Eye For Film >> Movies >> Robot Chicken: Star Wars (2007) Film Review
So immediate was the impact of George Lucas' original Star Wars (1977) – since redubbed Star Wars: Episode 4: A New Hope - that it was already spawning dedicated parodies in the very year of its release. We have come a long way since Hardware Wars (1977). The first two Star Wars sequels are now carved into the cultural landscape, too, and have been subjected to repeated re-releases and retouched Special Editions - there are even 3D versions on their way - while the trilogy of prequels, the authorised feature-length anime, and a whole new galaxy of canny merchandising, have brought the next generation of enthusiasts to this epic retro-futurist vision. Now Lucas is undisputed emperor of the space opera universe and his powerbase is a legion of multi-aged fanboys.
These fanboys just happen to include the creative team behind Robot Chicken, Adult Swim's hilarious toy-based onslaught on all aspects of the cultural zeitgeist – and when the TV show's second series featured a sketch in which the Emperor Palpatine gets a reverse charge phone call from Darth Vader about the destruction of the Death Star ("that thing wasn't even fully paid off yet!"), the boys were contacted by Lucas himself – not to sue, mind, but to invite them to the Skywalker Ranch and screen 'The Emperor's Phone Call' for some of the crew working there. Before they knew it, Lucas had given his blessing for a whole episode of the show to become a dedicated Star Wars special, and the result is Robot Chicken: Star Wars, 22 minutes of postmodern pastiche and stop-motion spoofery.
Over 35 rapid-fire sketches, co-creators Seth Green and Matt Senreich reanimate their favourite scenes and characters from the Star Wars world, revealing what the walrus-like Ponda Baba really says to Luke Skywalker in the Cantina Bar, imagining how the snobbish Emperor would handle the blue collar building crew on the second Death Star, showing how Darth Vader's demonic style would be cramped if Jar-Jar Binks ever caught up with his old friend “Ani”, and restaging the final duel between Luke and the Emperor as a “yo mama” rap showdown. Merchandising also comes in for ridicule, with Admiral Ackbar's marshmallow-and-crabmeat cereal ("your tongue can't repel flavour of that magnitude") being one of the show's comic highlights. George Lucas gamely voices a stop-motion version of himself in a skit lampooning the fanaticism of the Star Wars convention circuit – and even George W is imagined discovering the Force within himself and blundering his way over to the Dark Side.
The tone may be cheeky and playful, but it is always affectionately so, as Green and Co's parody proves the sincerest form of flattery. The detailed recreation (in miniature models) of familiar Star Wars sets and the credible comic extensions of well-known characters betray an acquaintance with Lucas lore that goes way beyond casual. While much of the humour is accessible to any viewer, there are one or two more obscure jokes that are strictly for hardened Star Wars aficionados (even if such folk are themselves sent up). The animation (often employing actual Hasbro action figures) is a joy to behold, but best of all is the lightning pace. For while sketch shows inevitably offer some misses amongst their hits, everything here moves so fast and is cut so sharp that there is simply no time for longueurs. Which is more than you could say for The Phantom Menace.Reviewed on: 14 Aug 2008