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‘Star Wars: The Clone Wars’ – ‘Rise of the Malevolence’

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Credit to the Jedi Grand Master George where credit is due. He lives by the declaration “go big or go home.” When the Jedi Master said “let their be light” he meant “let there be light!” It is the kind of light that fries your retinas even when the blast shields are down! Frankly, it is one of those things I admire most about Star Wars. The Star Wars universe doesn’t just fly starships. They fly ships that are a kilometer plus in length (and have cool names like Executor). Star Wars weapons don’t just kill people, they blow up whole planets for crying out loud. The bad guy doesn’t just wear black, he can kill you just by looking at you! And that he can do while talking to you on that Star Wars phone thingee (take that telemarketers with your warnings about my 10-year old car warranty)! It lends authenticity to the idea that Star Wars is larger than life!

When news broke of the animated series, press releases stated each episode was a stand alone. This prompted one to remember the heady days of the eighties cartoons/commercials here every episode featured a new character (read action figure) and the episodes ended with a cheery note of how to be a good person. (Thanks a lot G.I Joe, I needed that lesson on how to properly field strip my rifle.) Thankfully that is not actually the case with this animated series, the fact that the episodes are not stand alones allow for rich story arcs filled with action and intensity.

Episodes two, three, and four, dubbed “Rise of the Malevolence,” features General Grievous’ first appearance captaining the immense warship Malevolence, a ship about the size of California and with the ability to launch a snotty glob of energy the size of the Pacific Ocean that leaves electronics lifeless and spaceships inert. Attacking unsuspecting Republic Fleets, the Malevolence makes short work of the good guys and begins its prowl through space like a great white shark scouting out seals and surfers in the Great Barrier Reef.

Grievous’ tastiest treat lies in the sweet morsel of Jedi Master Plo Koon’s (seen ever so briefly in the last trilogy and then only as either eye candy in the background or as a really bad way to crash your ship off other structures in Revenge of the Sith) fleet. Devastated, the fleet is unable to send out an emergency call and the survivors are left to the mercies of black space in escape pods.

Seeing the fleet destroyed, the wickedly cool Count Dooku informs the dear droid general there are to be no survivors. Droids are dispatched to rummage through the wreckage and take out the pods. Meanwhile, Master Koon and his escape pod-mates wait.

This story arc is notable for a few reasons. First is the debut of General Grievous, Ahsoka (Anakin’s padawan learner), and our dynamic duo of Obi-Wan and Anakin. The aforementioned Jedi Master Plo Koon debuts as well with an apparent connection with tag-along Ahsoka.

Concerning General Grievous, it looks like we are continuing to follow the story from Revenge of the Sith, namely that Grievous should be renamed Generally Irrelevant. It is a complete departure from the micro series (illustrated and written by the venerable Genndy Tartakovsky), which, incidentally gave General Grievous his official debut prior to Revenge of the Sith. Generally Irrelevant has gone from a devastating Jedi killer to droid cruncher and overall general growler. He doesn’t seem good for much else. Perhaps as the season continues we will get a better glimpse as to why Grievous is the bad boy everyone thinks he is. To echo the Chancellor from the micro series, “one can only hope.”

Ahsoka’s debut finds that, refreshingly, her banter from the Clone Wars film is left on the big screen. Instead, we are given a character that gives the jury time to deliberate as to her place in the Star Wars universe. So far I am in favor of her. I know she comes across as the annoying little sister with a lightsaber but it is not forced or overdone. In lesser hands this character could run away into a nightmare similar to Indiana Jones’ sidekick from the second Indiana Jones travesty Temple of Doom.

Master Plo Koon seems of standard Jedi stock. Koon continues in Master Yoda’s theme of connecting with the troops and establishing himself as a commander worth dying for. Thankfully, it is not pushy or preachy, and actually comes across as genuine. In lesser hands the exchange of “I value your life more than finding that weapon” would come across as sleazy, sounding almost like a Disney musical moment waiting to happen, complete with singing laser blasts and dancing asteroids. Episode writer Melching knows his stuff though and crafts a moment that is worth remembering. It also lends authenticity to the complete surprise the Jedis had when it came time for the clones to gun them down in Revenge of the Sith. (just for the fun of it, I am hoping we come across a Jedi Master that couldn’t care less for his troops and treats them with complete disregard. There has to be one out there, one bastard of a Jedi that has no problem chucking his clones into the grind. Let’s hope so. It could deliver some fine cartooning.)

The episode continues with the standard battles we know and love from Star Wars. Of course, we go big and don’t go home. Of particular interest to the geeks and freaks out there — check out the dialogue between clones during a repair scene. It was lifted directly from Empire Strikes Back. Also another nod when Generally Irrelevant fires his gooey blast mirroring when the Death Star commences its primary ignition way back in the original Star Wars. And finally for you ultimate geeks — one of the escape pods is number 1977. I’ll let you figure that one out. Little touches like this are fun and it is nice to see them. The writers don’t draw too much attention to them. (characters don’t wink into the camera or give the audience that knowing look.)

Suffice to say, Anakin braves a rescue attempt despite the fact that Malevolence’s destruction is more important than the lives of a Jedi Master and his clones. (The Jedi’s aren’t one for reading Sun Tzu’s Art of War or Black Hawk Down. Apparently when their man goes down it sucks to be them.) The irascible Anakin and his tagalong learner roar onto the scene in that junky lunchbox called the Twilight (and no, not the vampire book thank God) and save the day.

There is a cute little scene between the Chosen One (a phrase mysteriously missing so far and hopefully it will remain that way) and his learner in which they both take responsibility for their defiance in front of the Jedi Council. (It’s the good guy version of paying your dues when you blow it. It means a lot of Mace Windu scowling and Master Yoda saying “Mmmm…” in that knowing sort of way. It would be interesting if it meant something but honestly, what can you do to the future Darth Vader and Crazy Old Hermit? Demote them to something less interesting? How about casting them all as extras when the Jedi Grand Master changes his mind and decides the whole saga should be about growing strange molds in your bathroom and reshoots the film in 3D digital?) And, added to all that action is the fact that the Malevolence is still out there. One could almost here the theme music as we fade to black on the Malevolence. Pity there is no theme music. Maybe next time.

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About Tim Girard

  • Jim Nude

    why don’tyou show movies