Hi, I’m Pete, and you may know me as That Guy Who Talks Too Much About Flash Paradoxes, and also as That Guy Who Talks Too Much About Flash Paradoxes Two: Paradox Harder. Well, I have another incredibly personal detail to share: I’m also a fan of Star Wars! Despite this, I’ve never watched the Clone Wars TV show (the long-running CGI one, that is – no one shares my love of the Genndy Tartakovsky version) I mean, I tried. I watched that opening movie with the baby Hutt, but found myself incredibly bored with it throughout. So, I let the show slide by, assuming it wasn’t for me.
I kept hearing about it, though. It kept getting great reviews, and the buzz continued even after it wrapped earlier this year. By then, Episode VII was looming near, and so between that and the entire series being on Netflix, I figured, what the hey? I’ll give the whole thing another go, and report back from the front lines. This is…
Now, there’s no way I’m sitting through that movie again–I really didn’t like it, you guys. So, armed with a wiki summary of it, I jumped straight to the first episode, Ambush.
My first impressions: I liked the summation of the episode theme in place of the ‘A long time ago’ text at the start of the show. I also liked the verbal narration replacing the text crawl; the old-timey news announcer style is clever, and recalls the way reporting was done on WWII newsreels.
The episode centers on a struggle between Yoda and the then recently-introduced Asajj Ventress. I’m primed to like Ventress from the start, because I watched the earlier Clone Wars show, as mentioned. Her voice actress changed between shows, but it’s honestly been long enough that I don’t remember the original voice well enough to note the difference.
After the opening credits, Yoda is headed to a Toydarian (like the little floating dude who owned kid Anakin) planet in order to meet with their king and discuss an offer of Republic protection in exchange for the establishment of a Republic supply base. Ventress makes it there first, however, and allows her master, Count Dooku, to make a similar offer for the Separatist side. Ventress enables this via the good old fashioned route of sabotage; delaying Yoda and then using that same delay to try and undermine his credibility in the eyes of the Toydarian king.
Side note: The animation model for Dooku is very cool. The exaggeration of the late Christopher Lee’s features for this version work perfectly, and give the character an impressive sense of grandeur, even for what is, in this episode, only a holographic model.
Yoda is Yoda, though, and makes it to the planet along with a small compliment of clone troopers. He makes contact with the king, which leads to a wager. If Yoda can’t make it to Ventress and the king’s position by nightfall, the king will allow the Separatist army to build their base. If he succeeds, the Republic claims the territory.
Honestly, this first episode almost lost me entirely. It treats this entire bet subplot as though it’s this light-hearted competition between rivals, when it’s actually deadly combat between two vehement enemies. Ventress isn’t trying to beat Yoda in a poker game, she wants him dead. She throws an entire battalion at him, and he has THREE soldiers on his side. Now, obviously, she’s an evil Sith, so I don’t expect anything less, and I similarly have absolutely zero worry about whether Yoda’s going to succeed, so I understand that the stakes aren’t that high, but come on. The Toydarian king is perfectly ready to sing Yoda’s praises from the very outset of the episode, but is still completely amenable to Ventress throwing an army at him. It’s an absurd scenario, and one that completely disregards the context of the conflict; namely that we, the viewers, understand that Chancellor Palpatine and Count Dooku have engineered a civil war in order to wrest control of the galaxy from the Republic. That’s a serious and dramatic goal, perpetrated by competent, calculating villains, so why is that goal being undermined by this absurd game?
At any rate, the episode goes from there to introduce and individualize each of the three clone troopers accompanying Yoda; Jek, Thire, and Rys. If you want to tell them apart, Jek is the one that looks like Jango Fett, Thire is the one who looks like Jango Fett, and lastly, Rys is the one who looks like Jango Fett.
Except none of them do, because the stylization of the CGI model is such a complete departure from the features of Temuera Morrison as to be unrecognizable. Yoda takes some time mid-episode to sit them down and discuss each of their viewpoints in a way that contextualizes the things they’ve already said in the episode, and then offers them some Jedi Wisdom™.
So Yoda does some nifty tricks while fighting the battalion of droids, and the entire group makes it relatively safely to the meeting spot. Ventress gets mad and tries to attack the king, but Yoda does this thing where he turns off her lightsabers using the Force, takes them from her, and then…gives them back? After that, she leaves, presumably with her hands jammed in her pockets and kicking dirt.
Look, I know people love this show, but so far? I am not impressed. I understand that shows can take a while to find their rhythm, but as first episodes go, this was an extremely weak showing, one that seems to misunderstand the basic nature of the brewing Clone Wars conflict. It’s especially strange to start a series that way after the release of Episode III, wherein we know both the beginning and the endpoint of that conflict, as well as the stakes involved.
THE LIGHT SIDE:
- Cool opening intro!
- I like the fleshed out personalities of the clone troopers.
- While the animation style is hit or miss, Dooku’s design is a definite hit.
THE DARK SIDE:
- The droid’s jokes are awful. Even worse than mine!
- The plot is legitimately bad.
- The Troopers’ likeness to Jango is just about nonexistent.
That’s it for now…see you next week when I cover the series’ re-introduction of Anakin Skywalker, in Rising Malevolence!