Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Talz Tales in Star Wars: The Clone Wars

I have a confession to make.  I have been enjoying Star Wars: The Clone Wars.  It may not be high art, but it reminds me of the kind of stories you would see in a Star Wars game brought to the small screen.  At least that is what it does for me normally.  However, I felt that Trespass, the most recent episode, was not very good.  FYI... my commentary below has a ton of spoilers, so don't read it if you haven't watched the episode yet.

The story starts simply enough.  For reasons never fully explained the Republic placed a Clone Trooper base on an uninhabited ice planet.   They lose contact with this base, so they decide to send a group consisting of Anakin Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, C-3P0, R2-D2, a bunch of Storm Clone Troopers, and two politicians from a nearby planet, who I will call Chairman Homicidal and Senator Jailbait.

They arrive at the base to find it deserted, with the exception of Clone Trooper helmets on spears.  Chairman homicidal immediately decides it must be the work of those wacky Separatists.  Were the spears the tip off?  In any case, they travel to the nearby Seperatist base, who apparently also love uninhabited ice planets, only to find the head of droids on pikes as well.

Eventually, it is discovered that the stone cold killers known as the Talz are responsible.  Apparently trained Storm Clone Troopers and Battle Droids are no match for primitive aliens chucking flint tipped spears.  Although, to be fair, decades later Storm Troopers fair no better against Ewoks.

Obi-Wan and Anakin go to speak with the Talz, and eventually receive their demands.  Well, one demand actually: "Leave or we kill you".  When this is reported back to Chairman Homicidal, he immediately decides to commit genocide.

Fortunately, Chairman Homicidal is pretty ineffective at wiping out the primitive Talz.  Taking some Storm Clone Troopers out on military speeders, the kind with shields and blaster cannons, they manage to get ambushed.  They then stop the bikes and engage the spear-wielding Talz with their blaster pistols.  Unfortunately for them, the Talz spears cut through Storm Clone Trooper armor like a knife through butter and Chairman Homicidal is fatally wounded.

Obi-Wan urges Senator Jailbait to make peace with the Talz, which is all she has wanted to do all along.  She then concedes to the Talz demands to leave the planet forever, and Obi-Wan praises her skill as a negotiator.  The End.

I know Star Wars often has plot holes you can drive a truck through, but it was seriously bad this episode.  The ice planet is a complete MacGuffin, and a bad one at that.  Everyone is fighting over the planet, but there seem to be no consequences for leaving it.  Similarly, Chairman Homicidal's evilness and Senator Jailbait's innocence are comically overdone.

Oh well.  Hopefully the next episode will be better.


Unknown said...

you know, I've never put much thought into this, but the distillation of this episode of Clone Wars has brought forth an interesting observation; The only Galactic Senators that are trustworthy & in possession of a moral compass that compels them to act for the greater good are female.

Let's look at the facts thus far. in Episode One, we get our glimpse of the Senate, with the then Supreme Chancellor getting ousted in a display of incompetence due to his inability to protect Naboo while negotiating political intrigue. We also get to see Palpatine begin his slither to the top of the heap. Only Amidala, admittedly not a senator, but representing her planet in a political fashion, in all her naive glory.

Our next dose of this is in Episode two, where Amidala is now officially a senator, still trying to be shiny & cheery & on the side of doing things the right way. It gets her a big bullseye on her head for the effort, but hey, she's a white knight in a sea of scumbags.

Our third piece of evidence is now in the Clone Wars movie, where once again Amidala is forced to wade through the machinations of the Hutts in order to get them out of the political problem they were in... everyone else maneuvering there that isn't a Jedi is basically a self-serving piece of work in some shape or form besides her.

Now that we move into the Clone Wars series, we get at least one more glaring display of Amidala's moral high ground, in the episode set on Rodia (Bombad Jedi, where Jar Jar gets mistaken for a Jedi Master), where she's sold out by her 'uncle', the senator from Rodia that has been a friend of her family for years, & she's basically able to guilt trip him back to the straight & narrow.

Now this brings us to Trespass, the most recent episode, where you bring up Senator jailbait's grasp of the situation as the obvious right thing to do (I won't go into the tactical blunders undertaken by the republic forces once they're on planet, it's enough we all know they're there). Once again, the young woman with senatorial powers is proven right all along.

It gets a little murkier in the later years (I.E. anything from Episode 4 on), as at that point there's no more senatorial intrigue, but our only two doses of political leftovers are Princess Leia, obviously pointed to as the bright shining hope of reason for the most part, & Mon Mothma, the leader of the Rebel Alliance, also an ex senator, with her homeworld being Chandrilla. The only male representation of a political nature besides good old papa Palpatine is Grand Moff Tarkin, & fer cripes sakes, he blew up Alderaan. Not exactly a beacon of happy fluffy thoughts, now is he?

It even stretches into the role playing game to an extent... one of Rob's old characters was built on the Young Senator template, & while he wasn't working for the Empire, he was definitely not a nice guy either.

I find the trend to be somewhat amusing, & there's plenty of other examples I can make (I could devote a grand litany to Borsk Fey'la), but I think I've made my point

Scafloc said...

Not to entirely break your point, but there ARE male senators who are on the side of the angels, they are just ineffectual. Origana is certainly pragmatic, but hardly wretched. Presumably the host of grey hairs in the rebel alliance in the early movies are his contemporaries as well. These men are all standing up for what they believe in (after a fashion) but lack the political and military strength to succeed. The expanded universe of the novels offers a few other examples (which I am far too lazy to look up at this point) as well.

I will say that Star Wars has taken a decided turn for the simple lately though. The saga has always been roughly equal parts samurai story, children's fairy tale, and wartime adventure. Ever since "Han shoots first" style editing, it has increasingly favored the fairy tale approach. I find this particularly ironic since there is supposedly a "real" war featured in the prequel era, as opposed to the terrorist rebellion.

I really do still enjoy Star Wars a lot. I grew up imagining every flashlight was a lightsaber after all! It would take a whole lot of effort to make a Star Wars video which I would not watch (note: I own a copy of the Droids animation for proof of this). Despite this, I do greatly miss the kung fu monk bits of the jedi (best seen in the movies in Neeson's portrayal of Qui-Gon Jinn to my mind). The special effects are clearly there to support a "war movie" feel, but have seen precious little in the way of "in the trenches" stories (like the early hoth scenes which set up the desperation of the rebels with great success while simultaneously advancing plot and outlining between movie character development).

I am not under any illusions that Star Wars of today is in any way going to compare to "Empire Strikes Back" which to many minds remains one of the best examples of science fiction cinema to this very day. I do think that primitive spears and slings were used to good effect in "Return of the Jedi", but there they were notably ineffective in penetrating the actual armor. The slain troopers were stabbed in the joints, strangled, etc. Notably, they were shown taking casualties as well. Now before someone says "but it's a kid's cartoon", this cartoon showed battle droids joking about as they efficiently cut open escape pods and exposed clone troopers to vacuum.

To sum up, I suppose what I am really trying to say is that there are a thousand ways that a fanboy like me would have done things differently (some reasonable, others less so), but what really matters is that the product is still (at least in general) one which we all are willing to embrace.

Medraut said...

I do believe that woman = purity is a big factor in the Star Wars movies. Shimi Skywalker, Padmé Amidala, Mon Mothma and Leia Organa are all held up as paragons of virtue. Heck, even Jabba's Twi'lek slave girl didn't seem all that bad.

(Ok, maybe there were a few shady women in the background at the Mos Eisly Cantina. And I guess Padmé's shape-shifting assassin was a woman... but let's be real here).

Obviously, this falls apart a bit in the Expanded Universe, but it is still an undercurrent throughout.

In fact, in Star Wars: The Clone Wars I would argue that the dynamic has shifted to young woman = purity. I find both Senator Jailbait (Ok, her name is Chuchi) and Ashoka to be examples.

However, this new dynamic may be a result of the influence on Japanese Anime on the show more than anything else.

Scafloc said...

It is very true that Japanese myth treats young women as pure and good beyond a level that seems even human at times... and this is without referencing the madness of the 14 year old virgin demon slayer stuff. That said, there is almost always at least one woman who is willing to embrace evil (either a contemporary of the heroine or of her parents/teachers/etc). The parallels to Buffy the vampire slayer and "the mayor" from season 3 abound.

On a side note, I think I remember Talz existing as mining slaves of the empire in an expanded universe novel (and they were really fearsome there), so at least someone is doing their homework and trying to tie things together.