Friday, 15 August 2008

Newsflash: Clone Wars Not Disaster Shocker

Some quick thoughts on Dave Filoni's Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Episode Two and Three Quarters: Battle Of The Space Wars: In Space, which I just saw along with a lot of old people and their grandkids.

  • It's not terrible.
  • It's not particularly brilliant either.
  • I appreciate that this could have something to do with me having a baseline level of nerdery that means I get something out of even the most wretched sci fi movies, but seriously, this is not a catastrophe. It's a leaden but passable kid's film with a couple of fun action scenes. I'm glad I saw it, but I probably won't ever watch it again.
  • The animation is quite stiff; characters move less fluidly than most in CG animated movies, but it's not a deal breaker. It might account for all of the cut-scene comparisons the film has been getting, though.
  • I did like the character designs, though. Screenshots made their stylised features look silly, but seen on the big screen you can see lovely details. They look like moving clay statues that have been roughly painted, and as such almost have an analogue charm to them.

  • The clouds of the various planets also look painted, resembling the slowly morphing backgrounds in the superb Xbox Live Arcade game Braid, though they are not as expressionistic. It's not a spectacular visual orgasm or anything, being made for TV and therefore being cheaper than Pixar movies, but the budget constraints haven't stopped Filoni and his animators making the most of what they've got in order to create something that looks interesting.
  • The dialogue is quite dreadful, mostly comprised of flat exposition, bland jokes, and first draft clunkers, which is a very clever move on the part of the writers, as it exactly matches the dialogue in the Star Wars prequel trilogy. I have a feeling that a lot of the vitriol poured on this movie for having dialogue that works on a Age 5-8 level is that it reminds the audience that the prequel films, heavily anticipated and watched avidly by original prequel fans, were meant for kids first, adults second. Fans probably don't want to be reminded that they had invested a lot of energy in something that was not meant for them.
  • Disclaimer: I was one of those fans. I'm right there with you, nerd brethren, but I'm over it now, thank God.
  • All of the nerd-hatred poured out about Ziro the Hutt (i.e. the hatred not inspired by his perceived sexuality) might be justified if you are steeped in Star Wars continuity and are furious that he is meant to be the uncle of Jabba but ZOMG Hutts procreate asexually and only have one child each so how could Jabba's father have a brother?!!!?11!!?1!!@/@1!#???!! However, it's a really accurate impersonation of Truman Capote, which has struck many as a derogatory statement against homosexuals, but besides that is so out-of-place and eccentric (actually, "demented and immune to logic or rationality" sums up Lucas' decision-making processes) that it momentarily transcends sexual politics and ends up getting an astonished laugh from the audience (well, me, anyway).
  • Ziro is a godawful and poorly-judged caricature, though. What the hell were they thinking?
  • Lucas is apparently quite insane, and I think the Star Wars movies and forthcoming TV show would benefit from other celebrity impersonations, especially if it stops him creating characters that sound like awful racial stereotypes. Why not have a Neimoidian who sounds like Ed Sullivan? A Mon Calamari who sounds like Bette Davis? A Kaminoan who sounds like Groucho Marx? The Star Wars movies would have been so much more entertaining with more of these inexplicable whims from Lucas, the beardy-weirdy.

  • Hey, Lucas, Amidala was boring, is boring, and always will be boring. Plus she gets rescued by C3PO. Space fail!
  • Too! Much! Boring! Plot! (Again, keeping in line with the other prequel movies.)
  • The biggest crime of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, one that I can't blame the actual filmmakers for, is that it is not Star Wars: Clone Wars, which, if you are filled with nerd blood, makes more sense than it seems. This movie, The Clone Wars, is unremarkable and overplotted (though watchable), while Clone Wars, directed by the incredible Genndy Tartakovsky, was magnificent. It moved as fast as a rocket, almost entirely eschewed lumbering plot discussions, and featured many of the most innovative and exciting sequences of the entire filmed Star Wars series.

  • In fact, this might rank among my favourite moments of nerd cool ever committed to film and accounts for why my favourite Jedi ever is Mace Windu (well, that and the casting of Samuel L. Jackson, who I won't hear a bad word said against). Whenever people complain about ADD editing in action movies, complaining about Michael Bay and his ilk, I want to show them that clip to prove that there are still people who understand how to construct, block, and edit an action scene so that it not only makes sense but also generates the majority of its emotional charge through rhythm and escalation.
  • There is nothing even vaguely as cool as that in the new movie, and by the end of the film I was falling asleep from the repetitive fight scenes, but early on there are some fun moments. As I said, I probably won't ever rewatch this, but I keep watching the Tartakovsky version over and over again because it is so unbelievably cool and fun and fast-paced and even, at times, epic in a way even the live-action movies forget to be. It's kind of an insult to the great man that Lucas never thought to bump his work onto the big screen, but was happy to do that for something that is bland and underachieving in comparison.

  • It struck me mid-way through the current Clone Wars movie that it's very odd to be watching a story told in this order. First the last three films, then two prequels, the previous Clone Wars series, the last prequel, and now another story set between the series and Revenge of the Sith. As a result we've had to deal with a lot of cognitive dissonance as we are expected to feel empathy for a bunch of Clone Troopers we know have been subconsciously programmed to kill Jedi on command, and overlook the fact that the hero of The Clone Wars, Anakin, has been given a Padawan trainee, the obnoxious Ahsoka Tano, who is only a little older than the "younglings" he massacres in Sith. I doubt that introducing a young character is a way to foreshadow that, as the film never hints that that is to come, and she seems merely to be an audience surrogate for the kids the film is aimed at, but it did make me a bit uncomfortable.
  • Nice touch getting Christopher Lee back to play Count Dooku. He added some class to the proceedings. Sam Jackson, on the other hand, got to say nothing particularly interesting. Wasted opportunity.

  • The conversations between Anakin, Obi-Wan, and Ahsoka are endlessly dull, going around in circles and never containing even an atom of wit. Midway through one of these seemingly infinite back-and-forths (many of which repeat information from earlier on, betraying its multi-episode TV origins), I realised that if the terrifying hyper-sensitive Political Correctness Gone Really Mad future world of Demolition Man ever came to pass, Lucas-style banter would be what replaces humour. It was an epiphany that chilled me to the bone, and made me want to see Pineapple Express and Tropic Thunder even more than I already do (i.e. a lot).
  • Clone troopers know martial arts? Whuh?
  • Er...
  • That's it.

Oh, and Moriarty continues to be the best thing about Ain't It Cool News. Lucas should send him a bunch of flowers or a few hundred thousand unsold action figures for treating with such childish disdain. Lucasarts, though it might occasionally strike gold, has no class. ::Prepares for hissy fit from visionary director of THX 1138::

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