Cartoon Graveyard: Whatever Yoda wants, Yoda gets.July 16, 2009
Hell yeah, gettin’ my banner on! Whoo!
Okay, I’ll come right out and say it: this entry is about Star Wars. That in itself poses a problem: how to approach one of the most obsessively followed pop culture franchises in existence without simply reiterating one of the ten billion things that have already been written about it? It’s so easy to settle into rehashing all the main points that everyone already knows, but I’ll do my best to hero’s quest David Prowse boob tape Joseph Campbell dogfights Laurel and Hardy tape reel car crash Richard Nixon space Rastafarian.
Let’s try this again. The actual show I’m trying to form coherent sentences about is entitled Star Wars: The Clone Wars, which is not to be confused with the other series by that name that Genndy Tartakovsky did a few years back, nor with the animated movie from last summer that was essentially a really long pilot for this show. It takes place between Episodes II and III of the movie series, with the Republic (good guys) endlessly fighting the Separatists (bad guys). Everybody clear? Good.
Title: Star Wars: The Clone Wars
Network: Cartoon Network
Premise: There are wars. Also stars. Clones are involved.
The first thing that jumps to mind, of course, is God, could this story get any more complicated? Apparently, at some point during the animated movie Anakin Skywalker picked up an apprentice named Asoka, essentially a teenage sidekick. She plays the Robin to his Batman, making with the lame wisecracks and youthful headstrong-ness as he teaches her stuff about the force and flying spaceships and whatnot (this makes R2-D2 their Ace The Bat-Hound or something). But wait, you say. From what little I remember of the prequels, Anakin can’t have a padawan because he’s one himself, or maybe not, I wasn’t really paying attention. Okay, good point, hypothetical skeptic. Firstly, someone with a more thorough knowledge of Star Wars (lookin’ at you, Sarah) could probably tell you why this all can make sense, or much more likely why it sucks and is bad. Secondly, are you really expecting logic from a George Lucas production at this point? This is a man who posited that a fifty-year-old archaeology professor can survive being violently thrown through the air in a metal refrigerator and come out completely unhurt. American Graffiti was a long time ago, and expectations have been lowered some.
It’s worth wondering what this means for long-term plotting, though. Think about it. Asoka is a new character, created expressly for this series. Therefore, she’s not even mentioned in any works that deal with the original trilogy or afterward. Ergo, your new, youth-friendly character pretty much has to die when the series is over. So it adds a little extra (perhaps unintended) dramatic irony watching a young Jedi happily bonding with clone troopers who are going to SHOOT HER IN THE FUCKING BACK during Revenge of the Sith. You can look at that either as a mood killer or something to heighten the tension, whatever you prefer. The downside to all this clairvoyance: everyone already knows what will happen to the other characters. That makes the drama a little weak. Will they finally catch General Grievous in this episode? Well, no, obviously. Will one of our favorite characters die? No, not yet. We already saw everyone die who’s going to. To their credit, the writers know this, so they’ve taken care not to make that the main plot every time, to introduce some side villains, and to kill of a shit-ton of clones at the drop of a hat. Honestly, this has probably the highest death rate of any cartoon ever aired.
On the plus side, the computer animation is gorgeous (that’s one thing you can count on Lucasfilm for, at least). And the writing is nothing incredible, but it gets the job done and accomplishes its most important goal: not being by George Lucas. Really, it’s all uphill from there. But I would be remiss if I did not call attention to a highly important feature that, however briefly, lifts Star Wars: The Clone Wars to the level of art. If you’re like me, you know that there is one single thing that makes the Star Wars series great: the part in A New Hope where the stormtrooper whacks his head on the door.
That is the single greatest moment in American cinema, a masterpiece on a par with Starry Night. The prequels were critical failures largely because they lacked such delicate characterization. But I and my bored brethren everywhere suddenly took heart when, toward the end of the interminable Attack of the Clones, little bitty Yoda pulled out a lightsaber and went to town on Christopher Lee’s caped, Dracula-rehashin’ ass. For one brief, shining moment, Star Wars was great again. Then Lee took off and we had to go back to plot exposition and the shiny, emotionless droid that is Hayden Christiansen. The magic was gone.
So I am pleased to announce that Star Wars: The Clone Wars’ first season includes an episode entitled “Ambush” which consists almost entirely of Yoda kicking everyone’s ass. Discussing the plot would be a waste of time, so suffice to say that it puts Yoda in a situation in which he is encouraged to kick everyone’s ass. It’s thirty minutes of sheer joy. Broadcasting that on a loop to the world would pretty much end all wars, and possibly world hunger. So I have a suggestion for the makers of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, and it is this: make that the plot of every episode. Any excuse for the galaxy’s most powerful Muppet to go medieval on everyone in the immediate vicinity is something I’ll watch. Hell, I’ll sponsor it.
Title: Star Wars: Yoda Kicks Everyone’s Ass For Thirty Minutes
Network: Essentially The TV Equivalent Of That Library In Sandman With All The Great Books Never Written.
Premise: Each week, Yoda kicks everyone’s ass for thirty minutes.
Look at that. Picture it. That is TV gold right there, waiting to be mined. It would be a cultural phenomenon of gigantic proportions, and here it sits, unproduced. And we get yet another season of Let’s Make D-List Celebrities Eat Shit For Money. I tell ya, it breaks yer heart.
Final Judgement: Yoooda, Yo Yo Yo Yo Yooooda, ba ba ba bum, ba bum bum! Okay, the theme song needs work. Oh, the actual show? Eh, it’s fine.