Thursday, February 13, 2014

Star Wars: The Clone Wars Final Season - The Lost Missions - coming to Netflix March 7

Great news for fans of The Clone Wars! The final, unaired episodes of The Clone Wars will be released on March 7th, along with the rest of the series, on Netflix. Hooray for Netflix, a constant refrain in my household.

Hopefully, I can return to the blog for a bit and review those episodes, as they'll be released all at once.

Also, considering Star Wars Rebels approaches, and of course...STAR WARS EPISODE VII...(cough, ahem)...seems like a fun time to write more in this space.

So stay tuned!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Star Wars: The Clone Wars comes to an end...thoughts

Announced today on the Star Wars website, Season 5 of the Clone Wars was the series last. There's also other news regarding Detours and a tease of more content and a new animated series on a "previously untouched" time period. Clearly, the new powers that be believe that there's more overall interest in content that relates the original trilogy.

I have yet to post my reviews for the final story arc. We'll see if they happen - as you know I've been extremely up and down on posting here. Life just got in the way of consistently reviewing the show. Still, I was glad to have Star Wars to look forward to week after week, loved the series, and am glad to have shared it with so many of you.

I will say this: Ahsoka Tano came to a perfectly respectable end, probably the best way they could have pulled it off. Her final moments are perfect. They leave some questions unanswered, sure, but isn't that a bit better than a thorough, retcon-style explanation of why a character created AFTER the prequels doesn't appear in Episode III? Basically, we have all we need. We know she's no longer a Jedi by the time the purge happens. We know that Anakin isn't mourning her death, she's just an another example of his dissolution with the Jedi overall. It deepens his story, but doesn't become required viewing to understand him.

From the start, I found Ahsoka difficult to enjoy.. She just wasn't really meant for me to enjoy. She was designed as a young, female protagonist. A window into the series to a new generation of kids.

As such, I can't speak to how successful she was. I can only say that I came to find her more and more effective as a character, and I think if the series is the story of Ahsoka, then they married her story to the overall arc of the Jedi's fall especially well. Their moral compromise is reflected in her final story in a way that I think is sharp and entertaining.

In the end, though, most of my favorite episodes and stories just didn't feature her. She seemed, to the Star Wars series overall, an unnecessary addition. With so many Jedi, so many clones, so many bounty hunters, so many smugglers, I still don't quite get why we needed to add the bratty, teenager to the mix. Even if she grew up over five years.

So... a qualified thumbs up to the final arc. They did their best to make Ahsoka a part of the Star Wars canon, truly matured her, and worked her into the larger story. If I was never really the audience for her, that doesn't mean I didn't love the series. I did.

In the end, though, it's time to move on. The prequel era has, between the films and Clone Wars series, a full and well-told story, with vast battles, beautiful animation, new wrinkles, and mysterious places for conjecture. Hours of stories for us to watch, re-watch, and appreciate.

The Force was with this series. I can't wait for what's next.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Season 4, Episodes 14, 15 and 16 - Maul and Mandalore

The three episode story arc of "Eminence," "Shades of Reason" and "The Lawless" are a spectacular addition to the Star Wars canon and feature much earned, emotional high points that have been hinted at throughout the Clone Wars series. Deaths of major characters, high action, prominence of fan favorites; it's more than a stand-alone adventure. It exists squarely in the expanded, thrilling world created by Filoni and his team, and shows how invested in new characters.

In this arc, Maul and Opress are found by Death Watch floating in space. Near death, the brothers are saved by the Mandalorian terrorists. Immediately, both parties begin to use the other for their respective, temporarily mutual goals. But as with all villainy, betrayal is inevitable. The Sith don't share power. (Not even with Black Sun, a crime syndicate first introduced in the EU in the mid-1990s.)

Woven throughout the story is the resolution of the fantastic Satine story started back in Season 2; which places her pacifism up against the bloody history of her people. It's a compelling story, which expands on our understanding of Obi-Wan, the politics of the war, the fate of pacifism in the face of unrelenting war. We also find Death Watch's story come to what appears to be an effective and thrilling close.

Finally, the story of Savage Opress is also finally resolved here, sadly and satisfyingly, in a way that feels appropriately grand and brutal.

Visuals of the arc are top-notch, including Maul-inflected designs for Death Watch, the gorgeous environs of Mandalore, and the home of Black Sun.  Action is also thrilling, with non-stop duels, battles in the air, fist fights; culminating in a Sidious/Maul/Opress showdown that will surely thrill most of the faithful.

So...what more could a Star Wars fan ask for?

Well, I will say that there are times when "getting what you think you want" borders on fatigue. Where once the idea of Boba Fett and Jango Fett was unique and mysterious, we've now literally seen 15 on screen at a time, firing flamethrowers. Star Wars has to closely guard that specialness. I loved the episode, but I was aware that there's a danger in too much of a good thing.

Also, I've always felt that Sidious should fight a little less like Maul. A little more lightning and a little less two-handed dueling. But that's a quibble. At best.

This arc was an answer to the disposable last arc, but also seems to herald (perhaps) Clone Wars moving towards new stories entirely. What lies in store for Ahsoka, considering what we've just witnessed? Is her fate sealed? I'm excited to find out.

Rating (out of five): *****

Season 4, Episode 13 - Point of No Return

The story of D-Squad comes to a not-terribly rousing ending with Point of No Return, a decidedly kid-friendly story arc. In this episode, the team finds themselves aboard a Republic cruiser, fully expecting to get home safely. Things are, though, not exactly what they seem. Which surprises exactly no one.

There's some standard and perfectly acceptable action to be found here, a few "last minute saves" and quite a big (very fancy) explosion. Certainly, being The Clone Wars, you never feel as if the entire cast of characters will not be killed - in fact, you can almost bet that someone will go. So it's hard to uniformly dismiss the episode as unwatchable or bad. It's simply much ado about very little. None of our main characters are at risk, R2-D2's near death isn't fooling anyone, and in the end, we learn what it means to be a soldier. Or something along those lines.

My main complaint about the D-Squad storyline is that, even as it gives us a few great moments of R2-D2 heroism, the rest of team feels extremely young-skewing and not terribly funny. Gascon, especially, seems immune to useful information - such as when he insists the empty ship is nothing to worry about. His silliness just never convinced me or made me feel invested.

Rating (out of five): **

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Catching Up - Capsule Reviews of Season 5 Episodes

Well, why not? Following is a rundown of quick and dirty capsule reviews for the Season 5 episodes of the Clone Wars...up to the 100th Episode.

Revival (** 1/2) Felt like running in place. The last episode of Season 4 features lightsaber fights with the SithBrothers, and so does this. Plus, they're run off by pirates.

A War on Two Fronts (** 1/2) The Onderon campaign begins with some so-so characters learning about guerilla warfare.

Front Runners (**) More Onderon. Ahsoka trains them to fight. I shrug.

The Soft War (**) More of the same of a story that doesn't do much for me. Feels like quoting better stories with lesser characters.

Tipping Points (***) - The conclusion of the battle is well staged and tense, with a notable loss for our heroes. Still, I just never got all that invested.

The Gathering (****) - Usually, the focus on the younglings (yes, I know it's a kid's show but still) bores me. This time, I have to admit, I loved it. Gorgeous visuals, great use of Yoda, lovely story.

A Test of Strength (****) - More plucky young characters that are more likeable than usual. Wooden lightsaber handle? David Tennant-bot? Come on! That's awesome.

Bound for Rescue (***) - The story gets a lot more conventional with this installment.

A Necessary Bond (** 1/2) - Well staged action, and I still like the kids, but conventional and forgettable.

Secret Weapons (**) - Something about this failed to grab me. Band of misfits scenario has been done better, I guess.

A Sunny Day in the Void (**) - These characters just didn't enthrall me for some reason.

Missing in Action (*** 1/2) - The 100th Episode of the Clone Wars. Even though I haven't been in love with this particular cast of characters - the Clone recovered from amnesia pretty darn fast - I like the remote location and the final segment was exciting.

As you can see, I've got a little fatigue with Season 5. More minor characters have taken center stage and not necessarily to great effect.

And with that, I'm caught up! I hope to be back to regular reviews!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Complete Season 4 Capsule Reviews

Okay, Okay. It's been over a year since I posted on this blog. I'm ashamed, embarrassed, etc. Life got in the way of regular blogging and reviewing. It happens to the best of us. Well, to the best of me anyway.

I guess all it took for me to come back to the blog was NEWS THAT THERE WILL BE MORE STAR WARS MOVIES!

Holy. (Cough) Crap.

I'm going to make it up to you. Below are capsule reviews with star ratings for every episode of Season 4.

Water War (***) - The opening of the season shows more technical verve than an engaging story. The story of Prince Lee Char continues the Clone Wars tradition of trying to prove that any kid with spunk can lead hardened soldiers if he or she just believes in him or herself. Still, cool visuals.

Gungan Attack (*** 1/2) - More of this, but still...Gungans to the rescue. I cheered when that happened, yo.

Prisoners (*** 1/2) - More amazing animation but still... the Prince? Loved Tamson though.

Shadow Warrior (****) - Better than it had any right to be. Most Jar Jar episodes are. Extra star for the heroic Tarfuls scene. Why did I care? Why?!

Mercy Mission (** 1/2) - Droids meet floating environmentalist fairy. Forgettable episode if it wasn't so weird. Basically, it's the Riddles in the Dark scene from the Hobbit, with more jokes and colors. And beeps.

Nomad Droids (** 1/2 ) - Just some weird stuff that happened to the Droids. Willow reference earns it an extra half-star.

Darkness on Umbara (****) - Establishes a new totally creepy planet, an ambiguous new leader, and some fantastic action.

The General (**** 1/2) - Walter. Murch. Directed. This. Some of the best action of the series.

Plan of Dissent (*****) - Stellar. Dee Bradly Baker's best ever work and truly challenging episode of the series. One of my favorites.

Carnage of Krell (***) - Good, but a bit of a cop-out. Krell turning to the Dark Side is a bit too morally easy. Wouldn't it have been better if he truly believed that this was the meaning of lacking attachment? Not all villains are the Sith.

Kidnapped (***) - The beginning of a story arc based on the popular comic book. Good, but didn't blow me away. Obi-Wan was fun here.

Slaves of the Republic (****) - Anakin's relationship with slavery is explored here in a way that I enjoyed. Solid, intriguing episode.

Escape from Kadavo (*** 1/2) - Trying to convince the Queen that she's a slave too? Shrug. Another decent episode with good action - but never feels like more than just one more adventure.

A Friend In Need (* 1/2) - Eh. Ahsoka and Lux. I will never watch it again, I'm sure.

Deception (****) - Fun and creative. Obi-Wan shaved! Plus - they're totally assholes to Anakin.

Friends and Enemies (***) - More of this story. Sort of a reverse buddy cop scenario. Thumbs up, but nothing spectacular.

The Box (***) - Best of times and worst of times. Tons of cool characters and creative action - but if you really think about the "test," it doesn't make a lot of sense.

Crisis on Naboo (**** 1/2) - A great ending to this story arc, fun action. I love how Naboo looks in this series.

Massacre (*****) - Totally. Awesome. Episode. Ventress's story earns its place in the Star Wars canon here. Brutal.

Bounty (**** 1/2) - Pure fun. Ventress - freed from the limits of Sith-dom, on a solo caper with the bounty hunters we know and love.

Brothers (*** 1/2) - This season's episode with the biggest build-up. One-half Star Wars pure bullshit. Bringing Maul back always seemed like a stunt to me. Plus, Morley? What's that about? Still, looks terrific and Maul is creepy.

Revenge (***) - Obi-Wan and Ventress versus the Brothers Grimm. Awesome action, fan-candy, but felt extremely convenient and conventional to me.

So there you have it. My favorite stuff was Umbara and what they did with Ventress... all complicated and beautifully animated and sad.  I know Darth Maul was the big return, but I'm not convinced they needed him back from a story perspective.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Season 4

I've been missing in action!

Sorry that the last few episodes of Season 3 escaped my reach last year, although I hope to get back to them later on. Ahsoka still sort of gives me hives, so The Most Dangerous Game episodes just sort of made me yawn on initial impact. Oh well. Say *** for the animation. I loved, loved, loved the Prison Break episodes, though. Absolutely awesome.

Looking forward to Season 4 and coming back strong with some episode reviews for you all.

I'll also say that I have my copy of the Star Wars Complete Saga Blu-Rays and frankly...they're awesome. Even though there are changes to the original trilogy (get with the program or don't, but quit complaining people); there are also some changes to the prequels for the eagle-eyed. Good ones I think.

Anyway, I'm back.