Artificial Continuum

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Gungans. Why'd it have to be Gungans? There are few less respected additions to the Star Wars universe than the bumbling pseudo-racial stereotypes from Naboo. That being said the gungans weren't all that was wrong with this week's episode of The Clone Wars. While possessing some interesting moments, and the welcome appearance of two the series's villains, "Shadow Warrior" ranks as one episodes of the series we have seen since last year's "Pursuit of Peace".

Turmoil has broken out on Naboo. The Gungan army under the sway of the Separatists has declared war on the surface dwelling population. As Jar Jar, Padme, and Anakin attempt to create peace between the two races, the leader of the Gungan people is injured. With the forces of General Grievous approaching, Jar Jar must take on a role of leadership and prevent war.

There are many things wrong with "Shadow Warrior", and believe it or not most of them exist outside of Jar Jar and his aquatic foes. While their slurred speech and antics still may seem rediculous and offensive to some viewers, the Gungans, including Jar Jar himself, have simmered down considerably since their first appearance into the Phantom Menace. Here we are given an interesting view into their world, and surprisingly it isn't all that bad.

The reason why "Shadow Warrior" really doesn't work is how disjointed the episode feels. There are really two or three plots competing for screentime here, and at times it feels as if it were really three episodes crammed into one, which to be honest may have been for the best.

Although not the best episode of the series, the first half of "Shadow Warrior" wasn't anything unacceptable. We were being treated to a story of Gungan intrigue with some actually moderatley amusing Jar Jar antics. The Clone Wars is allowed to take breaks from its grimmer more violent stories on occasion for more fun storylines, but the condition is that they must be executed well. We get that for about twelve minutes, but then "Shadow Warrior" explodes into something must bigger faster than it can control.

This shift in scope begins when General Grievous faces off against an army of Gungans. Although the scene itself was decently executed (and featured the death of recognizeable character as well), the outcome catapults the episode into a completely separate plotline that proceeds to dominate the final ten minutes. The story itself isn't horrible, but it feels so separate from what we have seen before that the transition is jarring and awkward. Its even stranger that at episode's end, the writers proceed to tell us that the episode really was about Jar Jar the whole time even though he truly had nothing to do with the conclusion.

There is one scene however within these final minutes that is truly noteworthy and that is the brief confrontation between Anakin and Count Dooku. Brilliantly choreographed and smoothly animated, this brief two minute scene is truly the highlight of "Shadow Warrior".

Perhaps even more disappointing in "Shadow Warrior" is the jarring drop in animation quality. Despite advances in water technology, The Clone Wars crew seems to still be having difficulty with creating digital grass. That being said the crew should have known better than to place half the episode on the plane's of Naboo. In certain scenes where the lighting is particularly dark, the scenery truly looks like it escaped from a Gamecube game.

All in all, "Shadow Warrior" is frustratingly poor episode in both plotting and animation. Despite an above average start and a great hero-villain confrontation, at its best it merely reaches levels of mediocrity.

Score: C