Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005) – Best of the Prequels But Still an Idea Not Fully Realized

Revenge of the Sith

  “Revenge of the Sith” is the best of the Prequels and this isn’t just because episode I and II are so terrible. “Revenge of the Sith” at least has a focus and mission, which can’t be said for “The Phantom Menace” and “Attack of the Clones,” which were muddled messes each in different ways. “Revenge of the Sith” is also the only film you need to see to understand “The Original Trilogy,” The Clone Wars and Anakin’s fall are the focus of this story and George Lucas actually does an okay job…though the ending is bad, the middle is really strong and for a moment Lucas seems to understand that you show events, don’t tell events. I’ll get into more of what I mean further down.

     The film was directed and written by George Lucas and produced by Rick McCallum.

     The story involves the end of the Clone Wars as General Grievous does a last ditch effort with Dooku (Christopher Lee) to capture Chancellor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid). Things soon go wrong for them when Anakin (Hayden Christensen) and Obi-Wan (Ewan McGregor) arrive though all is not as it appears to be as after the battle Anakin finds himself being isolated around him and being offered a path to save the woman he loves through his friend and mentor Palpatine.

The Pros: The Action – The action in this is actually really good. Whether it is the battle to save Chancellor Palpatine or the attack on Grievous’s base we see that George Lucas does know how to shoot an action sequence when he is up for it, even the weaker battles like that between Dooku and Anakin.

Obi-Wan Kenobi – Obi-Wan shows why he was made Jedi Master in this as we see him walk the line between supporting his apprentice and trying to look out for the well being of the galaxy. Ewan McGregor does a wonderful job and I felt for him at the end as the pain in his eyes at leaving his friend who had turned to the dark side felt real and had much more love in the acting than any scene between Anakin and Padme.

Yoda – Yoda has some great Jedi Master moments too as he forces Anakin to give up his attachments or to face losing them (which is the Jedi Way, much like Buddhism) and we see how the deaths around the galaxy touch him. Thankfully he doesn’t fight with a lightsaber that much (he like Sidious should be beyond using swords whether they are lazer swords or not) and him losing was after a tough fight. He was stupid in that he went alone. Palpatine could not have taken on Obi-Wan and Yoda together. I do like that he figured out how to train to immortality too via communion with Qui-Gon, that was a nice touch.

Anakin’s Choice – This is a great scene, the music is beautiful and we see Anakin thinking of Padme and dealing with the fact that Palpatine has been right about the Jedi so far, but how they are also his friends and he knows whatever choice he makes there is no going back. There is no dialogue and the scene is all the more powerful for it.

Anakin’s Fall – Anakin’s fall is a pro as we establish he’s already a bit of a sociopath (hello the Tuscan Raider massacre) and he has major anger and ego problems tied to the fact that I don’t think he loves Padme, not really. She represents his mother as she is safety and freedom which are two things he’s never had his entire life. She is a closeness and familiarity and he chooses that for understandable reasons as he would do anything not to lose her and he is a sociopath, so killing the Jedi though it would be hard. Anakin is already an established fascist so killing those going against the order (Palpatine) he supports is a tough call but in the end one he would make.

Order 66 – This was really well done. From Anakin’s march on the Jedi Temple and slaughtering the Younglings (Jedi Children and going to call them that from now on), which by the way is his second time doing this so he’s been a messed up murdering soldier for sometime. We see the Jedi fall on each of their operations as Palpatine had manipulated the war so well that there were so few to stand against him.

Palpatine/Darth Sidious – This guy is wonderfully evil and brilliant in a world where no one asks questions (no one does, not Anakin, the Jedi Order or even the Senate). So given this fact of course he rises to power and in the end helps the Sith reign supreme. The only scenes to watch in the Prequels prior are the Palpatine ones as he never stops being an interesting character and you get an idea of just how powerful of a Sith he is. He is one of the greatest if not thee greatest Sith for a reason and this film is his victory.

The Cons: Padme and the “love” story – The love story didn’t work unless they are both super co-dependent. Hayden and Padme’s acting doesn’t work either and the love story only works as an idea to bring about the fall. It’s more believable in both of the “Clone Wars” shows but for this film the crappy dialogue and sadly horrible acting more so coming from Natalie Portman is what brings it down. Her no longer having a will to live after Anakin turns on her doesn’t help matters either. She just feels more like a plot device meant to be fridged to finished Anakin’s fall.

Tone – There are still moments where slapstick is in with intense war scenes and it took me out of it in those moments. Lucas reeled it in at least and it doesn’t get as bad as past films.

General Grievous – What a joke. This is supposed to be our big bad? He is just bad as he is in the 3D Clone Wars. I never felt threatened by this guy and didn’t understand why anyone would make him a general.

Non-Characters – Dooku’s death felt meaningless and I feel bad for Christopher Lee because of it. Mace Windu also felt invisible. There characters never felt like characters, just ideas and plot devices for Anakin’s fall…like Padme and Anakin’s love in this film which wasn’t real but had to be there due to plot.

Excess – This really comes out in the final fight between Obi-Wan and Anakin…the fight lasts 20 minutes and there is no reason for any one on one fight to go on that long. It took me out of the moment and emotion behind the characters and made only pointless action. The only symbolism we had was the fact that Mustafar looked like hell. The tell not show dialogue didn’t help matters either in these scenes.

The Dialogue – The dialogue is still bad, especially at the end. At least there are moments where Lucas remembers to show and not tell us so that’s a win! Sadly his dialogue he has Vader makes the ending worse.

No!!!!!! – This scene. Vader should not say “Padme” it sounds weird and all it would have taken was a simple “No.” There was no reason to ham it up at all. It made no sense and I don’t understand why it was there. We already know Anakin is broken we don’t need it turned up to 11 to see that.

    I actually listed quite a few pros this time around as this isn’t a bad film, it just isn’t an especially good one. There are moments where Lucas actually knows how to write! Sadly rather than just showing the story he continues to tell us it, especially at the end. After I finish rewatching all the films I’ll do a write-up on the Prequels as a whole and a comparison with the Original Trilogy. Much of this film was made better for me because I got to see a lot of the show in both “Clone Wars” tv shows and that made the story here stronger as characters actually mattered, Jedi weren’t just faceless blank slates who used the force, they were people and monks who had ideals they were fighting for. I would probably have not enjoyed this film as much as I did without that context because it does make scenes stronger.

Final Score: 7.3 / 10

Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002) – A Story Ruined By Excess and Horrible Dialogue

Attack of the Clones

   “Attack of the Clones” is a film that could have been and wasn’t dead from the beginning like “The Phantom Menace” there are good ideas here…a Galaxy on the brink of war, forbidden love as well as the chance to explore politics and philosophy…sadly we don’t get very much of any of this at all. There are inklings of all these ideas here but the script fails to execute them choosing instead to focus on fight and chase sequences that go on way too long and just bring the film down.

      “Attack of the Clones” was directed by George Lucas who also co-wrote it with Jonathan Hales and was produced by Rick McCallum.

     The story involves strife in the Republic as a faction of the Republic looks at leaving while an assassination attempt is made on Senator Amidala (Natalie Portman) leading Obi-Wan (Ewan McGregor) and his apprentice Anakin (Hayden Christensen) to investigate the assassination attempt and protect her.

The Pros: The Premise – The premise is great. Love in a time of war, politics of grey and a mystery to be solved as a huge point of the plot is discovering Jango Fett’s origin and why the assassination on Padme happened. Sadly the same cannot be said for the execution of the premise.

 Ewan McGregor – I’m not putting Obi-Wan down because his character is not written consistently (sometimes calm and collected, other times more reckless than Anakin), but Ewan McGregor really does a wonderful job with all the dialogue and lines he is given. He gets into it fully and he is never boring to watch.

Palpatine/Darth Sidious – Ian McDiarmid is wonderful as Palpatine as we get to see him deftly manipulate everyone around him once more. He is good at playing it sad when he is given an army and when he talks to Anakin there is warmth there showing just how great of a sociopath Sidious is.

Okay: Padme – Padme was okay, she is there teach Anakin empathy and does a good job of it as she is the one calling him out on things (except when he kills the Tuscan Raiders). Sadly her motivations are never shown and we never get to see her faction in the Senate or her interact with them. This was a shame as it could have established Bail Organa as more than just a cameo and given us motivation. I had no idea why Padme made the choices she did.

 Contrast – One thing that was pulled off decently was contrast. Padme came from wealth and was from a beautiful world and had a family, Anakin’s world was desolate where he lost everything and had no support. Already they have trouble relating to each other which sets up the failed relationship better later on. It wasn’t great due to dialogue and things that were written but the idea and the contrast shown was decent at least.

The Cons: The Republic – The Republic never shows us the players outside of Palpatine, Jar Jar and Padme. All we get is the Naboo story and we never see the political factions, even the one Padme is a part of and what they are doing to fight for peace and keeping the Republic from militarization. It never gets past the idea and tell phase, we never see show.

The Jedi – The Jedi are also an idea when they aren’t cops or superheroes, which is a shame. War is going on and except for Yoda saying that they haven’t won and the the Clone Wars has begun we see nothing to really understand or know the Jedi. They come off as bland, faceless bureaucrats, just like the Republic and Separatists.

The Separatists – Dooku says the reason they are leaving is because the Sith are controlling the Republic, ironically he is one too but I never got that the Separatists were anything more than selfish businessmen using robots to fight their wars. This faction isn’t humanized and is simply there to be shot at. So much potential lost to show us complex players since this is supposed to be an era of grey that completely fails.

Sword as Life, The Death of the Jedi Philosophy in the Prequels – Obi-Wan tells Anakin “Your sword is your life.” This is messed up and unbalanced as Jedi are supposed to be more than the tools they use. Sadly the tools are all they are as we see Yoda pull out a lightsaber and fight Dooku when in “Empire” he tells Luke that weapons and war do not make one great and that size doesn’t matter. This entire film counters that as we see him use a tiny lightsaber…whatever happened to the philosophy of the force? I guess stupid action is easier.

Editing – “The Phantom Menace” had decent editing, this one has a lot of very awkward scenes that end before jumping somewhere else. It breaks up the flow of the film and was really distracting.

The Dialogue – I don’t need to say much here. Lucas can’t write romance and it really shows. Natalie Portman and Hayden Christensen aren’t bad actors but the dialogue is bad they just come off as unnatural and stilted. There is nothing to believe and it isn’t just them.

Excess – Excess is a major theme of the film, especially excess of action. The Battle of Genosia goes on way too long, the chase to catch the Bounty Hunter Jango Fett hired goes on way too long, Jango hunting Obi-Wan goes on way too long, the droid factory is just thrown in there and countless other events that I could point out. They seem to be there because visually they might look good, but it doesn’t mean anything. All we get are pretty colors and it doesn’t mean anything at all. Also Anakin killing the Sand People and wanting to stop death…excess and everything being over-dramatic really brought it all down.

Questions and Things That Didn’t Make Sense – Why did Jango hire a Bounty Hunter? Didn’t his boss hire him to kill Padme? Was Sidious always planning the Clone Wars since the army was ordered 10 years prior? Who is Sifo-Dyus? Why did Dooku leave the Jedi order? Who are the factions in the Senate? Why do the Separatists want to leave and why would they trust the Trade Federation after Naboo?

Reference – “The Phantom Menace” had this problem too but it was bigger here. Jango being Boba’s father, certain scenes shot to be like “Empire” it was like George was afraid to just give us a story and had to tie everything to the Originals even if it didn’t make sense.

  This was a film that could have easily beat “The Phantom Menace” but fails to hold up under scrutiny. There are fewer pros in this one than “The Phantom Menace” but the cons are overwhelmingly worse. So often it felt like I was watching a videogame that I could not play and was expected to believe things I was told while never being shown the actions. The opening was meant to give us complexity but all we get were bland heroes and villains who left no impact.

Final Score: 3 / 10

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999) – An Unfocused Mess Ruined by Child Actors and Comedic Relief

The Phantom Menace

    Before I say anything specific about “The Phantom Menace,” I have to admit now that I’m not looking forward to “Attack of the Clones” and can fully understand why George Lucas lost the rights to “Star Wars.” I wanted to like this film, it’s “Star Wars” after all and a part of my childhood, but nothing can save this mess of a film and script. No amount of nostalgia can change the bad ideas that lead to the creation of certain characters and how they were portrayed and this film is easily a net negative versus net positive neutral in overall quality.

     The film was directed and written by George Lucas and produced by Rick McCallum.

     The story involves the Trade Federation blockading Naboo to force a treaty that favors their monopoly leading to Chancellor Valorum sending the Jedi Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) and Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) to resolve the dispute. Manipulations of the Sith soon complicate things leading to the Jedi on the run as they seek to protect the Queen (Natalie Portman) and save Naboo.

The Pros: The Universe – The Old Republic is fascinating and there is so much we could have been shown instead of told. The Republic is corrupt and the Sith are clearing manipulating a lot behind the scenes but we don’t get any of that…we don’t even know how the Trade Federation really works and they are the main antagonists besides the Sith. Still, a lot of good ideas here just poorly executed.

The Soundtrack – It’s John Williams, you can’t go wrong with the soundtrack and even with very crappy dialogue and characters we still have a soaring score that works really well, especially in the fight with Darth Maul.

Qui-Gon Jinn – I actually liked this character. He is very much the maverick and a bit of a sociopath in how he manipulates others but it makes him compelling. I wish we had gotten more on why he clashed with the Council and the reason behind his focus on the prophecy. He is very much the chaotic monk and it makes him a lot of fun. Liam Neeson does a great job too. I actually cared that Darth Maul killed him and I wish he’d done something about the slave trade on Tatooine as the Council was clearly doing nothing.

Darth Maul – Darth Maul is wonderful and really should have survived this film. He has the same threatening feel as Vader did being the Emperor’s dragon and keeping him around would have given the chance to grow his threat and establish him as the corrupting influence on Anakin and even Obi-Wan. He is the enforcer and a truly terrifying character with an awesome character design. I know he was brought back in the “The Clone Wars” but he deserved that same chance in the films as the mystery of his character gives so much to explore.

Palpatine/Darth Sidious – The guy is surrounded by idiots and manipulates them so well. From setting up Padme to call the vote of no confidence leading to him becoming Chancellor to never revealing his intentions and remaining cypher so he can use all the factions of the senate. Ian McDiarmid is fantastic and is one of the interesting characters in the films as it really is about his rise to Emperor.

Obi-Wan Kenobi – Ewan McGregor was a great casting choice for young Obi-Wan and we see echoes of who he will become as he is cautious and tends to go with the Council versus Qui-Gon who could care less. In this we already see the Lawful Good Jedi Master he will become. He is also cold in his own way too as he talks about how Anakin should not receive training to Qui-Gon in front of Anakin…so he isn’t prefect and we see how his duty to the Council and Qui-Gon is why he decides to become Anakin’s master in the end. He also avenges his Master and is the one to defeat Darth Maul.

Okay: Tatooine – The Pod Race is cool but useless in the end as they could have found another way since all they had to do was get in contact with the Capitol, though we do get some good exploration of Padme, Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon at least.

Padme – She’s a cipher and she doesn’t approve of a lot. In the end she makes peace with the Gungans and is shown to have humility (learned from the Jedi?) but that is about it. She’s okay as a character but not great.

The Cons: The Jedi Council – These bland folks are not fleshed out at all and are oblivious to the corruption around them. It’s a sad state but we are never able to fully see just how corrupt and inept they are because they are heroes simply for being Jedi. I hated Windu and Yoda in this as they are just tools who fail to see past the Temple and never send any help out even when they know a Sith is probably going to be on Naboo. They are useless.

The Senate – The Senate like the Jedi is useless as we see that everyone is either a tool (Valorum) or a manipulator to their own ends (Palpatine). Like the Jedi they are a useless organization and how they got that way is never explored at all.

Naboo – Naboo is a blank slate as the Gungans are just aquatic rabbits and the people are people we never interact with or see. We hear about their suffering and dying but never witness any of it. We have to take everyone’s word on things when we have no reason too given the corruption established in the opening credits.

Midi-Chlorians – The force is not physical, Yoda establishes this in “The Empire Strikes Back,” I remember that and I haven’t watched the film for years. The very existence of these things cheapens the force and turns Anakin into “The One” which misses the point of the force being something that binds “All” of us together and is always with us. If only special people have it, than it ceases to be what binds us together it becomes something no more than genetics.

Anakin Skywalker – I’m sorry Jake Lloyd, but you can’t act. His lines all fit the “perfect child” syndrome that is a problem in a lot of movies and making him “The One” gives him plot armor enough to destroy a Droid Base in space when he’s never flown a ship before…and it all happens by accident! If he’d been a young adult at least there would be the excuse of him having experience from delivering stuff for Watto or the huts like Luke got experience playing with his friends.

Jar Jar Binks – Comedic relief and bad comedic relief at that. There is no point to Jar Jar as he is there for fart jokes, poop jokes, his stupid voice and mannerisms and trying to appeal to kids. Yet he is made core to the plot! He hooks up with Qui-Gon and is there through the entire film distracting from whatever is going on and making scenes worse. There can’t be a serious tone when Jar Jar is around so it makes all the other threats moot. This idiot was made core to the film which was one of the worst decisions George Lucas made. He gives nothing to scenes and only makes them worse as his jokes break the tone, his mannerisms and voice are incomprehensible…and yet he is made to be one of the heroes alongside the Jedi…

The Ending – Anakin destroys the reactor and there is peace on Naboo. The only interesting thing that kind of works is Obi-Wan adopting Anakin as his apprentice and the final fight with Maul. The Celebration at the end doesn’t mean anything because the people of Naboo are invisible to us. We never saw their struggles only heard about it. The planet was nothing more than statistics.

The Writing – The writing was the biggest problem. From having Anakin be a child, to Jar Jar being core to the plot and from the motivations of the Trade Federation, Senate and Jedi being big giant question marks. No one’s motivations are clear except Obi-Wan and Palpatine which is sad given how large the cast is. There is so much that could have worked if this script had not been written George Lucas as his world is compelling, “The Clone Wars” and “Clone Wars” are living evidence of this…but not so for “The Phantom Menace.” When George Lucas wrote and directed this story he killed whatever promise there was with a lot of poor writing and directing decisions.

    Anakin should have been a teenager already or Luke’s age, Midi-Chlorians should have never been a thing and Jar Jar should not have been in this film and Obi-Wan should have been the character we were following with Qui-Gon along as a rogue Master. If these things were done this film would have actually been good, even with the stilted dialogue as the circumstances of these changes would have forced a greater exploration of the world like the corruption of the Senate and the ineptness of the Jedi Council. Instead we got very bad comedy and mostly uninteresting characters in a world that didn’t feel lived in. The CGI isn’t the problem I remember, the problem is the script and the character choices that were made. You take away those things and we would have had a good film where what happens in the film would have felt real, had stakes and in the end, meant something. I get why Disney owns “Star Wars” and George Lucas no longer does. The choices made in making this film are ample evidence that George Lucas clearly had no idea what he was doing.

Final Score: 5 / 10. 50%, the reason it isn’t lower is because of Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, Ian McDiarmond and the fact that Darth Maul was used very well as a Dragon.

“Star Wars: The Clone Wars” Retrospect – There Were Amazing Stories But Star Wars Prequel Problems Haunted This Series

Star Wars The Clone Wars

  “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” is a show that is a favorite. It had a lot of problems that could have killed the series for me, but when it had strong episodes and arcs…it gave us some of the best stories on television. Politics and war are complicated as are issues of identity and when this show was at it’s best it did that. It was far superior to Episodes I-III because it took it’s subjects serious and gave us complexity that made even Anakin a compelling character who was worth investing it.

      The series was created by George Lucas with the main developer, head writer and director being Dave Filoni (from “Avatar: The Last Airbender”)

        The story is about the Clone Wars, where we learn of love lost, Clones and their identities, adventures with Droids, Anakin’s descent to the Dark Side and the plots and manipulations of Count Dooku and Palpatine and the story of those caught in the middle who weren’t on the Separatists or the Republic side and how they are faced with choices as the Clone War is forced upon them.

The Pros: The Animation – The animation is fantastic! Lucasfilm animation really did a fantastic job on giving life and diversity to the characters and worlds that made up this series. Each alien race was unique and even the Clones were shown to be distinct in their personalities and identities as shown through the animation.

The World – The world of “Star Wars” gets so much exploration in this! From droids, to Clones, to Neutral Worlds, to Republic and Separatist worlds and also Senate Politics, Bounty Hunters and so much more. I’m glad it went for 6 Seasons and in many ways wish it had gone longer.

The Cost of War – The cost of war is huge in this and we see that the Separatist Parliament is as much a pawn as the Galactic Republic’s Senate. So many die, from countless Jedi, to Clones we come to know…the neutral worlds that are pulled in and destroyed in the war. There is also a loss of innocence too as the war drives Anakin to greater extremes and the Jedi Council is shown to be both incompetent and rather corrupt.

Politics of War and Sovereignty – Sovereignty is a major issue of this series that is explored in detail in the stories of Mandalore and countless other Neutral Worlds that are pulled into the conflict and are torn apart from within by it or consumed by it when the Separatists usually attack, and even the worlds that are saved lose their sovereignty to the Empire later.

Nationalism – We see Nationalism exploited by Palpatine to control the populace but also see it used by Viszla, Padme and Satine to try and get their agendas on what they want for their people passed as well. We also see Toxic nationalism too in the assassination of a Senator when an aid was angry that he had joined the Republic.

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Clone Identity and the Clones – I really like the Clones. Fives who is the rebellious Clone who is nervous at first but risks all to find out the truth that they are slaves to a chip set to go off when the time is right and with the murder of the Jedi…we see him lose his Brothers and end up as the last one of the Clone Cadets still standing. We also see Rex face a Clone who has left the force and respect his choice and the fact he is fighting for his family. There are others too but Rex and Fives best represent development over multiple episodes throughout the series as a whole.

Clovis – This is a great minor character who is Padme’s ex and a Separatist spy who in the end tries to re-write that wrong by saving the Banks but ends up a pawn once more and loses everything because he had the willingness to hope in the good of others and in his trying to do the right thing, ends up dead.

Cloak of Darkness

Asajj Ventress – Ventress goes from Dooku’s apprentice, to seeking revenge to finding her own path as Bounty Hunter who is neither good nor bad. She protects Ahsoka when the Council turns on her when she is framed and we see that she is no longer Sith as she trusted Dooku but he turned against her the moment Sidious asked. At this point she knows revenge isn’t possible as every plan fell to Dooku and she opened up another enemy in the war by corrupting Savage Opress and turning him into a monster, something that it seems to imply she regrets as her quest for revenge lead to the loss of all her people, the Nightsisters.

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Cad Bane – I really like Cad Bane. He is the best original character to come out of this series as he is a dark shade of grey. He will kidnap children and kill anyone for enough money but he also respects those who save him and are efficient in their mission, which leads to a mutual respect of Obi-Wan when Obi-Wan is undercover. He has also broken out of prison multiple times and is truly the best Bounty Hunter in the Galaxy as he can hold his own against any Jedi and only lose from being outnumbered. He had a great character design and was part of some of the best stories in the series where we see him turn losses into wins.

Savage Opress – Savage is voiced by Tom Clancy and is wonderful as a boy who loses his innocence in Ventress’s quest for revenge. He is a protector of his brother but in the end kills him after he is pumped full of Dark Side magic. He later carries on this protector role towards Darth Maul even though he is unstable from all the magic coursing through him and has gone kind of crazy. In the end Sidious kills him when he and Maul briefly form a 3rd Faction in the Clone Wars, The Shadow Collective. I really liked this character.

Count Dooku/Darth Tyranus – Dooku is fantastic in this series and I really respect him as a character after this. He is one of the core manipulators of the Jedi and we even see him try for Sith Master a few times until his weapon of Opress turns against him. It is really his loss of an apprentice that dooms him to Anakin in Episode III. If he hadn’t turned against Ventress he would probably still be alive as she won him many battles, as Grievous was not the best of antagonists or generals.

Palpatine/Darth Sidious – Sidious is evil and loves it and Palpatine is really good at using people’s honesty against them. He turns Padme’s idealism into a weapon, Anakin’s affection into jealousy and makes possible through his planning with Dooku, the invasion of countless worlds by the Republic. In this way he never loses and this series lays the ground work for Order 66 and the rise of the Empire. Ian Ian Abercrombie and Tim Curry did a wonderful job.

Mandalore and Death Watch – Iszla was voiced by Jon Favreau and played a Mandalorian extreme Nationalist who wanted to bring back the Warrior Mandalore. He faces off against the pacificist Duchess Satine and even wins at one point when he aligns with Maul’s Shadow Collective, but loses when Maul turns against him. Satine also fails in creating a Neutral and peaceful Mandalore as she is killed by Maul as Maul recognized Obi-Wan’s love for her. He later uses the corrupt Prime Minister as his pawn until Bo-Katan and the remainder of Death Watch start a Civil War to retake their world and ask for Republic help.

Obi-Wan Kenobi – Obi-Wan is someone who chose duty or love and in many ways has some regret as he knows he isn’t the prefect Jedi and in it fears failing Anakin. He loses Satine his ex-lover and friend to another’s hatred and revenge and we see him unable to deal with Anakin’s dark side actions either as Anakin kills many times for the final end and doesn’t even allow the chance of a peaceful solution. This dilemma is part of what makes him compelling.

Anakin Skywalker – Anakin is shown to be very flawed in this. From jealous, to attempts to be controlling, but also someone who will risk everything for another…whether it be one of the Clones, a civilian or a Jedi. In this we see Palpatine feed his ego and how the Council’s own misconduct drive him towards hating and distrusting them as he feels more and more isolated as the lie he is living with Padme as their marriage cannot be open weighs on him.

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Ahsoka Tano – Ahsoka is Anakin’s apprentice and is stubborn and egotistical, much like Anakin but also more of a Jedi than Anakin as she never kills and no matter how difficult things get she stays true to herself. Her jumping into things gets her into trouble many times though as does her attachment as she nearly gets the Republic involved in conflicts they shouldn’t be in because of her emotional investment. She is also a grey Jedi too as she leaves the Jedi Order after they turn on her when she is framed and goes her own way, which ends up saving her from Order 66. She was one of my favorite characters in the show.

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The Cons: Jar Jar Binks – He’s just as annoying as he is in Episode I and II and nothing can save him. It doesn’t matter how many times you make him a hero, it is an embarrassment to any serious conflict going on as he takes away from the drama with his stupid jokes and ways.

General Grievous – This guy is an embarrassment to the Separatists for most of the series and spends the majority of it running away and even getting captured and beat by the Gungans of all people. He is better in the last few episodes he is in but all he is really good at is running away. When Episode III roles around he isn’t much better. We only know he is a threat from what the narrator tells us, not from his actions during an episode.

Bringing Back Darth Maul – Darth Maul should have stayed dead as all he did Opress could have done under his own power and for Maul even when he learned about his brother. All his being brought back does is look like a cheap move for profit given how iconic the character is. He is handled well in “Lawless” and the “Shadow Collective Arc” but that doesn’t change the fact that bringing him back was a mistake.

Boba Fett – Fett is a punk kid who loses everything he gets into. He doesn’t get revenge on Mace and I never believed that the older Bounty Hunters had any reason to follow him until his last episode he appeared in. This character like Maul worked better as a mystery.

Blank Pacifist Species – Too many to name but they are the faceless victims of the Separatist and are there just to show that Dooku and his generals are bad. Beyond that they serve no purpose.

Blank Slate Jedi Masters – Plo Koon, Mace Windu and a few others are just as blank as they are in Episodes I-III and have no flaws. They are fortune cookie philosophers and in the end the conflicts they are put in are only compelling because they might die. This was a missed opportunity of the series to show them as flawed individuals not Perfect Avatars of Peace.

This is a series well worth checking out. I wouldn’t watch the Jar Jar episodes or Boba Fett episodes again personally and some of the Droid episodes are pretty weak but anything with Cad Bane, Clone Identity or politics and war are some of the best writing on television, especially for a kids show. This is a show that shows death, corruption and destruction and isn’t afraid to shy away from the evil that people are capable of…nor is it afraid of showing courage and strength of character as so many of our heroes go their own way and make their own path in the Galaxy far far away and so long ago…

Final Score: 8.5 / 10. One of my favorite shows and worth checking out. It isn’t as good as “Star Wars Rebels” Season 1 but it is still good quality overall.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars – Season 6, Episodes 5-7 – “The Clovis Arc” – Consolidation and Control

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   One of the major themes so far in Season 6 is Palpatine’s consolidation of power and how good people get turned bad or are manipulated into doing bad. This is essentially Clovis’s arc has his quest for redemption gets Palpatine all he wanted and further control. It also shows us how violent Anakin is and that he is already walking that line between the Light and Dark side.

    “An Old Friend” was directed by Brian Kalin O’Connell and written by Christian Taylor who also wrote the other 2 episodes in the arc. “The Rise of Clovis” was directed by Danny Keller and “Crisis at the Heart” was directed by Steward Lee.

     The story involves Clovis and Padme’s quest to reveal the corruption in the Banking Clan which leads to Clovis being made the new leader. Things aren’t as they appear to be though as Dooku blackmails Clovis and pushes Scipio to war and an invasion from the Republic after Dooku sets up Clovis as being a Separatist.

The Pros: Scipio and the Muun – The Muun are fascinating as they are ruled by the Muun family and control the Galactic Bank and therefore do all they can to remain neutral in the war even as they are being manipulated by both Dooku and Palpatine. They do a good job but in the end the appointment of Clovis spells their doom as they hand over control of the bank to Palpatine at the end of the arc.

Count Dooku – Dooku is a great manipulator and he preys off of Clovis’s idealism to blackmail him and later to hold him hostage on Scipio so that it looks like he is a Separatist. He spells it out to Padme too in he believes has a price that will cause them to turn or to be a tool. In the end he leaves after and Palpatine’s plan is successful in framing Clovis.

Obi-Wan – Obi-Wan suspects that Padme and Anakin are a thing and he talks about his friendship with Satine in that he knows Anakin’s struggle (though he doesn’t know they are married and a thing). It was a great moment that really humanized Obi-Wan and showed that he does reach out to Anakin even if Anakin doesn’t reach out back.

Anakin Skywalker – Anakin is jealous, controlling and on the road to being Darth Vader. He can’t think rationally around Clovis and even attacks him at one point. He never stops distrusting him either even after Clovis covers for Anakin abusing him. In this we see how living the lie is making Anakin more extreme and how his fear of losing Padme is making him a monster. This episode really illustrates the crazy he will become and how easily Palpatine manipulates him.

Padme – Padme is the idealist and is used just like Clovis is as it is their revealing of the corruption by the 5 leaders of the Banking Clan that leads to Clovis being made the head and later blackmailed by the Separatists. She believes in him until the end after he had earned her trust by rooting out corruption and in the end we see her questioning Palpatine’s further consolidation of power. She also stands up to Anakin and takes a break from their relationship until he can think clearly.

Clovis – Clovis is seeking redemption and this leads to him trying to the Muun and Scipio which leads to him being made leader of the Banking Clan. It was this world that adopted him when he lost his parents and in the end he loses it as his good intentions are used against him by Dooku and Palpatine and in the end he sacrifices his life knowing that he’ll forever be remembered as the villain not the man who tried to save his adopted world.

Palpatine – Palpatine gets it all in this! We see him prey off Anakin’s distrust, anger and fear and his setting him up to be Darth Vader, we see him use Clovis’s and Padme’s idealism to set up Clovis to take the fall for Scipio and at the end of it all he gets the Galactic Bank and now has all the funding he needs to run the future Empire.

This was a powerful arc that showed that people can change (Clovis), good intentions can be manipulated (Clovis, Padme and Anakin) and that everyone is part of a larger game (Palpatine’s) that not all of them understand. Even Dooku doesn’t know how deep the game goes as Anakin is that future replacement of an apprentice. I really enjoyed this arc to say the least.

Final Score: 9.5 / 10

Star Wars: The Clone Wars – Season 4, Episode 14 – “A Friend in Need” – Don’t Trust Death Watch

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    This was an episode that had a lot of potential. We meet Lux again who realizes that Count Dooku killed his mother and he wants revenge. Sadly the more interesting part of the episode gets hijacked by this revenge arc rather than us being with Padme and the Republic with the Separatists representatives negotiating a peace. All that is left behind to show that Death Watch is horrible and that Ahsoka and Lux probably have a crush on each other, which is interesting but not as interesting as the politics that were left behind.

    The episode was directed by Dave Filoni and written by Christian Taylor.

    The story involves a Peace Conference between the Separatists and Republic that is interrupted by Lux who accuses Dooku of the murder of his mother. Things don’t go as plan though as Ahoska brings him to the Republic and he knocks her out to take her to the Death Watch base as Pre Viszla promised him Dooku dead through the use of Death Watch.

The Pros: Death Watch – These guys are thugs, like Mandalorians always were when they went warrior as we see them subjugate a local planet and take their food before they head out but not before they burn the village and leave the people to die. Viszla is a great antagonist as was his second in command Bo-Katan.

The Conference – “Will you recognize the Separatists as a Sovereign Nation?” This is the question Padme should have been wresting with this episode as it may have been the only way to bring about Peace and don’t they have a right? They have their own government. This was interrupted for a much weaker story sadly.

Okay: Ahsoka – Ahsoka is shown to be true to her friend and also may have feeling for him. This doesn’t make her stupid unlike him though as she fights Death Watch when they destroy the village and calls Lux out multiple times for his stupidity.

The Cons: Lux – His swearing to do his own thing and survive was stupid, especially since he had no allies and was alone outside of Ahsoka. It was this and his tacked on romance with Ahsoka when they were undercover that really annoyed me.

The Locals – They are just kind of there and we never get to know them as people, we only see them as oppressed and they never get the chance to fight back.

  This was an episode that should have been about the peace conference. Lux doesn’t feel fleshed out as a character and the contrived romance as well as making Death Watch outright bad were not good story decisions. So many missed opportunities, what a shame that this was the episode where Death Watch had to return.

Final Score: 4 / 10

Star Wars: The Clone Wars – Season 4, Episode 4 – “Shadow Warrior” – Grievous Continues to Suck as an Antagonist

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   Gungans as the primary protagonists, and Grievous as the antagonist…I’m surprised this episode wasn’t worse than it was. It was still terrible as Grievous further embarrasses himself as an antagonist on this show, but the Gungans weren’t as bad they could have been.

     The episode was directed by Brian Kalin O’Connell and written by Daniel Arkin.

   The story involves the prevention of a Separatist invasion as the Gungan Boss is being controlled by his Minister Rish Loo who is working with the Separatists. Things go awry when the Boss is injured and Jar Jar must pretend to be him when he meets with Grievous. Things come to ahead when Dooku lures Anakin into a trap and the Gungans capture Grievous.

The Pros: General Tarparls – Grievous kills him and he sacrifices himself to capture him, which is a pretty cool way to go as this General was decent in Episode I and wasn’t annoying.

Minister Rish Loo – This guy could have been a great antagonist if his plan had been successful, which I hoped it would have. Civil War on Naboo would have been a great arc. I’m putting him as a pro because he does make his escape and he was winning for a while it is only due to Dooku that he dies.

Anakin – Anakin goes after Rish Loo and is captured by Dooku where his ends justify the means guilt grows as he is traded for Grievous, which keeps the Clone War going.

Padme – Padme is really driven on ending the war and even after Anakin is captured she is fighting against her feelings to rescue him as she knows with Grievous captured they could end the war. She is the one facing the dilemma and goes forward only after pressure from Jar Jar showing just how driven she is to end the war.

The Cons: General Grievous – Loses to a bunch of Gungans. Guy is an embarrassment and is a big reason this episode was only okay. You expect more from the General of the Separatists.

Jar Jar – Still annoying and him acting “Comedic” to get out of situations grows old really fast, especially when something as big as war is going on.

  I didn’t like this episode. The only good parts where Anakin and Padme’s dilemma and seeing Count Dooku beat Anakin. Making Grievous lose to Gungans didn’t help this series when people keep describing Grievous as the big bad of the Separatists.

Final Score: 4 / 10

Star Wars: The Clone Wars – Season 4, Episodes 1-3 – “The Fight for Mon Cala Arc” – Earning the Right to Lead

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    “The Mon Cala War Arc” is a decent arc. My biggest issue with it is that the Separatists are evil for the sake of evil and it is hardly to believe Count Dooku would be as stupid as he comes off here. My guess is this was for narrative purposes, which I’ll go into later as the entirety of the arc is Prince Lee-Char earning the right to lead Mon Cala.

    “Water War” was directed by Duwayne Dunham and written by Jose Molina, who also wrote the next two episodes. “Gungan Attack” was directed by Brian Kalin O’Connell and “Prisoners” was directed by Danny Keller.

     The story involves the Civil War on Mon Cala as the Quarren join the Separatists so that they can rule the planet as they do not recognize Lee-Char as the leader. They soon find themselves in over their head though when the Separatist General Riff Tamson will go to any lengths to control the world for his people. Lee-Char must fight to free his people and their allies as they fight a losing battle against the Separatist forces.

The Pros: Mon Cala – I like the power dynamic on Mon Cala as we see how easy it is for outside forces to overwhelm them and how weak the Mon Calamari and Quarren are on their own. They can only really unite from an outside threat, which luckily for the story, happens.

Ahsoka – Ahsoka is Lee-Char’s teacher and helps him develop a spine as well as the ability to stand up for himself. She does a great job in this and she is the reason that Anakin and Padme are able to get rescued.

Captain Akbar – Akbar is all about tradition and believes in the Prince but still manages to counsel and lead and is the one who helps Lee-Char become a leader. It was great seeing Akbar before he became an Admiral.

Anakin and Padme – Both trapped and unable to do anything. See them in close quarters in danger manages to give us some good exploration of their feelings for one another and we see their romantic feelings too.

Riff Tamson – Cool design (looks like a shark) and manages to captures Anakin and Padme. He is a good threat I just wish he hadn’t been so stupid in regards to ruling. Being a ruler doesn’t have to be explicate and best not to enslave the population you plan to rule. He was a great military threat though.

Okay: Prince Lee-Char – He’s okay, he an arc at least. He goes from doing what he’s told to leading his people and fighting for all the people of Mon Calamari.

The Cons: The Mon Calamari – So they have a royal family and traditions? Give us more details. Don’t start fleshing out a world and characters and drop it.

The Quarrens – The Quarrens are seeking their independence but they never find it. This isn’t made explicit though as their leader talks about ruling and he made an Alliance with the Separatists. These guys were major missed potential.

Jar Jar and the Gungans – Why did they have to bring these guys in? They just get captured and are useless. Wish they hadn’t been used as they took away time from knowing the Quarrens and Mon Calamari who we never really got to know.

This was an alright arc but would have been a lot better if the Quarrens and Mon Calamari had been fleshed out more. We know they are at war but we don’t know why it started or why the Quarrens were even following a Mon Calamari King. This all made no sense and Dooku putting someone else in charge rather than the Quarrens was idiotic as he immediately made them his enemies in the process.

Final Score: 6 / 10

Star Wars: The Clone Wars – Season 2, Episode 15 – “Senate Murders” – Toxic Nationalism

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     Watching “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” in order of events was the right thing to do. If I hadn’t done that I would have had nearly enough time with Farr or gotten to know the character how I did if not for it, because I had time to see his relationship to his people, the Republic and Padme, it makes his death actually mean something. This event is one of the powerful things to happen in the series thus far as well as learning more about the members of the Peace and War Faction.

     The episode was directed by Brian Kalin O’Connell and written by Drew Z. Greenberg and Brian Larsen.

     The story revolves around the death of Farr from Rodia when and the Peace Faction are rallying against a Bill by the War Faction to increase Clone Trooper production. From here Padme seeks to find out who was the one responsible as the fight against the Bill rages on.

The Pros: The Politics – The Peace and War factions are really cool. On one side Farr, Mothma, Organa, Padme and Lolo work against the Bill while Deechee and the Kamino Senator Burtoni. Neither side is clear of dirt and we see that both are using whatever is at their disposal to win, though the War faction is more ruthless.

The Death of Senator Farr – Farr is a great character, he will do anything for his people…be it joining the Separatists or fighting against Bills that would lead money going to war rather then the Refugees and his world. He is a true patriot that way as well as imperfect and it is his imperfection that leads to his death.

Senator Burtino – Is cold and calculating and doesn’t respect the Peace Faction at all. She also thinks they aren’t dangerous enough to kill though Lola sets up to be framed for the murder until Padme forces Lola’s hand.

Senator Deechee – Lola kills him too and he is the one who respected Farr. He had Farr followed and knew about the meeting between Lolo and Farr but didn’t know who or the details. I liked this character as he truly believes that increase in troops is the only way to win the war.

Lolo – Lolo is a nationalist and believes that Farr doomed their people the moment he entered the war. She isn’t wrong but she is blinded to any other perspective. This is her undoing in the end as she tries to remain hidden rather than standing openly against Farr politically and using political power to stop him.

Padme – Padme is the idealist and continues fighting for the Bill until she loses everything when Lolo plays her hand and the Peace Faction is discredited in the process as we see that the other side of Populism is Nationalism and Nationalism can lead to great stupidity.

Palpatine – Palpatine does a great job manipulating everything and I wouldn’t be surprised if he had pushed Lolo’s ideology through his very subtle form of influence. He speaks great double speak as at the end he sympathizes with Padme but also thinks that maybe the increase of Clones maybe the only way to make peace at this time…he is brilliant and has planted the growing seed of doubt in Padme.

The Horrors of Nationalism – Nationalism at it’s extreme can mean the silencing of dissenting voices as country matters more than the perspectives within it. It is this Nationalism that leads to Farr’s death and a further economic cost on Rodia because of it.

  This episode is a great contrast with the populism from last episode. Lola was like Padme’s handmaiden except she saw only rage by Farr’s involving Rodia with the Separatists and Republic and her reasons to hate were the same desperation that the people are feeling because of the war. That is what makes the entire event a tragedy and asks the question, “How can there be peace with one’s enemies when there isn’t peace at home?”

Final Score: 10 / 10

Star Wars: The Clone Wars – Season 3, Episode 11 – “Pursuit of Peace” – Populism to Bring Change

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     “Pursuit of Peace” is somewhat connected to the peace arc but is far more focused on internal affairs, which is why I am giving it it’s own review. It is in this we see inside the Republic and how terror is being used to force votes in favor of keeping the war going, to the point that those who are against spending more money on the war are fighting themselves beaten by thugs. It’s a powerful episode and the ending scenes are some of the best this series has offered thus far.

     The story involves Amadala and the Peace Faction (Mothma, Organa and Farr) working to bring about an end to protesting the War Bill and turning the public against it after Mina is killed by “Republic” forces though it is mixed as far as information goes since rumor has it Dooku was involved. From here they chose to stand for her legacy as the final vote approaches in regards to the Bill. Padme and her faction must face threats of violence and the public that has turned against them to stop the Bill from passing.

The Pros: Robonino and Chata – These two guys are a great and they nearly stop Padme, they critically injure Organa and keep him from making his speech forcing Padme’s hand and they injure Farr. These two cause such an uproar that many of the Senators are living in fear for their live and don’t want to vote against the Bill.

The Peace Faction – Padme, Organa and Farr are the most vocal and Farr fights on even with his injury while Padme’s idealism really comes through while Organa is good at hiding his idealism as he is so popular he is a celebrity of the Senate. Seeing their dynamic is wonderful as each has distinct personalities.

Padme – Padme fights for her life on multiple occasions and in the end stands up when her servant tells her story as Padme speaks for the people who the Bill will affect negatively. War makes all the people suffer and the people need to be remembered if the war is ever to be won since they are the reason people fight. It’s a powerful speech and this one really shows how strong Padme’s empathy is, as well as her populist power.

Palpatine and Mas Amedda – These two are working together and Amedda knows where things are going with Empire as the final goal. Together they consider how one voice can change the public and Palpatine decides to wait before taking things to extremes as he knows the nature of the senate.

The Cons: The Banking Clan – These guys are only ruled by greed and I would have liked to see a more logical justification on why they planned to hike interest rates. These guys weren’t handled well, it felt like money for the sake of money with no rational explanation of how loans actually work.

  This episode really showed the power of populism and how one person can direct fear in a different direction, or to remind people why they fight and from there use it to support the Thesis. Padme is a master of words and it is great seeing her idealism contrasted with the ambition and manipulations of Palpatine.

Final Score: 9.5 / 10