Friday, October 16, 2009

TCW - "Senate Spy"

This is the first episode of The Clone Wars where not a single shot is fired, nor a lightsaber ignited. There's literally no action to speak of. Instead, it's a highly tense romantic drama.
Unfortunately, this change of pace doesn't pay off. In a series where we expect a certain level of fun and excitement, an episode like this needed to be flat-out amazing in order to seem like anything other than a boring waste of time.

All in all, while this episode wasn't terrible, it was mostly a boring waste of time.

Friday, October 9, 2009

TCW - "Children of the Force"

In this episode, we get the conclusion of this "Cad Bane trilogy," which, according to later episodes in Season 3, is apparently not a technical trilogy. It's complicated.

This is perhaps the first Clone Wars episode that actually feels like a Star Wars movie in terms of scope. A total of four planets (and a space station) are visited, making the entire story seem more epic. Each planet, of course, gets a mere few minutes of screentime, but it's something at least.

Cad Bane's capture in this episode finally puts an end to the three-episode-long repetitious plot cycle of Cad Bane (1) initiating a daring plan to capture an object/person of value, (2) tricking the Jedi, and (3) narrowly escaping the Jedi's grasp. Finally, here, he's captured. The score is still Bane: 3, Jedi: 1, but the Jedi are definitely making a comeback. That Force-torture scene, though... that was intense. It was definitely a morally-gray thing for the Jedi to do, but it still made for a powerful scene.

I have to question why they decided to use Mustafar in this episode.  If it was used as a Sith/Separatist outpost here, why would Sidious use it again later?  It doesn't really make sense.  It raises too many questions, and doesn't give any reason why Mustafar should have been used here.  Any other planet would have been just fine.

Lastly, that scene in Bane's space station was pretty awesome.  The visual of red lasers crossing with blue and purple sabers in the dark was really great.

Overall, this was a pretty good episode.  Nothing incredible, but still pretty decent.

Friday, October 2, 2009

TCW - "Cargo of Doom"

Well, this was certainly many levels of awesome.  Right from the start, we see a nice big space battle.  One thing that I noticed is that the Venator-class Star Destroyer Resolute completely obliterates all four of the Separatist Munificent-class Star Frigates.  Apparently Separatist frigates are the space equivalent of battle droids: near-completely useless in every possible way.

Rewinding just a bit, though, there is a problem with this episode.  At the end of "Holocron Heist," Anakin was on a mission to rescue Jedi Master Bolla Ropal, and Obi-Wan firmly stated that he would find Cad Bane while he was still on Coruscant.  However, by the beginning of this episode, Bane has already escaped Coruscant, met up with a Separatist fleet, attacked Devaronia, kidnapped Ropal (and, by extension, the Kyber crystal), and was already in the middle of leaving Devaronia when Anakin finally caught up to him.  How exactly did that happen, and why don't we get to see it?  Those details seem rather important to leave out.

The next few scenes of the episode are really interesting.  First, Yularen acts like a near-insubordinate jerk.  It's definitely interesting, and I wonder how that character dynamic will develop in the future.

The use of the AT-TE walkers as dropships was pretty clever, though I find it highly unlikely that Anakin's regular outfit is actually able to function as a spacesuit.  Ahsoka's spacesuit, on the other hand, looks pretty great.  I would actually prefer that she wear that suit in the future rather than her usual Togrutan tribe-child garb.

The torture-killing of a Jedi has been called "shocking" by some, but I honestly feel like it was shocking in fact only.  It wasn't a terribly dramatic scene, perhaps because it dealt with an alien that had suction cups on his fingers.

The zero-gravity scene was amazing. Definitely one of the most original and striking action scenes in recent Star Wars memory. At one point, a clone stood upside-down on the ceiling and let loose with his Z-6 Rotary Cannon.  Because gunning while on the ceiling is awesome.

The following scene with Ahsoka was pretty great.  The shot of her centered in the hallway is really great-looking.  Speaking of Ahsoka, her "space suit" costume was pretty great, and I hope that she gets to keep it in the future.  Because seriously, she needs a better outfit. 
I actually really like the fact that Ahsoka was able to take Cad Bane down with hand-to-hand combat, even if she did just get zapped later.

The hostage exchange scene didn't make a lot of sense.  Why did Anakin unlock the crystal if he was just going to grab Ahsoka's lightsaber and attack Bane anyway?  There was no advantage in giving Bane what he wanted before attacking.  It really doesn't make any logical sense, and it bothers me.

Lastly, we see Cad Bane obviously escape in clone armor.  This makes the third episode in a row where Cad Bane has managed to accomplish his goals and narrowly escape the Jedi.  At this point, it's not cool anymore.  It's just annoying.

In the end, this is a very fun episode, with a couple of major flaws.

TCW - "Holocron Heist"

So here we are.  Season 2 of The Clone Wars.  It's pretty good thus far.

It starts off with one of the most epic battles we've seen yet, as the Republic forces retreat from Felucia.  This is very cool for continuity's sake, as we later see in Revenge of the Sith that Felucia is still a battleground.

Seeing Plo Koon in a starfighter dogfight is a lot of fun, even if it only serves as exposition for the overall battle.
Considering how much work the production crew must have put into creating Felucia--all those giant fungi must have been hell to digitally craft--it seems odd that they would only use it in the first few minutes of one episode.  I sense a return to this planet in the future.

The subplot involving Ahsoka's disobedience is a little puzzling, however.  While she was initially resistant to her orders, she ultimately followed them.  Anakin did the same thing in Attack of the Clones, yet he wasn't reprimanded in the slightest. (Maybe the Jedi Council figured that he'd been punished enough after having his arm cut off?)  Why is Ahsoka punished so badly in this instance?  Is it because this instance is only adding to the already-extensive list of her past acts of over-aggression?

Ahsoka's punishment scene was almost jarring, in a good way.  The tone, voice acting, and animation all seemed perfectly genuine and personal, which isn't normal for this show.  It's also great to see ANYTHING in this show that DOES NOT HAVE TO DO WITH BATTLE.  Fighting is all well and good, but the nonstop action in The Clone Wars is sometimes too much.  It's important to slow down and give the viewers a chance to get to know the characters in times of peace as well as in times of conflict.

The plot of Cad Bane and his Clawdite companion was pretty smart.  It seemed highly plausible, and the fact that the Jedi were able to lose the battle while not seeming incompetent is a credit to the writing crew.

The Jedi Temple is a favorite thing of mine in Star Wars canon.  I grew up reading about young Obi-Wan's adventures in the Jedi Apprentice book series, which included at least one story about an intruder in the temple.  This story was delightfully nostalgic for me.

Seeing Jocasta Nu was cool, even if I have a severe dislike for the character.  (I mean, seriously.  She looks like a Sith Lord.)
Ahsoka's adventure in the Jedi Archives was fun.  Normally we only get to see Ahsoka as a cocky brat, but here she's acting like a genuinely nice young girl.

The rest of the episode is relatively straightforward.  In fact, that may be its only detriment: aside from the opening few minutes dealing with Ahsoka, the rest of the story is rather ho-hum.  Bane is very nearly caught, but manages to sneakily escape with his prize.

There is one pretty awesome surprise at the end: a mention of the Kyber crystal.
Now, the Kyber crystal is somewhat of a holy grail in Star Wars lore.  In early drafts of A New Hope, the Kyber crystal was a way of focusing the Force and amplifying a Jedi's power.  In several later Star Wars novels and games, the "Kaiburr" crystal was described as multiplying a Jedi's power by a thousand times, and shards of the crystal could be used in lightsabers to multiply their power as well.
The crystal mentioned in this episode is certainly not the same "Kaiburr" crystal from the EU, but it's still an extremely important and powerful object: it contains a list of every known Force-sensitive child in the galaxy.

All in all, however, this episode is a little boring in hindsight.  It's not bad by any means, and it's extremely well-made, but it serves more as a set-up for future episodes than a great story in its own right.