrack, although nothing stood out as especially memorable.  The characters, in a notable Disney first, were not entirely stereotypical: as an example, the spoiled, marriage-obsessed, self-involved daughter of the mayor turns out to be very generous and happy for her friend when she finds true love.  I was also suprised to see a main character killed, as in Astroboy, although this being Disney, perhaps they were returning to their roots in more ways than just going back to 2D animation.

Overall, this was a pretty good movie.  I’d recommend this one.


James Cameron’s Avatar has been many years in the making, and has been getting lots of press.  Overall, it’s a very good movie, albeit a heavy-handed one.  The story is clunky and predictable, with absolutely no ambiguity or moral uncertainty about who is good and bad.

Much of acclaim has been accorded to the visuals.  I have to agree—the visual effects are among the best I’ve seen, with the aliens and their world seeming perfectly real to me, and blending nicely with the human actors.  I am less enamoured of the 3D nature of the showing I saw—I really don’t like the technology, and come out dizzy and disoriented, though sitting in the third row surely contributed to some of that.

The story concerns a Marine who essentially goes under cover with the natives of an alien planet to learn their ways.  Unfortunately, the alian culture seemed to be a mishmash of various First Nations and African tribal beliefs, rather than something truly alien, and the aliens were a little too human-looking for me to really view them as alien.

Anyway, as he becomes more involved with the alien culture, he puts himself at odds with the corporation and military group that want to move the aliens to mine some more “unobtainium” (we never learn why it’s valuable).  Wackiness ensues.

The cast is good, the visuals are great, and the story is kind of “meh”.  Still, definitely worth seeing, even at nearly 3 hours long.  I supsect I’ll prefer the non-3D version on DVD…

* * *

And that’s about it!  I think my favourite movie of the year was _Star Trek_, with honourable mentions (in no particular order) to _Ponyo_, _Zombieland_, _Coraline_, and _Moon_.  For 2010, I’ll try to be more on the ball with movie blogging.

Quick Thoughts on Monsters vs Aliens

I ended up seeing Monsters vs. Aliens quite by accident, when—while questing for movie gift cards—my girlfriend suggested we see a movie, since we were already there, and it was really the only thing of interest at that time that I hadn’t yet seen, and she had been kind of interested anyway.  (I am uncertain whether that was a clever plan on her part, banking on the fact that I’d rather do just about anything instead of go home to work.)

So we ended up seeing the movie—in 3D, no less—and it was okay.  The animation was fairly typical for a computer-animated movie, the script was reasonably funny (albeit laden with already-dated jokes and pop-culture references), and the voice actors was fine.  I was entertained.  The 3D did not give me a headache or hurt my eyes.  It doesn’t hold up well in comparison to anything from Pixar, but then, few movies do, and it’s not especially clever.  But it had its moments.

It’s not something you need to rush out and see, and I don’t think the 3D element was so awesome as to make it worth seeing in the theatre.  But, it’s an amusing enough movie, and will likely keep you entertained.

Thoughts on Coraline

I’ve seen Henry Selick’s stop-motion-animated Coraline twice now, once in a regular showing, and once in 3D.  (The fact that I went to see it twice should, perhaps, be considered an early indicator that I liked the movie.)

Selick is the little-known director of The Nightmare Before Christmas, which is usually solely attributed to Tim Burton.  This movie is based on the children’s novel of the same name by Neil Gaiman — an author whose own fame seems to burn brighter every year, as more of his work (Stardust, Beowulf) makes it to the big screen and his books sell like gangbusters and win awards.  Despite Gaiman’s pedigree — and the well-regarded source — it becomes clear within a couple of minutes that this movie is really Selick’s masterpiece.

Coraline features, bar none, the best stop-motion animation I’ve ever seen.  It’s clean, and fluid, and weird, and beautiful, and they do shots that I wouldn’t believe could be done with stop-motion.  (Some of the techniques behind this are shown at the end of the closing credits.)  Selick’s adaptation of Gaiman’s novel is also very well-done, pulling together a lovely story that develops Coraline’s character quite nicely.

The basic premise is that the titular character, one Coraline Jones, finds herself moved to a new town, with parents who are too busy to spend any time with her.  She resigns herself to a boring, dreary life until one day she finds a small door hidden behind the wallpaper in their apartment.  And while that door opens into a world of wonder and excitement, everything is not as it seems.

As I said before, the animation is far better than any other stop-motion outing I’ve seen, and the art direction is just spectacular, with sets that colourful and fantastic in every sense of the word.  The 3D version of this movie has also been heavily praised, but for my part, I didn’t really find much difference between them.  I didn’t feel nauseous or dizzy or get a headache, which is an improvement over other 3D films I’ve seen, and I mostly found the use of 3D to be subtle and unobtrusive.  Perhaps that’s the point, however.

I really enjoyed Coraline, and can’t recommend it enough to fans of animation or good movies in general.  It’s a delightful, mildly creepy fantasy journey that, overall, works really, really well.

Thoughts on Star Wars: The Clone Wars

From what I gather, Star Wars: The Clone Wars has been dumped on pretty thoroughly by just about every review, receiving average or worse ratings across the board.  It currently has a 20% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, which is pretty dismal.  But I’m here to speak up in its defense… sort of.  I mean, it’s not all that bad.

The title, of course, is the first problem — “wars” is in there twice, a full 40% of the words.  It’s just awkward, really.  The second problem is that it isn’t a movie.  I mean, sure, it was released in theatres, but it’s actually just the first few episodes (I suspect the first five) of a TV series set to debut later this year.  As a result, the pacing is completely off for what is usually expected of a theatrical feature.

Anyway, on to the content, rather than nitpicking the format.

The Clone Wars series is set between episode II (Attack of the Clones) and III (Revenge of the Sith), which should have ample material to mine for a series.  It is, after all, the period during which Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi became famous and powerful Jedi with extensive combat experience.

It could also, conceivably, add something to the movie outings.  I mean, part of the problem with the prequels was that you didn’t care so much about Anakin, so the tragedy of his fall had no impact.  He went from annoying kid to whiny teenager (with terrible dialogue) to a kind of slight bad-ass, and then evil.  We never see him at his most heroic, his most inspiring, and thus we never really understand how far he has fallen when he becomes Vader.

The difficulty the series will face, however, is much the same as that of the prequel movies themselves — Star Wars offers so much potential for greatness, but there is so much room for things to go very, very wrong.  And the recent track record has been far over on the “wrong” end of things, than the “right”.

Unfortunately, elements of The Clone Wars continues that trend, primarily by skewing toward an audience of young children.  Thus, we’re treated to the “hilarious” antics of the enemy battle droids, ridiculous caricature characters like the effeminate, lisping Ziro the Hutt, and villains that are, for the most part, so stupid you wonder how they could pose any credible threat at all.

Seeing stuff like that on the screen makes me want to face palm myself.  I know George Lucas has long maintained that the Star Wars movies are for kids, and he’s not wrong on that front.  While the original trilogy was enormously popular in its day, I suspect that the people most affected by it then, the people that the trilogy stayed with all these years, were the children and teenagers.  The problem with the newer material is that those kids grew up, but the new movies and related content didn’t, and the kids these days just don’t go for it in the same way.

That’s not to say that kids these days don’t like Star Wars in its various forms, but it doesn’t consume them like it did a generation ago.  I find it telling that I can go into a Wal-Mart or Toys ‘R’ Us store, and find a modest selection of Star Wars toys and action figures, but then I can go to The Silver Snail and find a whole wall full of them.  These things are not selling to kids anymore, they’re selling to the people that were kids at the time of the original trilogy.

So, for me, it’s pretty apparent that Lucas is way off base in targetting all of this Star Wars media at young kids.  And that goes for The Clone Wars, too.

Which is sort of sad, because it’s not all bad.  We do get to see Anakin when he’s not a whiny little twit; when he cares about the soldiers under his command to the point where he’s willing to risk the overall mission to go back and help them; when he takes a new apprentice (Ahsoka Tano) under his wing to train her.  Even in this first movie, we see a lot more depth to his character than came across in the three prequels.

The action sequences are pretty good, too.  Lightsaber duels, space battles, and the like — all as good as you’d expect from Lucasfilm.  The main drawback is the computer-generated animation — it’s fine, and all, but really, it can’t capture the fluidity of hand-drawn work, and so comes across as slightly rigid and mechanical.  A lot of the more dumb elements that I mentioned before also seemed to get toned down a bit as the “movie” wore on, but I don’t know whether that was the creators’ intent, or whether I just got good at ignoring it.

Overall, this “movie” was moderately entertaining, but was marred by some particularly attrocioius production choices.  I was entertained enough by it to be interested in seeing more in the forthcoming TV series, but I’m not sure I could recommend this without strong reservations.  Naturally, it doesn’t hold up to the original trilogy; unfortunately it teeters along a fine line between being better than and worse than the prequels.  I don’t think we’ve seen enough yet to tell how it’s truly going to go.