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Buzz subdued for new animated 'Star Wars' film
By Matt Arado | Daily Herald Staff

Obi-wan Kenobi wields his lightsaber in the computer-animated film "Star Wars: Clone Wars," which opens next month. Though it's the first "Star Wars" movie to arrive on the big screen since 2005, anticipation hasn't matched the levels of the previous films.

 

Darth Vader's secret young apprentice makes deadly use of the Force in "Star Wars: The Force Unleashed," an upcoming video game that will build on the classic "Star Wars" story.

 

"Clone Wars," set during the second and third "prequel" films, promises to deliver plenty of whiz-bang action sequences.

 

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Published: 7/22/2008 12:06 AM

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Brian Krause used to get chills when he heard information about a new "Star Wars" film coming out.

This year, he has the luke-warms.

Krause was among the fans who attended a Lucasfilm presentation at the recent Wizard World comic convention in Rosemont. Steve Sansweet, Lucasfilm's director of fan relations, unveiled details about new "Star Wars" products coming out in the next few months, including "Star Wars: Clone Wars," a full-length computer-animated film that arrives in theaters on Aug. 15.

Krause, a self-described "Star Wars" geek from Elgin, expected to be blown away by what he saw. Instead, he merely liked it.

"I'll definitely see the movie," Krause said. "The trailer looks pretty cool. But for some reason, I'm not as excited as I was before the last few films came out."

Krause isn't alone. After Sansweet showed the "Clone Wars" trailer to the Wizard World crowd, the applause was positive, but polite - hardly the raucous response that has greeted past "Star Wars" previews. And chatter about the film on movie and "Star Wars"-related message boards has been surprisingly restrained so far.

"You're definitely not seeing the kind of hype you got with the last three films," said Mike Barrick, a staff member at theforce.net, a "Star Wars" fan site.

So what's the deal? Could the "Star Wars" Force be fading? Has creator George Lucas gone to the well too many times?

The Jedi faithful say no.

"This isn't a case of 'Star Wars' burnout," Barrick said. "The really hard-core fans can't wait to see 'Clone Wars.' And the more casual fans will probably get into it once the movie opens. 'Star Wars' is still huge."

Lucasfilm certainly hopes so. The company has a slew of "Star Wars" material on tap for 2008 and beyond. "Star Wars: The Force Unleashed," a video game for most current systems, will debut on Sept. 16. It will be followed by a "Clone Wars" television series on the Cartoon Network and, a bit further down the road, a live-action "Star Wars" television series.

First up, though, is the "Clone Wars" movie, which takes place during the time between the last two "prequel" films: "Episode II: Attack of the Clones" and "Episode III: Revenge of the Sith." Sansweet said the movie will flesh out the relationship between Anakin Skywalker and Obi-wan Kenobi, while providing more glimpses of the war that eventually leads to the creation of the Galactic Empire.

"Clone Wars" differs from past "Star Wars" in a couple of key ways. First, the movie opens in August, near the end of the summer blockbuster season. It's also the franchise's first animated feature film, with its computer-generated 3-D images showing a clear Japanese influence.

"Star Wars" has been animated before, but on television, not the big screen. (The most recent example is an acclaimed series, also called "Clone Wars," that ran on Cartoon Network.)

That, Barrick said, might be one reason why anticipation isn't as high.

"It looks and feels different, and some people might not like it," he said.

Barrick added that because "Revenge of the Sith" completed the primary "Star Wars" story, there aren't as many unknowns out there to get people interested.

Libertyville fan Will O'Connell, who attended the Wizard World presentation, agreed with Barrick, adding that after the prequels and the earlier "Clone Wars" animated series, many fans might feel that this part of the saga has been covered well enough.

"This new film might seem like a rehash of that stuff," he said.

Still, O'Connell believes that once the movie opens, people will come.

"I think there's a lot that could be done with that part of the story," he said. "A lot happened between episodes II and III that we never got to see. This will help fill in the blanks."

Sansweet said Lucasfilm plans to give the film a big push at Comic-Con International in San Diego, which takes place this weekend and tends to be a huge launchpad for projects like this.

"When people see what the filmmakers have done, they'll realize it's still 'Star Wars,' just done in a new way," he said.

Lucasfilm reps will also promote the upcoming "Clone Wars" television show, which is scheduled to air this fall on TNT and Cartoon Network. The series will be animated in the same manner as the film, and it will pick up the story where the movie leaves off.

Also getting a push this weekend will be "The Force Unleashed," the long-awaited new video game that Sansweet says will serve as a bridge between episodes III and IV, and other "Star Wars" projects on the horizon.

"It's a good time to be a "Star Wars" fan," he said.