lazypadawan: (Default)
The droids and their leader Gascon are attempting to race back to the Republic with the encryption chip when fate strikes and leaves them marooned on a seemingly-barren planet.

Yes this is the second time this season that somebody ends up having to bail out on some planet but what happens here is very different from what happens with the young Jedi.

The humor and adventure from last episode are still there. The opening had to have been inspired by the original Star Tours ride when the ship comes out of hyperspace into the middle of a comet shower that buffets the ship. Then it rolls into scene inspired by TPM when Artoo and his droid buddies try to fix exterior damage.

Actually that latter scene keeps you on your seat even though you’re pretty sure Artoo’s going to make it . KT is almost swept out to space and it takes a droid lifeline to save them all.

Once the ship bails out on the planet, they realize it’s a giant salt flat where it seems like it’s always hot and sunny to boot. Gascon rather unwisely finishes his water as they trek out for help and quickly loses it when the situation seems hopeless. There’s a lot of talk back and forth between Gascon and WAC the pit droid about the difference between programming and training, as well as between “organics” and droids. Gascon sinks into despair when he realizes he can’t survive much longer, while WAC remains calm because he doesn’t have to worry about things like food, water, and shelter. Artoo and the others strike out on their own. But just as you wonder if this turned into some kind of dark yet humorous existential exercise, along come a stampede of native ostrich-like beasts. And if there are living things, there’s water. Gascon and WAC literally hitch a ride to water and what civilization has on that planet. (Artoo and Co. already beat them there.)

Credit the Clone Wars crew for delivering an entertaining, thoughtful episode that features only one character from the films and it doesn’t even speak English. I read on Big Shiny Robot this is the last Clone Wars for 2012, so we have to wait until next year to see how Gascon, Artoo, and friends complete their mission.
lazypadawan: (Default)
The finale of the Young Jedi arc begins with a terrific action sequence every bit as good as any you’ll find in the actual films. Ahsoka and the younglings who rescued her are on the run and the remaining Jedi novices on the ship attempt to rescue them. It doesn’t go very well, otherwise there would be nothing to do the remaining 15-20 minutes of the show. Meanwhile, General Grievous and friends take over the planet from Hondo’s pirate gang. Hondo and his gang realize quickly that Separatists will screw you over eventually, forcing them to rebuild an alliance with the Jedi.

The real point of this episode is to show that Hondo, in spite of his rather douche-y behavior of the past couple of weeks, has a heart. He’s trying to boost confidence in the young Jedi by asking them to turn on their new lightsabers and a minute later, he’s privately expressing to Ahsoka his reservations about having children fight. He takes to one of the kids, Katooni, and helps her overcome her doubts while she inspires him to do the right thing.

At the end of the episode, he seems to be the same old pirate, trying to extort money out of Obi-Wan and getting indignant when he’s met with skepticism. But then he nods at Katooni, an expression of friendship.

Ahsoka also gets to display her leadership and diplomatic skills, not to mention her capacity to forgive when it’s necessary. She is the one who convinces the pirates their chances are better as her allies rather than on their own. Without even thinking about it, she takes on Grievous to help her young charges escape.

Professor Huyang is back and he becomes a surrogate Threepio with Artoo, giving the episode an additional Star Wars movie feel. And looky here, it’s the Slave I, which we haven’t seen since the end of Season Three.

The end of the episode finds the Jedi Kids ready to take on the galaxy. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see them again, whether it’s in a future episode or on their own show.
lazypadawan: (Default)
The Young Jedi arc continues with a daring rescue attempt that puts the very young apprentices to the test.

Ahsoka is a prisoner of Hondo and his gang. While he figures out what to do with her, the junior padawans back on their ship use the Force to make their lightsabers in a cool mystical sequence. Afterwards, they decide whether or not to try and rescue Ahsoka. Obi-Wan dissuades them from trying but fate makes the decision for them because 1) General Grievous attacks Obi-Wan’s ship and Obi-Wan blows it up, costing the Republic another 80 trillion credits and 2) the younglings’ own ship needs to land because its thiga-majig is leaking and that could cause the ship to go kaboom as well. Why not land on the same planet where Ahsoka’s being held?

While there the kids run into a circus troupe on its way to entertain Hondo and Company. They convince the circus that they are acrobats. They must have seen “Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted,” where the zoo animals, on the lam from a crazed animal control officer, join a circus pretending they are performers. As Jedi they can certainly fake being acrobats. The circus troupe quickly accepts them. Once they got to Hondo’s HQ, the circus/rescue sequence was pretty funny and entertaining.

Ahsoka praises the kids for their crazy yet successful scheme, acknowledging it’s the sort of thing Anakin had taught her, that sometimes you have to bend the rules.

Grievous makes his first and only appearance this season, being his usual menacing self until things don’t go well and he cuts out, leaving his minions behind. Why did Obi-Wan warn him the ship was going to blow up? D’oh!

Hondo must really be hard up for cash if he’s willing to cross the Jedi to this degree just a short time after cooperating with them. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but his behavior toward Ahsoka veered between cruel (here have a drink…psyche!) and kinda creepy. Was it me or was he threatening to sell her as some kind of sex slave?

When the two Twi’lek circus girls lead Hondo into participating in the act, he jokes that he’s not young anymore. It’s a hilarious line and in fact, drunken Hondo was funny that whole sequence. Though it is a tad risque and grown up for the little kids this arc was supposedly targeting. Oh well.

I guess there’s one more to go in this arc, which I’m enjoying a lot more than I thought I would be.
lazypadawan: (Default)
Ahsoka leads a group of young Jedi to Ilum for their big moment...making their first lightsabers! There, the kidlets challenge themselves, face their fears, and learn valuable lessons.

Even though the lighting's dark and the music sounds scary at times, this episode definitely skews younger. The future victims of Order 66 are even younger than Ahsoka and adorable. Especially the Wookiee. Wookiees can't help but be cute.

At the secret Jedi Temple on Ilum--a nice carryover from the Clone Wars micro series--Yoda is waiting for the group and he instructs them to find their lightsaber crystals in a dark, cold cavern. They have to be out by the time the entrance freezes over. Apparently the right crystal is only visible to the individual Jedi. All Yoda and Ahsoka do is wait for the younglings to complete their task.

The human boy Petro (sp?) is rash and out for himself. He quickly splits off from the group, making you wonder how this kid ever cut it as a Jedi in the first place. He seems to find his crystal after a short search, only to find out it's a little piece of ice. Ha ha.

The Wookiee finds his crystal across a small lake filled with ice floes. He had to wait until the whole thing froze over to get it, forcing the Wookiee to struggle with patience.

The Ithorian kid, whose name seems to be "Biff," had to overcome his fear of the darkness in order to retrieve his crystal.

The Nautolan kid is a bit of a geek, relying on his gadgets to try and find the crystal, only to figure out he needed to trust the Force instead.

The Rodian girl had to find her crystal in a roomful of crystals.

Then there was the other girl who needed to overcome her panic to find the crystal. At first Petro, still desperately trying to find his crystal, wanted to leave her trapped behind a block of ice. What a jerk! But eventually guilt gets to him so he frees her and voila! He finds his crystal.

There are rumors they are considering a spinoff with these younglings that will appeal to a slightly younger viewership than Clone Wars. We'll have to see if that pans out but the younglings are interesting and at the very least, offer a new frontier of stories for Clone Wars.

Going over the episode trivia, there's a youngling patch designed for the show (sewn on the kids' clothing) and markings seen on Mortis are also on the Ilum temple walls.

Oh, and who couldn't love little Ahsoka?!! Big win on that one!!
lazypadawan: (Default)
Clone Wars, you are a cruel show.

The finale to the Onderon arc spares no one caught in its sights. And that’s just about everybody.

The episode begins with King Rash and his droid general regrouping after the rebels run off with the former king. Saw, being his impulsive self, wants to rush into Iziz and take the fight to them but the others, including Ahsoka, think it’s better for the safety of the civilian population to draw the droid army out of town. Remember Saw’s impulsiveness and aggression, everybody!

The droid army and rebels clash in the highlands in a battle somewhat reminiscent of “Avatar.” But because the rebels don’t have Michelle Rodriguez in a helicopter, the droid army is kicking their butt. Ahsoka dials Coruscant for help but officially the Jedi must respect the Prime Directive. Initially they order Ahsoka to withdraw and help the rebels escape. But then Anakin comes up with the idea of illegally purchasing weapons from Hondo (with whose money??).

Remember Anakin’s willingness to bend the rules and use underworld types to accomplish his goals, everybody! This whole operation’s his baby and he wants to make sure the rebels succeed.

Hondo delivers some rocket launchers, which help turn around the battle. But Lux and Steela are put into danger when Saw shoots down an enemy craft and the impact leaves them dangling off a cliff. Ahsoka rides in to save the day, rescuing Lux. But when she uses the Force to rescue Steela, Ahsoka is cruelly shot in the back (!!!), making her lose concentration and sending Steela to fall 1000 feet to her horrible death.

This whole operation ends up biting everybody in the rear. Saw recognizes Steela would have appreciated the sacrifice to restore the rightful king but he still blames himself. Lux loses his new girlfriend. Anakin and Obi-Wan had to get their hands dirty. Ahsoka got shot. King Rash is eventually betrayed by Dooku and his general.

Oh sure, the king is restored and Lux will become the new senator from Onderon, loyal to the Republic. Anakin thinks it all worked out great even with the losses of life and injuries. But none of it matters because it’s ALL A LIE!!! A liiiiiiieeeeeee!!!

Ahsoka once again got to shine in this episode. She accepts Lux’s burgeoning romance with Steela, even teasing him after Steela kisses him. Good thing too, now that Lux is a free man again. She desperately wants to do the right thing to help her new friends but is bound by the silly pretense that the Republic and the Jedi are “neutral” in this matter. She has to carry around the guilt of losing Steela. And she knows at the end that it all cost perhaps more than it was worth.

I told you this was too sophisticated for the pajamas and cereal hour.

The animation was spectacular; I loved the design of the flying creatures. The battle scenes were fantastic.

All in all a winner even though it is incredibly dark.
lazypadawan: (Default)
The third installment of the Onderon arc finds the rebels making their boldest move yet: save the former/true king before he is executed by the current King Rash (ha!). Throughout the episode, various characters must decide whether to follow “purpose” or their feelings, putting them in great moral dilemmas.

Saw breaks into the palace prison to spring the captive King Dendup (almost impulsively). Dendup is reluctant to run off with Saw because he’s not satisfied yet the rebels aren’t just a bunch of chaotic troublemakers. They still haven’t quite won over everyone. Dendup finds the Republic corrupt. When Saw mentions the insurrection has the approval of the Jedi, Dendup warms up to the rebel. But the trap is sprung and now Saw gets to be executed too. D’oh! At first Lux and his fellow rebels want to run out and save Saw, but Steela puts aside her impulse to save her brother and directs everyone to focus their efforts on saving Dendup.

Then there’s General Tandin, who’s working for Rash but starts to have second thoughts over the course of the episode. The droid general is cruel, cold, and unyielding. The king is well, a fink. At first Tandin believes Saw is just a terrorist but comes to understand that he and his crew are not after all. It is his actions, choosing to do the right thing, that save the day.

And finally we have Ahsoka, who cannot get involved beyond the limited parameters set by the Council. (It’s as this point Anakin tells Ahsoka to choose “purpose over feelings,” causing fans who know the Star Wars saga to burst into laughter.) What she decides to do at a crucial moment demonstrates she is what’s best about Anakin and Obi-Wan without what’s worst about them.

King Rash turns out to be the personification of 0% approval rating. He manages to totally blow whatever trust his people had in him with his cruelty.

Once again, Clone Wars pulls no punches when necessary. Here we have our first torture scene of Season Five, a rebel coldly murdered in a crowd, and the GFFA’s version of a guillotine.

All told, a great episode. I look forward to seeing how things wrap up next Saturday.
lazypadawan: (Default)
In this second part of the Onderon arc, a good chunk of “Front Runners” is devoted to action as the Jedi/Republic-advised rebels make their first big splash in the capital city of Isis.

Their attacks are a success, taking out several battle droids and their weapons. The insurgence proves to be serious, which is a good thing but also opens many other cans of worms. For one thing, it now has the attention of the Separatist-allied king, a mustache twirler who apparently is fine with a 0% approval rating. And it also gets the attention of an unhappy Count Dooku.

Another problem is figuring out where Onderon’s population stands with the rebels. It seems like anyone who disrupts the “status quo” is going to be viewed as threatening at first, but on the other hand the Separatist-allied monarchy doesn’t seem to be too popular either. After a while, some civilians start to openly support the rebels.

And yet another issue is the jostling for power within the rebellion. Obi-Wan notes that the rebel group needs a leader and it seems as though the frontrunners are not only embroiled in personal drama but also have differences in figuring out what the insurgency has to do in order to win broader support.

Obi-Wan, Rex, and Anakin leave Ahsoka behind with all of this to handle. With the action out of the way, it’s back to the love rectangle that turns out to be a triangle. I didn’t pick up the last episode that Saw is Steela’s brother and I’m guessing that Steela’s revelation at the end is meant to be a surprise. Anakin nudges Ahsoka again about staying focused and even drops a big hint when he says he understands her feelings (weirdly enough he does this while everybody is on a holo conference call…he didn’t think anybody would be paying attention I suppose). This surprises Ahsoka, but Anakin goes on with the “we all have to do our duty” spiel. Sure, whatever you say, Anakin.

At the end, the rebels choose Steela as their leader, which makes Saw angry, figuring he was the de facto leader anyway. It makes it clear why Saw was so annoyed with Lux in the first place: not only was Lux putting the moves on Saw’s sister, as the son of the former senator, Saw viewed Lux as a power rival. He probably didn’t think of Steela as a potential rival. Was the woman who suggested Steela as a leader a mole sent in to sow discord in the ranks or was she sincere? I thought it was a little odd the camera kind of stuck on her for a few beats before she said anything.

The animation was again spectacular, especially for the city background. Ahsoka is given yet another chance to advance her character, having to deal with new feelings and with the dynamics of this rebel group. I’m sure she will find a way to get everybody on the same page and put her feelings for Lux aside. It’s Clone Wars after all.

Two more parts to go with this arc. I’m sure the Separatists will be back and in greater numbers…
lazypadawan: (Default)
The first in a multi-part arc finds our heroes assisting an insurgence movement on Onderon (and on, and on, and on...). It's Anakin's bright idea to help pro-Republic rebels after Onderon's king decides to throw in with the Separatists.

The Council is reluctant, not wanting to get involved with "terrorism." Anakin convinces the Council to send him and Ahsoka as advisers there to train the rebels, so long as the weapons used are useful only against droids. Obi-Wan volunteers to supervise to keep Anakin and Ahsoka out of trouble. Rex comes along to train.

But Ahsoka quickly ends up in a bizarre love rectangle as she re-encounters Lux among the rebels. A female rebel named Steela also has the hots for Lux and she glowers at Ahsoka whenever her past association with Lux comes up. Whenever Lux flirts with Steela, it ticks off Ahsoka. The rebel leader apparently has the hots for Steela, so Lux ticks him off. To get back at Steela and Lux, the rebel leader guy gets a little chummy with Ahsoka. Matt Lanter must've felt right at home because this was like a "90210" episode. After a while Anakin notices this is having an effect on Ahsoka when he asks her if she's losing focus.

Lightsaber Rattling had an interesting theory that this season will test the issue of attachment with Ahsoka, Anakin, and Obi-Wan. Ahsoka's relationship with Lux is the focus here first. We know eventually Anakin and Padmé will meet up with Clovis, reigniting Anakin's jealousy of Padmé's ex. Satine's relationship with Obi-Wan might come up again later in the season. We'll have to see if it pans out but it makes sense.

Anakin unwittingly creates the template for the Rebel Alliance though it remains to be seen if any of these characters survive to be part of that Alliance against the Empire later on. It would not be surprising if Lux for example were to get involved, trusting neither the Republic nor the Separatists. But the reaction of the Council is interesting. They've already embroiled themselves in a war, putting themselves in a position they were never comfortable with in the first place. Now they're just not outwardly liberating planets that don't want to be invaded by the Seps, they are trying to undermine and overthrow governments that don't swing the Republic's way. Anakin is a smart tactician but his militaristic way of thinking is out-of-whack with the Jedi's navel-gazing tendencies.

It is also interesting to note that in the Empire years, Yoda never gets himself involved in the war. Obi-Wan never really did either, save for his spectral advice or his escapades on the Death Star and that was a rescue mission of Anakin's progeny. Yoda doesn't insist that Luke take him back to Rebel leadership so he can join in the fight. His only focus is on the Sith. It could be the Clone Wars and what happens with this insurgency on Onderon left a permanent yucky taste in his mouth, even if it meant helping the good guys. Of course taking out the Sith was the key to winning overall.

The animation on this episode blew me away. I'm just impressed with what they can do every season.
lazypadawan: (Clone Wars Crew)
Originally this was not going to be the season premiere episode but it turned out to be a good idea to start season 5 with “Revival,” since it ties up the Darth-Maul-Returns arc and sets things up for the next stage of his involvement on the show.

Maul and Savage are on the loose, causing trouble. They realize they need more than lightsaber skillz; they need money and minions. But Savage, who’s not really a Sith, is focused on the “Wow, money” part of it while Maul, who is an awesomely trained Sith, is focused on getting revenge on Obi-Wan. It doesn’t take long for Maul to make it clear who’s going to be the boss. With that little understanding, Maul and Savage offer to pay off a crew of Hondo Ohnaka’s pirates to join them. They head out to Hondo’s HQ on a planet called Florrum to take over.

However, Obi-Wan and Adi Gallia are hot on the horned hermanos’ trail. In fact when the Jedi arrive on Florrum, Maul’s upset because it’s too soon in the game. Maul and Savage are forced to drop everything to fight Obi-Wan and Adi Gallia. Unfortunately for Miss Gallia, Savage manages to kill her. I think the expanded universe had a different ending for her, so expect the usual outrage over “continuity.” In any case, it explains why Gallia was nowhere to be seen in ROTS.

Obi-Wan and Hondo must become allies to survive the “horny-headed maniacs” and a pirate gang insurrection happening at the same time. Obi-Wan manages to battle both baddies with his lightsaber and Gallia’s, maiming Savage in the process. It’s cool because you can see the wispy green magic smoke when both Savage and Maul are injured. Remember, both had been healed by Mother Talzin’s dark magic.

While Savage and Maul live to fight another day during sweeps, both of them (especially Maul) realize their plans for revenge and galactic domination weren’t going to come easy. Maul overestimated his ability to intimidate unknown quantities like pirates into permanent loyalty, since Hondo was able to win back his men. Obi-Wan might have had to flee the last time but he’s still a powerful enemy. If you ask me, the luckiest break Maul has had all along is that Obi-Wan never seemed to have Anakin around during their confrontations. Now both he and Savage are broke, alone, and without Talzin around to use her hocus pocus.

At the end of the episode, Obi-Wan briefs Yoda, Mace Wind, Anakin, and Palpatine on what had happened on Florrum. Palpatine pooh-poohs the danger Maul and Savage present, basically saying, “Aww, just leave him alone, he’s no big deal.” Yoda dismisses Maul as just a personal vendetta and figures Dooku’s the real problem. I say, why doesn’t this make Palpatine look suspicious to anybody? The show ends with Palpatine leaning on his desk, sneering wickedly to himself. TFN’s Eric Geller seems to think Palpatine/Sidious is fine with Maul and Savage causing trouble and tarnishing the Jedi’s reputation. It is interesting to note that many of the “regular” folks who had encountered the destructive duo thought they were Jedi.

Maybe so, but as those preview clips revealed, Sidious ends up confronting the two of them. I think he pushed the Jedi out of the way so he could deal with them himself when the time was right. The last thing Sidious really wants is a former apprentice going rogue, violating the Sith Rule of Two, and mucking up his plans. Especially since Maul could very well tell somebody, “Guess what? The Chancellor’s really another Sith and this whole war’s phony!” Maul hasn’t shown any desire to be loyal to anyone but himself.

The animation rocks and the music was fantastic. Hondo is becoming the show’s resident Lovable Rogue, kind of like a Jack Sparrow without the drugs. He got all of the best lines too.

It always seems like five years passes in between seasons, so seeing fresh Clone Wars on t.v. again is a welcome thing indeed. Seeing it on Saturday mornings will take some getting used to. We’ll see if it sticks.
lazypadawan: (Default)
Originally this was not going to be the season premiere episode but it turned out to be a good idea to start season 5 with “Revival,” since it ties up the Darth-Maul-Returns arc and sets things up for the next stage of his involvement on the show.

Maul and Savage are on the loose, causing trouble. They realize they need more than lightsaber skillz; they need money and minions. But Savage, who’s not really a Sith, is focused on the “Wow, money” part of it while Maul, who is an awesomely trained Sith, is focused on getting revenge on Obi-Wan. It doesn’t take long for Maul to make it clear who’s going to be the boss. With that little understanding, Maul and Savage offer to pay off a crew of Hondo Ohnaka’s pirates to join them. They head out to Hondo’s HQ on a planet called Florrum to take over.

However, Obi-Wan and Adi Gallia are hot on the horned hermanos’ trail. In fact when the Jedi arrive on Florrum, Maul’s upset because it’s too soon in the game. Maul and Savage are forced to drop everything to fight Obi-Wan and Adi Gallia. Unfortunately for Miss Gallia, Savage manages to kill her. I think the expanded universe had a different ending for her, so expect the usual outrage over “continuity.” In any case, it explains why Gallia was nowhere to be seen in ROTS.

Obi-Wan and Hondo must become allies to survive the “horny-headed maniacs” and a pirate gang insurrection happening at the same time. Obi-Wan manages to battle both baddies with his lightsaber and Gallia’s, maiming Savage in the process. It’s cool because you can see the wispy green magic smoke when both Savage and Maul are injured. Remember, both had been healed by Mother Talzin’s dark magic.

While Savage and Maul live to fight another day during sweeps, both of them (especially Maul) realize their plans for revenge and galactic domination weren’t going to come easy. Maul overestimated his ability to intimidate unknown quantities like pirates into permanent loyalty, since Hondo was able to win back his men. Obi-Wan might have had to flee the last time but he’s still a powerful enemy. If you ask me, the luckiest break Maul has had all along is that Obi-Wan never seemed to have Anakin around during their confrontations. Now both he and Savage are broke, alone, and without Talzin around to use her hocus pocus.

At the end of the episode, Obi-Wan briefs Yoda, Mace Wind, Anakin, and Palpatine on what had happened on Florrum. Palpatine pooh-poohs the danger Maul and Savage present, basically saying, “Aww, just leave him alone, he’s no big deal.” Yoda dismisses Maul as just a personal vendetta and figures Dooku’s the real problem. I say, why doesn’t this make Palpatine look suspicious to anybody? The show ends with Palpatine leaning on his desk, sneering wickedly to himself. TFN’s Eric Geller seems to think Palpatine/Sidious is fine with Maul and Savage causing trouble and tarnishing the Jedi’s reputation. It is interesting to note that many of the “regular” folks who had encountered the destructive duo thought they were Jedi.

Maybe so, but as those preview clips revealed, Sidious ends up confronting the two of them. I think he pushed the Jedi out of the way so he could deal with them himself when the time was right. The last thing Sidious really wants is a former apprentice going rogue, violating the Sith Rule of Two, and mucking up his plans. Especially since Maul could very well tell somebody, “Guess what? The Chancellor’s really another Sith and this whole war’s phony!” Maul hasn’t shown any desire to be loyal to anyone but himself.

The animation rocks and the music was fantastic. Hondo is becoming the show’s resident Lovable Rogue, kind of like a Jack Sparrow without the drugs. He got all of the best lines too.

It always seems like five years passes in between seasons, so seeing fresh Clone Wars on t.v. again is a welcome thing indeed. Seeing it on Saturday mornings will take some getting used to. We’ll see if it sticks.
lazypadawan: (Default)
“Seriously, primetime Emmys, what does #clonewars have to do?” said the cri de coeur Tweet from executive producer Cary Silver after the show got snubbed for the fifth time in today’s nominations.

I wonder the same thing myself and maybe, as speculated before, the awards people felt they owed Clone Wars no more after the microseries won a couple of times, even though it’s a completely different program.

But I strongly suspect it’s another issue and it’s one that’s more noticeable when you see what does get nominated and what doesn’t, in spite of quality or popularity.

You see, in t.v. there’s the cool kids table with all of the programs that are “sexy,” “hot,” “edgy,” and “buzzworthy.” These are the shows that get written about a lot, the stars become celebrities, other celebrities follow the program and issue commentary via Twitter, professional geeks give the stamp of approval, that get upfront treatment from the folks at Television Without Pity, and critics largely based in L.A. and Manhattan give their hosannas to. Those shows include “Modern Family,” “Downton Abbey,” “Game Of Thrones,” “Family Guy,” “Girls,” “Adventure Time,” “Mad Men,” “The Walking Dead,” etc..

Then there are the quality shows or longtime favorites that get none of this attention, like Clone Wars. Why? Clone Wars isn’t quirky, weird, overly violent, sexual, or full of vulgarity. It doesn’t boast a fan base that includes Rhianna or Katy Perry. “Downton Abbey” managed to acquire a big A-list fan base even though it’s about as edgy as a butter knife. It’s a glaring exception. Otherwise, I’ll put it plainly; critics like things that push the envelope when it comes to sex, violence, and cursing. They and the Emmy people like shows that reflect their value system and the way they see the world, and it’s very different from how most of regular folks (not pop culture junkies) see things.

Take “NCIS,” the most popular drama on t.v.. Way more people watch that show than anything on AMC or HBO. I read last year that the t.v. actress with the highest Q score (Q scores measure a personality’s likability with the public) was Pauley Perrette, who plays audience favorite Abby Scuitto. The top 10 had three other stars from the show. Yet somebody like Sofia Vegara is way more visible in ads, celebrity media, etc.. “NCIS” has never been nominated for anything as far as I know. Now I realize popular doesn’t always mean quality but the fact it’s been popular for a pretty long period of time might indicate some level of quality, wouldn’t you think? But it doesn’t matter. “NCIS” isn’t popular with hipsters or Upper West Side types. A good portion of its audience is outside of the coveted 18-35 market, it attracts a lot of eyeballs in Middle America, and it’s just a little too pro-military/pro-law enforcement for the t.v. critics. So it gets ignored.

For my money, “The Middle” is the funniest sitcom on t.v.. But it’s as though the Emmy people figure there’s room for only one family-related sitcom and they loooove “Modern Family.” I think “Modern Family” is funny, though it’s mostly the chubby gay fella and the blonde who provide the laughs. Vegara’s voice and exaggerated Latinaisms annoy the CRAP out of me. “Modern Family” finds favor with the critics, the media, and the awards people because it reflects their world. The “family” lives in a wealthy L.A. neighborhood and consists of a grandpa who’s married to a much younger “hot babe” with a young son, a gay couple with an adopted Asian daughter, and a “regular” couple with a spoilt bratty princess and a Lisa Simpson for daughters. That’s pretty much everybody in the upper echelons of the entertainment industry circle with a nice dollop of “diversity.” On the other hand “The Middle” takes place in nowheresville Indiana, the (intact) family lives in a perpetually messy house with grossly outdated “décor,” they love junk food and fancy is an all-you-can-eat buffet restaurant, and the kids are more like actual people I’ve known than the usual kids/teens you see on t.v.. Hey, I’ve been friends with girls like the delightfully dorky Sue Heck. For people who say they’re with the 99%, they sure don’t relate very well to a show that really does depict how 99% of us live or have lived at one point or another. “The Middle” was totally ignored again like Clone Wars even though the young gal who plays Sue, Eden Sher, is probably the best comedic actress on t.v. right now.

Getting back to Clone Wars, it is true that it has picked up a little more press in the past couple of years but it’s not a show that Vogue or Us Weekly is telling its readers it needs to be watching. It’s barely on the geek/nerd radar—its faves are “Thrones,” “Walking Dead,” “Adventure Time,” and the McFarlane library. Kids love the show but Emmy voters don’t poll them. And you know they certainly don’t care about Star Wars fans.

It is possible there’s animosity toward Lucas mixed in there and it may very well be a reason why The Right People aren’t boosting the show. If that’s the case, well, there’s nothing we can do to change that.
lazypadawan: (savage)
Spring has sprung, the flowers are blooming, the grass is growing, and the Easter Bunny is on his way, which generally means another season of Clone Wars is in the can.

Even though there isn’t an official release yet saying that Cartoon Network has renewed CW, there is a fifth season underway and I don’t see why it wouldn’t be back in September. I think everyone would have loved to see a trailer for the next season but that may be why one wasn’t shown at the end of last week’s episode.

Overall, I think Season Four was in many ways the strongest and most consistent yet. The animators keep pushing the envelope, making the environment of the show look as photorealistic as possible in spite of the stylized look of the characters. There are many shots now almost indistinguishable from a visual effects scene from any one of the films. Not only are they just trying to make it look cool, there’s genuine attention paid to make the show look cinematic. “Lighting” and editing are often used to optimum effect. As I said a year ago, they need to shackle Joel Aron to the floor and make sure he never leaves! Matthew Wood’s sound work is as great as always. No one can say that at least in terms of animation, sound, voice acting, and design, they don’t try very hard. These guys genuinely care about putting out the best product possible.

The stories this season relied less on one-shots and more on multiple-episode arcs. So far the format seems to work, allowing for strong storytelling in the Umbaran arc, the Slaves of the Republic arc, etc.. Who ever thought you could wrench so much emotion out of an entire cast of characters NOT from the movies and an evil, corrupt Jedi? Who ever thought they could do a prison break series with Obi-Wan or successfully adapt one of the Clone Wars comics? One thing that is noteworthy though is the overall tone of the season was dark, with the exception of the two episodes with the droids. The stuff with Ahsoka and Lux would be light-hearted had it not been for the Mandalorians killing innocent villagers and Ahsoka’s impressive quadruple decapitation.

At various points earlier in the season, I kept wondering how close we were to the events of ROTS and how much longer Clone Wars had to go. Would it be all over in two more seasons? Then came the final two episodes with Darth Maul’s return. If I’m not mistaken, background on those episodes says that Maul had been on Lotho Minor for 10 years, meaning very little time has passed since AOTC! Not even a year! Don’t start counting on having your fall/winter Friday nights free just yet.

There were some creaky moments and some odd gaps in logic but those are minor things and every t.v. show has them. There are a few things though that are my main points for improvement:

1) Anakin needs some Chosen One moments each season. The Mortis arc did that last year, while this year...not so much. In fact, Anakin wasn’t featured very much outside of the season opener and the Slaves of the Republic arc. This guy is supposed to be the most powerful dude ever and at times I think the writers kind of forget that. He’s not just some random Jedi who can get it handed to him easily.

2) For the second season in a row, Anakin and Padme’s relationship is barely acknowledged. Sure, they hang out on a couple of missions but they can’t do much in front of other characters. The frustration of being together but not really being together is never even addressed! Again, it’s one of those pesky details the writers often forget. Uh, they do remember Padme gets pregnant at some point for some reason, don’t they?

3) Details like those noted in 1 and 2 often fall by the wayside due to the exuberance for fanservice. Maul’s return could work if he is put to good use as a catalyst. But is it really necessary to keep dropping in cult favorites? Is there anyone who doesn’t need to get some face time in the series just to generate some buzz? Have you ever noticed they’d rather do 10 episodes on bounty hunters than spend more than fifteen seconds on Anakin’s character development?

Oh yes, one more...please refrain from further professional fanboy basher guest spots.
lazypadawan: (badromance)
Clone Wars wraps up Season Four with its darkest, most violent finale to date.

Savage brings Maul back to Dathomir, where Mother Talzin uses her hocus pocus to refit Maul with new mechanical legs--originated in the comics and now immortalized in a Sideshow Collectibles statue--and heal him psychologically, so that he is some semblance of his old self. Maul is focused on one thing and that is revenge against Obi-Wan. So off Maul goes with Savage to draw out the attention of the Jedi. They land on a lollipop planet where Maul murders children and sends out a snuff holo where he decapitates several hostages. He is still one evil mo-fo.

Mace Windu suggests they send out a team to capture Maul. Really?! Were they planning to put him in the same prison Obi-Wan, Cad Bane, Boba Fett, etc. escaped from a few weeks ago?? But Obi-Wan insists he has to go alone. I suppose Anakin was on scheduled vacation. Yoda shrugs and says, "Fine." Once Obi-Wan leaves the room, Yoda reassures Mace that someone will help him.

Meanwhile, there's a price on Savage's head and several bounty hunters slobber at the idea of tackling this guy for some reason. Asajj Ventress coolly reassures them she's the girl for the job.

Well, the inevitable happens and Obi-Wan encounters Maul again. Interestingly enough, DOTF wasn't used but I guess they thought that might be a little on-the-nose. Here's the song that kept running through my head during the fight scenes:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EAwWPadFsOA

Obi-Wan gets some good lines in there, i.e. "the last time I cut you in half, I should have aimed at the neck" and "I like your new legs...they make you taller." (Not exact quotes.) Even though he is a Master, he's still at a disadvantage being trapped on a ship with Maul and eventually Savage attacking him. It is after all the Season of Pain, and Obi-Wan is contractually obligated to get his butt kicked. But looky here, Asajj has snuck onto the ship and she jumps in to save her long-time crush. Of course, there's more than that. Not only is this episode about Maul's revenge, it's about Ventress's revenge against Savage. Realizing they're not about to beat the gruesome two-some, Asajj and Obi-Wan (who learned about escaping from Asajj, heh heh) flee in an escape pod. Well, that will fuel some interesting fan fic! Maul and Savage are left to stare off into space, vowing to return during ratings sweeps.

The only clue we've had on Maul's unlikely survival was that his hate kept him alive and I suppose he might have snuck off of Naboo on a trash ship. There's a part of me that's still screaming, "Fanservice!" But I have to say this episode made the most of having Maul back. If you think about it, this really messes things up not only for Obi-Wan and the Jedi, but the Sith as well. Sidious has moved on to a new apprentice. Maul knows Sidious's plans. Could there be not only a conflict with the Obi-Wan in the future, but with the Sith as well?

The animation was top-notch. Obi-Wan's hair gets messy during the fight and you can tell he's been hit in the eye by the way his face looks at the end of the battle. The lollipop planet was reminiscent of Felucia.

Witwer sounded more like the movie Maul this episode. His performance was really good. Nika Futterman's Ventress was fantastic and James Arnold Taylor was as funny as always while doing Obi-Wan.

But you know what was the only disappointment with last night's finale? No preview of Season Five! What's up with that?

I'll have an overview of Season Four soon.
lazypadawan: (savage)
Years ago, I saw ads on t.v. for a comedy film called "Soapdish," which was about the behind-the-scenes antics of a soap opera. In it, Whoopi Goldberg is ranting about a previously decapitated character who must be brought back from the dead. Thanks to the IMDB, I've found the exact quote here:

"The guy was killed in an auto accident! I looked it up! He was driving in the Yukon, in a pink convertible, to visit his brother who's an ex-con named Frances, when a tractor trailer comes along and decapitates him. You know what that mean, it means he doesn't have a head. How am I suppose to write for a guy who doesn't have a head? He's got no lips, no vocal cords. What do you want me to do?"

Okay, so Darth Maul wasn't decapitated in TPM, but I'd consider bisection by lightsaber followed by a free fall into a bottomless pit to be almost as impossible to survive. Yes, even for a Sith Lord. But death is never final if you're a bad guy with a following.

This episode doesn't explain how Maul survives, much less offer an explanation as to how the hell he got his upper half off of Naboo unnoticed and wound up on that garbage dump planet. But Anakin feels it early on as do Ventress, Dooku, and Yoda. Somehow, Obi-Wan missed the Force Disturbance Memo and must be told at the end that he left the job "half done." *Rimshot.*

Savage Oppress is first seen choking somebody in a restaurant. Then, still possessing Mother Talzin's amulet (she seems to be doing okay, wherever she's hiding), he figures he is getting close. He hijacks a ship that takes him to Lotho Minor, one giant dump of a planet. Naturally, he kills the pilot.

Savage travels through the wreckage, dodging firebreathing walking mechanical beasts, hacking up the Jawa-like junkers, dodging acid rain, and meeting up with a talking snake once the power on his amulet cuts out. The snake tells Savage about something that lives underground and eats whatever falls down there. He betrays Savage, sending him down a trap door in hopes of getting some of the leftovers.

As you probably guessed, the mystery geek below is none other than Maul. He looks terrible. He has eight mechanical legs like a spider, his upper body is emaciated, his horns are long, and he's totally cray. Maul rants and shrieks like that crazed American Airlines flight attendant. Not exactly a happy family reunion.

The animation and overall atmosphere of this episode were fantastic, from the urban restaurant to the creepy world of Lotho Minor. Sam Witwer was hired to be Crazy!Maul and he pulls it off really well. It was a good idea keeping him on the Rolodex. Seeing Maul attached to the monstrous mechanical spider legs was disturbing. He's become monstrous, though it looks like he is retooled with the Sideshow Collectibles two-legged model next week.

I'm not really sure what Ahsoka and Anakin were doing in this episode, coincidentally dropping by the galactic Denny's that Savage terrorized moments beforehand. Yoda felt Maul way across the galaxy. Ahsoka and Anakin didn't really need to be there other than to cash in on free food. It's never explained why Savage was choking the female in the restaurant in the first place. Maybe he was upset there was no vegan menu.

We'll see how Maul's story unfolds next week and in subsequent episodes. Because there hasn't been any explanation yet as to why Maul survived, I'm still out on whether I buy it or not.

Next week: The Season Four Finale!
lazypadawan: (devil)
As noted on Facebook and Twitter, I did not watch the Oscars. So it was this morning when I got wind of something Chris Rock had said during the show about voice actors. In summary, Rock was presenting for one of the animation awards and he went on a riff about how easy it was to voice an animated film, where you just sound like yourself and they throw millions of dollars at you.

This annoyed many professional voice actors. As Clone Wars's James Arnold Taylor posted on his Facebook:

Okay to sum up my thoughts on the Chris Rock joke at the Oscars. The sad truth is what he said is true... for him that is how VO works. They hire celebrities to sound like themselves and they do pay them about 99.9% more than us. It's my hope that through things like my stage show I can show people what real VO work looks like for the many amazing folks that do it daily. It is an art and it should be recognized as that... not as a punch line for the super rich "artist elite" at their awards show that still required talents like Tom Kane and Melissa Disney to announce all of them.

It's true. Known stars are hired for the big feature animated films and they are hired to sound just like themselves so that you know you're hearing Chris Rock or whomever. They're not hired as much for their vocal skills as they are for pure marquee value. Hollywood thinks you're more likely to see "The Lorax" if it starred Danny DeVito, Taylor Swift, and Zac Efron than if it starred voice talents you wouldn't know by name unless you read the credits at the end of a Cartoon Network show.

Now there are exceptions. For example, Johnny Depp actually played a character in "Rango" instead of just sounding like himself or worse yet, riffing off a character we're already familiar with. But for the most part the personality hired is the personality as an animated turtle, giant robot, or Ninja warrior. So while that person must have some acting ability to be able to read the lines right, it's not the same thing that people like Taylor or Kane have to do just to do an episode of Clone Wars. The latter are hired to sound like anyone BUT themselves. To be able to create a unique voice (or to sound like an established character) and act takes a lot of skill. The best in the field make it seem effortless but that's not without years of professional experience.

Because most top-tier celebrities have little to no contact with professional voice actors, it's a part of the business that's easy for them to overlook. After all, voice actors don't get acknowledged outside of the Annies. Even the animated Emmy awards go to guest stars who of course sound just like themselves. And for the celebrities who have done voice over work, it might seem like Casual Friday since it's not 15-hour days of hair, makeup, shooting, and re-shooting for five weeks.

It's pretty typical for people who live in their Hollyweird bubble. Not only are they unable to relate to anyone outside of their world, they can't even relate to other professionals toiling away in the same industry.
lazypadawan: (badromance)
Take voodoo and zombies, then toss them in a blender with Star Wars and you get "Massacre."

Asajj Ventress returns to Dathomir to take her place among the Nightsisters, the cult of dark magic from which she'd originated. They do some ooga-booga ceremony to welcome Ventress back into the fold. Just as there might be some lesbian come-on during the party to celebrate ("I am honored to have you as a sister"), General Grievous and the Separatists attack. Dooku wants Ventress and her friends killed.

What follows is basically one long battle. Even with Mother Talzin's powers, Ventress's lightsaber skills and use of the Force, and the battle skills of the Nightsisters, they are hopelessly outnumbered and outgunned. (Astute viewers have noted the return of Lok Durd's defoliator weapon.) Talzin goes to this crone and asks for her help. The crone figures the easiest way to find reinforcement is to simply reanimate the dead. That's right, people. Zombies. I guess the Nightsisters store their dead in these big sacks and hang them from trees, because that's from where the dead start rising to kick some butt.

Meanwhile, Talzin decides to put her Marie Laveaux skills to work on Count Dooku, who is supervising from a ship up in space. Soon Dooku is writhing in pain and breaking out in acne. It's kind of interesting to see that not even a powerful Sith can deflect good old fashioned voodoo. The Jedi Order should have just moved to New Orleans or Haiti.

But interestingly enough, the real game changer in this episode is General Grievous. In previous seasons he was almost a comedic villain, running away just as it got too hot in the kitchen. Remember the Grievous of the Clone Wars microseries? He's back. Grievous is utterly brutal and he wins a victory for the Separatists. He slays the Nightsister crone, ending the zombie rampage. He stops Talzin and ends Dooku's suffering, though it's not exactly clear to me if she's dead or simply took ethereal form. The Nightsister clan is decimated, leaving Ventress alone and injured, running for her life. She pleads with Talzin's green misty form but is left on her own.

Poor Ventress. The gal can't find her place in the universe and whenever she tries, it's ripped out from under her. She is taken from the Nightsisters as a child. Her Jedi mentor is killed. She tries her hand at being a Sith and that doesn't work out. She tries to go home and it ends with the clan wiped out. It adds pathos to her pathology.

(There are Nightsisters remaining in "The Courtship of Princess Leia" and other expanded universe sources that take place years later, so I guess they're not all gone. Just Ventress's crew.)

The animation is of course, fantastic as always. Not everyone is going to buy the traditional use of magic or voodoo in Star Wars. I kind of figured the Force was supposed to take the place of that stuff which was why I thought using magic in last year's Nightsisters arc was a little iffy. Could it be just another way of using the Force? I guess so. *Shrug.* If Pops says it's okay that sorcery co-exists with the Force, then it's okay if Katie Lucas can write it into the show.

Next time: Ventress tries her hand at bounty hunting. I guess getting a real job isn't her thing.
lazypadawan: (Default)
Remember when I said they have to have the sales skills of someone hawking sand in the desert to get me to buy Darth Maul's resurrection?

"Hello, I am Ali Filoni! Would you like to buy this nice pile of sand as a souvenir of Tatooine?"

"Uhh...ten bucks, right?"

Here's the season finale trailer for Clone Wars, in case you're one of 10 people who haven't seen it yet:

http://www.usatoday.com/life/comics/story/2012-02-23/Darth-Maul-debuts-in-Star-Wars-Clone-Wars/53221760/1
lazypadawan: (Default)
What a year it’s been for Darth Maul. He’s been partying down like it’s 1999 all over again, with his mug plastered on Star Wars goodies, TPM back in theaters, and his triumphant return to the GFFA on Clone Wars this spring. There’s a new short story about him in the re-issued TPM novelization and there’s this book aimed at pre-teens. Ryder Windham has written similar books about other characters like Luke, Obi-Wan, and Vader/Anakin. (Please tell me why they never write about female characters?)

Most of the book looks back at Darth Maul’s life, combining elements introduced recently with Jude Watson’s Darth Maul book from 2000. In a way, it’s a companion to “Darth Plagueis,” filling in details on what exactly Sidious was doing with Maul, what was Maul told, and whether he was a Sith. As with Watson’s earlier book, one can’t help but feel a little sorry for young Maulsy. The kid was abused physically and psychologically from the get-go. He was like a pit bull mistreated and beaten as he was trained at the same time to be a killer.

But just when you think you’re going soft on the fellow, there’s a breaking point in the book where there’s no turning back. When Maul reaches 7 or 8 years old, he is taken from his hideaway on Mustafar and brought to a military academy to hone his skills. There he befriends—sort of—a female cadet. After several years, Maul has an encounter with Mother Talzin and the Nightsisters. They attempt to bring him “home.” Sidious figures out that a Mandalorian instructor at the academy snitched and to ensure nobody else ever discovers Maul’s true identity (and thereby protecting Sidious as well), Sidious orders Maul to kill everyone at the school. It’s very similar to what happens to Anakin in ROTS, only Maul shows zero remorse even when he is faced with killing his friends.

The last part of the book is basically “TPM According To Darth Maul,” and it throws in a long side adventure with him battling some pirates. It seems kind of pointless until the incident causes an injury that explains why Maul couldn’t defeat Qui-Gon the first time.

“The Wrath of DM” is quite violent and very entertaining to read. If you enjoyed “Darth Plagueis,” you’ll enjoy reading this too even though it’s not quite as epic in scale.

Okay, now if you don’t want to be spoiled for the upcoming Clone Wars episodes do NOT read any further.

Spoilers ahead! You’ve been warned! Turn back now! )
lazypadawan: (Default)
The four part arc with Obi-Wan going undercover starts out being like a heist movie with all of the bounty hunters making their final plans to abduct Palpatine. Everything is planned to a "t," complete with holo disguises that are the kind of thing you'd find in a sci-fi film from the late '80s or '90s. Dooku promises if the operation's a success, the bounty hunters will get enough credits so they'll never have to work again. Really? Sign me up! Dooku sniffs something different about "Rako" and he tells Cad Bane to keep an eye on him.

Palpatine is returning home to celebrate The Festival Of Light with Padmé and the current Queen. Anakin, Ahsoka, and Mace Windu accompany the Supreme Chancellor, who's not happy about being shadowed by the Jedi. Obi-Wan, assigned as a sniper, is reporting back to Mace what's going on. But as Palpatine kicks off the fireworks show, it ends up with 'splosions, injuries, a ticked off Anakin, and Palpatine unconscious. The disguised bounty hunters switch identities, allowing them to get away with Palpatine.

Then everything changes. The episode is no longer about a simple kidnapping plot and is about The Bigger Picture. Finally we see Anakin furious over the Council's actions and angry at Obi-Wan. He wonders what else the Council has kept from him and from Obi-Wan. After Palpatine is rescued, he leads Anakin to a banquet nobody told Anakin about, only to find Count Dooku chillin' alone in the room. "It's a trap!" Palpatine says, but the trap isn't for him, it's for Anakin. Remember...Dooku does nothing without working in tandem with Sidious. This whole exercise serves to further break down the Jedi's moral code, to create intrigue, confusion, and division. Anakin's anger is stoked and Dooku further damages Anakin's ego by telling Obi-Wan he's a worthy adversary, but basically telling Anakin he sucks.

As I noted in a Tweet to someone, it's all cogs within wheels.

A couple of side notes. There were some cute glances between Anakin and Padmé but even though they've been hanging out together more, there's been virtually no romance with them this season. Based on Clone Wars, one would think Padmé got pregnant with a turkey baster. I'm not asking for bow chicka wow-wow here, just...something. On that note, have you noticed the casual way Anakin and Padmé trade off Ahsoka, like she's their daughter and Ahsoka doesn't realize it? It's like Artoo, Threepio, and Ahsoka are their first three children.

Next time: I have no idea!

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