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Friday, 1 August 2008

Star Wars: Clone Wars (2003), Episode 3 - Revenge of the Sith (2005). DVD Review

The next installment of Alan S's review of all things Star Wars.
Double Review on The Clone Wars DVD (Series One and Two) and Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.

Could this be an interweb/bloggy thing first? A double review on two different mediums? Here’s hoping!

As some of you, my most learned colleagues, may know, I have undergone Japanese water-torture of a sort and have decided to post my reviews based on the vast universe that George Lucas has churned out over the past three decades.

And so, after watching the car-crash that was Episode II, I took a rather unusual turn of going straight to Genndy Tartakovsky’s 2004 Emmy Award winning TV series that is The Clone Wars.

Lets get a couple of things straight here before I start in earnest. This is NOT a movie in it’s own right. It was originally split up into 20 ‘episodes’ that ran for approx three mins a time (Series One) and then later, to five 12-15 min ‘episodes’ (Series Two) and were shown on the Cartoon Network. This, in itself, should immediately consign it to the “Not worth wasting my time” bin at your local HMV.

However, watching the ‘episodes’ back to back on a DVD release produces an hour long animation film that runs as smoothly as any manga or anime film. And this is its best point.

Having received canon status by all at Skywalker Ranch, these animated shorts act to flesh out all the major players in the Clone Wars and also to give a bit more background on the one’s we don’t know that much about (Jedi’s Shaak Ti, Kit Fisto and Ki-Adi-Mundi to name but three.)

The most impressive thing though, in my eyes, was to show how the Clone Troopers acted during wartime. When we think about Storm-troopers from the Original Trilogy, we think of them as clumsy, easily manipulated and poor shots. In these shorts, though, you can see why Jedi Master Sifo Dyas approached Jango Fett to act as the clone template. These guys are badass! There is one section of action on Series One that shows the Clone Troopers infiltrating a Separtist City and not ONE word is uttered. It’s all fist clenching, finger pointing and military precision from Commander Cody and his cronies!

Series Two is more there to explain Anakin’s rise to power and fame as a Jedi Knight; his exploits making him a hero to all he fights for. He loves the power and adulation he gets from the million of beings he has saved. Series Two also acts as the springboard to launch General Grievous into our consciousness.

The animation in both series is of a very high standard with lots of mute colours, to signify the oppression of war and the only flashes of real colour come from the heroes’ and villains’ lightsabers. I mentioned Manga before and these series come across as Manga’s younger brother, who’s trying to impress.

The voice acting, on the other hand, is in need of improvement and does kind of stall your enjoyment of it.

One of the reason’s I have decided to do a double review on these is that the two mediums (animation and live action film) is that the end of Series Two immediately preceeds the opening scrawl of Episode III.

When you are plunged into the sumptiousness of the battle taking place high above Courascant, you are instantly reminded of why you are a Star Wars fan. The explosions, the crazy manoeuvres on both sides of the battle, the sheer attention to detail just blow you away.

Granted, Episode III is a bit like its other bedfellows of Ep I and II. It’s all pomp, but no ceremony. Yes, the CGI is amazing, yes the battles between Jedi and Sith are as good as we will ever see, but, again, it fails to spark the imagination as the Original Trilogy did.

Some of the characters are weak. General Grievous, for example, is a wheezing coward who does not seem to add anything to the struggle (although in the Clone Wars series, he kick’s everyone’s butt from here to Dantooine!) Even Emperor Palpatine loses some of his nastiness after his Force lightning metamorphosis. Before his transformation, he is the ultimate puppet master, working everything from behind the scenes. McDairmid plays that part to a tee. Portman was another one who just didn’t come to the party.

As we all know, the good guy has to go bad and the lightsaber fight on Mustafar does not disappoint. It’s dark, moody, there is shouting and consternation between Vader and Kenobi and how the being that we came to fear is created, is finally played out before our eyes.

In a strange quirk of fate, there are some who say that the Clone Wars is a better story with more flesh to it that it’s live action counterpart. I say that there cannot be one without the other. Episode III makes more sense after you have watched the Clone Wars immediately before it. For example, you find out why Grievous has that annoying cough. Tartakovsky can be proud of his addition to the SW Universe

And so, dear friends, I have reached the end of the journey that is Prequel Land. Stay tuned as I go into the realms that is Original Trilogy land and rejoice as we, once again, walk with Wookies, princess’, farm boys and scruffy looking Nerf-herders.

Clone Wars: 8/10
Episode III: 7/10 – purley because you get the chill up your spine when you hear Vader breathe for the first time!

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