Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Clone Wars Review: Evil Plans

Su cuy'gar, everyone, and welcome to another Star Wars: The Clone Wars review.

Season 3 makes me sad. I was expecting a really action-packed, thrilling, gripping, war-rife season of The Clone Wars that asked tough questions and brought up uncomfortable truths, striking at the heart of the Republic and the Jedi and bringing the galaxy closer to its downfall. Now, what have we gotten so far?

A really awesome season premiere, one good episode, and lots and lots of filler.

And somehow Lucas and Filoni thought this would be entertaining for some reason.

What makes you think I know.

So! Another Friday, another Clone Wars. And, for all our suspenseful two weeks of waiting do we get? More filler. Seriously, this show has more filler than MS Paint Masterpieces.

So, let's not waste any more time, the show has done enough of that for the entire Outer Rim. Let's dive right into Evil Plans!

I sense a disturbance in the SPOILERS!

So the opening narration tells us Cad Bane has been hired by Jabba the Hutt to do something awful that we do not know about, and we begin the episode with Padme preparing for a party.

Isn't there a Clone War going on? Y'know, with Jedi and clone troopers on the front lines, fighting and dying for liberty from the evil Separatists? Isn't that, I dunno... the title of the show?

You'd think that'd serve as a constant reminder to the creative team as to WHAT THE SHOW SHOULD FRELLING BE ABOUT.

Anyway, Padme is fretting and Anakin is all "Stop worrying", but it turns out the garnish for a cake is missing.

The more of this review I write, the more I realize how incredibly stupid this episode is when we could be getting real Clone Wars. I want to cry now.

So Anakin sends Artoo and Threepio to go get some. (As a side note, I do like that this is a droid-centric episode, as A. It could be a lot worse, it could be ruining Mandalore. and B. I love Anthony Daniels.) So while they wander the streets of Coruscant, Cad Bane is spying on the two of them, determining that C-3PO is the target, and sends Todo 360 (Who... got... blown up in Hostage Crisis... GAH CONTINUITY HEADAAACCHHHEEE) to "do his job". So 3PO haggles with this fruit dealer, who says that four fruit will cost four credits... each. 3PO hands over 16 credits, but the guy apparently meant 32. 3PO then proceeds to fill in the educational quota of the episode and teach some math, but the dealer won't have any of it.

Yawn. I'm bored. Wake me when the episode gets interesting.

So Todo 360 tries to convince R2 and 3PO to get some fixin' uppin', and R2 runs off, much to the frustration of 3PO, who Todo shoves in a speeder and takes off.

Seriously! What delusion are Lucas and Filoni under to think that we would find this entertaining?! There is a galaxy-wide WAR going on and the best plot they could think of is "R2 and 3PO go grocery shopping"?! Why?! This isn't entertaining, this is mindless drivel! This is boring! This is stupid!


So 3PO gets kidnapped and R2 goes to this droid sp- Wait, they just called it Droid Spa.

I do so love it when the show makes the jokes for me.

And 3PO meets Cad Bane, who shoves him in another speeder and takes him away, while R2 is sitting in a droid hot tub. Commercial break.

So Cad Bane begins to plug wires into C-3PO. While R2 continues getting his droid massage, we cut to C-3PO getting tortured with electricity, which is continually juxtaposed by R2's getting overly pampered. Seriously, I'm dozing off at this point.

Turns out Cad Bane is looking for plans to the senate building that C-3PO does not have in his memory. 3PO slips out that R2 is generally used for that sort of thing, and Bane dispatches Todo and an IG droid to look for R2. They find him quickly, but R2 evades them and bolts down an alley. IG and Todo look for him, but find nothing. As Cad Bane continues to needlessly torture C-3PO, Todo remarks that R2 is not around. He continues on to say that he'll destroy 3PO until he gets the information, and R2 lets himself be found, 'cuz he loves his gold buddy.

3... 2... 1... Awwwwww.

Anyway, returning from commercials that are infinitely dumber (yet more entertaining) than this episode, Cad Bane hooks up R2-D2 to the same device 3PO was on, and gets the plans for the senate building, planning to dump the two on the streets after wiping their memories of the day's events.

Meanwhile, back at the party, Padme is greeting people and DEAR LORD HER HAIR. Is that her hair or did she take to wearing a dead animal as a hat? She whispers to Anakin (Why is he there? Wouldn't a Jedi in a Senator's apartment arouse some kind of suspicion that they might be... involved?) that she doesn't know where 3PO is.

So Todo and the IG droid remove the restraining bolts from R2 and 3PO, dump them into the streets, where they pick up the fruit (which nobody's picked up off the street, how convenient) and head back home.

Cut to Tatooine where interesting things are happening. Cad Bane hands the plans over to Jabba, who hands him a stereotypical suitcase full of money, and says he needs more assistance. Jabba talks to the Hutt council (From the five Hutt Clans), and confers with them about rescuing Ziro. (So I guess they're trying to pass off that Hostage Crisis takes place after the events of this episode, and before the events of the next.) They decide to bust out Ziro, and Bane says that he'll take the job on.

But wait! We're forgetting the most important part of the episode!


Well, in true stereotypical storytelling fashion, the two appear at the last possible moment, where it turns out Anakin is a complete moron as he's not really worried about the fact that the droids can't remember for the life of him where he's been, nor is Padme. And I will admit, one of the most amusing things about the episode happens here, because when the rabbit droids all finish the cake, they go "Yaaaay!" It's rather amusing.

And the episode ends with the oh-so-important cake being finished, and Padme telling 3PO he did a magnificent job, about which he will not shut up. YAAAY THE CAKE IS A LIE!

Roll the credits! Show us Quinlan Vos and Ziro and Cad Bane! Maybe the next one will be good, eh?

Anyway! Episode's over, and how does it hold up?

Meh. It's all right. I'm just really sick of all the stupid, boring filler that tells parts of the story nobody needs to know and is uninteresting. In addition, there's a few stupid things that are overlooked due to poor storytelling. Namely:

1. Why wouldn't Bane know which droid was holding the plans? I mean, sure, there's a chance they could have hidden it in 3PO for safekeeping, but protocol droids aren't used as glorified walking USB drives, everyone knows that. They're used for "etiquette and protocol", not for storing... well, anything, really. And second, if he DIDN'T know, why didn't he just take both droids?

2. Why does R2 have the plans for the Senate building inside him anyway?

3. Early on, 3PO drops the fruit, which is apparently at least semi-valuable. Why doesn't someone pick it up?

4. Why does Bane need to zap droids to get info out of them?

5. Why isn't Anakin worried that 3PO doesn't know where he's been all day?! For all he knows, the two could have been captured or- OH WAIT THEY WERE.

On a side note, it's nice to know that glasses exist in Star Wars now. I saw an Ithorian with them in this episode.

Anyway, while it was nice to get R2 and 3PO back together for this episode for some great dynamic we haven't seen in a while, this filler was just kinda boring. Here's hoping next week's is better.

Until next time, k'oyaci!

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Clone Wars Review: Assassin

Su cuy'gar, everyone, and welcome to another Star Wars: The Clone Wars review.

So, lemme guess- You think I hate this episode, right? I've bashed on the rest of Season 3 and you bet this isn't gonna be any different. Well... You're right and wrong on that point. This one was just "okay". It was fairly weak, but it was alright. Only problem is it's come in on the tail end of a LOT of not-really-relevant or interesting episodes, so I can't help but yell at the TV to get to the friggin' action already. So, what sort of pointless mediocrity occurs in this one? Well, let's dive right in and find out.

That's no moon... that's a SPOILERS!

So basically this episode is the one we saw in a lot of Season 3 trailers where Ahsoka is having premonitions. Now, I always thought this would have been cool, and whenever I saw those trailers, I thought to myself "Wow, what could she be dreaming about? The death of her master she must prevent? An entire squad of clones being destroyed? The fate of an entire battle, or even a turning point in the Clone War? What?!" And it turns out... she's dreaming about Padme being shot at.


Why. How is that even interesting at all. I mean, we know she LIVES, and we already had this stupid plot device in Revenge of the Sith. There, it worked, 'cuz she was gonna die! Here, it doesn't, because it's just stale and ripped off and disappointing! This had so much potential, but here it's just a wasted filler episode in Season 3. Thanks a lot, Lucas and Filoni.

So she has her first dream with Aurra Sing in it, where she strangles Ahsoka and says "She will die, and there's nothing you can do." So she wakes up and talks to Master Yoda about it. They have a discussion about it, ripping off Anakin's scene in Episode III pretty shamelessly. Cut to the library, where Ahsoka is studying, thumbing through a list of bounty hunters, the starts to doze off, having another dream. This time, Ahsoka is rushing through a hallway, and we see Aurra Sing accept a job to kill Padme, she takes aim, and the dream ends with a blaster shot. Ahsoka determines that Padme is in danger (Gee, what gave you that idea) and heads off the next morning to visit her. She talks about how she's having dreams about Padme dying, and it turns out Padme's going to Alderaan, despite what Ahsoka says. Ahsoka goes off to have another vision, this time a short one of Aurra Sing targeting Padme in a blaster sight. She returns to Yoda again to speak with him, who tells him to choose how to deal with it, telling her "Always in motion is the future, and many possible futures there are."  She ends up going with Padme to Alderaan for "extra security". Commercial break.

Cut to mid-voyage where Ahsoka and Padme are playing that game from A New Hope. It's a nice geek-out moment that this episode has a few of, and it shows the two bonding that the last few episodes with these two has kind of completely forgotten to show us. So at least that had some meaning. Ahsoka talks about how without Anakin, she's a little lacking in confidence. Padme talks about her time as queen in a fairly predictable sequence, that, again, I'm glad is there because really, the whole "Ahsoka and Padme being all chummy" thing makes little sense without. That night, Ahsoka begins to dream AGAIN. This time, her dream is really short, but she wakes up, and Aurra Sing is RIGHT THERE. Gasp. She wakes up again (Dream within a dream thing), and runs to protect Padme, thinking the assassin's inside, but realizes that there's nothing there and walks off.

We FINALLY get to Alderaan and I marvel at how some of the 2D backgrounds behind the buildings are rather elegantly painted. Padme meets up with Bail Organa, who takes her to her quarters. Ahsoka decodes that the plot is moving too slowly and that she needs to have a vision to liven things up. This time the big reveal is the room she's in when she gets shot, and she tells Padme about it. They take her to the conference room, which Ahsoka recognizes that this is the room Padme gets shot at in the dream. Padme asks if in the dream, Aurra Sing succeeds, and Ahsoka replies she's not sure, even though in one dream Padme is clearly dead, and another she clearly gets shot at.


Outside, the two talk more, probably to instill anti-confidence in Ahsoka and pad out the length of the episode. Come time for the conference, Bail is talking, and introduces Padme, who begins to speak. However, trouble is brewing in the air vents (I think, they're tall enough for a Senate Commando to stand comfortably at full height in) as Aurra kills said commando and begins to snap together her sniper rifle. Ahsoka senses something amiss, and tries to stop the assassin by giving her a force shove, but it's too late- Aurra, dressed in Ahnold-style commando makeup, takes the shot, hitting Padme. She fires on Ahsoka, who gives chase, but she gets away, Bail yelling for a medic. Commercial time.

Cut to outside the medical room. The droid comes out.
"It's twins!"
"Wait, what?!"
"Oh, sorry. With all this premonition dreaming crap I thought we were filming Revenge of the Sith in Five Seconds. She's fine. It's just a flesh wound."

Of course, that's not how it REALLY goes down, but how it SHOULD have.

Anyway, I chuckle because of the thinly-veiled Monty Python and the Holy Grail reference ("It was only a flesh wound.") Ahsoka goes in and apologizes, and she and Bail try to convince her to return to Coruscant, Padme decides otherwise, and Ahsoka gets an idea. So the conference starts (again), I pick out an extra that looks like Mario's Princess Daisy from the crowd, and Aurra starts sneaking around. As Padme talks, Aurra sneaks around and it turns out she's wise to Ahsoka's idea, which turns out to be replacing Padme with a droid.

Aurra finds the room Padme is broadcasting her speech from, and tries to take another shot (no pun intended) at killing her, but Ahsoka shows up at the last possible second and deflects the blast, pulling Aurra down from the air vent embarrasingly. Aurra blasts the controls to the door, Aurra tries to kill Padme and blasts Ahsoka in the arm. When she falls, Padme is waiting, blaster on stun, and... well, stuns her. Typho and some Senate Commandos make it into the room, and we cut back to Coruscant where Padme's ship finally docks, surrounded by the Coruscant Guard, and- Wait, what?

The Coruscant Guard is there?!







*takes some chill pills and drinks some water* Okay... Continuing the episode, Ahsoka tries to have a vision on the landing platform, about a large, devouring purple shape with bizzare laughter.

So the person who hired Aurra was a one-eyed, one-horned giant purple people-eater. And y'know, it sure looks strange to me.

Heck, maybe THIS is the vision she had.

Anakin says how there's a lot of people that want revenge on Padme, but Padme adds that not a lot of them are huge, hungry and purple.


Anyway. Anakin and Ahsoka and a Coruscant Guard trooper head to the jail to visit Ziro the Hutt, where Ziro, who I'm not sure is a he or a she (I think this hutt is genderless anyway) where he/she is tricked into admitting that it hired Aurra Sing.

This gives me a continuity headache, because we know at the end of Season 1 that Ziro was busted out of jail, so that means that this episode took place before then, as did the Mandalore episodes, plus the Mandalore story arc from Season 2 and a lot of others, not to mention the film. This places Hostage Crisis (end of Season 1) at the very end of this whole timeline... Errrrggghhhhh. This also means that because Aurra assisted in the plot to free Ziro, she'll have to be freed eventually, too. Or Ziro was locked up again and we just didn't see that, but that's just stupid. I think the writers just forgot that Ziro was freed in Season 1 and brought it back for convenience. Leland Chee is going to have a field day just trying to figure THIS out, much less the entirety of this frelling cartoon.

Thanks, writers. Bang-up job screwing with continuity.

So, that's Assassin! And in the end, how does it fare?


By no means is this a strictly "bad" episode, like, say, the recent Mandalore ones were. It really is just that- okay. It's not excellent, nor is it poor. It's filler is what it is. There are a few cool geek-out moments and the fact that Ahsoka is dreaming up premonitions at all is kind of neat. But it's really a huge waste. It's a waste of time, a waste of an episode, and a waste of potential. What really gets on my nerves about this episode are two things, one of which is said wasted potential. These dreams could have been really, REALLY cool, about something really awesome. But instead we get a poor EpIII ripoff nobody wanted. But hey, at least Aurra's still alive, right? (I know she was a shabuir to Boba, but I'm actually starting to like "Babe Fett".) The other thing is that the Coruscant Guard is just there to cocktease us at this point by just being there, like the writers are saying "Hey, want these cool characters with lots of potential for a cool story? Huh? Do ya? Well TOO BAD WE'RE NOT USING THEM."

The more this season drags on the more I get the feeling that the whole season is just filler for the three seconds Delta Squad is in their respective episode.

Filoni, I am disappoint.

Until next time, k'oyaci!

Random Rants: Originality, Dreamworks, and Blue Brainy Dudes

It's really hard to be original these days. Everything's already been done. Aliens, robots, swords, knights, sci-fi, superheroes, zombies, zombie superheroes, etc.

Okay, I made up that last one, but Marvel or DC probably shoehorned zombie Superman into a comic at least once. (I don't know, I don't read comics.)

Anyways, it's impossible to be totally original. If you want to create something with originality, you have to take an existing idea and make it fresh and new, pump it with new ideas, and/or present it in a new way we haven't seen before. By no means is this easy. But by the same token, unoriginality is really easy. Take an existing idea, change the names and faces and maybe a few elements, slap your name on it and call it good.

And no unfairly successful film company has the unoriginality gig down pat quite like Dreamworks Animation. Very few, if any, of their more popular films, are original concepts, mostly drawing off of existing materials. Now, that wouldn't be so bad if they tried to do it in an original manner, and succeeded in doing so. However, I'd like to say that the company does not have a very good track record. Some examples: Antz was a ripoff of a Disney/Pixar film (A Bug's Life) that ended up being released BEFORE the movie it was ripping off. That takes talent. Story behind that incident as follows:
Jeffery Katzenberg left Disney in 1994 to form Dreamworks. According to Katzenberg, the idea for Antz came from a 1994 story pitch by Tim Johnson that was related to Katzenberg in October 1994. However, Disney had been working on developing an ant movie since 1988. Pixar head John Lasseter pitched came from a 1991 story pitch by Tim Johnson A Bug's Life the day Katzenberg left Disney in August 1994, and said he felt "betrayed" when he learned Antz was scheduled for release before A Bug's Life. According to Lasseter and Steve Jobs, Katzenberg offered to stop development of Antz if Disney moved the release date of A Bug's Life, which was coming out opposite Dreamworks' The Prince of Egypt. Pixar refused. The release date of Antz was moved up from March 1999 to October 1998 in response to Disney's refusal. Even though A Bug's Life was the first to be pitched, Antz was finished and released first. A Bug's Life, however, was more profitable.

But enough copy/pasting from Wikipedia. Continuing on about Dreamworks. Their next film was Shrek, which, in my opinion, was merely "okay". It didn't win me over and I didn't find it hilarious, but fantasy satire was entertaining enough for a while. However, it turned out that fantasy setting + fart jokes = comedy gold, because their next film was Shrek 2: We're Gonna Have More Sequels. After that came a Finding Nemo ripoff known as Shark Tale, which wasn't quitesure what it was supposed to be marketed towards. Madagascar was an interesting film, because it wasn't directly based on anything being released at the time, but despite the creative freedom, the film turned out to be an enjoyable mediocre. It was entertaining and marketable in its own right, to be sure, but not a lot of it stood out as exceptional. After that, Dreamworks decided that the "Comic strip movie" was the new cool they had to get in on, so they nabbed license for and churned out a movie very, VERY vaguely based on the somewhat-popular comic Over the Hedge. Now, said comic was about three forest animals commentating on human life. How does that translate into an hour and a half film? Short answer: It doesn't. It trod all over the comic's established story and characters and made it into a generic (and therefore marketable and uncharming) film. Then came Shrek the Third: The Sequel Nobody Asked For. Bee Movie came next, which, like Madagascar, failed to make a real splash with the general public. (Actually, it was sort of released then forgotten about. The fate of Madagascar will be described shortly.) Kung Fu Panda was released afterward, and was a bit of a shock for me. I really thought this movie was going to be a stupid Dreamworks cash-in, but it was legitimately entertaining, well-animated, and funny. Dreamworks at its best. Then came Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa, which I have not seen, so no comment, and Monsters vs. Aliens, which is as stupid as it sounds. How to Train Your Dragon came next, which I also need to see, because I've heard good things about it. After that, we got Shrek The Final Chapter: Because We Finally Decided This Cash Cow Was Milked Enough. (save spinoffs, of course.)

So as you can see, Dreamworks' stuff can be kind of hit and miss, and very little of it is really original. As a result, every time they announce a film, I'm pretty skeptical of it just being a cheap cash-in or an attempt to start what would basically be another Shrek. So upon us now is Megamind- A superhero comedy film slated for a close release date. From seeing the first trailer, I thought it was going to be stupid- a quick ripoff of more successful superhero films watered down for kids and making the bad guy good because evil is always bad. However, I recently got the chance to watch a short clip from the film- a clip that has given me hope for this movie.

This clip actually gave me a good chuckle. It's been a while since Dreamworks did that to me. Being someone who likes good villains, I think I can get behind this one if it's good.

Dreamworks, do us proud.