Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Season 2, Episode 19 - The Zillo Beast Strikes Back

Immediately following the spectacular episode The Zillo Beast is this mini-sequel: The Zillo Beast Strikes Back! In the spirit of Toho, this episode shows us the beast rampaging through Coruscant itself. It's as if the planet has finally found it's true purpose. Sure, a city-planet looks cool in a movie. To a giant lizard, though, it might as well be made entirely of targets.

The episode continues on the course of the previous one, showing us the unethical and expedient logic of Palpatine, as he attempts to corrupt the Republic around him. What a wonderful turn of events that only the Zillo Beast seems to see him as a direct threat, and makes a very real attempt to kill him. The Zillo Beast vs. Palpatine dynamic drives the action, and gives the overall story arc a whole lot more than just watching Zillo go nuts.

I definitely enjoyed the whirling action and the unethical machinations of Palpatine throughout. Great visuals pervade and the way we begin to feel for the beast is reminiscent of Godzilla in all the right ways. Perhaps only the smallest little nitpick would be that the Zillo Beasts armor is established to be weapons grade as of the last episode, so watching Yoda hack away at it with a lightsaber to no effect, and watching guards just shoot at it blindly, seemed somewhat lazy.

All in all, though, a great follow up and excellent episode

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

Monday, April 19, 2010

Season 2, Episode 18 - The Zillo Beast

Okay. Yeah. That was awesome. Where to start?

First of all, the Zillo Beast is an episode that introduces us to the Star Wars equivalent of Godzilla. It's like someone got their chocolate in my peanut butter.

One of the facts that makes Star Wars such an enduring universe is how adaptable it is by nature. It's a mythology of spare parts and mash-ups. That's why Clone Wars episodes that quote the films themselves are less, perhaps, in the spirit of Star Wars than episodes that appropriate new material.

The issue I had with Bounty Hunters was that it took a four hour epic and crammed it into 22 minutes. Godzilla, to me, often seems full of filler in between Man In Suit rampages. The Zillo Beast never feels like there's less of what you'd want. It's filled with action on a mammoth scale, but it doesn't let the spectacle stomp all over the story.

Taking place on Malastare, populated with Dugs, the Zillo Beast addresses some honestly complex issues for our heroes. Malastare's leader Doge Urus drives a hard bargain with the Jedi, knowing that the Republic needs their fuel rich mines to fund the war effort. When the use of a highly volatile weapon - the Electro-Proton Bomb - uncovers an ancient sleeping creature, the Dugs insist that it be killed. The Jedi resist the taking of the life of the beast, the last of its kind. But is the life of a single creature worth alienating the Dugs and their necessary allegiance?

Anakin eventually finds a way to split the difference (the beat itself could be used for weapons research) but that doesn't solve the problem of disturbing a practically unstoppable force.

Inevitably, the Beast goes on a classic rampage, complete with Wilhem scream, tossing tanks, and stomping on troopers. The creative team makes The Beat both sympathetic and terrible. By the time the Beast is brought down, in a perfect moment, we see the hubris of the Republic leadership promise more carnage (see: the next episode). It's classic Godzilla. The folly, as always, is ours.

By taking time to highlight the ambiguity of the Jedi's place in the war, and infusing that with a joyful explosion of beautifully cinematic nostalgia and mayhem, The Zillo Beast is a fanboy's dream episode. One of the best of the series.

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

Monday, April 5, 2010

Season 2, Episode 17 - Bounty Hunters

Bounty Hunters begins with a dedication to director Akira Kurosawa, whose work has been an inspiration to the Star Wars universe since the very first film. This episode is an homage to one of his most well-known and imitated works, The Seven Samurai.

Anakin, Ahsoka and Obi-Wan find themselves marooned in a remote area of Felucia, in the middle of a conflict between pirates, a local farming community, and some hired guns (the Bounty Hunters in question). Obi-Wan isn't eager to get too involved in the dispute, but when push comes to shove, and their old "friend" Honda Ohnaka shows himself; the Jedi partner with the Bounty Hunters to protect and train the less-than-imposing Felucians.

The episode itself is fun, light, and the action sequences especially stood out. The new Bounty Hunters we meet are Embo, Rumi Paramita, and Seripas. All three are welcome additions to the growing cast of the Clone Wars. Embo, especially, makes a smashing impression as a silent, Samurai inspired bad-ass.

Bounty Hunters did, though, feel a bit truncated. Some of that is simply knowledge of the source material. The Seven Samurai is a nearly four hour epic. At 22 minutes, a single Clone Wars episode can pack a lot of punch, and even show us the Cliff Notes of a classic, but there's not enough time to really feel the learning curve of the farmers or the hard-won camaraderie of our heroes. The Felucians go from terrified to bringing the full Ewok seemingly overnight. It's not that it's a bad story, it's just hard to make it believable in the time allotted.

Still, raise your hands if you wouldn't watch The Adventures of Embo?

*looks around the class*

That's what I thought.

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