Just forget the words and sing along

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Netflix Nonsense - Star Wars: The Clone Wars

Welcome back to Netflix Nonsense!  In my efforts to get my $8 worth, I tend to sit down and blog about whatever I recently viewed on Netflix.  And, geek that I am, I figured it was finally time to tackle that beloved Star Wars spin-off, Star Wars: The Clone Wars.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars movie poster

With the Star Wars prequel trilogy coming to a close, George Lucas figured he needed some way to keep his #1 franchise and money-maker going.  Between Episode II and Episode III, the Cartoon Network, and under the guidance of famed animator Genndy Tartakovsky, Lucasfilm produced a micro-series called Star Wars: Clone Wars.  The series followed the adventures of Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi as they fought in the Clone Wars between those two films.

As it was a critical and ratings success, Lucas decided to turn it into a full-blown regular series, made with cutting-edge computer animation.  Work began, and it was slated for a fall 2008 release on the Cartoon Network.

But upon watching some of the early animation projected on a big screen, George Lucas said, "We should edit the first 4 episodes together into a movie and stick this in theatres."

And so he did.  Star Wars: The Clone Wars hit theatres on August 15, 2008.  And upon coming out of the theatre on that day, after seeing the movie, I said, "You know what, Star Wars?  I think you and I need to take a break."

There's no denying it.  The movie sucks.  It sucked so much, it completely turned me off from making the TV series "must-see TV" for me.  It's biggest sin is that it feels like four episodes of a TV series strung together.  No additional effort was made to make it cinematic.  It left a bad taste in my mouth.  I walked away from the film saying I was now officially burnt out on Star Wars.

But, I have friends who are far bigger Star Wars fans than I, and they stuck with it for its entire run.  My friends, and critics in general, were saying that the series was significantly better than the movie, and that the series vastly improved season after season.  So when the series made its debut on Netflix at the start of March, I figured it was finally time to give the series a chance.  I'd watch it all from the beginning.

But to watch it all from the beginning, meant watching the movie again.  Which I did this past Sunday afternoon.  Now that 6 years have passed since the movie came out, it didn't disgust me as much as when I first saw it.

The main plot thrust is that both the Republic and the Separatists are in negotiations with Jabba the Hutt to use the trade routes that the Hutts control as military supply lines.  Complicating matters is that Jabba's infant son has been kidnapped.  Jabba has reached out to the Jedi for help, and the Jedi know that if they can rescue Jabba's son, they will most likely curry his favour.  So our heroes, Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi, are dispatched to find and rescue Jabba's son.

Being the kick off to the series, this is also the introduction to one of the major players of The Clone Wars:  Ahsoka Tano, Anakin's Jedi apprentice.  In her first appearance, Ahsoka Tano is just plain annoying.  They took every sassy pre-teen girl trope and stuffed it into a Jedi Padawan.  Her most annoying trait is giving everyone and everything a cutsey nickname.  Anakin Skywalker becomes "Skyguy" and R2-D2 becomes "Artooie."  Annoyed at how snippy she is, Anakin starts calling her "Snips."  I've been told this is a trait that's quickly forgotten as the series progresses.

That's the main character arc, too.  How Anakin is the gruff loner type, but is now responsible for this apprentice, so he starts to mellow out a bit.

Most annoying, though, are the Battle Droids.  And you thought they were bad before with their constant chanting of "Roger roger."  Here, they become full-blown cartoonish bumbling henchman, gifted with unbelievable stupidity.

And part of my complaint about how it feels like a bunch of TV episodes strung together, the final bit with Amidala discovering that Jabba's cousin Ziro was the mastermind behind the whole thing just feels tacked on.

It does have some good parts, though.  They wooed back Samuel L. Jackson and Christopher Lee for one last go-around as Mace Windu and Count Dooku.  Nice to see them back.

But that's it.  That's behind me.  Time to move onto the series and see if it actually does get better, as my friends assure me.

One last tale I want to share before wrapping this up, as a testament to how the show evolved.  I once read an interview with Dave Filoni, the director of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, who went on to become the series' showrunner.  He said that he once half-jokingly asked George Lucas if he could a special edition of the film, to make it more match the tone of what the series evolved into.  Apparently, Lucas's response was an icy stare of death. 

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