Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Filoni and Gilroy are interviewed at TheForce.net

Over at TFN, Dave Filoni and Henry Gilroy answer questions from the fans. Really fantastic interview. Here's a notable highlight, for those interested in how "canonical" the series is.

TFN: How does your writing process work, and what role does George Lucas play in it?

Henry: On the first 13 episodes I wrote premises with Dave that went to George for approval, he made his notes, then we went through outline and script phase and George would see the scripts when Dave and I and Catherine were happy with them, he’d make notes and the scripts would go final.

On most shows, that would be the end of the writing process, but on Clone Wars, that’s about ‘the middle’ of the writing process, because once the episodes get into animatic \ story reel in editorial, Dave and George go through them, rewriting, adding and subtracting, etc...

Halfway through the first season, George was so excited with what we were doing, he came in one day with an outline and handed it to me, “Turn that into a script.” It was a story called ‘Count Dooku Captured.” From then on, George got into the writing \ scripting process in a big way. On season two, ALL of the story ideas came from George, except a couple that were originally written in season one by Dave and I (& Dini). I think season three is the same way.

Dave: Writing process? Oh right, well it’s pretty much what Henry described above.

Thanks to Club Jade for the heads up.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Upcoming Clone Wars Episode Titles

Wookieepdia has a list of the upcoming Clone Wars episode titles. Here they are.

Episode Title Original Airdate Prod. #
00 "The Clone Wars" August 15, 2008
01 "Ambush" October 3, 2008 108
02 "Rising Malevolence" October 3, 2008 107
03 "Shadow of Malevolence" October 10, 2008 109
04 "Destroy Malevolence" October 17, 2008 111
05 "Rookies" October 24, 2008 114
06 "Downfall of a Droid" November 7, 2008 102
07 "Duel of the Droids" November 14, 2008 106
08 "Bombad Jedi" November 21, 2008 105
09 "Cloak of Darkness" December 5, 2008 110
10 "Lair of Grievous" December 12, 2008 112
11 "Dooku Captured" January 2, 2009
12 "The Gungan General" January 9, 2009
13 "Jedi Crash" January 16, 2009
14 "Defenders of Peace" January 23, 2009
15 "Trespass" January 30, 2009
16 "Hidden Enemy" February 6, 2009
17 "Blue Shadow Virus" February 13, 2009
18 "Mystery of a Thousand Moons " February 20, 2009
19 "Hostage Crisis" February 27 2009
20 "Storm Over Ryloth " March 3, 2009
21 "The Innocents of Ryloth" March 10, 2009
22 "Liberty on Ryloth" March 17, 2009
23 "Battle for the Midnight Shadow" March 24, 2009
24 "Cargo of Doom" April 4, 2009
25 "Ambush in the Outer Rim" April 11, 2009

I'm not sure what the sources are here. Some are expressly listed in the entries, some aren't. I had thought that the full season would only run 22 episodes...so if this is accurate, I'm happy to see it.

Looks like a big Ryloth adventure in March. Could this be the war story we've been waiting for? Looking forward to that.

We can also look forward to another Gungan Episode. Bring 'em on.

I might say that, at this point, episode 25 could be the generic title of many an episode of this series. The Outer Rim seems like the Tatooine of the Clone Wars. Everything seems to happen there.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Clone Wars Recap - Episodes 1 - 10

So, we've reached a natural point of reflection in the Clone Wars series. There's a Clone Wars marathon going on, the show won't be back until January, and we're ten episodes into the first season. For now, just before the holiday, I'm going to review my ratings, talk about the episodes in rank 1 - 10, and then talk about what these first episodes bode for the future.

1. Lair of Grievous (Episode 1o) - **** 1/2

The most cinematic and thematically solid episode. It also features a mix of fresh characters and dynamics.

2. Duel of the Droids (Episode 7) - **** 1/2

Delivered with golden hues, excellent pacing, and well-directed action. Felt very much like, well, Star Wars.

3. Destroy Malevolence (Episode 4) **** 1/2

Takes the standard prequel-era characters and mixes them into an original trilogy set-up. The result is a wonderfully satisfying homage to everything you missed about the OT, and everything you wanted in the Prequels.

4. Rookies (Episode 5) ****

Exceptional episode that hopefully will be the beginning of a trend towards more episodes just like this one. The only problem I had was that it's the first one: we don't know the clones well enough to feel it when they die. Otherwise, great stuff.

5. Cloak of Darkness (Episode 9) *** 3/4

Many people's favorite episode, and a real winner. All around awesome except for one big caveat: why is Ahsoka always right? Isn't her role to...learn? Hard to ignore that problem in an episode so full of Tano.

6. Ambush (Episode 1) *** 1/2

The perfect introduction to the series, if offering little new. Good to see Yoda being playful, and the action feeling zippy.

7. Rising Malevolence (Episode 2) ***

Introduction of Plo Koon, and a dark episode to lead into the Malevolence arc. A little static, and Plo Koon is a bit generic. The stakes, though, do feel dire.

8. Shadow of Malevolence (Episode 3) ***

Totally fun "bombing run" episode that has "Ahsoka knows best" syndrome. Still...Y-Wings! Love the Y-Wings!

9. Downfall of a Droid (Episode 6) ** 1/2

A lead-in to the far better episode Duel of the Droids. It's biggest problem: does anyone really think Artoo dies? Raise your hands. Also, Anakin comes off like a dick.

10. Bombad Jedi (Episode 8) ** 1/2

Better than its reputation, but sort of all-over-the place and weird. Like Jar Jar himself.


The series has had exactly two stand alone episodes - Rookies and Ambush. Everything else was loosely, or directly, a part of a story arc: The Malevolence "trilogy;" the Downfall/Duel of the Droids two-parter; and the Nute Gunry-arc (Bombad Jedi, Cloak of Darkness and Lair of Grievous). I, personally, love these forays into story-arcs, and hope it emboldens the showrunners to take it further as the series rolls on.

It also strikes me that any of the story-arcs in the first ten episodes of the series would have made better feature releases than the actual feature itself did. The Malevolence Trilogy seems made for a DVD release of its own, maybe with a little editing to hang all three episodes together. You've got a just under 70 minute mini-movie right there.

If there's any major flaw in the series, it's Ahsoka. The series is all over the map with her. I have no idea what lesson the writers are intending to teach when she condescends to more experienced Jedi and is proven right. Is this to show young women that they should be pro-active, or to encourage kids to ask a lot of questions or...what? Because it appears to undercut the entire premise of the Master-Padawan relationship in a way that's not only unrealistic, but cloying.

Also, all the victories of the Republic are hollow in the midst of the larger context. The Clone Wars are a sham after all. In order to be more than a series of fun adventures clouded in a sort of distracting irony; we need to see war stories from a psychological (as opposed to story) perspective. The idea of this as "Star Wars meets Band of Brothers" was thrown about liberally when the series was being promoted. I say "heck yes" to that. These can, and should, be war stories.

It's good to see the villains as dangerous, and these last few episodes delivered that. Asajj Ventress, General Grievous, the Commando Droids, traitorous humans... we're getting a better sense of the enemy and what makes them formidable. The more of this we see, the more we'll care about Ahsoka or Captain Rex when their backs are to the wall.

Ten episodes in, we definitely have been watching a steady increase in both quality of the episodes, and of our own expectations. Let's hope the series continues to evolve and takes more chances. Regardless, the Clone Wars series is proving to be some of the best of the non-film product that has come out of Lucasfilm to date. And we're not even half-way through the first season.

The Force is with us!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Season 1, Episode 10 - Lair of Grievous

Lair of Grievous, directed by Atsushi Takeuchi, is the most mythologically dense episode of the Clone Wars series yet. Grievous is a late addition to the Star Wars story, and his development has been taking place in front of the fan base. His first appearance, in finale of the first series of Clone Wars shorts in 2003, turns out to have been a rough sketch from early concepts. His later iterations have wavered between insect-like, cowardly, bold and cunning. The EU has addressed his origins a bit, but that's about it.

In some ways, that's a very good thing. Star Wars isn't the X-Files or Lost: sometimes the less Star Wars fans know about a character, the more fun that character is (see: Fett, Boba). Lair of Grievous, therefore, strikes the perfect balance. There are hints of his background, tantalizing teases, including the powerfully realized statues in his honor... but they are all part of the moody atmospherics.

As a Star Wars fan, I don't find myself aching for exposition. Star Wars is about story, and in Lair of Grievous, we get plenty. The action of the episode continues that storyline arc that started in Bombad Jedi and carries over my directly from Cloak of Darkness. The Jedi are still chasing Nute Gunray, and a homing beacon leads Jedi Master Kit Fisto to a remote planet in service of that pursuit. There, he reunites with a new character, his "old padawan" Nahdar Vebb, and his clone troopers. Vebb is a young Calamarian, having very recently completed the trials.

Once on the planet, they find themselves in a mysterious structure, and in grave danger. A trap has been set for them - or is it for Grievous?

The unfolding episode plays out as a lesson about the nature of war, and the difficulty the Jedi have maintaining their code and discipline in the face of such dangerous foes. Vebb is hot-headed, eager, and throughout the episode, he uses the Force in ways that seem excessive (to turn a chair around, for example); Kit Fisto's notes this with concern. When, in the end, Vebb turns to face down Grievous and starts kill Battle Droids like he's Starkiller, you know he's running straight for the wrong end of a blaster.

In many ways, I found this episode to be the antidote to the Ahsoka-is-always-right dynamic that pervaded Cloak of Darkness: here, the Jedi Master is treated as such, and his lessons of restraint are proven founded.

But beyond the storytelling, what makes the Lair of Grievous one of the best of the series thus far, is the blend of inventive design and a sense of adventure. There's comedy here, but it seems well placed (Grievous's attendant seems suitably preoccupied with housekeeping, so to speak); more than anything, there's a sense of foreboding that permeates to every characters and scene. It also helps that we see the Jedi Council for the first time in the series, and the scene is, though short, appropriately disconcerting.

More than any other episode in the series so far, Lair of Grievous reveals the character of its cast through its action and themes. By the end of it, we know much more about who (and what) Grievous is; and the same can be said for the Jedi. Hard to beat that.

Rating (out of five): **** 1/2

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Is the Clone Wars part of the EU?

Do you think that The Clone Wars is a part of the Expanded Universe?

Could you safely call the 2003 miniseries canon until this series is complete?

My attitude is that any incomplete story can't really be Canon.

Or can you see a way in which the 2003 series and this new one can exist side by side?

Monday, December 8, 2008

Lair of Grievous Preview from July

Atsushi Takeuchi, director of the upcoming episode Lair of Grievous, did an in-depth preview of what looks to be a top-notch episode in July on the Official Star Wars blog. Take a look!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Season 1, Episode 9 - Cloak of Darkness

Cloak of Darkness is so elegantly plotted and so fantastically directed, that it pains me to admit I found its one major flaw so frustrating. Somehow, the writers of The Clone Wars have the relationship between Ahsoka Tano and, well, everything utterly upside down. They did, though, finally start to get Asajj Ventress right.

Before I go there, let me get the important part out of the way: Cloak of Darkness is an episode that could be proudly shown to almost any skeptical Star Wars fan as proof that The Clone Wars series rocks. The twists and turns of the plot all add up perfectly, the characterizations are spot on, and the choices made are, generally, good ones. Also, the action is phenomenal here: the best fight choreography that the series has seen yet.

One major plus for this episode is the deepening of Asajj Ventress, making her seem legitimately threatening. So far in The Clone Wars series (not counting her original 2003 introduction), Ventress has sneered and run around, but generally been bested by the A-List Jedi like Yoda and Obi-Wan. Putting her up against Luminara Unduli gives her room to kick ass, and Cloak of Darkness takes advantage of the opportunity.

Luminara is also well-realized here, and well-voiced by Olivia D'Abo (of Wonder Years fame). Since her first appearance in Attack of the Clones (for seconds) she's captured fan imagination, mostly because of the uniqueness and beauty of her design.

We also see the introduction of the Senate Commandos, a cross between the Imperial Guard and a Clone Trooper in design, who are decidedly NOT Clones. Where they take that storyline is rather telling: the Clones are shown the be dedicated to following orders. We see the upside of that in Cloak of Darkness. (There is, of course, a rather serious downside...)

The only problem I have with Cloak of Darkness isn't actually a small one: what the hell are they doing with Ahsoka? Are we intended to believe that Luminara Unduli, Jedi Master, is not only more naive about Asajj Ventress than Ahsoka is, but also would declare herself a fool and thank Ahsoka for saving her life by the end of the episode? Suffice to say, I feel a bit like the Master-Padawan relationship between the cloying Ahsoka Tano and just about every other Jedi is entirely backwards. She tells Anakin what to do, defies Yoda and Obi-Wan, has a personal relationship with Plo Koon, and now, all but shames Luminara. Whe does this padawan start learning from Jedi Masters, as opposed to teaching them?

Rating (out of five): *** 3/4

Cloak of Darkness, Episode 9, Tonight

Cloak of Darkness tonight. Read the episode guide and preview here at StarWars.com. Come back after the episode to read the review.

The synposis: Ahsoka and Jedi Master Luminara escort captured Viceroy Nute Gunray to trial, unaware that Count Dooku has dispatched his deadly apprentice assassin Asajj Ventress to free the prisoner and eliminate the Jedi.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Season 1, Episode 8 - Bombad Jedi

Poor Jar Jar Binks. Universally acknowledged as the jump-the-shark character for many fans, and he appears in the first twenty minutes of The Phantom Menace. The backlash against him was so fierce, that his dismissal in Attack of the Clones drew cheers from live audiences, and his appearance in Revenge of the Sith was little more than a cameo.

I won't deny that I found his character a bit cloying, but he also had one moment in The Phantom Menace that showed his character as he could have been. Just before the final reel, on Coruscant, Amidala is staring out at the horizon, feeling trapped by her circumstances, helpless to save her citizens. By her side is Jar Jar Binks. In that moment, he stops yelping and falling over, and speaks about his people.

It's in this moment the now infamous "yousa thinkin' yousa people gonna dieee?" line appears. But if you watch that scene, Jar Jar never seems more photo-realistic, more honorable, and more soulful. It doesn't seem (excuse me) jarring; it seems like a natural extension of the character. There was always, it seemed, intended to be a noble soul beneath the clown. Something redeemable and even wise.

It's a shame that the films were never able to adequately mine this part of the character. Instead, he was written off-stage left. He's given an important trivia note in Star Wars lore, certainly (He's to blame for giving Palpatine emergency powers) but chalk that up to just further humiliation for the character. The powers-that-be heard the outcry, and threw Binks under the bus.

I say all this because... I enjoyed Bombad Jedi. I thought it was really rather funny, and made use of three characters in Star Wars that certainly (at least in the prequels) had some rough spots in terms of audiences embracing them. (Heck, C3-PO is one of my favorite characters, and even I groaned when I heard "This is such a drag!") I was glad to see some great character work, Jar Jar's heroic efforts, Padme's ever likable characterization in the series, and the always wonderful Anthony Daniels collecting another well-earned paycheck. It was also brought to life by Kevin Rubio, of Troops fame, and you can see him taking pains to use the slapstick for good effect. The sight gag of Padme's Naboo Cruiser being thoroughly leveled is a good one for the Clone Wars highlight reel, as well.

And while this is the "Jar Jar Episode" the story is really Padme's. Set on Rodia (homeworld of those who shot second), it's a reenactment of Ambush's dilemma - will the planet side with the Separatists or the Republic. All of this was perfectly servicable, and watchable, if not all that interesting.

All in all, though, Jar Jar remains his least interesting self. More than even in the films, this Jar Jar is an idiotic boob, relentlessly failing, with a childlike intellect. His victories come almost entirely by accident, and we are meant to view him, at best, as well-meaning. I'd love to see a hint of the noble Jar Jar beneath the surface, that was given short shrift in the films when the character fell instantly out of favor.

Rating (out of five) **1/2

Season 1, Episode 7 - Duel of the Droids

Duel of the Droids is the second of a two-parter, and a thoroughly entertaining one at that. It's also directed, notably, by Rob Coleman himself: the animation director for the prequel trilogy.

His experience shows in every frame of this episode. Lightsaber duels are performed with moody panache; the dive onto Skytop Station is bathed in autumn hues; the final "duel" of the episode's namesake is staged with racous tension, and wouldn't have looked out of place in one of the films.

Essentially, the story is of the rescue of Artoo from the clutches of the Separatists. Much like Destroy Malevolence, it involved infiltrating on Separatist ground, racing against the clock, and outthinking superior numbers. It's got all the best elements of a good Star Wars adventure, and it delivers.

While the action soars, Duel of the Droids doesn't overlook the details. Grievous's dispatching of Gha Nachkt comes as a violent shock (and a shoutout to a deleted scene in Revenge of the Sith), for example. We also see, for the first time, Artoo completely disassembled, in an amusing sequence.

It's also inventive. The quoting of other adventures is at a minimum here; as well. We see the first duel between Ahsoka and Grievous, and the battle is uniquely suited to these two relatively new characters. R2-D2s battle with his unlucky replacement shows Star Wars fans something they've never had the pleasure to see, as well. Even if (as stated in the previous episode's review) there is never any real question about Artoo's safety, it's a vibrant episode, one of the series best so far.

Rating (out of five) **** 1/2