Friday, October 24, 2008

TCW - "Rookies"


I had assumed that the show would stick to the usual kids' show content limits of having extremely mild language (nothing above a "darn" or "heck"), and no on-screen deaths.
I did NOT expect this episode to have three highly violent on-screen deaths, blaster shots to the face, and a trooper's exclamation of "What the HELL was that?!?"
In all honesty, I'm slightly sad that they're taking this route, as it means that my little six-year-old brother probably won't be able to watch the show anymore. At the same time, however, I'm excited to know that actual depth will be seen in the show, and that death will not be ignored in a story about war.
There were some stiff animations here, but I'm not sure you can fault the animation team for that this early in the season's production. Still, however, some of the scenes came across as extremely cheesy when they didn't need to. Perhaps the director felt the need to balance darkness with comedy?

The fact that "Rookies" focuses almost exclusively on original characters is a huge bonus. While it's great to see the characters we already know from the films, it's hard to feel too excited to see their adventures since we already know what happens to them in Revenge of the Sith. These new characters, unlike the main characters and the Jedi, are all very mortal. The fact that only two survive is a testament to how far the creators of the show are willing to go, and it's great.

"Rookies" is a story about graduating. The clone "shinies" are forced into action and end up either dead or growing up into seasoned veterans worthy of the 501st Legion. This perfectly parallels the journey that the show itself is now taking because of this episode. The show is growing up, getting more serious, and viewers will need to decide if they're on board with it or if they need to abandon ship.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

TCW - "Destroy Malevolence"

In this week's episode, Obi-Wan and Anakin board a Separatist warship in order to rescue a Republic government official. General Grievous battles Obi-Wan, but when the ship begins to go down, he flees the ship in his personal starfighter. Sound familiar? That's because it's point-for-point exactly like the opening of Revenge of the Sith. Just switch Palpatine for Padmé, exchange elevators for trains, and remove the duel with Count Dooku.

The plot of the episode has no twists or surprises whatsoever because this story has already been done before. What's worse is that it's a letdown as the final part of the Malevolence story arc. The Malevolence was essentially beaten in the last episode; its demise here is rather unspectacular. It literally is gone in a flash from a long distance away. No big explosion (that we can see), no nothing.

If there is a bright spot in this episode, it's the reunion of R2 and 3PO. Anthony Daniels lends a perfect level of authenticity to the duo, and it's fun. But it's ultimately a short bit that lasts less than 30 seconds in a 22-minute story.

This isn't a terrible episode, per se, it's just very by-the-numbers and not at all special.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

TCW - "Shadow of Malevolence"

Anakin leads a starfighter squadron on a desperate mission to destroy the Malevolence before it can attack a Republic medical station.

This episode felt more like the original trilogy than any scene in any of the prequels. The fact that it so sharply echoed the OT films in terms of visuals and lines of dialogue helped, of course, but it also echoed that same feel.

Seeing the Y-Wing starfighters from the OT, in their top-of-the-line armored-up glory, is a special treat. The fact that the battle chatter was lifted from the OT as well was really cool.
"Deflectors on, double front!"
"Watch out for those towers!"
"Shadow Twelve standing by."
It's very nostalgic, while also serving the episode itself. I don't think we need this level of homaging every week, but it's nice once in a while.

Something notable about this episode is that it continues the focus on the Jedi's concern for their clones' lives. Normally in Star Wars, pilots die left and right, but unless they're Biggs Darklighter no one cares. Here, Anakin feels guilt over losing half his squadron. It's a nice touch.

At Plo's mention of the "Nebray Mantas," I expected a swarm of ten-foot mantas to come flying out. What I didn't expect was a swarm of ten-HUNDRED-foot mantas that completely dwarfed the tiny fighters of Shadow Squadron. Definitely a "wow" moment, and one that just feels right in the Star Wars universe.

"Shadow of Malevolence" is a really fun episode that makes the starfighter geek in me very happy.

TCW - "Rising Malevolence"

After Jedi Master Plo Koon's fleet is destroyed by a massive Separatist ship, he and his clones must survive inside of an escape pod long enough for Anakin and Ahsoka to find them.

Until now, I never really thought of Plo Koon as much of anything beyond a strange background character in the prequels. And, to be fair, that's all he was at the time. However, with only his first appearance in The Clone Wars, he's already one of my favorite Jedi. He has an Alec Guinness Obi-Wan-esque vibe, which is fitting considering that he's voiced by James Arnold Taylor, the same actor who voices Obi-Wan. Much as with Yoda's portrayal in "Ambush," it's nice to have an Original Trilogy-esque character in the show.

This is a well-done, tense episode that nicely echoes bits from the films—notably the asteroid field sequences from The Empire Strikes Back. It's surprisingly grim, focusing on the concept of death, and how we choose to confront it. The clones accept their fate, believing themselves to be expendable to the Jedi. Plo and Ahsoka, however, choose to trust in the Force and hold onto hope against odds. It's an interesting philosophical contrast, and continues the trend of placing small moral messages in each episode.

On the whole, while this episode isn't quite amazing, it's very good.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

TCW - "Ambush"

Yoda and a squad of clones rushes to meet with the Toydarian royalty in order to negotiate passage for supply lines, but are ambushed by the Separatists.

Right from the beginning, the scale of this episode is astonishing. A massive (albeit short) space battle kicks off the story, perfectly capturing the Star Wars feel. Also, it's neat to see Toydarians other than Watto. I like how TCW is expanding the Star Wars world we already know.

"Smaller in number are we, but greater in mind," says Yoda. This is the moral crux of the episode. The battle droids are stupid and lifeless, but Yoda and the clones are intelligent living beings connected to the Force. It's a good moral, but the problem is that it's hammered home far too strongly. The battle droids have never been more stupid than they are here, and it's painful. It's impossible for the villains in a story to be a credible threat when they're so moronic that they literally kill each other by accident. Fortunately, the other side of the story, with Yoda and the clones, is far more compelling. We're told by Yoda that the clones are actual individuals within the Force—they have souls, essentially—which is a very important detail. Given that this is the first episode of The Clone Wars, it's fitting that here we establish that the clones are actual people, not cannon fodder like the droids.

Yoda's character in this episode is near-perfect. He acted like the Empire Strikes Back Yoda that we all love, rather than the rubber jumping frog from the prequels.

The best part of the episode, however, was the music. "Yoda's Theme" (arguably one of the best musical pieces in the entire saga) permeated the episode, as well it should. It's ridiculous how the theme was almost never used in the prequel films, and the fact that it exists here is absolutely wonderful.

The action in the episode varies. Every action scene leading up to the big confrontation in the canyon is childish nonsense, but that big battle is incredibly well-done. "Lopsided" is how I would describe the action in "Ambush," as with the episode as a whole. On one hand, the characterization of Yoda and the clones is awesome, but conversely, the droids (and most of the action they're involved in) are so terrible that they drag the entire story down with them.

All in all, this episode ends up being pretty decent. Not amazing, but definitely leaning on the side of rather enjoyable.

The Clone Wars TV Series

At this point in time, the first three episodes of The Clone Wars have aired. As you can see from my last post, I did not enjoy the Clone Wars film.
This series, however, is the complete opposite.

I love the TV series.

I honestly think that it feels more like the original trilogy than the prequel films do.
Yes, the battle droid jokes can get annoying, but I've actually found them genuinely funny (with some notable exceptions).
The series adds so much more than was already there; already we see new vehicles and weapons for the clones, as well as devlopments on characters that were only present in the background. Plo Koon was once just an ugly-looking Jedi Master that was shot down by his own clones in Revenge of the Sith, but now he's a really interesting character that is very entertaining to watch.

The music in the series is fantastic. It actually follows the original trilogy's example and uses the main themes. If Yoda's doing something cool, "Yoda's Theme" had better be playing. And in the very first episode, here it is.

Rather than talking more here, let's get into the actual episode-by-episode reviews themselves.

The Clone Wars Movie

Star Wars: The Clone Wars is not a "movie." Originally, it was intended to be the first several episodes of the upcoming TV series of the same name. However, due to various reasons, these episodes were edited together into a "movie," and released in theaters.
God help us all.

One thing that is immediately obvious is the fact that The Clone Wars is very kid-oriented. Instead of the dramatic Star Wars logo and the opening crawl sequence, the film begins with the Clone Wars logo, and has no crawl. Instead, what would have been the text of the crawl is actually the spoken dialogue of a narrator. It sounds somewhat like the narrator of the old WWII propaganda movies, and works on some level. However, I honestly hate the fact that Lucasfilm feels the need to talk down to me. I could have read the opening crawls just fine when I was four years old, and I don't need it to be read to me now. Just let me read it for myself and let my imagination do the work.

This "movie" does not have spectacular animation by film standards. In fact, visually, it's rather sub-par compared to virtually any other CG animated movie in theaters. However, for a TV series, it will be easily one of the most visually stunning shows on TV, if not the most. The characters are rendered with a style reminiscent of hand-painted maquettes. It's a very interesting style, though in motion much of it seems strange. George Lucas apparently told the animators to make the motions of the characters stiffer and more exaggerated, rather than smooth and lifelike. This is an interesting move, though it doesn't always pay off. Many of the character movements just look awkward or illogical, rather than stylistically interesting. The battle scenes are spectacular to be sure, but they lack a certain style. They don't have the sharp style and pacing of the previous animated Clone Wars series, and aren't realistic enough to be anywhere near as good as what was seen in the live-action films. What's left is something in-between that isn't as good as either, and falls short of nearly every mark.

The two main flaws of the film are the dialogue and the pacing. Throughout the film, there is no pause. The entire movie is one quick sequence after another, filled with poorly-written and acted dialogue. This may not be the fault of the voice actors, however, as the animation for the film was done at least a year ago, and the voice actors may have had to lip-sync to the animation, causing the lines to sound odd or ill-timed. Additionally, the "squeezing" of the already-made episodes into a film under two hours may have left the editors with nothing left to do but make every shot in the film as short as possible. I honestly cannot describe how fast the film moves. It's like watching a schizophrenic on caffeine (my apologies to any schizophrenics whom I just mentally compared to this film. You're much better than that).
There is no room for drama or a quiet moment. The film just keeps on running, never taking a break. This makes the action scenes seem no more exciting than the [very few] non-action scenes, and the dialogue less and less important. Rather than allowing for the dialogue to have any timing or depth, the film abruptly jams lines together, making it seem as though the movie's editors were having Mountain Dew pumped into their veins.

Please understand; I love Star Wars. I own at least three dozen Star Wars novels, not counting my many guidebooks, my favorite of which is titled Jedi vs Sith: The Essential Guide to The Force. I own at least fifteen Star Wars video games, and there are very few who dare to challenge me at Star Wars Trivial Pursuit. Heck, I even own a Master Replicas Force FX Luke Skywalker Episode IV Electronic Lightsaber.
She's my baby. ^-^
I literally do not understand how anyone could not like Star Wars; it's a completely alien concept to my mind. I love everything that makes up the universe of The Clone Wars. Despite this, I can't simply accept Clone Wars as a film. The upcoming TV series will probably succeed where the movie failed, but that's not good enough. Clone Wars is one of the most poorly-executed films that I have seen in recent memory. I feel as if George Lucas himself has tortured me for two painful hours of my life.

They didn't even ask me any questions...

Do yourself a MASSIVE favor and DO NOT SEE THIS FILM. It's not worth your time or your childrens'. Instead of paying for a movie ticket, go buy an action figure from the movie; you'll have more fun with that.

Ratings Guide

Terrible. Watch if you must, but don't expect to enjoy it.

Sadly, more bad than good.

Worth watching and generally good, but not amazing.

Good or Great.

Satisfying at the least, if not perfect. Highly entertaining and a must-see.

The Homestead

When I was six years old, my parents deemed me old enough to watch the original Star Wars trilogy for the first time. I became instantly enthralled with the adventures of Luke Skywalker and the battles of the Galactic Civil War.
Thirteen years later, Star Wars still holds my interest.

This blog is where I'll be posting my thoughts on the Star Wars saga, including mini-reviews of each episode of The Clone Wars as they air.

Enjoy. ^-^