Posts Tagged ‘I want to see more of Ziro The Hutt’

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”.

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Clone Wars: Full Time

Thursday, April 16th, 2009

On May 1st, Cartoon Network begins airing The Clone Wars Decoded, essentially a rerun of the first season of the animated adventure series, with Pop Up Video style trivia. Well, I guess kids today need to learn to distinguish their Quarren from their Aqualish. Back in my day all we had were poster magazines and Splinter of the Mind’s Eye.

The second half of Season One built on the successes and discarded some of the failures of the first half. Most notably were some more adult themes creeping in. Sure, it’s still a kids’ cartoon, but in Defenders of Peace and Liberty On Ryloth,  inhabitants of Separatist invaded and subjugated planets wonder whether their freedom at the hands of the Republic comes at too high a price. That’s pretty heavy stuff. Similarly, in The Hidden Enemy a trooper betrays the Republic because he believes the clones are created solely to be slaves and cannon fodder. You can see his point. Certainly Anakin and Obi Wan don’t have any easy answer.

Storm over Ryloth, which I don't mention here

Elsewhere it’s business as usual, lightsaber duels, space battles, amazing visuals, and a series of bizarre and unbelievable accents. As the series goes on we see an increased range of visual assets, so even fairly early on, the episodes outstrip what was seen in the “movie”, but it seems that more importantly the writers are tackling more interesting issues alongside the laser based mayhem and Jedi smartassery.

The draw for old school fans is of course the callbacks to the original trilogy. Trespass features specific references to Ralph McQuarrie’s concept art for Hoth in pretty much every aspect, while Mystery of a Thousand Moons is a slightly goofy adventure on a planet populated by a rag tag collection of characters, clearly in homage to the Mos Eisley Cantina and Jabba’s Palace, although it specifically reminded me of the Marvel comics series, during the David Michelinie/Walt Simonson era. This is no bad thing. If Zeltrons, Hoojibs and The House of Tagge appear in future episodes I will probably punch the air or something.

Okay The Clone Wars isn’t going to change anyone’s life, or rival anything in the original movies. It won’t even change your mind if you think the whole enterprise is just an evil ploy to sell more action figures.  But when Obi Wan and his clones defeat the evil separatist forces on Ryloth, and reunite the cute twi’lek child with her people, I noticed that she only had one parent. That counts for something surely. It’s a war (or more properly it’s some “wars”, although I’d like to know at what point it became plural) and suggesting that everything can be neatly sorted out is dishonest (particularly when both sides are being manipulated by an evil mastermind, but that’s another story).

Ziro Unleashed

I am, as they say “stoked” for the second season if only because the season finale Hostage Crisis was so completely badass. Starting unpromisingly with a romantic scene between Anakin and Padme, in which Ani is actually a bit of a jerk (consistent with his character in the movies at least), it soon introduces a group of merciless bounty hunters led by the gravelly voiced Lee Van Cleef alike gunslinger Cad Bane, and including infamous Phantom Menace bit part Aurra Sing. They then proceed to rack up the biggest bodycount in a children’s TV show I’ve ever seen, and break the ridiculously camp Ziro the Hutt out of prison. Yes! Ziro seems to upset a lot of American fans because he’s “gay” (although that raises all sorts of questions that I’m not sure I want answered), but he was the best part of the film. Let’s have some more utterly bizarre new characters in season two, please.

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