Thursday, May 24, 2007

A Bright Spot In A Galaxy Far Far Away

This is my post for The Star Wars Blog-a-Thon going on over at Edward Copeland On Film.

To me, Star Wars I, II and III are part of a great story, but as actual films they serve as a good example of a once great artist that has lost touch with his audience and with the craft of film making. It is depressing to watch the first three in the story and know that in doing those, Lucas has not only made three bad films, but the stink of those films is so strong it has tainted A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back as well. But I'm a bright side kind of guy and I like to look for the good in things. And there was good that came from the first three stories. It was in the form of a cartoon that ran in three minute stories on Cartoon Network titled Star Wars:Clone Wars. It was fantastic and seeing it for the first time was as magical as seeing the original Star Wars.

The Clone Wars Volumes I and II not only rekindled my love for the entire Star Wars story, it made me hopeful that Revenge of the Sith was going to be an incredible finale. Unfortunately what it did was show me how good Episodes I, II and III could have been under different management. That being the management of Genndy Tartovsky. If you've ever seen Samurai Jack, you know how good he is at telling stories with little dialogue, great sets and incredible action sequences.

Tartovsky takes this same approach to Clone Wars, giving us few lines and lots of action. Yet, I never felt slighted. Quite the contrary actually. I felt I learned more about Anakin's character in these two cartoons then in any of the three films. I think of a scene where Anakin is going off to fight in a war. He flies by Padme's window and places his hand on the glass of his ship as if to reach out and touch her. This simple scene, only seconds long tells me pages and pages of their relationship and the pain they feel for having to keep their love a secret.

My complaint of the first three is that I never felt like the Jedi got their due. Not so in Clone Wars. There is a chunk of time dedicated to solely demonstrating the badass that is Mace Windu. In one spectacular scene, Mace takes on armies of droids as well as a machine whose sole purpose seems to be to flatten large parcels of land. The scene feels epic in its storytelling and the fact that it's not only animation but 2-D animation makes it all the more amazing.

General Grievous also makes his debut here and unlike his treatment in Revenge of the Sith, he is one scary mother here, destroying Jedi left and right and displaying their light sabres on his body like badges of honor. This is not a character that runs off to the darkest places of the galaxy to hide. This is a menacing foe in which you should flee if you ever cross his path.

I am usually not one to welcome the over-telling of a story. I liked A New Hope picking up in the middle of the story and am not a fan of Lucas going back to start from the beginning. I would much rather imagine on my own how things went down. The same could be said of the Clone Wars. In episodes I, III, IV and V, the Clone Wars were briefly mentioned as these epic battles that changed every one's path forever. I liked the mysticism that was attached to those wars. The fun was in not knowing.

But now that Tartovsky has told us, I'm glad he did.


Burbanked said...

Excellent post, Piper - I haven't seen any of these yet and this really makes me want to find them and spend some time watching.

Isn't it fascinating that seemingly the best parts of the SW universe are those that aren't generated solely from Lucas? I'll certainly give him tons of credit for creating this world and being the omniscient overseer of its rules and parameters - but the fact is, the most innovative and enduring narrative pieces have all come from the involvement of other creative minds. When Lucas generously opens up his toybox and lets others play, the results tend to be pretty great.

PIPER said...

Thanks Burbanked. There is no doubt that what Lucas has done is remarkable and it's just as amazing that he has managed to screw up a bunch of it along the way. Where Lucas failed is in allowing other people to own his idea. For some reason or another, this project went unchecked and I'm telling ya, you gots to see it. It's incredible. It's dark and fun and epic. All these things in a cartoon. I love it.

Sheamus the... said...

I love these...way better than the new movies. I wish the movies would have been more like these in a lot of the feel and emotion. I could go on for a long time about this but I am half expecting my boss will be over me shoulder at any moment.

Anonymous said...

Now I really want to see these! I heard they were good, but never really felt the need to see them before. Onto the Netflix Queue....

Anonymous said...

Ya know, I really didn't care for the Clone Wars cartoons that much. I think at this point when they came out, I was just too burned by Star Wars to give a shit.

I will agree, however, that they touch something closer to human emotion and action than the prequels did.

Anonymous said...

Piper, I must ask, what do you think of the new Clone Wars series?

I'm cool with the style and all, but why are they making another Clone Wars series? Why not something taking place inbetween Episodes III and IV? Or if they're saving that for the live-action series, then why not something post-Episode VI? or stuff inbetween IV and V, or V and VI (a la Shadows of the Empire)?