Star Wars: The Clone Wars : 2/4 stars
Star Wars fans will know they are in trouble during the opening few minutes of the movie.
First, since this movie is released by Warner Brothers, there is no 20th Century Fox opening. That's forgivable until the opening where the John Williams Star Wars score IS NOT USED. Star Wars without the music is not Star Wars. Even Star Wars video games get this right and play the opening theme to get you into the mood. So, from the get go, you know this isn't your father's Star Wars.
There is also no crawl that explains the movie's set up. It's just another sign that this movie is aimed at kids who might not even be old enough to read yet. Instead, we have a World War II news reel announcer explain the situation. So, "a long time ago" is apparently 1942.
Additionally, the animation is relatively poor, even by TV standards (since this is all setting up a TV show). Think Veggie Tales with light sabres. It's like a 98 minute computer game cut screen. Technically, they just stretched a 2D drawing over a 3D frame. Even though it's a computer generated 3D world, it still has a very 2D feel to it, like playing Doom.
BTW, this movie should not be confused with Genndy Tartakovsky's Star Wars: Clone Wars from 2003, the other animated story about the time between Episode II and Episode III. Apparently, that "The" makes all the difference.
While the 2003 Clone Wars was a TV series turned into a movie, the new 2008 The Clone Wars is a movie setting up a TV show, and that can't be good. 2003CloneWars set up the events in Episode III so its plot was important. 2008TheCloneWars' plot is of no importance whatsoever, and I doubt that the TV show will do any better. Likewise, 2003CloneWars showed more of Anakin's dark side so his eventual turn in Episode III made more sense. 2008TheCloneWars is almost contradictory in its handling of Anakin's dark side.
The two Clone War movies are mutually exclusive. They can't both exist and be canon because they already contradict each other. Who knows what the TV show will do? Sci Fi fans don't like this kind of incompatability.
Stop reading here unless you really want to take a path down Nerd Street.
[Warning: Small spoilers that are also revealed in the commercials]
Most older Star Wars fans are going to have trouble with some of the new characters they've added. Ahsoka Tano, Anakin's new padawan (Jedi in training) is basically Hannah Montana, Jedi Knight. Even more annoying, however, is Jabba the Hutt's uncle Ziro. Imagine Jabba combined with Truman Capote and Colonel Sanders. He looks and sounds like a southern, transvestite slug and belongs in Star Wars as much as Bugs Bunny or a teenage mutant ninja turtle.
Most of my objections so far can be categorized as "This movie isn't for you, Generation X, it's for your kids." And that's correct. My kid did like the movie, and she's five. Kids will like this movie because most kids don't care about more than what's on the screen. But you'd think the film makers would, right? Perhaps not.
Ahsoka bothers me, and more than her being a teenybopper jedi. What's going to become of her? She doesn't exist outside of this series. Ultimately, she's going to be killed along with all of the other jedi, if not sooner. Hey kids! Meet Ahsoka! She's fun, carefree and not long for this world! Watch her put her trust in Anakin and then watch him betray and murder her later! Good times! Maybe she dies during the Clone Wars, so that's going to be a "very special" episode.
There are some "meta" issues that bother me about this movie (here comes the nerdy part) and they are that this movie doesn't fit into the existing Star Wars universe. It's as if George Lucas said "we gave you the first 2003CloneWars, and that's what really happened, but here's an alternative 2008TheCloneWars version. And we're making a TV show about it. It doesn't really count so we're going to change things around and not worry that it doesn't make sense."
The term for this is "retcon" or retroactive continuity. This is when you write something that contradicts existing facts of your mythology, so you then change everything to make it fit. Sci Fi fans hate this.
[Warning: Spoilers get bigger here]
The first retcon example is a light sabre fight between Count Dooku (I hate that name) and Anakin. In Episode III they sure act like they haven't seen each other since their face to face fight in Episode II. They even reused some of Episode III dialog like "your skills have improved" in this movie.
Secondly, Tatooine (Jabba's, Anakin's, and Luke's home planet) is supposed to be an out-of-the-way craphole of a planet. Jabba is also supposed to be just a small-sized gangster who only has influence over the immediate area (like Tony Soprano only being in charge of New Jersey's mafia). But in this movie, Jabba is the main guy, in charge of ALL outer rim trade routes. He's calling the Supreme Chancellor directly and making demands! Not only is he way more important now, but he's more powerful than the entire Republic.
Third, the whole "kidnap Jabba's son" idea is part of Dooku's and Sidious/Palpatine's plan. Why? If you've actually read this far, you probably know that Palpatine is controlling both sides of the war. He created an enemy to fight so he could oust the previous chancellor and make himself a stronger chancellor with more executive powers. So then, what is the point of this plot to turn the hutts against the jedi and the Republic? Ultimately, he wants the Republic to "win" because he already holds power there. Adding the hutts to the Separatists would only make that endgame harder.
That said, the movie has some bright spots. The battle sequences are fairly well done and people actually die (bloodless). One of my complaints about all of the prequels is that the battle sequences were just chaotic and you really could't tell what was going on. At least in this movie there are objectives and you can see what's going on.
Like I said, my kid did like the movie, and that was ultimately the most important thing. We had fun seeing the movie together as a family and it's always great for a dad to have his daughter hold his arm for the entire movie. That's worth at least one star.