Monday, June 16, 2014

The Clone Wars TV Show Should Have Been the First 2 Star Wars Prequels

(I'm trying a Michael Offutt-style title to see if that gets more views...)

BTW, starting today through Sunday you can get the second Scarlet Knight "collection" The Wrath of Isis for only 99 cents!  That's 5 huge books for less than a buck.  (Seriously they're all over 100,000 words, especially the last one.)  The first collection is only $2.99 in case you haven't bought it yet.  

Now back to regularly scheduled programming.

Having finished watching the complete Clone Wars series on Netflix (including the Netflix-exclusive sixth season) I have to say watching that really helped the prequels make more sense.  Not that I'm going to change my tune on the prequels sucking.  What I'm saying is if the prequels, really the first two, had used more elements from this series they would have been a lot better.  There were two areas especially I think the show helped to make sense.
  • The cause of the war:  Just watching the movies, can anyone explain why the hell there was a war?  I mean I think we can all get that Palpatine instigated all this stuff so he could bring down the Republic (and Jedi) to launch the Empire, but could anyone say why all these "separatists" go along with it?  In one of the later seasons there's a scene that helps this make more sense.  Basically the bulk of the "separatists" is made of these powerful guilds and unions, kind of like intergalactic mega-corporations.  The reason they go along with "Darth Sidious" (aka Palpatine) and Dooku is that as the Ferenghi say, "War is good for business."  Basically a huge war means war profiteering.  Especially when your army is made of stupid droids you're not taking a huge risk while raking in huge profits.  They probably figured win or lose their buddy Sidious would take care of them and they'd have shitloads of money.  That makes a lot more sense to me.  Maybe that was Lucas's original intent or maybe it was the showrunners's idea based on all the Occupy and economic meltdown that came after the movies.
  • Anakin Skywalker:  The problem with the two prequels is in the first Anakin is a whiny little kid and the second he's a whiny teenager.  And no one except George Lucas and Tony Laplume ever wanted to see that.  In the TV show we can see by the end what made Anakin finally crack.  (Spoilers ahead!)  It all boils down to the horrors of war.  What the movies got right was orphaning Anakin, though instead of two movies this could have been done in one simple flashback like the Batman movies.  So he's already lost his mom and he never had a dad--something that's stupid beyond belief; I mean his mom's a slave in like her late 30s and we're supposed to believe she was still a virgin when she got knocked up?  Sha, as if.  Anyway, so like I said he lost his parents in a brutal fashion.  Then as we see during the show as a general he loses a lot of buddies in the army and a few Jedis too--but the soldiers are clones so it doesn't really matter, right?  Then at the end of season 5 he loses his Padawan Ahsoka Tano.  So years of fighting, losing his loved ones and friends, and then the threat of losing his wife seems like enough to break someone enough to become a psychotic warlord, right?  But since we gloss over pretty much the whole freaking war in the movies, we missed out on all that so his transformation into Vader didn't make as much sense.

Which to get into Andrew Leon mode makes for a good writing tip.  If you want to sell a character transforming from a hero to a villain, you have to have enough to support that.  I mean in the movies his mommy dying and having some bad dreams, does that really justify slaughtering a bunch of little kids and helping to kill millions throughout the galaxy?  OK, maybe my scenario doesn't justify it either, but it's stronger.

As my title suggests really I think the highlights of the show should have been the bulk of the first two movies.  One of my problem with most prequels is they always have to try to make up some mythical origin for characters.  The thing I joke about in X-Men Origins Wolverine is they even had to create an origin for his leather jacket.  Because clearly everyone was wondering where he got that coat from.  So instead of Anakin just being some rogue Jedi who turns evil he has to become a prophecized Christ child who will be The One.  Which doesn't make much sense since he helps kill the Jedi and only kills the Emperor after almost 25 years of brutal oppression and strangling gods know how many poor starship captains and other people who piss him off.  That's your Messiah?  To its credit the show tries to gamely salvage this notion of him bringing "balance to the Force" in an overly literal fashion, but it still never makes sense.

Sometimes less is more and I think in this case less origin story would have been better to focus on the war that really shaped Anakin into the future Vader.  But probably Lucas thought that would have been too mature.  From the first movie he obviously wanted something kid-friendly to sell action figures and Happy Meals.  The brutality of war is not PG-rated.  Which kind of makes you wonder what direction Episode VII will take.  I suppose with Disney owning it now they'll have to go more towards kid-friendly.

While I really did like the Clone Wars show there were a few things I thought lacking.
  • Who is General Grievous?  This was never really answered in the series or in the last prequel.  I know I said we need less origin, but really this guy just appears on the scene as a major character.  In one of the early seasons they did sort of get into his background, but I still never got how he became a cyborg and the head of the droid army.  I always wondered if he was supposed to be like the prototype Vader as in a combination of man(ish) and machine.  Really, what was his whole deal?
  • The secret marriage.  In the last season there are a couple of episodes where Anakin and Padme's marriage is strained by an old flame of Padme's returning onto the scene.  It would have been nice if they'd referenced the secret marriage a little more.  I mean keeping that secret for like 5 years had to be kind of difficult, didn't it?  Most of the time you can probably forget they even are married since they're hardly ever together.
  • Loose ends:  If you watch Episode III (and IV-VI) you know what happens to a lot of the characters.  Still there are some who simply vanish after Season 5.  Like what happened to the revived Darth Maul?  After he tangled with Palpatine and lost, Palpatine said he had something in mind for Maul but it never comes up in season 6.  And what happened to Anakin's former Padawan Ahsoka Tano?  The only time she's shown in season 6 is when Yoda is tripping on the Sith homeworld.  Commander Cody is in Episode III but what happens to Captain Rex?  Maybe they had been planning more episodes but it'd have been nice to find out what became of some characters.

Other than that my only complaint is that not every single story needed to be a 4-episode arc.  In the last few seasons especially it seemed that every story had to be 3 or 4 episodes long.  The Jedi kids making their lightsabers didn't need to be 4 episodes.  R2D2 and the droid A-Team stealing some Enigma chip didn't need to be 4 freaking episodes.  Sometimes you can do a stand-alone show, people!  Incidentally the comic book industry today has this same problem.  Not every story needs to be a year-long arc!  Of course they do that mostly so they can collect them into trade paperbacks and charge a bunch of money for them.

Just like every blog entry doesn't need to be 1200 words long, as Michael Offutt has mastered.  So I'll just end this with a random video:


8 comments:

  1. Anakin definitely needed more character development. The Clone Wars did help give you some insight to why he was so easily turned to the Dark side.

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  2. They did have more planned for Clone Wars, but Disney buying Lucasfilm changed all of that. The Clone Wars was a Cartoon Network series and Disney wanted to bring Star Wars "home" to Disney, so they made it unprofitable for CN to continue to carry the show. Of course, Disney didn't want a show that had the CN brand attached to it, so they just discontinued it. The new show they're doing will happen in between Eps III and IV and will be called Rebels, dealing with the formation of the Rebellion. It's supposed to air this fall, I think.

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  3. The Droid A-Team. Freaking R2-D2. God I really hate that character now.

    Anyway, you've given this a lot of thought, which is more than Lucas did. I stand by the idea that he had sort of a grand idea for all this, but the original "Star Wars" ('Episode IV') wasn't intended to be more than a stand-alone movie. Then it got pulled in all these directions, and now the last 20 years have been spent trying to smooth that out. Making sense of Star Wars is about like making sense of Spider-Man or X-men at this point.

    That doesn't mean they're not entertaining, and I don't really care if the whole thing 'fits together' or not. I enjoyed the prequels. Maybe Tony and I should debate you like Bill Nye did with that Creationist. The Dilloway-LaPlume-Pagel Debates, like a 21st Century All Star Wars References version of Lincoln-Douglas.

    And then Andrew could give his famous "You shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of midichlorians" speech.

    This comment might be the nerdiest thing I have ever typed.

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  4. Wait, I have a famous speech? I should write that!

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  5. Hey PT. I am watching the show now, and am only early into season 3 - so I skimmed the spoilery parts. It made me want to watch to prequels again because it's made me wonder if they really sucked as bad as I remembered. Plus I've been reading the Thrawn books too so I did watch SW and Empire in the past few weeks. Empire holds up way better than the original SW did though.

    So, looking forward to finishing the series, but I'm only catching an ep or so a couple of times a week. So it'll be awhile.

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  6. I stand by my and/or George Lucas's conclusions.

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  7. That was a fun read. Love how you worked Tony, Andrew, and Michael in there. I agree with your sentiments. Especially the Anakin part. His transformation was laughable. In fact, when you see footage of him kneeling, I laughed my ass off.

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  8. I see your point. I'm a huge fan of the Clone Wars and overall enjoy them way better than the prequels. I'm not sure if you're mocking me with my titles or if you think my titles are a good thing. I tend to think my blog post titles are okay. I get lots of pageviews.

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