I loved the Original Trilogy as a kid. It caught me at that perfect age to be swept up in the fantasy adventure. But after Return of the Jedi, my interest in the movies was almost completely extinguished. Unbeknownst to me, the pilot light was still burning, and my son's love of all things "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away" reignited the blaze.
Our fantastic main library has a great auditorium where they show movies on the big screen each Thursday night. And I've taken the kiddo to movies there regularly over the years. It's where he saw things like Disney's original The Shaggy Dog and E.T. - The Extra-Terrestrial for the first time. A few years ago, they ran all six Star Wars movies over six consecutive Thursdays. We caught a few of them there. But seeing already released movies on the library's big screen is far different from seeing a first-run new release in a real movie theater.
Despite the bad (horrible, really) press the latest Star Wars installment has been getting, I wasn't going to deny my son the chance to see a new Star Wars movie in the theater... opening weekend... the week of his birthday. So John, his daughter, my kiddo, and I headed out to experience Star Wars: The Clone Wars first-hand.
I had not actually read anything about the movie before seeing it. But my wife had told me Entertainment Weekly gave it an "F" and other friends had said they'd seen headlines promising the visual equivalent of flushing my $12 down the toilet. I had my own reservations going into this movie: I really loved the TV Clone Wars art, but wasn't sure about this new movie's renderings, and I don't really like the prequel trilogy or its characters. So I went into this thing with appropriately lowered expectations and was pleasantly surprised.
The kiddo forgot his glasses, so we sat in the third row. This helped with the experience I think. I haven't sat so close that I had to actually turn my head from side-to-side to take in all the action on the big screen in a long, long time. And the art was surprisingly not distracting.
But two things really stand out about this movie for me: First, they somehow successfully wrung tension out of characters whose fate we already know. Something they supremely failed to do in all three live-action prequels. Second (and, in my mind, their greatest achievement), for the first time I actually found myself able to invest in the character of Anakin. For once he wasn't a whiny kid or an even whinier young adult. He was a sympathetic character who was able to grow. I don't think I've ever actually rooted for Anakin before, but here I did.
It wasn't all roses, of course. I was originally intrigued by the Hutt kidnapping storyline as it began to unfold, but the introduction of Jabba the Hutt's Uncle Ziro, Truman Capote in slug form, went a long way in destroying that element of the movie for me.
Regardless, though, I don't think the movie deserves the harsh press it's received. It has problems, but it makes the most of what it has to work with and even surprises in reaching its potential at times. It also helped that I saw the movie with a seven year-old certified Star Wars nut. I find that I appreciate these things more now that I'm seeing them through his eyes and supplemented by his enthusiasm. And I'll take that any day of the week over just about any other experience.