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'The Clone Wars' ... Latest 'Star Wars' saga is aimed at capturing younger audiences

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I was just about to turn six the summer the first Star Wars movie came out. It was the first movie I remembered that left a lasting impression on me, and it helped define my childhood. Over the years - and even through the sequels of the last decade or so -- I have been an apologist for the series. I have forgiven George Lucas for a lot -- from Jar Jar Binks to Obi-Wan Kenobi visiting a 1950s-era diner.

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This is where I am coming from. Sure, I will have a soft spot for anything Star Wars, and until they dress up Yoda in a tutu and have him dance Swan Lake, I will probably like anything from that universe.

With that said, I rejected some early buzz about "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" being a bit of a dud. After finally seeing the film, I cannot say that I was disappointed.

First, you have to understand what "The Clone Wars" is, or rather what it is not. It is not meant to be part of the original three (or even the original six) films. It was not meant to be another grand chapter in the ongoing, Lucas-restricted universe. It is not meant to live up to any of the live action episodes.

Rather, "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" is a big screen launch of a Cartoon Network series that is actually inspired by the original animated shorts from a few years back. It doesn't necessarily advance the major storylines, but fills in the gaps with smaller stories within the until-now unspoken-about Clone Wars.

This movie should be taken as a piece of the extended universe fiction that you'll find in role-playing games, pulp fiction and paperback releases. Sure, it deals with the characters we are familiar with, but it is really nothing more than an excuse to watch some more battles in the Star Wars universe, and it's a treat for me to see it on the big screen.

The film follows General Obi-Wan Kenobi and General Anakin Skywalker as they fight alongside the clone troops of the New Republic. The Separatists, led by Count Dooku and oversaw by Darth Sideous, have kidnapped Jabba the Hutt's son. The Jedi send Skywalker, along with his new Padawan apprentice Ahsoka Tano to save the child. As they try to complete this mission, they uncover a trap that Sideous and Dooku have set that would rupture their fragile truth with the Hutts.

Over the past few weeks, I have seen plenty of advertisements for "The Clone Wars" on the children's networks that my kids watch. If you've seen these ads, you'll understand the angle of the film. It's not hyped like the theatrical trailers, as a grand movie for Star Wars fans of old. Rather, it's aimed at a younger audience, playing out more like a cartoon series.

This comes across in the film itself. The banter between Anakin and Ahsoka is clearly set up with a level of breeziness that you might see on "Ben 10." So if you're expecting a brooding, dark and mature storyline, you won't find it here. I knew this going into the movie, so I accepted it. And, as a child of the 70s, it did bring me back to all the early extended universe stuff I enjoyed as a kid -- from the old Droids cartoon to the Marvel comic book series (and yes, even The Ewok Adventure and The Star Wars Holiday Special).

Moreso, there's a special tenderness I have for "The Clone Wars," and it comes from watching the film's effect on my two sons, ages five and seven. For years, I have been trying to interest them in the Star Wars saga. A few months back, I even made them sit down and watch the original film on DVD...and they were underwhelmed.

Maybe it is a generational thing, but they were more interested in watching "Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius" than anything Star Wars. Even when I pulled out the more contemporary Clone Wars cartoons, they were left somewhat disenchanted.

Now, they are all about "Star Wars." We're planning on watching the movies now as a family over a series of Friday nights, and after seeing the film, I was giddy at the fact they were running around the house with toy lightsabers. So, no matter how many warts can be found in this new and lighter version of "Star Wars," I will have a special love for it because it has now brought my children to the fold, and for a self-admitted Star Wars baby like me, that is a beautiful thing.

Kevin Carr is an independent writer, journalist and filmmaker who lives in Columbus, Ohio.

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