Star Wars: The Clone Wars

Remember Jabba the Hutt, that overgrown slug first made almost famous in Return of the Jedi for enslaving a copper-bikini-clad Princess Leia? Of course you do. Well, you probably didn’t know that Jabba has a little boy. A Huttlet, as it were. You probably didn’t know because of course it would never occur to you. Or if it did, it would then compel you to wonder about the mechanics of Hutt sex, and that’s not really conducive to the nagging New Year’s Resolution of finally getting beyond your Star Wars geekery.

Maybe that’s a lost cause anyway, as here you are reading about Star Wars: The Clone Wars, the latest unnecessary animated offering from Lucasfilm Ltd. Fair enough. So: Someone has kidnapped the Huttlet. And it’s up to Anakin Skywalker — former slave boy, current Jedi knight in training under Obi-Wan Kenobi, future helmeted, black-clad, James Earl Jones-voiced icon of movie villainy — to rescue him. Why? Because said so Yoda did.

And because the script, by Henry Gilroy, Steven Melching and Scott Murphy, from a story by George Lucas himself, needs at least a nominal reason for being. It’s this: On behalf of the well-meaning if bureaucratically knotty government of the Galactic Republic, good and decent Jedi and their armies of clones have been battling evil, power-mad separatist dark-siders and their armies of droids; Jabba the Hutt, ambitious mafioso that he is, controls an essential trade route to which each side wants access. So his good graces are in everybody’s interest. Except maybe the audience’s.

As always, this setup will involve some numbingly expository political discussions (imagine one of those public-access broadcasts of your local city council meeting, but with cool animation), plus all the trimmings. Combat. Droids. Ships. More combat. Light sabers. Stiff performances. Trite battles of will between callow characters, whose experiences, and elders, will (Force willing) guide them toward maturity. Director Dave Filoni comports himself like a good Lucasfilm company man.

Bear in mind that Lucas himself has described this backstory to the Star Wars saga as “extraneous.” Here he has a credit for creating the “characters and universe,” and probably by now should also just get a permanent one for creating a monster.

Oh, OK, the movie’s not awful. Call it diverting. Arguably there are even palpable points of interest. For instance, Jabba also has an uncle named Ziro, who actually speaks English, apparently in order to do a Truman Capote impression. Don’t deny that wondering WTF? is a way of being interested.

And the Huttlet, it must be said, is cute. Why not? As the whole movie’s motive, it had better give us something to care about. He’s like a little pug, except he’s a slug, see? Will Anakin be able to save him? And if so, what will it mean, as those who know their Wars lore will recall, that the Huttlet’s father will one day be killed by his rescuer’s son? (Or, technically, by his daughter — indeed, chaining her up in that bikini was not such a good idea.) Really, what does any of it mean? Ask yourself.