Monday, September 19, 2011

Clone Wars: Water War/Gungan Attack

It's new season time for Clone Wars, a chance for things to get bigger and better and more exciting. It's a chance for Megan to get even more irate about Ahsoka and the writing. However, I figure I have to be fair, in the spirit of the thing. So this blog is going to focus on judging the season premiere based on what the trailers have shown us the show's strengths will be, which is:

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.
Yes.
The trailer did not focus on dialogue or story or characterization, which, for example, the trailers for "The Mortis Trilogy" did. My goal is to see whether TCW lives up to the other three things, since they are the things it has specifically promised us in the trailer. I figure that’s fair. And of course I’ll observe all the rest of the fun along the way. 
The epigraph: “When destiny calls, the chosen have no choice.” Applying this to Anakin brings one to convoluted arguments as to what he was actually Chosen for. Applying it to Luke--well, he did hesitate before going to face Vader, and went anyway. Was that his choice? She may not be a Skywalker, but I’m betting it gets applied to Ahsoka here. 
Unfortunately I wasn’t able to watch this one live on the big screen like I’d hoped too, but I did enjoy the lush ocean views. The spindly bridges and tentacled Seperatist craft are pretty cool. The occasional establishing shot reminds me of the first views of Otah Gungah. 
The opening scene is a court in which the attendees are as ready to shout “Down with the Republic!” as they are to shout “Down with the Quarren!” or Mon Cals, as species determines. The whole episode is based on more Republic interference with planetary problems; the sharklike Seperatist ambassador is there to even the scales. (...Let’s try to keep that the only pun in an episode that started with “plunging the water planet Mon Calamari into disaster”.) Said shark ambassador is...well, a shark, and this could be the straw on the anthropomorphized camel’s back based on some of the alien designs we’ve had over the years. But if Ackbar is in the episode than OT homage has to count for something, and Ackbar is basically a large, suited salmon. Shark Ambassador is set apart from the others by a horizontal orientation and flippered legs that tend to be held right next to one another,  to look like one fish fin. 
I would feel like there’s political commentary in the way the Republic swoops in, bashes the Seperatists, and sends in troops to solve someone else’s civil war if it weren’t all portrayed so earnestly. Ackbar nearly comes to blows with Shark Man in the court, and there don’t seem to be any reporters there to send that back to Seperatist worlds labeled “proof that the Republic is unstable and morally corrupt”.  Despite there being “heroes on both sides”, the Republic heroes seem to see things as pretty black-and-white. But this is me trying to apply TCW to real-world political events, and the parallel is very imperfect). The prequels were never about saying that the Seperatists’ rage against the tax machine was justified, so TCW cannot be either. And remember, we’re on a show where the heroes are, ultimately, going to be on the wrong side... (maybe that’s the unaviodable destiny after all). 
I like the voice of the Mon Cal senator, and the no-nonsense way in which she says “that boy is the supreme commander of our military”.  The deserves some gravitas, or at least someone noticing that it’s unusual. On the other hand, Ackbar’s unswerving loyalty to tradition while he at the same time tries to be a mentor for the prince is sortof silly. 
This episode brings us to the biggest stash of ammo my anti-Clone Wars brigade may have ever found: “I do not believe the Quarren will attack.” Scene break. “Attack!” Scene break.“It’s an attack!” Really?! And this is played very seriously, with far too many drum-filled pauses and shots of scary robots to be supposed to be as funny as it unavoidably is. That’s it. Who wrote this? I’m throwing something at you. It’s going to be a copy of “Firefly”. You can watch it while you nurse your aching head.  (And yes, I caught the “it’s a trap” reference, thank you.) 
Okay, rest in peace, dialogue. Let’s go back to talking about the thing the trailer promised: fights and animation. Shark Man biting into his enemies was...despite the seemingly obvious...unexpected and frightening. The pipe break had some great detail in the bubbles and glass.
Previously mentioned aching writer does give us “They’re cheering for them,” “Then make it for you,” which is worth something. 
I can’t believe PMAW didn’t take ‘boy from Tatooine dying underwater’  as a chance for some “I hate sand”-type introspection. Instead we get Times Ashoka Saves Anakin’s Chosen Life: +1 . 
 I can tell that somebody put work into designing the Habitrail Mon Cal cities and the impressive, giant coral reefs.  The animation is commendable and the music was decent. The Chinese lantern-esque,  electric-type, half-robot half-jellyfish probably looked great on a big screen. The lighting in the cave is impressive, bringing out the lights in the mammals’ helmets and the Mon Cal’s eyes. But the dialogue is...pretty bad even for Clone Wars, and the action tended to be just...boring. Three-quarters of the way through “Water War” I’m beginning to wonder whether it’s worth sticking around for clones, the inevitable Kit Fisto grin, and more sickeningly heroic Ahsoka. 
I do love how not thrilled Obi-Wan sounds when Yoda suggests Gungans. 
There we go, a “boy from the desert planet” reference. Nice. 
And Kit’s mini-mission made this fangirl smile. A’right. 
The fighting in the second episode gets faster and more entertaining, and the brightness above the water was a shock. The four-way fight at the end was kinda cool, with Kit beating the heck out of Shark Man. I was amused for a moment by the idea of Ashoka being Genre Savvy enough to know that any mentor figure who says “I’ll hold them off” is doomed to die, although in this case, Kit’s got a Plot Shield

So, did the episodes live up to the trailers? We'll really have to wait until next week, but for now 

1.The animation was good, but couldn't drag the poor writing and slow plotting out of the depths...
2. the fight scenes, with few exceptions, lacked the panache of Tartakovsky's version, and...
3. Admiral Ackbar, well, he appeared. 

As the Mon Cal war was advertised as a trilogy, the cliffhanger isn’t all that cliffy. Doesn’t nearly everyone in this scene have a plot shield? It’s a plot bubble shield. Both NerdApproved and Fangirlblog recently put out lists of why people should watch Clone Wars, as if they know we need convincing, but I have to say that Water War/Gungan Attack was a bit...wait for it...washed up. 

6 comments:

  1. Nem, I just gotta say that I miss the creative, quirky, and truly alien creature designs of the films, as opposed to "this guy's a shark!".

    (Also the entire idea of "unavoidable destiny" bothers me on a philosophical level. Grah. TCW, please stop trying to be deep. Your forays into depth do not end well. Just keep doing what you're good at, which is battle scenes and lightsaber swinging.)

    TCW also needs to stop trying to be witty, because obviously its writers lack tact in that area. *massive facepalm moment*

    Fights and animation, TCW does them well and needs to stop pretending it can do other things well also. It really doesn't need anything else to attract its target demographic of a) males and b) Star Wars junkies.

    (TL;DR: Nem I missed ranting about/discussing TCW with you.)

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  2. Yeah, I was thinking about that. I mean yes, we do get Ackbar and the Wolfman in the OT. But we also get Ithorians and Talz and, heck, Twi'leks.

    However, I still shamelessly like Lurmen.

    (I can't say I wish TCW would stop trying to be deep, but when it does it just gets very...muddled. It's like they want to teach kids something but aren't sure what it is.)

    The fights in this one weren't even all that wonderful. >.<

    lol, I may be only one of those things in the target demographic, but I see what you mean. It aims for the lowest common denominator. If we really want to pick out gender roles then I guess this episode is actually pretty commendable: Ahsoka doesn't count but as stated I liked the Mon Cal senator (...she was sortof like Queen Elizabeth), and Padme had the one moment of prequels-illuminating wit in the whole thing. She ends up captured, but so does Kit.

    (Hehe likewise.)

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  3. I like how we have such double standards. "Unoriginal species are lame, except when we think they're cool."

    ("Muddled" is right. I honestly don't think Star Wars requires that kind of moralizing. The mythic genre as an entity already carries inherent morals about the eternal opposition between good and evil, and if one tries to bring more to that without having a very good understanding of what one is talking about, it cheapens the underlying theme almost to the point of illegitimization.)

    Ahsoka never counts. :P

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  4. LOL But Lurmen roll! Although I'm sure I double standard all over the place.

    (Exactly. They're inherent.)

    I swear, I eagerly away the day when I can exclude the "I Still Dislike Ahsoka" tag from a review of an episode with her in it. I swear...during watching this I wrote down one of her lines but didn't put it in the review because I honestly wasn't sure what to say about it. Someone asks her whether she's afraid to die, and she says “I used to be, until I realized that if you make decisions out of fear you’re more likely to be wrong.” What is that? I mean, yeah computers think based on the probability of being wrong, but people? Nah. It's almost like she's psychopathic. But then, Jedi are supposed to not be emotional...I just don't like to think of that as twisted. Your thoughts?

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  5. nice work in the review. I still haven't seen Clone Wars. These reviews make me wish I had.

    Oh the things I could say about dialogue...great job ripping it apart. And praising it. Alternately. :)

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  6. Thanks. Haha, Clone Wars is...worth looking at, I guess. XD

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