Posts Tagged ‘Utterly bizarre southern hutts’

Jedi Poodooh!

Saturday, August 16th, 2008

I’ve always said that going to the cinema just isn’t the same when it’s not a Star Wars film (look, I never claimed to be a complex individual, all right? Like Lynyrd Skynyrd, and Jango Fett, I’m just a simple kinda man). The first movie I saw at the cinema was Empire, and a year or so after that I finally got to see Star Wars (on the double bill with Empire), and luckily for me it was before it appeared on television or video. And since then I’ve seen every episode on the big screen, right up till a midnight showing of Revenge of the Sith, amid an audience full of people waving Master Replicas lightsabers in the air.

So how weird then, how odd to go to the cinema to see not a new Star Wars movie, but a cartoon spin off (actually the first few episodes of the new TV series)? The (so far) universally critically panned cinema release of The Clone Wars has the obvious problem of not standing up to its live action progenitors, and the fact that none of its major players can be allowed to be killed, or change, or do pretty much anything of importance that might encroach on the overall saga.

This major stumbling block, along with a much more light hearted, kid friendly tone, appropriate to what is essentially a Saturday morning cartoon, has seemingly outraged the online nerd community. On the plus side we don’t get any teeth grindingly bad angsty scenes like the ‘you are in my very soul’ bit from Episode 2, or Episode 3’s ‘you’re so beautiful’ ‘only because I’m so in love with you’  a scene seemingly included by George Lucas solely to test the patience of his audience. Sure we’ve all said this kind of embarrassing drivel in our private lives but I don’t need to see it in a movie. Actually, I’m sure there was a sarcastic allusion to Anakin’s infamous ‘sand’ chat up line in The Clone Wars.

Technically it’s an amazing looking feature when you consider it’s meant for television (albeit the High Def end of the market), but on a big screen, some of the TV origins are evident the series was apparently made on the cheap, such as synchronised walk cycles on the clonetroopers. They’re clones not robots! Having said that I’d rather watch these funky CGI marionettes than some big name, big budget, bland exercise in cynicism like Shrek (don’t get me started on Shrek!).

 

A Senuhtuh...? Heeyah...?

A Senuhtuh...? Heeyah...?

 

 

I’m genuinely surprised by the invective that The Clone Wars has provoked, but not as surprised as I am that every single review has not sarcastically stated that Hayden Christensen was out-acted by a bunch of pixels. Incidentally, I never thought he was a bad actor, just a really weird actor! Some of his more bizarre line deliveries in the prequels suggested that he was attempting to channel some of James Earl Jones’ more bizarre line deliveries (such as ‘When I left you, I was a learner. Now I! Am, the master’). I mean that had to be the reason, right? However, his CGI manque still resembles him, which put the thought in the back of my mind that he would not be the most suitable master for a teenage female padawan. I mean, the guy looks like he hangs round high schools after cheerleader practice, looking to pick up chicks in his boy racer speeder.

But as I have said before and I will no doubt say again, I am a massive Star Wars nerd. I can excuse a bit of flat, anachronistic dialogue (did Anakin really say to Obi Wan ‘I’ll call you back’? How did that one get through? And truth to tell, I slightly cringe every time I hear the phrase ‘Padawan learner’. Isn?t that like saying ‘trainee apprentice’ or ‘beginner newbie’?). Throughout Jedi and the prequel trilogy, unlike most, I found a lot more to love than hate. I’m sure in many people’s eyes that makes me an idiot, but I guess that’s central to being a fan.

So I find the prospect of a Star Wars TV series intriguing. Being able to explore that universe, even without the possibility of major revelations or character defining moments is good enough for me. It’s no different than the masses of comic books, novels, toys and games that have been out there for years. And for a series so rooted in action and movement, it’s no surprise that a spin off cartoon, like some of the more recent video games, fares a lot better than aping the essence of Star Wars than, say, a novel about the Bothans finding a new superweapon that’s a bit like the Death Star, or the cantina snot vampire.

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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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