Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Introducing Savage Opress

I.  Introduction    

    I had the good privilege of being one of the lucky members of the general public to score tickets to the Los Angeles/Hollywood screening on Monday December 6th of The Clone Wars: Savage Opress story trilogy. The three episodes entitled (1) Nightsisters, (2) Monster, and (3) Witches of the Mist, encompass the origin
    story of an iconic new Star Wars villain Savage Opress.

      II. Outside the Screening
       But before we get into the actual review, let's set the stage a little bit. We showed up about an hour and a half early to get in line for the premier. The wait in line was pretty cool, everyone was in a good mood and very friendly. One of the things I have come to appreciate most about the Star Wars fan community is that it really feels like a big extended family, everyone is so nice to each other.

      While we were waiting in line, Dave was walking back to the theatre and stopped to greet fans and thank them for coming out and supporting the show. My wife got the first handshake and I came up with the very clever "Great Work Dave," line. Like he hasn't heard that a billion times before.

      There was some character impersonators wandering the crowd, an Obi-Wan and Anakin, as well as some Clone Troopers who I believe were part of the 501st. There was also a full sized R2-D2 cruising around the plaza. G4 TV was filming and Bonnie Burton was running around clicking photos and tweeting.

      The highlight of the wait was a duel between two young padawans. A young girl with her green lightsaber, and a young boy in full Jedi robes with his blue ForceFX saber. Saber clashes and forces pushes were everywhere. The young girl even threw in a force choke for good measure, I sense the dark side in that one.

      I have to say Lucasfilm puts on a pretty good show, the check in process was pain free. We got our passes scanned and on our way into the theatre got complimentary popcorn and our choice of soda.

      Once in the theatre, there was a large section roped off for VIPs which is to be expected at such an event. But the entire lower portion of the theatre was for the general public. Dave and much of the crew were hanging out in the front row waiting to get the event started. James Arnold Taylor (Obi-Wan Kenobi) kept the savages at bay by playing John Williams music from his cell phone over the PA system. At some point Katie Lucas came in and sat in the back of the lower section of the theatre with the general public.

      The show got started a little late, I think they were waiting for the theatre to fill up as it was probably half full at 7pm, but looked just about full when they started the show.

      The festivities kicked off with a fun round of Star Wars trivia hosted by James Arnold Taylor and assisted by his Clone Wars beauties the lovely Ashley Eckstein(Ahsoka), Nika Futterman(Ventress), and Catherine Taber (Padme). Voice of the Clone Troopers Dee Bradley Baker also assisted in handing out prizes. The prizes included the Clone Wars Character Encyclopedia, the Spinning General Grievous lightsaber, and a special addition Motorola Droid R2D2 Phone.

      III. Dave's Preamble

        Once they were ready to roll Dave came to the mike and addressed some of the criticism of fans about this season so far. In a self deprecating way, he knows people are tired of all the politics, but he hinted that down the road it will all make sense as to why we have seen that. He also said that the dark side is really influencing everything. But the best news is that in the remaining episodes of Season 3, Dave promises that there will not be any shots in the Republic Senate. One of my degrees is in political science, so I don't find the politics of the Clone Wars as boring as some fans, but I think we all agree this season has been lacking a little bit of zip in the action department.

        IV.  The Main Event

          After the Jedi fortune cookie (which I can't remember), the movie kicked off much like Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. The action packed beginning really set the stage for what was an amazing Star Wars experience. Nika Futterman in many ways was the star of these three Episodes, her portrayal of Asajj Ventress was incredible and its authenticity gave the story a backbone upon which to build. Ventress has been a kind of underused character, occasionally bouncing in and out of episodes for a quick lightsaber duel with Obi-wan or Anakin, but without a ton of character depth. These episodes really give much more depth to Ventress' character and Nika was more then up for the challenge.

          It is a fairly tight story in terms of where we go, most of the episodes take place on either Dathomir or Serenno (Count Dooku's home world). But there is so much going on you don't need to be planet hoping to keep the story interesting.

          We got a very interesting look at Sith philosophy and Sith training, including a very interesting sequence that fans of The Empire Strikes Back will find familiar.

          The artists working on the series really did a spectacular job in these episodes particularly with certain special effects for the Nightsisters.

          Katie Lucas the writer of the Savage Opress episodes crafted a tight story, which showed action, emotion, and humor. The humorous interplay between Anakin and Obi-Wan was a nice counterpoint to what where in general fairly dark episodes. Savage Opress was presented as a rather interesting character, not really what you expect based on the previews. I rather liked his origins, and how they attempt to retcon what his happening with the Zabrak's in the Clone Wars and in the rest of the EU.

          While I am talking about retcon's we also get a new origin story for Asajj Ventress, which I will discuss in depth in my spoiler review, but which I thought was overall well done.

          The only real disappointing aspect of the episodes, other than the fact that they had to end, was the use of the Republic Commando's Delta Squad. Don't misunderstand me, it was really cool to see, and the way it was handled doesn't blow up any existing continuity, but it seemed like a role in the episode that any clone troops could have played. Hopefully now that the character models are built we will see Boss, Scorch, Sev and Fixer later on in season 3.

          The newest addition to the cast was also in attendance. Clancy Brown voices Savage Opress and he is perfect in the role. He does a great job in both pre-Sith and Sith versions of the character that are seen in the story. He has the deep resonant almost animalistic voice that fits the visuals of the character perfectly.

          There were some incredible lightsaber fights in these episodes including two different fights going on at the same time. The Nightsisters aren't really what I pictured them as like based on the Expanded Universe, but different is not always a bad thing. Mother Talzin the leader of the Nightsisters is a very interesting character, what exactly are her motivations? The Nightsisters use of the force/magic was also interesting and a bit creepy.

          Corey Burton who plays Count Dooku did a very good job in these episodes as well. The prequel movies tend to give the impression that Dooku was simply a pawn, who was used and discarded once he served his purpose and Palpatine could take his desired apprentice Anakin. But these episodes show Dooku in a different light which I think helps raise the stakes a little bit of the Clone Wars themselves. With the Sith it's always schemes within schemes.

          In terms of this series including the Clone Wars Movie, these three episodes blow all that has come before it in the series out of the water. This is hands down the best Clone Wars that we have seen. Dave Filoni, Katie Lucas, the entire cast and crew deserve every big of praise that is heaped upon them for these episodes.

          The crew also did a great job editing the three episodes together into one seamless story. It played and felt like a movie instead of three separate episodes. I just wish that all Star Wars fans could experience this story in this format. It just worked so well. I am a huge Star Wars fan, of the films, The Empire Strikes Back and Revenge of the Sith are probably my favorites, so I don't say this lightly, but I believe that this Savage Opress movie was on par with those stories.

          Savage Opress will rock the Clone Wars and everything you think you know about the Clone Wars era to its very core. I can't wait for more.


          V. Preview for the remainder of Season 3

            As they do with their teaser trailers, the Clone Wars staff is very good about packing a ton of stuff in a very short time. As such it makes it hard to tell exactly what's going on sometimes. But from the brief glimpse we got from remaining season 3 episodes, we are in store for a ton of action and a lot more Anakin then we have gotten so far. For complete thoughts on the teaser trailer and speculation about what was in it, stay tuned for my Spoiler filled thoughts on Clone Wars: Savage Opress.

            VI.  Free Stuff

              On the way out of the theatre, Lucasfilm was giving out various clone wars paraphernalia, including temporary tattoos and Gift certificates for the Clone Wars Adventures on-line video game. The highlight was the one-sheet Savage Opress movie poster and the surprise Savage Opress T-Shirt. It was a really great event and I have to thank Lucasfilm again for being so incredible in terms of fan relations.

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