Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Clone Wars - Season 1 Retrospective

So we've finally reached the end of Season 1; the 22 episodes are through.

All in all, there are mixed results. Some episodes really stand out, whilst others are instantly forgettable.

Ambush - 3/5
Good, but not amazing. Too many battle droid jokes.

Rising Malevolence - 4/5
A great, simple episode. Good introduction of Plo Koon.

Shadow of Malevolence - 4/5
A very fun space battle evocative of the Original Trilogy.

Destroy Malevolence - 3/5
Nice, but slightly anticlimactic.

Rookies - 4/5
Very cool, and surprisingly mature.

Downfall of a Droid - 3/5
A good episode, but not great.

Duel of the Droids - 4/5
A very good action episode. The droid bump-battle was hilarious.

Bombad Jedi - 2/5
Not a completely terrible episode, but not terribly great, either.

Cloak of Darkness - 5/5
Amazing characterization and fight choreography, with pervasive darkness.

Lair of Grievous - 3/5
Great intro for Kit Fisto, but not the best episode overall.

Dooku Captured - 2/5
Nothing special.

The Gungan General - 1/5
An insult to the viewers' intelligence.

Jedi Crash - 4/5
Extremely cool, and great characterization.

Defenders of Peace - 3/5
Decent, but not too great. A bit disappointing as the second part of its arc.

Trespass - 4/5
Absolutely great visual style with a good story to match.

The Hidden Enemy - 3/5
Interesting, but ultimately strange on multiple levels.

Blue Shadow Virus - 1/5
Terrible writing.

Mystery of a Thousand Moons - 2/5
Jumbled and convoluted.

Storm Over Ryloth - 4/5
A good tactical/space battle episode, with some great Ahsoka development thrown in.

Innocents of Ryloth - 5/5
Maybe not amazing, but a great episode in every sense.

Liberty on Ryloth - 4/5
A fun and slightly deep adventure.

Hostage Crisis - 4/5
Some great characterizations and maturity, yet also anticlimactic.

I have a few picks from the 22 episodes that I think particularly stand out, for very different reasons.

1: Rookies
This episode showed us that the show is willing to go to some rather dark places, showing literal self-sacrifice, on-screen death, and mild swearing. Hell yes.

2: Cloak of Darkness
Here we finally saw lightsaber battles that looked perfectly realistic, as well as editing that kept everything flowing wonderfully. Punctuated by the shockingly violent end of Argyus, this episode rivals "Rookies" in its darkness.

3: Jedi Crash
The opening battle scene in the skies is flat-out amazing, even if the rest of the episode isn't.

4: Trespass
The completely altered "snowy" visual style is entertaining just for the sheer novelty.

5: Innocents of Ryloth
A great episode that humanized the war, giving the viewer an emotional tie to the conflict.

6: Hostage Crisis
The Clone Wars without its hands tied. Great characterization and no-punches-pulled action. (Ziro does bring it down, however)

My review scores for this season average out to about 3.27 (OMG!), or 65%. The stories really were all over the place, with some being great stories worthy of the Star Wars name and others being trash.

The animation was really lacking in many of the early episodes, but got stunningly better in "Cloak of Darkness" and "Lair of Grievous."

The music seemed to be great in the first episode, with the classic John Williams theme for Yoda being used extremely well in "Ambush," but afterward the music became simply "good for a television series," and not anywhere near the level that real Star Wars music should be at. Perhaps if other episodes had had better music, they would have evoked stronger emotions, and ultimately been better.

Another complaint I have is with the "moral messages" that the writers seemed to be throwing into the show. In a 22-minute episode, there may not be enough time to really examine many of the moral messages that episodes like "Defenders of Peace" and "Liberty on Ryloth" attempted to tackle. I would much rather that political/ideological messages be left out of these 22-minute stories unless they are going to be treated with enough maturity and care as to fully utilize such a message. To date, no episodes have yet done that.

The sheer level of detail in the series, however, is astounding. The facial animations in particular are to be lauded, as they are extremely expressive, and rarely wooden.

All in all, I'm happy with Season 1 of The Clone Wars, but I still wish that it had been better. Perhaps my view is spoiled because of the incredible Clone Wars micro-series, which had all manner of depth, emotion, and poignancy despite the restrictions of its format. In comparing the two series, I think that I prefer the micro-series, as it had more emotional impact and character development (and utilized the John Williams music to a great degree).
However, this new series may, in fact, become much better in seasons to come; it's hard to tell. I feel like this series may be held back by the fact that it's controlled by George Lucas himself, who can come up with amazing ideas but not always make them work out in their final form.

Still, however, this season was a good start. Lots of feedback is being sent to Lucasfilm, and the series's director, Dave Filoni, definitely seems to be listening intently. At this point, it seems like the series will only get better.

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