Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Jedi Order: Stagnant Philosophy

It is my belief that by the time of The Phantom Menace (32 BBY), the Jedi order had become stagnant. They had been without a strong Dark Side enemy for a millennium, and were piling policies and personal limitations upon the "Jedi Code." In a sense, they were building up the Order more as a philosophical religion than an actual peacekeeping force.

Perhaps more important was the fact that they actually became a peacekeeping force. In previous time periods, the Jedi had been soldiers in war. It was in these times--such as the Sith War (approx. 4000 BBY, chronicled in Knights of the Old Republic) and the Yuuzhan Vong War (25-29 ABY)--that the Jedi Order did not have policies prohibiting romantic attachments. Luke Skywalker married Mara Jade in full knowledge of the Old Republic Jedi Order's stance on the issue. Luke remarked that--although he didn't understand how or why--being with Mara felt "right." Considering that Luke was the first of the Jedi after the Force had been brought back into balance--and the fact that he was the catalyst for the redemption of the Chosen One and the end of the Sith--his opinion should mean quite a bit.

In the period of time before the Clone Wars, the Jedi had become stale. With no great conflict to keep them tethered to the natural world, they simply lost touch with reality, becoming more ethereal philosophers than actual warriors. This is notable because the Jedi need to be warriors. After all, they can't keep the peace without fighting for it.
This lack of "fight" may be the problem. Obi-Wan states in Revenge of the Sith that "only a Sith deals in absolutes." This may or may not mean that Jedi do not believe in absolutes (which does not seem to be true, as they often speak of an absolute light and dark), but it most definitely means that they do not always act in absolutes. This may simply mean that they have mercy, and do not always deal out harsh punishment, but it is more likely that they do not actually have any concrete concepts for actions to be taken.

In essence, the Jedi had become lost in their own rampant idealism and religion, losing their common sense. It was only after the New Jedi Order began that the true Jedi way was accepted. Qui-Gon Jinn was truly the only "true" Jedi Knight seen in the Star Wars prequels, with the possible exception of pre-Dark Side Anakin.

Of course, the truth is that the KOTOR and NJO eras were filled with war and darkside conversions. Does that mean that the Jedi of the prequel films were correct in their overly restrictive philosophy? After all, if not for the Sith secretly lying in wait for a thousand years, perhaps the Jedi would not have fallen; it's not as if too many Jedi were actually turning to the Dark Side during that time.

However, it's my belief that the Star Wars galaxy simply must be at war. History in the Star Wars universe is cyclical; a neverending loop of light and dark struggling against one another. If the stars aren't at war, something's wrong.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

TCW - "Lair of Grievous"

This was a rather cool episode, though not without many flaws/boring bits.

This episode is a great example of how The Clone Wars is making each and every Jedi unique, and it's awesome to see. Kit Fisto had a pretty cool characterization, complete with an accent and a rare fighting style. His former apprentice, Nahdar Vebb, was especially interesting, since this is the first main-character Mon Calamari to grace the screen since Admiral Ackbar. Vebb fights with a more rigid and slightly awkward fighting style than that of other Jedi; perhaps this is a result of his Calamari physiology? It would seem so, and it fit very well.

I'm happy to see an episode where Grievous is an actual threat, however I am still slightly upset at the fact that the episode's plot still revolved around Grievous's patheticness, and Grievous still couldn't beat Fisto in the end without backup from hs magnaguards.

Still, though, it was a pretty amazing moment when Fisto grabbed a second saber and revealed that he knew Jar'Kai (the two-saber style).

This is easily the best example of the amazing animation present in TCW. While the early episodes of TCW had extremely stiff animations for the saber fights, this episode really shined as the best example thus far of fluidity and attention to detail. Fisto's head-tails and sabers moved in a dazzling show of circular motion that's not been seen on TCW before. It was perhaps one of the best moments of the series thus far, even though it lasted only a few seconds.

Unfortunately, this episode doesn't hold up as well when viewed as a whole. It's certainly got some great elements, but as an overall narrative it suffers. While the Jar'Kai moment was stellar, the rest of the episode wasn't as entertaining.

Friday, December 5, 2008

TCW - "Cloak of Darkness"

This episode has raised the standard for The Clone Wars in nearly every possible way. "Cloak of Darkness" is (as its name suggests) dark, violent, and amazing.

The often-stiff animations of previous Clone Wars episodes are rarely seen in this episode. The lightsaber battles, often the weakest point of the series, are amazing here. Every strike of the saber is purposeful and well-animated, giving an ultra-stylized yet realistic feel. Without a doubt, the engine room saber fight is actually better than many of the battles seen in the Star Wars films.

Luminara Unduli's characterization was great. Yoda aside, she seems to be the only Jedi we've met thus far who is genuinely gentle. Her voice, movement, and dress all compliment her soft personality. However, she is also shown to be a great warrior. Her only real flaw is her blind belief in the superiority of the Jedi, which she eventually learns from.

One extremely notable thing about this episode is that it begins to show Ahsoka's darker side. She is most definitely the Padawan of Anakin Skywalker, as she uses force (and even fear) to accomplish her goals.

The character of Captain Argyus was very cool. His voice was excellently done by James Marsters (of Buffy and Smallville fame), and his characterization was great. His not-so-noble end was perhaps the most shocking thing seen in this show thus far, and perhaps even in all of American TV animation history. Argyus literally is stabbed through the chest and chokes on his own lung.

All in all, this episode stands as the pinnacle of storytelling in this series thus far. Its editing, animation, dialogue, and story are astounding to watch. There were very few moments in which I had to remind myself that this is a TV series with budget constraints. This may be the only episode of The Clone Wars that I can watch completely relaxed, without having to find fault.

If you watch any episode of this series, watch this one.