Sunday, August 10, 2008

Today's episode: "Wow, the Clone Wars era is annoying", or: "Why Lucas, WHY?"

I just got back from a screening of the upcoming Clone Wars animated movie, and man.... was it a pointless endeavor. It's pretty obvious from the start that the movie was really an afterthought on Lucas's part to try and draw in more money, since the overall quality doesn't really match today's higher standards for animated flicks. I will say one thing that I enjoyed: I love how Clone troopers look. I know they ripped off the stylized versions of the 2D cartoon, but damn I loved those designs. The faces underneath, are another thing, though.

On the negative side, there were several things bugging me throughout the movie:

- First off (and this is a geeky complaint), no text crawl at the beginning?! This is a Star Wars staple, and it is completely omitted, instead utilizing some announcer/narrator that sounds like they came from several decades ago when TV was still black and white. What the hell, I mean really. Didn't work for me at all.

- The animation was very ehhhh. Granted, I know this is supposed to be a TV series, but as a movie I expected a lot more. So many of the walk/run cycles of the characters look so awkward, particularly Anakin's padawan Ahsoka. Her walk/trot almost looked stuttered or something, and they all feel like they're moving on stilts.
In general, a lot of the movements characters do are too abrupt; it'll be a sudden motion and then will stop suddenly. There's way too little follow-through with their motions, and it makes most of the movie look stilted. Plus, all most characters do while they talk is wave a hand in a few variations, which doesn't looks natural at all. I guess Lucas actually succeeded in making his animated characters even more wooden than his live ones. It's too bad too, since you would hope that an animated feature could really exaggerate features and movement; the faces are surprisingly stiff and the mouths barely move much when they talk, except for a sneer or a smirk here or there, but some characters (no matter their mood) seem to be in perpetual frowns. Overall, it reminded me of a really long videogame cutscene.

- Also, whoever had the "bright" idea to make Obi-Wan do this obnoxious pose

several times during the movie should be shot. I'm sure they thought it was very cool looking, but when you see it in action, it just looks fucking ridiculous.
Speaking of Obi-Wan, he's horrifically arrogant in so much of the movie. There's a particular saber battle he has where, if it weren't for the fact that they're wielding blades, you'd think he was bapping the other person on the nose with a rolled-up newspaper and treating them like a spoiled child. This doesn't bode well for how he'll be acting later in the series, I'm sure.

- Ahsoka can easily match the annoy-o-meter rating that Anakin does. It's pretty hard to be sympathetic with her character... the moment she's humbled and I start to think that she's learning from her experiences, then she lets loose a wiseass comment or a little jackass action, and it's back to me hating her again. (Plus, on a geek level, it doesn't make much sense that she tends to fight with her saber in a reverse form, blade going inwards like this:

You'd think it'd be a lot more effort and pretty impractical for a learning padawan.)
She also has a very forced bonding period with Anakin. The way they butt heads with each other over the slightest things doesn't really feel as close as they want you to feel; they seem competitive more than anything, and they bicker in some weird (platonic) Han and Leia way, but unfortunately without the charm, and as if they were both Hans.

The BIGGEST problem for me ultimately, however... Is the ENTIRE POINT OF THE MOVIE/SERIES ITSELF. Why, why are you introducing a spunky young padawan arrogant bitch-kid that you know is supposed to be important in this story? Does anyone else see the pure futility in it all? I mean, it's not like it's a spoiler: there is a jedi purge during Episode 3 onwards, and, surprise surprise, you never hear about Ahsoka later, so obviously she will die. All this bonding with Anakin is pointless, because, c'mon, the dude killed an entire room of defenseless toddlers; he's not going to bat an eye killing her. Well, either that or she gets turned Sith as well (which I could see, seeing how much of a little bitch she already is in the movie), but even then I imagine there's a high chance she'd get whacked that way too. Why should we care about her character, when we know she has no impact on the story as a whole? She certainly doesn't improve Anakin at all, and definitely not in the long run.

I'm not really sure why Lucas has this gigantic hard-on for the prequel / clone wars time period, because honestly there's only so much you can shoehorn into there; it's not exactly a lengthy time period, especially as far as Star Wars sagas go. What would've made more sense to me is if he had made an animated series based off of events that happened right after Return of the Jedi. You want a padawan kid that children can latch onto? Have Luke restart the Jedi Order and do it that way. You want wiseass antics that are actually funny? You've got Han Solo. They didn't use Hayden or Ewan's voices in this one, so they could've easily gotten sound-alikes (plus Mark Hamill) for a post-ROTJ animated series.

I think Lucas really dropped the ball... but then again, he's been steeped in the dark side for a long time now. I remember old interviews with him, hot off the heels of his original trilogy success, when he had told people that it was good, that he had established himself and now that he had accomplished that, he could "really start making the movies he wanted to make." Back then, it sounded like he meant non-Star Wars movies, branching out and trying new things. But leeching the life out of Star Wars, making spinoffs and toys and rereleases, he fell into the greed trap, he took the "quick and easy path." And he made this movie, which will lead to a series that's planned to have "at least 100 episodes." Great, 100 episodes of stories that mean nothing.

I'm really fearful of things that Lucas is excited about these days. Excited about reviving Star Wars? Greedo shoots first. Excited about prequels? Emo kid Vader, and 90% green-screened movies. Excited about Indy 4? CG prarie dogs, surviving nukes in a fridge, and more CG up the yin-yang. ... ugh... I'm actually pretty damn scared about the future of Indiana Jones, but that's a rant for another blog post.

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