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A Certain Point of View
Why The Clone Wars Movie is Both a Success and Failure

By Kat
Staff Writer

March 23, 2009

Star Wars: The Clone Wars, released in 2008, is an animated film that's light as air--a fun contrast to 2005's dark and brooding Revenge of the Sith. As fun as the film may be, it was a mistake to give The Clone Wars a theatrical release.

For years, Star Wars fans believed that the May 2005 release of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith would mark the end of Star Wars--on the big screen at least. Meanwhile, pre-production of a new animated Star Wars series, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, began only two months later in July.

"We looked at it [The Clone Wars] on the big screen," George Lucas explained in an interview, "and it looked so beautiful and great that we said, 'Gee, we can make a feature just like this.'"

The idea for a seventh Star Wars film was born. Star Wars: The Clone Wars was released in theaters in August 2008.

A big shortcoming of the film is that at 98 minutes, The Clone Wars movie lags. The film feels like watching a three of the episodes woven together into a feature length movie--worthy of direct-to-video status, at best.

But, it can be argued, Star Wars is different from other movies. In a struggling economy where Hollywood is hurting for profit, Star Wars equals box office gold. Throw in merchandising and tie-ins and the film is almost a guaranteed money maker, regardless of box office returns.

Is merchandising and profitability enough of a reason to distribute the film to theaters? The answer is, apparently, yes. The film received scathing reviews from critics, almost unanimously. The film garnered a pitiful 18% "freshness" rating on the movie review site, the lowest rated Star Wars film. The second lowest rated Star Wars film, Episode I: The Phantom Menace, earned 64%. Not only did critics bash the film, but audiences stayed home too. The film only grossed $35 million dollars domestically, while all previous Star Wars movies had grossed hundreds of millions of dollars each.

Look at The Clone Wars animated series, however, and you'll see a different story--the show's getting both high viewership and praise. According to Nielson ratings, the show is the number one kids show in its time slot. The premier of The Clone Wars was the most watched series premier in the history of Cartoon Network. Website IGN ranked the series number 89 in its list of the top 100 animated series.

So The Clone Wars series is getting both praise and viewers, while the film got fierce criticism and low audience turnout. What changed? The writers of the film, Henry Gilroy, Steven Melching and Scott Murphy, have all worked on episodes of The Clone Wars series too. The cinematography and "look" of the series is the same. Heck, the Kevin Kiner music is the same too.

Only two things are differentiate The Clone Wars film and The Clone Wars series: screen size and length. The Clone Wars just doesn't work as well on the big screen in feature length. In terms of money from merchandising and tie-ins, The Clone Wars movie may be a success, but in terms of film quality and box office returns, the film is a failure. The Clone Wars was originally designed to be a television series, not a movie, and that's how it should have stayed.

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