Artificial Continuum

Friday, September 16, 2011

Season Four is upon us and The Clone Wars promises to give us one action packed season beginning with a three part underwater battle on the series famous planet of Dac/Mon Calomari/Mon Cala (whatever).

The world of Mon Cala is in a state of crisis. Its long time leader, a Mon Calomari king, has been assassinated and in his death leaves a power struggle between the two native races the Quarren and Mon Calomari. The current prince, the young Lee-Char, is next in line for the throne, something the Quarren aren't particularly happy about. Due to the manipulation of the Separatist ambassador Riff Tamson the Quarren are soon swayed the enemy side and the planet is plunged into civil war.

"Water War" like numerous episodes of Clone Wars presents an interesting premise and great visuals but struggles over execution and muddy dialogue.

The episode's beginning is chaotic and even with the typical "Clone Wars Intro" sequence what exactly is going on takes a few seconds to piece together. This may be in the fact that it doesn't really make sense why the Quarren care so much about the death of a Mon Calomari king. The races have always been portrayed in the past as two separate entities previously in the Expanded Universe. If this has been retconned then while unfortunate, it would have been nice to have a better understanding of what exactly the state of the planet is.

The character arc for this series of episodes appears to focus around Lee-Char, who is a hard character to adjust to. He is portrayed as a naive and childlike leader, which in itself is okay. Lee-Char just suffers as a character from hackneyed dialogue and a less than stellar voice actor. Thankfully, he is paired alongside Captain Ackbar (the earlier incarnation of the famous fish headed alien from Return of the Jedi). Ackbar's portrayal is both refreshing and true to the original film and its great to see him take a lead role in this episode.

Riff Tamson is a welcome addition to the Star Wars universe. His political aspirations are ambitious, and some might say cliched, but he makes up for that in visual style and sheer brutality. He alone carries some scenes above the mediocrity that tends to grip this episode. During the inevitable battle, Tamson rips and tears his ways through enemies with animal-like brutality and its a gory wonder to behold. His manipulation of the Quarren people is also an interesting plot line as it helps to emphasize the grey areas of the show's political storyline.

Visually, the episode is a wonder. Underwater effects are given beautiful levels of depth and feel as realistic as a Star Wars world can be. Characters float, swim, and charge through liquid with incredible fluidity that has never been matched on the show until this point.

However, something has to be said about how non-compelling the large scale battles in this episode are. While the sheer scale of them are sometimes a fun visual treat, they lack the punch that episodes like "Landing at Point Rain" or "Arc Tropers" brought. This is primarily due to the underwater set piece. Characters are slowed down considerably and underwater fire fights are actually less exciting than they sound. This could have been avoided with clever choreography and camera work, but outside some close up action scenes (mostly involving Tamson) there is little to be impressed by.

Overall, "Water War" is an above average episode of the series. While boasting some interesting characters and great visuals, it is eventually weighed down by its uneven plot, frustrating main character, and disappointing battle scenes that prevent it from reaching its potential.

Score: -B