Sunday, September 18, 2011

Battle Meditation Review: Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Water War (4.01)

That spashing sound you here is a legion of kids diving into pools and bathtubs around the world with their action figures to re-enact this season's TCW premier episode Water War. 

Set on the watery world formerly known as Dak or Mon Calamari, and now re-branded Mon Cala, the premiere episode takes place almost entirely under water.

"When destiny calls, the chosen have no choice."

When the king of Mon Cala is assassinated, talks break down between the Mon Calamari people and the Quarren, co-inhabitants of the aquatic world. To stop a civil war, the Republic sends Padmé Amidala and Anakin Skywalker, but unbeknownst to them, the Quarren are already being backed by the Separatists. Now the Jedi must protect Mon Cala's new leader, the young Prince Lee-Char, from the attack.

In Water War we are introduced new allies and enemies.  Echoing last season's appearnce of Captain Tarkin, in this episode we get to meet Captain Ackbar of the Mon Cala Royal Military.  Even though we are many years before the Battle of Endor when fans were first introduced to Admiral Ackbar, the character as we meet him here is already a grizzled and respected military leader.  We see a familiar story telling theme presented where the veteran leader is subordinated to an inexperienced and young heir to power.  In Water War that inexperienced regent is Prince Lee-Char.  The Prince may not be experienced in military strategy and leadership, yet he has enough wisdom to listen to the advice of those around him and the bravery to stand up when called upon.  It will be interesting to see how Lee-Char's leadership continues to grow during the rest of the Mon Cala arc, and whether we see him re-appear down the line in the series. 

We also get an appearance by an Episode III character in Mon Calamari Senator Meena Tills.  The big take away from this is that in the Star Wars universe, female fish-people have mammary glands.  You learn something new each day.  Of course it also raises the question of how does one wear a skirt under water and retain any modesty?  But I digress before I get myself in to deep water. (Get the water joke? Do ya?.  Funny right?  )

On the Separatist side we get to meet a sharking new villain in Riff Tamson.  The Karkarodon CIS Commander is a very compelling and cool bad guy.  Both the voice acting and the animation is top notch, I particularly loved the twitching death roll like movements that Riff makes once he sinks his teeth into a victim.  The only thing missing was red mist in the water. 

We also meet a Quarren leader in Nossor Ri.  Why do the Quarren wear boots under water instead of going bare fin?  For whatever reason I find the Quarren and their moving facial appendages and three pronged mouths particularly creepy. 

We got some cool new technology in this episode as well.  The highlights for me were the Hydroid Medusas, the Mon Calamari spear blaster, and what I am calling the Turbo Tubes. 

The Hydroid Medusa where cyborg monstrosities that are part droid and part "monster," according to Riff Tamson.  They seem like something out of a Godzilla movie, giant electrified Jellyfish.  They were beautifully animated. 

The Mon Calamari spear blaster's were very cool because they work as both as a ranged weapon and by flipping it around as a melee weapon.  It was pretty neat to see a Mon Cala warrior flip the weapon in mid-attack to strike with the spear end.

Without the episode guides as they were in their previous incarnation, it looks like we will be getting less detail on some of the episodes.  In this episode, the tubes that the Mon Cala used to navigate through their home city as far as I know do not have a name.  So for my purposes here I am calling them Turbo Tubes, as to me it makes sense that they would be tubes where the current of water moves faster in order to allow the Mon Cala to travel quicker then simply free swimming from place to place.  I thought these Turbo Tubes looked awesome and reminded me of those underwater observation areas in aquariums where you can see the fish and sharks swimming above and around you (Jaws 3 says Hi!).  There were very cool glass animation effects on the tubes when they were broken both by falling debris and by Riff Tamson's face.  

The animation on this episode was top notch, there was a number of shots where there were tons of characters on the screen at the same time involved in battle.  The scope of the show has really expanded based on their ability to fill the animated environments which they have created with detail, last season we saw a real leap in background details like bugs and plants, this season we see a major leap in characters and laser beams, oh boy are there a lot of laser beams.  The only minor gripe I have with the animation is that it feels like their should be more bubbles in the water then their is. 

Anakin takes a very mature and measured turn in this episode.  Even though he gets to slice and dice droids and Quarren, he doesn't try to take charge of the battle as he so often does. Was he on his best behavior in front of Padme? 

The story itself is pretty simple, the Mon Calamari are betrayed and attacked by the Quarren, the Mon Calamari gain the initial upper hand in battle, only to see the Quarren and their Separatist allies spring a surprise and see the tide of battle turn.  The Mon Cala leadership is forced to flee in order to protect the Prince and give the chance for them to rebuild and formulate a counter attack, hopefully with the aid of Republic reinforcements. 

The episode ended with a pearl of wisdom from Ackbar to young Prince Lee-Char, making clear that it is better to retreat and live to fight another day then to stand your ground and die.  This moment is a good lesson for the young ruler, but it also hearkens back to Ackbar's discussion in Return of the Jedi when they find the Death Star 2.0 is operational and the shield is still up. Ultimately the Alliance forces stay and fight but Ackbar's instinct is to flee and preserve his forces, not because of cowardice but because he is taking a long term view of the war beyond a single battle. 

Rating: Water World gets 8.0 out of 10.0 Hydroid Medusas.

Next Time on TCW: Episode 4.02: Gungan Attack (Air date: 9/16/11)

Direct Link to Watch Episode 4.01: Water War

SOURCES: and Wookieepedia

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