Posts Tagged ‘Gungan Buffoonery’

Half Time

Sunday, January 25th, 2009

I have a new weekend ritual. As The Clone Wars airs on Cartoon Network in America on Friday evenings, some bright spark has usually put them onto, uh, a popular video sharing website that sounds like Boocube by Saturday morning.

As the series is airing on the pay to view channel Sky Movies in the UK, Spewlube is the only option for the obsessed fan who is not only a tightwad, but cannot wait until the DVD release. I imagine these episodes will look great on DVD, as they have been created specifically for HD televisions, but they lose something of their visual excitement on a small fuzzy, flash video screen. This is a shame, as the crisp imagery and adrenaline fuelled pace is clearly their strongest point, certainly more than the storylines and characterisation that have so far been a bit of a mixed bag.

The “movie” – actually the first three episodes edited together to be shown in cinemas, was mostly notable for its heralding of the TV series and the potential for further, ongoing adventures, rather than its by-the-numbers plotting. It has been easily outclassed by many of the episodes that followed it.

 

Yoda plus homies

Yoda plus homies

The first, Ambush, featured Yoda and the last three clones of his battallion surrounded by the Separatist army, yet winning out with a combination of jedi philosophy, creative strategy and midichlorian fuelled ass kicking. This was followed by a rather?drawn out?trilogy of episodes based on an ion cannon toting Separatist flagship The Malevolence, that ended wonderfully with Anakin, Obi Wan and Padme (not to mention Threepio and Artoo, doing their double act schtick) attempting to escape from the ship in swashbuckling style particularly reminiscent of A New Hope

Rookies was a one off tale in which a handful of “Shinies” (clone slang for inexperienced soldiers, so named for their pristine armour) are trapped on an isolated outpost, (once again) surrounded by Separatist troops. This episode scored on several counts. Firstly it didn’t feature any jedi, instead focussing on the clones who are often relegated to cannon fodder. Secondly they were set against some kind of ninja droid commandos rather than the inept and ridiculous standard issue Trade Federation battle droids. Crucially, though, we had seen none of these characters before, so we genuinely didn’t know who would survive (and there were some particularly gruesome deaths).

 

Is it wrong to fancy fictional cartoon aliens?

Is it wrong to fancy fictional cartoon aliens?

All too often The Clone Wars follows the adventures of Anakin and Obi Wan, or background Jedi generals from the films, such as Plo Koon (inexplicably supervising director Dave Filoni’s favourite character) and fanboy pleasing nubile Twi’lek hottie Aayla Secura. Trouble is, we know what is going to happen to every one of these characters – ie. Order 66. Of course, some character development on the lesser known characters is welcome, but so far the series has been more about incident than any character’s internal life.

I suspect one of the aims of the series is to rehabilitate Anakin as a character (as opposed to the films, in which he is petulant, arrogant and generally unsympathetic). The two part Downfall of a Droid/Duel of The Droids made Anakin’s attachment to Artoo the focus (a neat bit of continuity with the novelisation of Revenge of The Sith that tells us that the droid was a wedding gift from Padme), and foreshadows his inability to let go of things. The creators would do well to continue along this road if the series is to be anything more than some awesome lightsaber duels and shit blowing up. Duel also features another gruseome death, this time an execution by cyborg psychopath General Grievous. For a series that’s aimed at kids, there are some nasty moments, which I thoroughly approve of.

Controversially, a couple of episodes have featured the return of Jar Jar Binks to centre stage. Roundly despised by fans, if anyone needed rehabilitation it’s this guy. Bombad Jedi (written by Troops creator Kevin Rubio) wasn’t a bad episode, just a little undistinguished (its best moment was a subtle reference to Anakin and Padme sneaking off together for clandestine sexy times). Jar Jar was shown to be exactly as he was in The Phantom Menace, good hearted, clumsy and borderline retarded. However, if there’s one thing worse than bringing back an unpopular character, it’s changing his voice, as was done in the later Gungan General.

 

I wouldn't rate this guy's chance of survival

I wouldn't rate his chances of survival

Other episodes include the atmospheric Lair of Grievous, in which the titular General has some much needed backstory hinted at. However, the troubled Mon Calamari ex padawan may as well be wearing a red shirt, his death is so obviously telegraphed throughout the episode. A few more new characters need to be created, but also developed over the space of more than one episode. This way we can have a few characters who can be put into genuine jeopardy. Luminara Unduli pops up in the terrific Paul Dini scripted Cloak of Darkness, but, while I don’t recall seeing her killed during Revenge of The Sith, I’m sure her fate has been marked out in some spin off novel.

At its worst The Clone Wars is at least good brainless, forgettable entertainment (as in Dooku Captured, a fascinating premise that just doesn’t ring true, with innumerable plot holes and a baffling, seemingly unfinished script). Every episode has some exciting battle scenes and badass moments, and is so far never boring. But it has a great deal of potential, and much of the series has hinted at something much bigger and better than crashing spaceships, whirling lighsabers and somebody saying “I have a bad feeling about this”.

Share

Anakinversary

Tuesday, May 19th, 2009

A long time ago… ah screw it, everyone’s probably done that one. Today’s the tenth anniversary of the release of The Phantom Menace. Happy birthday Duel of The Fates, Watto and  The Boonta Eve Classic. Although for us in the UK we still had another excruciating two months to wait while everyone else in the world was talking about  it.

He's Behind You!

Like many people who can’t let it lie, I have felt the need to defend the damn movie over the last ten years. Dunno why, it’s neither my fault, nor my problem if someone else doesn’t like it.  But I do find myself wondering why so many people have taken against it, especially seeing as every single film looks like that now (Even the Sex and the City movie had that completely incongruous scene where two vast armies of CGI it girls fought on a CGI battlefield, using CGI Louis Vuitton handbags). Let’s look at the reasons;

  • Enormously clunky plot contrivances. So they need a hyperdrive generator and the only person that has one is immune to the jedi mind trick and also owns a slave who has latent jedi abilities and races pods and has just happened to be secretly building a podracer for a tournament that just  happens to be tomorrow… phew!
  • Midichlorians. Let’s be honest, while it doesn’t invalidate the mysticism of the previous movies, we hardly needed an empirical system of measuring someone’s connection to The Force.
  • Jar Jar. The Star Wars movies were always aimed at a young audience, but never before was a character included specifically for the preschoolers. However, people never complain about “that really bad special effect”, or even “that really bad character”. They actually talk about Jar Jar as if he’s a real person. So really he can be said to be a success… from a certain point – ah screw it everyone will have used that one too.
  • Too many special effects. Seriously, complaining about this in a Star Wars movie is like stopping taking drugs because they make you feel weird.
  • Sixteen (or twenty, depending on how much of a nerd you were) years of anticipation. After that amount of time we could have got the best film ever made and people would have still complained. Not that I’m suggesting it is the best film ever made, you understand.
  • Darth Vader built C-3PO. Actually, I can explain this, no problem.

This piece, written by Using the Force author Will Brooker,  pretty much sums up my experience. It wasn’t my own expectations, any of the (admittedly many) flaws in the film, or even Ben Quadrinaros that ruined it for me. It was knowing everything about it, including how I was expected to feel.

Having said that, I still love The Phantom Menace. As Todd Hanson says in A Galaxy Not So Far Away, it’s just a big dumb movie about space wizards. What’s not to like?

Share