How The Clone Wars Succeeded and Failed

With the arrival of Star Wars Rebels, I thought it would be a good time to publish this guest post and look back at the last Star Wars animated series: The Clone Wars.  Please comment and love Icarus’ post on TCW.  His bio is below, if you would like more info.  (My thoughts on Rebels next week)

What can I say about The Clone Wars that hasn’t already been said? Star Wars fans hoped TCW would fill in some critical gaps in the three years between second-trilogy Star Wars films Attack Of The Clones and Revenge Of The Sith.  Bonus if it fixed a few mistakes in the prequels.  What we got instead were very uncomplicated story arcs and tastes and teases but not much more depth to the Star Wars ecosystem — InterGalactic Banking Clan anyone — certainly not enough to satisfy the appetite of even the more casual fan.

The Clone Wars says goodbye

The Clone Wars says goodbye

The series is over but I’m writing this from the perspective of what potential it had at the beginning.  To be sure, I tried to binge watch the entire series and found that I could only stand to watch one, maybe two episodes at a time.  It was painful to listen to Kabuki theater level dialog overemphasizing the importance of obvious plot devices at the expense of storytelling. That was probably because each episode has to appeal the limited experiences of its kids audience.  In every episode you had comically inept droids trying to kill Clone Troopers and vice versa.  You have to handle this with a certain delicacy for your young audience.  To simultaneously kill bad guys, kill some good guys yet not bring the horrors of war too close to light.  TCW had to do this on the small scale while also keeping its eye on the end game, setting up the landscape for ROTS.

You cannot talk about ROTS without talking about Order 66 and how thousands of Jedi were slaughtered by clone troopers without any hesitation or sense of loyalty to their Jedi generals. I could see the droid army following this order more to the letter than the clone one, although given the level of ineptness portrayed by the combat droids, along with the ease with which Jedi Masters Yoda and Windu dispatched them, the number of Jedi actually killed would have been substantially lower.

I’ve always asked myself how could you pull something like this off?   Putting aside the logistics of getting word simultaneously to every despot in the galaxy, one thing that bothered me was in the movie, they show every Jedi getting ambushed because they were in a vulnerable position.  Yet the Jedi are almost godlike in their awareness and certainly wouldn’t have been just heading into battle as the order came in.  While the galaxy’s preeminent mystics/warriors can be caught by surprise, it’s also just as likely the Empire’s spin doctors exaggerated the number of Traitors eliminated under Order 66 with many more  Jedi  driven into hiding.

Clone trooper clone wars s5ep18War changes everyone and it is possible that Order 66 succeeded because the clone troopers saw the Jedi as an actual threat to the Republic.  Remember to outsiders, the Jedi are a very secretive group that keeps their Archives, a vast repository of knowledge, to themselves (Vatican anyone?). If you view The Force as a hokey religion and the Jedi as the Temple Priests, it follows that ordinary soldiers could see the Jedi as roadblocks to peace.

Though I haven’t seen it yet, I’m aware of the Fives/Tup arc that almost exposed Order 66 prematurely.  I’m probably way off on this but I suspect that arc serves to demonstrate that while moving toward complete domination of the Republic, Chancellor Palpatine wasn’t quite there yet and there is always the slim hope of a few people being in the right place at the right time

What are your thoughts on Order 66 and the clone troopers?

About me:  I am what you would designate as a casual fan at best.  When the original trilogy was out, the conventional “wisdom” at the time was that you could either like Star Wars or Star Trek, not both.  However, I like Star Wars and Star Trek and if that makes me a freak so what. Being from Chicago, I also like the White Sox and the Cubs except when they play each other in inter league.  If you like what you read, please read my regular blog at ChicagoNow and/or my personal blog and if you are on Facebook please give me a “like” at Mysteries-of-Life and of course feel free to follow me on Twitter at @Icarus2013.

Book Review: Dawn of the Jedi

It’s highly entertaining to me that while I was reading the first EU book in over 10 years, LFL announces that all of the EU is now referred to as “Legends” and no longer canon.  It kind of seems like a waste of my time to try to fulfill my resolution of reading one EU book per year.  Should I forget about the previous books and move forward as LFL moves forward with novels?  Or should I continue to read the books of the past?

Aw, shucks that’s a hard decision!

I’m kidding.  Of course I’ll read EU books before they were “Legends”.  As long as they’re good.

But, you know, I don’t read EU books.  I’ve discussed it many times on my blog, but this past experience was a heavy reminder of why I don’t read them.

Because this one sucked.  Okay, maybe that’s a little harsh.  I hate to say any author’s hard work “sucked” because they put a lot of time and effort into it…but LFL: Please don’t let Tim Lebbon write anymore Star Wars novels!

I chose Dawn of the Jedi: Into the Void because they had a sample of the first chapter in a Star Wars Insider last year.  I really, really liked the chapter and figured the rest of the book would be the same.  Plus, it’s about Jedi, my favorite!  Originally it was a comic book that was adapted to a novel, so I’m hoping that explains away the reasons I didn’t like it, but I don’t believe that’s the case.

*Spoilers below*

dawn of the jediIn a nutshell: This is not exactly an “origin” story of the Jedi, per se, like I was hoping for.  Instead, it was more of a sampling of the history of the Jedi, more than 25,000 BBY.  They live on a planet called Tython where there are nine temples.  In order to become a Je’daii, you need to travel between each of the temples to gain a well-rounded skill set to become a Master.  I had to look some of that up on Wookiepedia because all I remember was that there was a lot of traveling and temples.

The story focuses on a young Je’daii Ranger named Lanoree Brock, who is tasked with the mission to stop her brother, Dalien Brock (who was thought to be dead), from activating a hypergate.

The story goes between flashbacks of growing up with Dalien and trying to force him into being a Je’daii like herself and the real time of her mission to find him.  While on her mission, she meets up with a Twi’lek named Tre Sana who helps her.

Yup.  That’s the gist of it. Lots of plot. 😉

Pros:

  • Lanoree actually kills her brother at the end of the novel.  I know, strange that this is a pro.  But the whole novel is leading up to this climatic confrontation and you think she is going to “save” him from himself.  Possibly see him regret his actions and become a better person.  But nope, he remains foolhardy (I say foolhardy because he wasn’t necessarily “evil”) until the end of the novel where she has to kill him.
  • We get to see the Jedi as an organization years and years before the Prequels. Before they had lightsabers, they had swords.  They did everything lightsabers do, but were swords instead.  Not much detail on how they made the swords to have the exact same properties as lightsabers, though.
  • The novel was centered around a female protagonist.  Lanoree is practically a robot and it’s hard to feel supportive for her, but at least the main character is a female.  She is a Je’daii who can kick some serious butt and leads the story.  I always like to see books that are written entirely from a female perspective.
  • I learned that Sith were a species before they were the antithesis of the Jedi.  It was really confusing at first to be reading about Lanoree walking by Sith and not freaking out.

Cons:

  • My main problem with this novel was that I never felt attachment to any of the characters.  Lanoree is not a very likeable character lanoree brockand her brother is just annoying, not really evil.  The closest I felt for any character was Tre Sana, but even he was kind of wooden and non-likeable.  I like feeling for characters, rooting for them, and when I put the book down, I want to feel like they were my friends and I have invested my emotions into them.  I want to feel sad when someone dies (or almost dies? It wasn’t entirely clear) as was the case with Tre Sana.  Instead, I felt nothing when he died and thought the way it was written was very strange.
  • The juxtaposition between flashbacks and real time also created a very jarring novel.  I’ve read that style before, and I know it can be done well, but in this case, it made it a lot harder to read.  Lebbon seemed to want to write a fantasy novel during the flashbacks and a science fiction novel in real time.  It seemed like he was trying to mix two genres together and I wasn’t having it.   They never really matched up.  Tython and the Je’daii were the fantasy realm, whereas Lanoree’s mission with Tre Sana was sci-fi.  When Lanoree and Dalien were traveling to the different temples together (flashback) they encountered fantastical beasts, complete with beasts that could withstand the Force.  That’s fine if beasts can withstand the Force, I remember reading of such in Heir to the Empire, but by the time we got to them, it felt like the author was running out of ideas for suspense.
  • I never understood the connection Lanoree felt for her brother.  There were never any flashbacks that gave us the siblings being in tune with each other and completely loving each other.  Each flashback had a sullen, hateful Dalien, and a Lanoree who tried to push her ideals and training of the Force down his throat.  So where was this supposed connection and love coming from?  Was it just the whole “blood is thicker than water” thing?
  • The writing was horrible and there was very little actual plot.  I felt like I was reading an airport novel.  It consistently left chapters on bad cliffhangers that didn’t make me want to turn the page.  The dialogue was bland, and though there was a lot of action packed into the pages…it felt like nothing really happened.

Okay, there was more than just these points, but I feel like I would end up complaining way too much.  I think I had high hopes for this book since I liked the excerpt from Insider so much.  It’s never good when you have high hopes, because then you are bound to be disappointed.

I gave this book 2/5 stars on Goodreads because it wasn’t HORRIBLE.  But it was forgettable and it sums up why I stopped reading EU books in the first place.  When you get a bad Star Wars EU book, it’s pretty bad.

However, I’ve had some suggestions from Mei-Mei recommending Choices of One and Null recommended Darth Plagueis, and I’ve heard good things about both.  Maybe I should just start at the beginning and read the Thrawn Trilogy again…I think it’s been enough time to revisit them.

Anyone have any other suggestions?

Geek out!

So I wanted to talk a little more in depth about a few different announcements that have happened in the last two weeks, while I’ve been buried in work for our conference.

  1. The Expanded Universe has “turned a new page” according to LFL.  Read: they disintegrated the EU.
  2. The Episode VII cast announcement.  One more thought.
  3. Star Wars Rebels trailer released Sunday.

#1 – “No disintegrations” did not apply to the Star Wars EU

On April 25th, LFL announced that the EU “turns a new page” and is setting out to keep everything as consistent as possible.  Kennedy formed a Lucasfilm Story Group to help with this process of keeping everything organized and coherent.  Legendary Pablo Hidalgo (I swear, he knows EVERYTHING about Star Wars), Leland Chee, Carrie Beck, and Diana Williams comprise this group.

In plain English…the EU is no longer canon.  The movies, The Clone Wars, and the future Star Wars Rebels is what will be the foundation for canon.  There are also a few new novels coming out that will fit into this canon storyline.

How do I feel about this?  Honestly, I’m not surprised at all.  I’ve written before about how I’m not a huge fan of the EU and I’m actually more surprised that other fans are shocked and upset.  How are you guys that stunned?  Did you really think that after the announcement of Episode VII, LFL would keep the EU as is?

As a corporation, you can’t be wishy-washy about this stuff.  You have to be black and white.  And I applaud LFL for making an announcement that puts any other hopes to rest.  There was NO way they were ever going to keep the EU canon, and I had touched upon that briefly before.  But apparently there were many, many fans that thought somehow there would be a chance for the EU and the future movies to coincide peacefully.

Really?

Let’s look at this brief text conversation between my brother-in-law and I:

BIL: “What do you think about the Star Wars EU no longer being canon?”

ME: “Completely fine with it.  I thought the EU was getting wild at some points and Lucas seemed to be okaying everything.  And they formed that team to make everything cohesive at LFL.  I’m also not surprised because I figured this would be coming once they announced VII.”

“…I feel that this is unfairly dismissive of all the people who did a ton of creative work (and made them a ton of money) to just ret-con it now.  Also, I felt like it anything was getting crazy, it was the Clone Wars (what with crazy robot spider Darth Maul), and that apparently remains in the canon with the 6 movies.  I really felt like other than the OT, the EU was Star Wars’ greatest strength, and it seems weird and arrogant to dismiss it.”

“Yeah, Darth Maul’s revival was completely dumb, but some of TCW was really good and I enjoyed it.  I mean, yes, in a sense they are dismissing the EU but it’s not disappearing.  People will still read and enjoy the work.  I’m just surprised that you’re so surprised.  I thought it was obvious as soon as they announced more movies.”

…etc, etc.  There was more.  But that’s the gist of it.

mara jade

Am I the only one confused and not surprised at all?  When I heard about this, I just moved on with my life thinking, “Well, duh,” but it wasn’t until a few days later that I saw all the outrage that I began to get confused.  Does it also have to do with my feelings of ambivalence towards the EU?  Perhaps the more attached you are, the more furious your outcry is.  But that still doesn’t explain why people are surprised.

Abrams can’t be attached to the EU and can’t be confined by it.  Neither can anyone at LFL now that Disney has taken over.  It would be fun if Luke had a wife with red hair, but that was the extent of my hoping.

The novels written for the EU will not all of a sudden be taken off the shelves.  They won’t be banned and burned.  They will still exist and future generations can still enjoy them and perhaps wish to live in a time period like we did, where we didn’t know there was ever going to be more Star Wars movies. Nor do I agree with my brother-in-law’s comment that it is dismissive to the author’s work.  I’m sure that 20 years from now, the people who have read the Courtship of Princess Leia are the fans you know are hardcore.

#2 – One more thought…

The bigger news last week was the Episode VII cast announcement.  I’m ashamed to say that it wasn’t until Mei-Mei’s comment on my post that I realized there was only one new female within the cast.  Actually, when looking at the entire cast, there are only two females.  TWO.  Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia) and the newbie, Daisy Ridley.

Don’t judge yet, guys.  I mean, if we base this on history, we will probably have a leading male figure, with Daisy playing a supporting role.

But…don’t judge yet.  Ridley may be on for VIII and IX and could be a force to be reckoned with.  I really believe that modern cinema had a breakthrough with the Hunger Games movies and realized that a female CAN be the lead in an action-packed film and there doesn’t need to be an oversaturation of romance for it to be a blockbuster.  Let’s hope they take a page out of that book (pun haha!) and move in that direction.  Let’s see what happens.

Abrams has also hinted that there will be more casting announcements coming soon.  Can’t wait!

#3 – Star Wars Rebels Trailer

Thoughts?  This is the first concrete thing we’ve seen about Rebels other than updates on casting and concept art.  My issue with this is wondering what they will do with Kanan Jarrus at the end of the series?  It’s the same question that bothered me about Ahsoka in TCW.  I thought she had to die in order for the show to make any kind of sense with ROTS.  Instead, they played it a lot more beautifully, with her disenchantment with the Jedi and abandonment of their ways.

So what will happen with Kanan?  Another disappearance?  Or will they actually kill him off?  I feel like when you bring a Jedi into the mix, it just gets a lot more complicated.

Also – why are Ezra’s eyes such a weird color?

Those are all the thoughts that were tumbling in my head last week.  Hope everyone had a good May the 4th!  I celebrated by baking my Star Wars shortbread cookies, like I do every year.  Did you guys celebrate at all?

Hmmm...I've never heard Kirsten mention Star Wars.  Ever.  Fan or jumping on the bandwagon?

Hmmm…I’ve never heard Kirsten mention Star Wars. Ever. Fan or jumping on the bandwagon?  Nice dress though!

Haiku 04.03.14

Bringing in a little EU today…

Two blue lightsabers, Accompanied by two red. Asajj holds her guard

Two blue lightsabers,
Accompanied by two red.
Asajj holds her guard

 

As for my life?

I’m bored with all this
Within, I’m getting antsy
Driven.  Obsessive.

The Final, Final Season of The Clone Wars

(Spoilers ahead)

I like The Clone Wars, for the most part.  But I struggled with this last season that only aired on Neflix.  I’m unsure what it was: maybe the lack of Ahsoka, the deviations from the movies which I didn’t really agree with, or that I believed the producers tried to make it REALLY good, but it just felt forced.

There were four groups/arcs of stories within the final season.  The first four episodes dealt with the clones, the next three involved how Anakin and Padmé’s relationship played off of Clovis, the next two (mercifully) involved Jar Jar Binks, with the final four episodes focusing on Yoda.

 

Triggering Order 66

tcw fugitive

The first story arc involved a clone trooper Fives who investigated why his fellow trooper Tups turned and killed a fellow Jedi in battle, seemingly randomly.  He ends up on Kamino, where the Kaminoan Nala Se is in dealings with Darth Sidious and covering up the fact they had placed a trigger chip inside the clones that would activate when they hear Order 66.  Once the Kaminoans get found out by Fives that there is a chip inside the clones, they falsely label it as an “aggression inhibitor”.

I enjoyed this story arc the most out of the final season.  My problem lies in the fact that TCW always tries to explain too much.  It happens in the final episodes with Yoda (which I’ll get to), and it happens in this arc with the Order 66 chip.  I’ve always liked the idea that the clones were created to obey orders without questions, because, well, they say that in AOTC.  In TCW, they constantly try to show the clones as individuals.  I like it, I do, but at the same time I feel it’s unrealistic to the saga.  In my mind, the reason why the clones instantly turned on the Jedi with Order 66, is because the Jedi were only their commander-of-the-time.  The clones true loyalty was to the Republic and the Supreme Chancellor.  Order 66 was put in place for traitors of the Republic, amongst a million other Orders so that it wasn’t suspicious.  Hearing Order 66 would not cause any hesitation because it pinpointed the Jedi as traitors and the clones do not need more persuasion than that..

When you introduce this chip in the clones, it’s excusing their behavior in Order 66, and in a sense, detracts from the fact that they are clone troopers.  I mean, yes, it’s great to see their personalities and whatnot, and it’s fun to think about their individuality, but in my eyes…they’re clones.  They shot the Jedi because they were following orders, which is what they were programmed to do.

 

Padmé, Anakin, Clovis, and a Waste of My Time

tcw crisis at the heart

The second story arc involved a mission that Padmé went on to work with the banks, which also involved working with Clovis.  The plot points are hazy because I remember just getting bored.  Anakin shows up and there’s a lot of jealousy and … yawn.  I remember Anakin ends up fighting Clovis out of petty jealousy and Clovis ends up getting screwed because he thought he could be independent from Count Dooku.  Yeah, I have no idea.

The only slightly interesting part I took away from this storyline was that Padmé freaks out in the end about her and Anakin’s relationship, saying it’s based on dishonesty (since they can’t be open about it) and how their relationship can never be a normal relationship.  Interestingly, I had gone into that in my recent blog post about Padmé’s pregnancy, so I liked seeing that I wasn’t the only one who knew that it must be such a strain to keep their relationship a secret.  She suggested taking a break…which I didn’t like because at this point they were married and I don’t think you should just “take breaks” when you’re married.

Overall, a disappointing, boring arc that would have been better left on the cutting room floor.

 

Mesa Thinks This Storyline Was Kookoo 

tcw the disappeared

Third storyline involved Jar Jar and Mace Windu.  Yes.  You read that right.  Jar Jar and Mace Windu.  Oh, and add on top of that Jar Jar making out with Queen Julia, who was of a race that seemed to be a mix of Indian and Aztec duck-like Mr. Tumnus’.  Good description, right?

The plot consists of Jar Jar’s lover disappearing, with Mace and Jar Jar going to find her.  They end up in this desert/old South type planet where they find a cult trying to take Queen Julia’s Force energy from her…to give to Mother Talzin, the leader of the Nightsisters.  I kind of lost track on how this would actually work.  The Force was being trapped in an energy ball and, gosh, I can’t remember.  But Mother Talzin ends up disintegrating away, which sucks because I really liked her character and thought this episode wasted her formidability.

I was bored through much of this too but DID take one thing away.  Queen Julia’s race, Dagoyans, hate the Jedi because they “kidnap” their Force-sensitive children to train them as Jedi.  What a key point that I wished they had expanded upon!  I’ve always looked at that as such an interesting development that the movies don’t really touch upon.  EU definitely does a good job bringing this subject matter to light, but the only time we are ever forced to think about it is during TPM, when Anakin is taken away from his mother and possibly may never see her again.  I wish they had given this subject more light as it could have been a great topic to explore within TCW.  But no, they shied away from it, and just threw Jar Jar and Mace into quibbling stupidness.

 

Hard to See, The Force Is…not really

Yoda season 6

Finally, the last four episodes had more highpoints than the last two storylines, but I was still not overly impressed.  It was interesting, I’ll say that.  To sum it up, Yoda hears Qui-Gon’s voice and follows the instruction of the voice as it leads him on a journey to figure out how to become one with the Force after death.  I thoroughly enjoyed the first two episodes, as Obi-Wan and Anakin find Jedi Sifo-Dyas’ lightsaber and unravel that the Sith were behind the creation of the clone army.  When Yoda hears the voice from Qui-Gon, the Jedi believe that it could be the dark side corrupting him and discourage him from following it.  Anakin helps Yoda escape from the hospital wing where they are testing him and Yoda is off on his quest!  Woo!

Kind of.  Then it gets wishy-washy.  I have always liked that the Force was a vague, mystical concept.  I wasn’t even that bummed when it got more biological in TPM with midi-cholorains.  But these episodes were designed to link back to Yoda’s line in ROTS about how he spoke to Qui-Gon and learned how to exist after death.  And the las two episodes go into SUCH detail.  I was really disappointed.  They were trying to make sense of something that I didn’t believe needed to be understood.

And it only raised more questions for me. Yoda goes through a training process and figures out how to become a Force ghost, basically.  So once he learns this, does it mean that he now has all the knowledge and can just pass it along?  I would assume that’s the case as he tells Obi-Wan what he’s going to have him do on Tatooine.

But then…how does Anakin come back as a Force ghost?  Who taught him what to do?  GRRRR.  It seems like such a loophole to me.  And now I fear that the next DVD versions to be released will take Anakin as a Force ghost completely out of the end of ROTJ.  I don’t think they’d actually do that, but then again, I never dreamed they’d actually replace Sebastian Shaw with Hayden Christensen either.

This was a tough story arc for me to swallow.  Some of it just seemed so far fetched and ruined the mysticism that surround the Force for me.  Some of it was also plain stupid: Yoda fought with a physical dark side of himself (kind of reminded me of a cat-like Gollum), ended up on the Sith planet of Moraband where he had a vision that was not really a vision and he battled Palpatine. If you’re saying “What? Huh?” right now, then you kind of feel how I did. I hate that the last two episodes of this arc were stupid ones.  Now the feeling left in my mouth is of disappointment.

 

After watching all these episodes, I wish that TCW had ended with Season 5 and they did not resurrect these.  Ahsoka’s trial and departure of the Jedi Council was a perfect way to end a great series.  Overall, I felt I could have done without these lost episodes, and it was a sad feeling after being excited to see some more.