Thursday, September 29, 2011

Clone Wars: Prisoners

My Clone Wars session this week comes a mere 24 hours before the next episode, and I’ve discovered to my joy that the revamped starwars.com is continuing their tradition of uploading full episodes after their inaugural weekends. So the viewing of “Prisoners” is relatively crisp. The season premiere was a disappointing grasp at both spectacle and the introduction of new and returning characters, and ended on a dark note with the heroes separated and, in the case of Kit Fisto, literally imprisoned. Can “Prisoners” decide what it is in time to be a satisfying finale? 
This episode is quieter than its precursors after the initial interrogation droid-style offscreen torture scene, with some nice shots of Ahsoka and the prince, Lee-Char, swimming through the murk. The dialogue is still almost painfully lackluster. I’d compare it to high school fan fiction were it not the fact that it has so much plot...and that I’ve read some pretty impressive high school fan fiction. The most I can say for it is that the plot moves fast and...exists. The sound of bubbles and swishing fins creates a well-realized world that pops like a bubble when anyone, but especially Lee-Char, talks. 
Ashley Eckstein enunciates Count Dooku the same way every time, or so it seems, absolutely infusing it with hate as if his title is one of disrespect rather than rank. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing; it matches the Ahsoka lip-curl and makes sense for the character. It’s just the same thing every time, as if she’s grown so familiar with the hate that she’s put a rhythm to it. 
This episode involves Anakin being forced to watch while his wife slowly drowns...while in a room with a Jedi Master who cannot be permitted to know that they’re married. I want to see this from the Force-sensitive perspective so badly that the lack of dialogue about it almost doesn’t matter. What must that feel like? What must Anakin have to do to bury those emotions? Or is the Chosen One as good at hiding the Force as he is at using it? 
(This is as close as I’m getting to writing fanfic for this episode.) 
The other thing that bothered me about this was that Kit Fisto was in it for one reason: because he’s the aquatic Jedi. However, he did little to use that to his advantage, not even anyone mentioning that it’s useful that he can breathe. This isn’t the sardonically humorous Kit seen in Cestus Deception, except in one moment: the trademark grin. Otherwise, it might as well have been Aayla, Obi-Wan, or one of nearly any of the Jedi Masters down there with the rest. 
The internet commentators noticed a Jaws homage in the depth of Tamsen, but with the single exception of the shark spiralling down into messy water, I don’t see it. The shark in Jaws was killed on the surface, with a whole lot more ordinance. (Yes, the knife-grenades Tamsen uses were a cool concept pulled out way too late in the episode.) Now we’ve had a Godzilla episode, a Jaws episode, and next week looks like it’s going to be Kurosawa with Gungans. My commentary on the Thundercats episode “Drifter” should show that I like my references subtle, maybe even coy. Something like Tamsen’s death is not a love letter to a previous franchise if it’s couched inside an unexciting, humorless, veritably waterlogged TCW episode. It’s a dividing line pointing out just how far Filoni’s final product is from the other, better material he obviously knows is out there. When I start to think that the writer exists in some sort of alternate universe bubble where no show has ever been better than Clone Wars, I think we know there’s a problem. 
In my post about the season premiere, I wanted three things out of these episodes, things that, unlikely TCW actually having good writing, seemed plausible:
1. Underwater sequences show off lighting and effects. 
2. Fight scenes rival Kit Fisto’s fights in Tartakovsky’s Clone Wars. And...
3. Admiral Ackbar will appear. 
My opinions from the last post haven’t changed: points one and tree were accomplished.
And that’s all there is to say about that.
At least Ahsoka didn’t save the day this time, but instead she, along with most of the adult characters, just sortof disappeared from the climactic battle. The whirlpool scene in “Gungan Attack” was, for all intents and purposes, the more epic of the three large-scale fight scenes. 
I leave you with an addendum to my statements about this week’s “Shadow Warrior”: a viewing of the preview clip actually presents some material that sheds light on episode 1 and the sort of connectedness to the movies I’ve been waiting for. Dooku’s “It started here,” makes a nice bridge between the Naboo in the episode and the Naboo in TPM, although the “years ago” that follows it is completely unnecessary. Dooku bringing in MagnaGuards like Grievous has is an unexpected mix of characters, and Anakin’s face as he grimaces in pain from their electrified weapons reminds me of Luke in Return of the Jedi. Maybe I was wrong to speak so harshly about “Shadow Warrior”, but the fact remains that it’s Kurosawa with Gungans. Time will tell.

4 comments:

  1. "When I start to think that the writer exists in some sort of alternate universe bubble where no show has ever been better than Clone Wars, I think we know there’s a problem." I am wondering about this alternate universe bubble as well...

    I don't really have anything else specific to say except, I agree. Clone Wars really needs to stop trying so hard. Or...try better.

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  2. I think this bubble exists around Hollywood somewhere. I'm holding out for the Katie Lucas episodes. I was having trouble finding the name of the guy who wrote these: probably he's ashamed. That said, I feel like it's about time for another "writers are unappreciated11" tirade.

    Mm, I'll go with "try better".

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  3. Hollywood harbors a lot of bubbles, most of which are long overdue for a popping.

    I think you feel bad for writers like I feel bad for computer animators. There are a lot of great animators out there who get stuck working on not-so-great projects, to the point where they too decline to have their names put in the credits of projects out of embarrassment. It's a sad state of things.

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  4. Well, that was mostly meant as humorous: it's a Star Wars project, I'd advise him to put it on his resume no matter how bad it is. I mean, in this economy there's a lot of anything out there that gets stuck working on not-so-great projects. I feel bad for [i]good[/i] writers who can't get work, when this guy is hired for TCW for who knows what reason.

    It's different when your the animator for a poorly-written show, but then, do people looking to hire one as an animator care about that? Probably not.

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