Saturday, January 29, 2011

Battle Meditation on Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Overlords (Episode 3.15 Review)

Episode Title & Number:  "Overlords" Season 3 Episode 15 (3.15)

Original Air Date:  January 28, 2011

Review Blurb:  Sometimes being the Chosen One sucks, on a planet that is the Force, how does Anakin choose between his Master and his Apprentice, between the light and the dark?

Jedi Fortune Cookie:  "Balance is found in the one who faces his guilt."

Episode Dramatis Personae:

Anakin Skywalker, Jedi Knight
Obi-Wan Kenobi, Jedi Master
Ahsoka Tano, Jedi Padawan
Father, Force-Wielder
Daughter, Force-Wielder Light Side personified
Son, Force-Wielder Dark Side personified
Qui-Gon Jinn, Jedi Master (Deceased)
Shmi Skywalker, Anakin's Mother (Deceased)
Rex, Clone Trooper Captain

Episode Summary:

The Republic gets a bizarre transmission using a 2,000 year old Jedi code, the Jedi Council sends their tag team champions Obi-Wan, Anakin and Ahsoka to investigate.  Our three Jedi are suppose to meet up with Captain Rex, Admiral Tenant and a Republic Battle group to investigate.   The Jedi are able to communicate with Rex but seem to be at the same coordinates but are not in the same place.  The the Jedi are sucked aboard a giant Borg cube set on its corner and abducted Lost style landing on an "organic mass" that appears larger then an asteroid but smaller then a typical planet. 

Obi-Wan, Anakin, and Ahsoka are greeted by Daughter and taken on a trek across Pantora, err. Mortis.  When the group is separated Obi-Wan and Ahsoka, while Anakin goes following daughter home.  When night falls, Ahsoka and Obi-Wan are greeted by Brother who tells them that night can be deadly and they seek shelter in a cave full of glowing crystals.  Obi-Wan has a vision of Qui-Gon and Ahsoka has a vision of her older self.  Meanwhile Anakin finds his way to Father's monastery were he meets the old man and is invited to stay the night and take a Chosen One test in the morning.  In the night Anakin is visited by a vision of his mother Shmi, that appears to be Brother in disguise.  

When it comes time for the test in fly Brother and Sister in beast mode with Ahsoka and Obi-Wan in their clutches.  Father informs Anakin that he has instructed his children to kill the two Jedi and that Anakin must choose which one to save.  Anakin says screw that, and with Obi-Wan's encouragement draws on the power of the Force and Mortis gets a super duper voice change and brings Daughter and Son to their knees.  Upon seeing this Father pronounces that Anakin is the chosen one and must stay on Mortis and take over Father's job of watching over Daughter and Son.  Anakin ain't having any of that and turns down Father, hops in the shuttle with Obi-Wan and Ahsoka, and presumably heads home. 

Review:

I)Story/Writing

There was a ton of exposition and mythological downloading in this episode of The Clone Wars.   Overlords was written by Christian Taylor and Directed by Steward Lee.  Taylor has the unenviable task of crafting a story out of George Lucas' ideas for this episode that fans will end up really liking or hating.  I have a feeling that after the Mortis arc is over we will have some very intense debates within the fan community and we will see some backlash like after Episode I with the introduction of Midi-chlorians. Given the character introduction and the mythology involving the Force and the Chosen One Prophecy, there wasn't a ton of time for action, but with three interesting vision scenes for our main characters, this was a well conceived and well produced story. 

What Overlords does above all else is raise a ton of questions, read below for a few of mine...

1. Where exactly are the Jedi and Captain Rex?  Do these Force Wielders have powers to move through hyperspace like the Aing-Tii monks?

The whole LOST fade to white light and wakeup on the Mortis thing was a bit weird.  Were they transported to Mortis within the giant diamond ship?  Is Mortis actually within the diamond ship?  Or did the diamond ship travel to Mortis and drop the Jedi off on the planet?

2.  Are Brother and Sister Bogan/Boga(Dark Side) and Ashla(Light Side) in physical form?

Sam Witwer on his role as Son:


I'm playing the dark side of the Force. Personified, the dark side. That's what he is. That's unbelievable. Who would have thought we were going to go in this direction?
The character of the Son has very similar motivations [to the Emperor]. You have the Son, who's the dark side of the Force, you have the Daughter, who's the good side of the Force, and then you have the unifying father, who's the balance between the two. The Son believes that the balance is skewed and that he should have more influence -- and if he could have more influence, the galaxy could be a better place. For that reason it is chiefly important for him to get his hands on Anakin and influence him as fast as he can.

My character has a lack of patience. You can feel that. He has sort of a youthful arrogance and a lack of patience and you see that with how he behaves toward his sister. The dark side isn't necessarily just this malicious Force, it is the jagged destructive impulses that you sometimes need. But if you take them too far, they could destroy everything in your life. You can't eliminate it, though, because if you remove it, the universe becomes a very stagnant place. You need that destructive impulse having some form of influence. But if you lose the balance between the two, well then the Empire happens and the universe goes to hell. The dark side, while it is the destructive impulse, also creates a lot of action.


3. Is Father really dying and what happens to his children when he dies? 

I get the feeling that Father isn't really telling the truth a lot of the time. Did he actually tell his children to kill Ahsoka and Obi-Wan, or was telling Anakin that just part of the Chosen One test?  Is he really dying?  If he dies do his kids get to leave Mortis?  If Mortis makes Anakin more powerful, why wouldn't it make the Son and Daughter more powerful as well?  If Father dies do his kids perish as well and return into the Force?

4.  What exactly is the prophecy of the Chosen One? 

We know the Chosen One is suppost to bring balance to the Force, but what exactly is the prophecy and where is it recorded?  How did these hermits on Mortis hear about it or Anakin? 

Does the Chosen One need to have both Light and Dark within him in order to balance the two?

6. Names, give me names

Father, Daughter, and Son.  Really is that the best we could come up with. It is a relatively minor quibble but, this kind of naming annoys me.  I am sure its intended to give them a mysterious air, but I am not a fan. 

7. Is Mortis real? 

Is Mortis real or are the events  some kind of weird Force vision/hallucination of Anakins?

From the Episode Guide: 
This trilogy of episodes dives into concepts of the Force and ancient Jedi prophecy like never before, and represent an unusually deep exploration direct from George Lucas of some of the saga's biggest concepts. While there will undoubtedly be questions about how much that is experienced in the Mortis realm can be defined as "real," the answers will surely depend on your own point of view.

Some other interesting tidbits from the Episode Guide: 

8. Scale of Mortis 
The Mortis monolith seen at the start of the episode is over five kilometers tall, wide and deep.
Although the Force-wielders are intentionally depicted as vague and mysterious, their animation models nonetheless have the following definitions: The Father is 2.48 meters tall, the Daughter is 2.13 meters tall, and the Son is 2.2 meters. The Daughter's griffin form stands 2.58 meters tall, while the Son's gargoyle form is 4.79 meters tall. They both have wingspans over 11 meters.
9. Anchorites
The Father describes his family as anchorites. Lest anyone think this is a proper term for a species or culture, it isn't. This uncommon word, never before spoken in Star Wars, an anchorite is someone who has withdrawn from society to become somewhat of a religious hermit. The only term that so far describes the Mortis beings are "Force-wielders".
 10. Symbols
As the keeper of the balance, the Father quite literally sits at the center of a scale-like statue, with gong-like discs emblazoned with icons representing the daughter (to his right) and the son (to his left). Flanking this are statues of their beast forms: the griffin and the gargoyle.
II)Acting

We have some rather interesting performances in this weeks episode, Father (Lloyd Sherr), Son (Sam Witwer) and Daughter (Adrienne Wilkinson) all have artificially enhanced voices to give them a more resonant and spooky quality.  While we have actors returning to roles they haven played in years in Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) and Shmi Skywalker (Pernilla August).  I think Neeson and August did a pretty good job in their brief appearances.  Its a small thing, but having the actors from the movies is another thread that helps tie this series into the larger Star Wars universe and helps it "feel" like Star Wars. 

By far though my favorite voice acting was by Matt Lanter (Anakin) and Ashley Eckstein (Ahsoka). Lanter played humorous and cocky Anakin early in the episode, but the scene with Shmi was very well done, showing both the vulnerability of Anakin and the fear that drives him.  I really enjoyed the scene of Ashley acting with herself as Ahsoka and adult Ahsoka in the vision.  Deepening her voice and adding weariness and wisdom to a character that is usually much higher pitched.  The voice fit the rather world weary look in the face of the adult Ahsoka. 

III)Animation

This episode had some interesting animation.  On one hand, I was impressed with Mortis, on the other hand in many scenes it looked like the background was less real, it looked like actors working in front of a painted background.  I am sure this is probably a result of having to create a whole new planet and the new character models etc.  But I was a little underwhelmed with the look of the background in some of the scenes.

Inside of Father's monastery is another matter entirely, I love, love, love the look of inside the monastery.  I am very intrigued by the writing/glyphs that are everywhere, the colors look amazing and I really liked the icons of Son and Daughter on the massive scale as well as stained glass. 

The following are some interesting shots from the episode with my rambling thoughts:

Lighting Trees
Huge Mortis Space Black Diamond

 Check out the stained glass window behind Anakin, the symbol is a combination of the Sith looking X burst symbol of the Son and the round cross symbol of the Daughter.  Is this the symbol of the Father?  Of balance? or of the Force itself?

Weird floating Crystal thing.  Huh?

 Does this construction look like the emitter nozzle of a lightsaber or am I crazy?

Gorgeous Concept Art of Mortis

More Mortis Space Black Diamond


Night turns to Day on Mortis

IV)New Characters/Planets/Vehicles

Sister/Light Side
Adult Ahsoka in Ahsoka's Vision
Qui-Gon Jinn

Father
Admiral Tenant
Daughter in Beast Mode


Son/Dark Side
Son in Beast Mode
Brother appearing as Shmi

V)Continuity Clashes:  "How I learned to stop worrying and love the ret-cons."

I am withholding some of my concerns with how this episode will effect continuity, particularly with the Force and how it is explained, understood and interacted with until we have all three parts of the story arc. 

This episode does bring up a continuity issue regarding Episode III: Revenge of the Sith,  at the conclusion of the movie Yoda and Obi-Wan are formulating their plans and Yoda informs Obi-Wan that he has communicated with Qui-Gon and that Qui-Gon has found a way to retain his essence in the Force, surprising Obi-Wan.  This episode shows Obi-Wan communicating with what appears to be a Force Ghost of Obi-Wan.  I would note that as opposed to the visions that Anakin and Ahsoka have in the episode which look like fully solid characters, Qui-Gon looks like a Force Ghost.  The easiest explanation is that Obi-Wan attributes this encounter on reflection to a vision given to him by the Force and does not comprehend that it is actually a Force Ghost.  Another explanation is that it is Sister or Father appearing to Obi-Wan in the form of Qui-Gon.  I tend to think that this is actually a Force Ghost encounter that Obi-Wan doesn't fully understand until his conversation with Yoda in Episode III, some of Obi-Wan's reaction in that film could be attributed to surprise and reinterpretation of his experiences on Mortis in a new light. 

VI) Rating This Episode

Overlords has me both extremely excited and extremely nervous, this could be a really cool way to look at the Force, but if this ends up being the ultimate explanation of the Force, I think it will fall flat.  Hopefully this ends up with these three characters (Father, Son, and Daughter) being either extremely unbalanced individuals who are extremely strong in the Force, instead of the Force itself.

This episode had a lot of cool visuals, but created so many questions that its clear its basically a setting the stage episode to introduce characters and ideas to the audience without providing much in the way of answers. 

Overlords gets an 8.5.  George, Dave and the crew have some serious Huevos with this storyline.  Kudos to LucasFilm's Director of Communications Lynne Hale for managing to get Liam Neeson and Pernilla August to reprise their film roles for this episode. 

VII) Next on The Clone Wars:

The next episode of TCW will be 3.16 Altar of Mortis, episode two of the three part Mortis arc. 


Synopsis from Star Wars Insider:
As the Jedi attempt to escape Mortis, Ahsoka is taken captive as a lure to seduce Anakin Skywalker to join the dark side.  As Anakin battles against dark forces, the Father attempts to stop a confrontation between his children, which threatens to unbalance the Force completely.
StarWars.com Preview Episode Guide for 3.16 Altar of Mortis has not yet been released.

Video Clips: 





1 comment:

  1. Good review. Top last name too. This is a good blog I've discovered, Thank you.

    If you look closely at Adult Ashoka, she is transparent, especially in the middle of her body.

    But she isn't as transparent as Qui-Gon, who seems to have a white mist on the top half of his body. But he isn't as Force Ghosty as we saw in episodes 5 and 6.

    I'm guessing we'll learn what they are soon. But Anakin's was definitely real, Ashoka's was in my opinion definitely a vision. But which was Obi-Wan's?? Good episode.

    I think its interesting that when talking to Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan talked about Anakin saying "balance eludes him". Evidently Obi-Wan has his idea of balance to the Force is as well.

    I also hope that this Mortis is real and not something that happened in their minds or something. A reviewer elsewhere compared this to the TV show Lost, which I can see why.

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