#CloneWarsSaved, or, A Poe Boy Hot Take

clonewarssaved

I’m not crying, you’re crying. Ah, look at that, now you’ve got me going. I guess we’re both crying now. So silly.

Have you heard the good news!? No, not that, the OTHER good news! I have a brand new Star Wars podcast, Poe Boys! Check it out on Podbean and Apple Podcasts!

It was a confluence of events that threatened to sour Star Wars, my great pop culture love, for me.

Solo: A Star Wars Story had performed poorly at the box office and thus any and all discourse to the film was relegated to everyone and their mother’s hot takes on what went wrong, rather than any sort of discussion regarding the contents of the actual film.

Unfounded rumors began to swirl that Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy would be resigning and that Disney was entirely scrapping any and all planned Star Wars anthology films.

It became impossible to forget that Solo and Star Wars were products, to the point that it began to feel as though that’s all they were.

Around the same time, Kelly Marie Tran, who played Rose Tico in The Last Jedi, essentially expunged her social media presence in response to the toxic little pigs that have coopted Star Wars fandom for their own racist, sexist agendas.

And of course who can forget the rogue band of fans offering/threatening to fund a remake of Episode VIII, a pursuit for which they claim to have raised… $400 million.

All this left me feeling like Star Wars fandom was something best left unengaged with, like politics at Thanksgiving. I felt like I’d been looking at Star Wars through rose-colored glasses and now my third eye had opened to reveal a dollar sign.

Look gang, I’m just trying to talk about the progression of heroism from Episode III to Solo and how that progression serves as a thematic bridge between the prequel and sequel trilogies, but it feels impossible to pry Solo out of its hardened fiscal resin!

And then San Diego Comic Con rolled around, and it was announced there would be a panel celebrating the tenth anniversary of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, and they showed concept art and talked about the development of the show and OH YEAH THE CLONE WARS IS COMING BACK BABY THIS IS NOT A DRILL THIS IS HAPPENING THANK THE MAKER OH BOY OH BOY!!!

I don’t know that I’ve been as excited for a Star Wars announcement since I learned there would be an Episode VII.

The Clone Wars was what took me from a casual Star Wars fan most moviegoers could identify with to waking up at four in the morning in Orlando, Florida to wait in line for the Star Wars: Rebels panel at the last Star Wars Celebration. It is the beating heart of my fandom, and shortly after Disney acquired Lucasfilm Mickey buried a rusty axe in it, leaving untold stories in various stages of development and production dangling before fans’ imaginations, pesky what-ifs and what-could-have-beens just out of reach.

I’ve talked about it here one or five times.

I don’t remember if I wound up officially forgiving Disney for their flagrant transgression, but if I did I take it back, even in the face of the show’s eminent return.

#CloneWarsSaved rekindled my excitement for a franchise that seemed to be moving further and further from the contents of its actual stories and characters, not only because of the prospect of seeing more of my favorite show, but because of the fandom I saw on display during the panel at which it was announced.

Not every Star Wars fan is a Star Wars animation fan. We’re certainly a smaller subset of the sprawling audiences that flock to theaters for the live-action films. And if the panel in question is any indication, we’re also a subset that won’t immediately harass and berate creators and performers into digital oblivion because we don’t like the cut of their jib.

Perhaps because of that there exists a transparency, an openness between the creative forces that be and the fans of Lucasfilm animation that is not mirrored elsewhere in the Star Wars machine. Reading through The Art of Solo: A Star Wars Story, for instance, I found no mention of the directorial transition behind the scenes and how that may or may not have affected the art direction of the film. I’m not looking for juicy gossip mind you, I genuinely am curious about the creative mindsets at play and how the film’s art direction grew. But that’s unseemly and secret and even though anyone who’s buying The Art of Solo knows exactly what happened behind the scenes, we just don’t talk about it. Inversely, on the Clone Wars panel, Star Wars animation guru Dave Filoni openly jokes about episodes fans have deemed “filler” and story arcs that viewers were ultimately less than enthusiastic about. There’s an openness to the conversation in which fans are just as ready to dislike something as they are to like it and creators are ready to acknowledge those feelings playfully because it never devolves into the Thunderdome. It’s the kind of back-and-forth you get when a fan base isn’t littered with ointment-sullying maggots.

The return of Clone Wars doesn’t make me excited just for a dozen more episodes tying up loose ends, it makes me excited for a discourse that, for a brief moment, felt in danger of being beaten to death by bigots and bullies. For me, and my relationship with the multi-billion dollar juggernaut of a franchise, it isn’t just The Clone Wars that was saved.

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I Know You Didn’t Think Disney and I Buried the Hatchet Just ’cause BB-8, or, Star Wars: Rebels Season Two

RebelsS2

[Insert PM5K’s “When Worlds Collide” Here]

Though I may not speak of it often and openly it’s important you understand that I haven’t simply abandoned the blood feud between Disney and myself that began with the unceremonious cancellation of Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Years from now my descendants and the Disneys will probably be hiring bounty hunters to drag each other over state lines to stand trial for their various crimes against one another. That’s just their lot in life.

But between their deft handling of The Force Awakens, two spiffy Civil War trailers and Disney’s outspoken protest of proposed discriminatory legislation in Georgia my spite toward Walt’s lineage has cooled. As if sensing my softening sentiments Disney went in for the killing blow with last week’s conclusion to Season Two of Star Wars: Rebels with a finale that may not have apologized for Disney’s transgressions, but did effectively look me in the eye and shake my hand.

The worst part about the abrupt, unplanned ending of The Clone Wars was the dangling story threads of characters who were either introduced in or heightened by the series but were ultimately left without resolutions. It was something of a bitch slap to fans who’d become deeply invested in characters that, on paper, should have been little more than footnotes in some Star Wars encyclopedia in the bargain bin of Barnes and Noble, but over the course of five excellent seasons had become something much more.

Despite the undeniable quality and fun of Star Wars: Rebels, that slap still stung.

But the Star Wars M.O. of late is one of honoring the past. Much like The Force Awakens displays a reverence for the original Star Wars films and the new Rogue One trailer showcases a reverence for Fallout 3, Season Two of Star Wars: Rebels extends a true reverence to Clone Wars and, by extension, that series’ fan base.

In Tolkien terms The Clone Wars didn’t end before Return of the King even started, but based on what has been said in interviews with the cast and crew about what had been planned for the series, it definitely ended before the Battle of the Black Gate. And it doesn’t seem like we’ll ever get to see that battle outside of some tie-in book or comic. But Season Two of Rebels serves as, still in Tolkien terms, something of the Appendices to Clone Wars.

Old characters appear, unseen past events are eluded to and a few lingering story threads are picked up in earnest. It’s exciting watching characters from The Clone Wars interact with the cast of Rebels. There was a time when the characters organic to the animated Star Wars universe were so easily overshadowed by even the briefest promise of an appearance of a minor “real” character from the films, but now those same characters that had to fight for sunlight underneath the shadows of Anakin Skywalker or Yoda cast imposing shadows of their own when they show up in Rebels. It’s a testament to just how much of an impression The Clone Wars left on the Star Wars universe. Between the prequels and The Force Awakens, The Clone Wars carried the torch for the Star Wars franchise and the flame wound up brighter for it. This past season of Star Wars: Rebels put a concerted effort into acknowledging that.

So while I’ll never forgive Disney for canceling The Clone Wars, their posthumous treatment of their untimely victim has at the very least turned our blood feud into more of a scab feud. At this rate, maybe one day my descendants and Disney’s descendants might even institute a “no-kill” rule in their post-apocalyptic, gladiatorial honor-bouts.

Rambling, Rampant, Irresponsible Speculation, or, Star Wars: Rebels

Spoilers for The Clone Wars ahead.

By the time I’d wrapped my trembling hands around the worn leather handle of the knife in my heart that was the cancelation of Star Wars: The Clone Wars and ripped the blade from my limp body the only sensation that survived was my singular thirst for vengeance. Disney will pay for what they have done, all in due time, be it through a strongly worded blog post or several strongly worded blog posts or several more witty, strongly worded tweets.

The Clone Wars marched the Star Wars banners forward into a new generation and revitalized a franchise that had been kept afloat largely by nostalgia and a handful of cool video games, comics and novels. This was due in no small part to the series’ supervising director, the fedora-clad Dave Filoni. Since heading up Clone Wars Filoni has becoming something of an ambassador to fans from a galaxy far, far away and, arguably, George Lucas’ creative heir apparent (eat your heart out Kathleen Kennedy, you know what you’ve done).

And it was Filoni who finally lured me out from my dank cave of malcontent when, a month ago, he posted an image of a sketch on Twitter with the caption “Hard to believe that I’ve worked at LFL almost 8 yrs, & this is the first time I have gotten to draw a TIE fighter.”

All my hopes and dreams, by Dave Filoni

All my hopes and dreams, by Dave Filoni

Oh shit.

It was easy to be optimistic. If Dave is in than so am I. But Disney had wronged me, egregiously so. While I was anxious for more information I wasn’t holding my breath.

Then, weeks later, the announcement came that Fall 2014 would bring a new animated Star Wars series, Star Wars: Rebels. The series is said to be set in the expansive nineteen-year period between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope. One can surmise the show will follow the escapades of the pre-Solo/Skywalker rebellion. An exciting prospect made all the more thrilling by the news that Filoni would be returning alongside Art Director Killian Plunkett and CG Supervisor Joel Aron. Anyone who has seen the making-of footage on The Clone Wars Blu-rays and DVDs (me, me, a thousand times me) knows how intense these guys, along with the rest of the Clone Wars crew, are when it comes to making a baller as shit Star Wars story. If Disney gets nothing else right with this new animated venture they at least nabbed a few of the right people.

So theoretically the pieces are all set for a solid successor to The Clone Wars. But we won’t really know until Fall 2014 so, amongst the violent flames of my rage, let the rampant speculations-turned-suggestions ensue.

If Disney ever wants to get off of my shit list, and believe you me they do, a key move going forward will be the exact timeframe in which Rebels is set.

It isn’t simply the cancelation of Clone Wars that drove a wedge between myself and the entertainment juggernaut I’ve been ambivalent to apathetic about since I reached the age of ten, it’s the abruptness of it all. When Disney forced Clone Wars onto the guillotine and let that blade rip the cut was far from clean. Sure, sure, that thing is definitely dead, but there are tendons and sinews and muscles hanging to and fro, clinging from a blood spurting neck to a cold pale head like a stubborn hangnail.

Story tendons and narrative sinews and plot muscles! Clinging from a blood spurting neck of five awesome seasons to the cold pale head of a future cut short by Mickey godamn Mouse!

Since the brilliant season five finale, which has since become series finale, Dave Filoni has gone on record as to say that he finds the ending of Ahsoka’s story appropriate and in a lot of ways he’s right. It was an effective, moving ending that sent the young warrior off into the sunset toward an uncertain future free of the murky morality of the Jedi order. The series finale gave viewers a definite conclusion to a large chapter of Ahsoka’s life while leaving the horizon wide open for future chapters.

Which is great or whatever, I guess. But Ahsoka isn’t the only character on The Clone Wars.

Sure we know what happens to Anakin and Obi Wan and Yoda and all those rascals, and some long running characters like Pre Viszla and Dutchess Satine had their stories wrapped up neatly, but what about Cad Bane?

Its cool cause its noir.

Its cool cause its noiry.

Cad Bane is not only a blue cowboy monster, he’s also the reason I started watching Clone Wars – a compelling, original villain that snaps peoples necks and talks in a slow southern drawl. What’s not to like? Last we saw of Cad Bane he was sent to prison for like the hundredth time for trying to kidnap Palpetine. That’s it? He just finally stays in prison? We saw the hint of a Boba Fett team up in season four. Nothing on that front? Nice try, Disney.

And let’s not forget that after Darth Maul’s galactic onslaught Mandalore, the planet of Boba Fetts, is in a freaking awesome civil war! Boba Fetts versus Boba Fetts! Some of whom literally with horns! And that just sort of happens and then… goes away? Cool, yeah that’s great. I definitely didn’t care at all about a planet full of Boba Fetts killing the shit out of each other. So glad that got cut short.

And Captain Rex too. What about that guy? Eh? Eh? We’ve seen the Captain doubt orders and eventually even go against them when his morals conflict with their end result. Are we to just assume he throws that doubt to the wind and slaughters Jedi left and right come Order 66.

Are we to assume, Disney? Are we to assume?!

And of course my personal favorite loose end, Maul. After the rampant publicity, criticism and outrage surrounding the Phantom Menace villain’s return from the dead The Clone Wars pulled off the impossible and made his revival worthwhile, while simultaneously improving on the stoic character tenfold. The epic finale to Maul’s last arc not only left Mandalore in shambles, it may have been the greatest episode the series’ has ever produced. But when it wrapped up the vicious, cunning Maul had lost what power he’d gained and lay begging at the feet of Darth Sidious who exclaimed “I’m not going to kill you. I have other uses for you.”

Look out behind you cool guys! It's a load of bullshit, courtesy of Disney.

Man it sure would have been lame to have let this continue…

Is there a line for people who are glad that we may never figure out what those uses are? Because I’d love to be at the front. Because I’m so godamn glad I’ll never get to find out what those uses are because that would be dumb and I way prefer being left hanging as payment for my years of loyalty to a show for godamn ten year olds!

However, this can all be remedied. All of these questions and characters can be revisited against a new and exciting backdrop should Disney decide that Star Wars: Rebels is set in the early section of that nineteen-year timespan between Episodes III and IV. Is it a stretch to catch up with these guys ten or fifteen years later? Maybe. But two or three years after the end of the Clone Wars? Works for me, yo. And if they want me to suspend my blood feud with the Disney Corporation, the Disney Channel and the Disney Family they will be very interested in what works for me. Yo.

Or they could set it in the mid to late section of those nineteen years and we can all frolic about on Saturday mornings at the prospect of watching animated Leah hone her political skills and animated Luke bull’s-eye womp rats in his stupid T-16. Boy wouldn’t that be great.

Do the right thing Disney. Give me more horns and robot legs and brutal murders on a kid’s television show. Give me more Maul.

Or so help me God I will tweet Downey Jr. and tell him not to do Avengers 2. I will tweet Downey Jr. so godamn hard.

I Love You Ahsoka, or, I Loathe You Disney

Warning: Spoilers ahead for the season five finale/series finale of Star Wars: The Clone Wars

This. Is. Awesome.

This. Is. Awesome. And no longer accurate.

Call it a May the Fourth be With You/Revenge of the Fifth weekend miracle, but at long last I finally feel emotionally stable enough to sincerely contemplate the season five finale of my favorite television show of all time, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, which, shortly after airing, became the series finale after Disney went off the rails hardcore and cancelled it like a ^%#* $#@!% who don’t know $%^& about #$%@. But I’m going to keep my feelings regarding the cancellation of Clone Wars close to the chest. Though I will say this, before the Clone Wars was cancelled I had always thought of bullshit as organic refuse from any creature of bovine descent and I can now honestly say that is no longer my definition of the term. But I’m going to keep my feelings about the unjust ending of Clone Wars out of this post because that’s not what this post is about.

The final arc of season five had gigantic shoes to fill as it came after the jaw-dropping Maul/Mandalore story arc that may have been the best material the series has ever produced. The four episode arc, “Sabotage,” “The Jedi Who Knew too Much,” “To Catch a Jedi” and “The Wrong Jedi,” probably had fans even more suspect because the show’s focus moved from the jaw-dropping, perfectly executed fan service that was Darth Maul and an army of Boba Fetts fighting on a planet of Boba Fetts for Boba Fett supremacy to Ahsoka Tano, an orange lady many fans have had mixed feelings about.

Ahsoka certainly started off a bit grating. She was something of a young punk with a snarky attitude who had seemingly no place in the Star Wars cannon and no qualms about deluding the already waning quality of intergalactic dialogue with nicknames like “Sky Guy.” But then she did something that only the finest of characters are capable of: she developed, evolved and undoubtedly earner her place amongst the pantheon of Star Wars protagonists. With a pacing nothing short of brilliant Ahsoka went from being an obnoxious teenager to a level-headed young woman who had undeniably been shaped by the galactic war that was the stage for her formative years  (puberty or the Clone Wars – jury’s still out). Ever since her meeting with Chewbacca and the Trandoshians at the end of season three Ahsoka has proven herself a full on badass worth investing in and the finale arc kicked all of that up a notch. Kind of like Disney’s cancellation of The Clone Wars kicked my capacity for rage, anger and loathing up a notch. I mean I knew I could be irritated in the past, I’ve seen 2 Fast 2 Furious after all*, but man did it all hit a whole new level win Disney started poking its dumb, cocaine-scabbed, mouse nose where it didn’t belong. But I’m going to keep my feelings on that matter close to the chest.

The good ol' terrible nickname days.

The good ol’ terrible nickname days.

The “Jedi” arc started off with a staple of children’s animated television series: a terrorist attack. The attack on the Jedi temple and the reactions among the Jedi, the government and the public were dope in a heavy, meaningful, dope kind of way. It’s not often that the Star Wars universe takes the time to actually delve into the public psychological effects of living in a universe were star wars are constantly happening. Sure, Star Peace sounds stupid, but you can’t help but understand the citizenry being fed up at a seemingly endless war raging across the galaxy that probably has no overall bearing on their day to day lives. Seeing the Jedi as the symbol of that war makes sense. Unlike the cancellation of Clone Wars by the bloated corpse of a torpid dynasty that is Disney. But don’t bother trying to surmise where my feelings lie on the matter.

But the terrorist attack was just the tip of the iceberg as Anakin and Ahsoka investigated the attack and set into motion a whirlwind of events that saw Ahsoka wrongfully accused of murder and on the run from Tarkin and the full might of Republic law enforcement. Like Jason Bourne. In space. But a girl alien. It’s a tale that, throughout its four episodes, showcased everything The Clone Wars has done best over its five years.

Every season of Clone Wars has seen the animation take a leap forward and season five was no exception, particularly during the Maul/Mandalore arc, but even compared to that epic the “Jedi” episodes managed to turn out some of the best, if not the best, animation in the series’ run. From Ahsoka and Anakin blazing their Jedi star ships through the sky-cities of Cato Neimoidia  and the sprawling holographic security footage of the terrorist bombing, to the wallowing depths of level 1313 and the rigid authoritarian architecture of the military prison the settings in these four episodes were vibrant and textured. It’s amazing how much more lifelike the worlds we are taken to in the Clone Wars appear when compared to the stale, CGI-laden locales of the prequel trilogy. Kind of like how it’s amazing that Disney would have the gull to cut a successful television show that has single-handedly carried the torch for a decades-old franchise and brought new generations of fans to a galaxy far, far away as if it were excess gristle on leftover steak. Not that I plan on sharing my feelings on the matter.

Of course said worlds are made even more vibrant by the animations of the characters moving within them and the character animations in the last Clone Wars arc are in my opinion the most impressive to date. Ever since Clone Wars started in 2008 some of the character animations, particularly those involving running, would catch my eye in a bad way. They weren’t necessarily ugly, but they didn’t flow or feel as natural as most visual aspects of the show. That all changed in this arc, particularly where Ahsoka was concerned. As badass as it was to see the young Jedi perched atop ledges and statues like Batman, the amazing chase sequence/Fugitive reference that ended the second episode “The Jedi Who Knew Too Much” completely blew me away as Ahsoka, lightsabers in hand, maneuvered her way through battalions and gunships and sewers with a finesse that someone outside of the women’s U.S. gymnastics team has no right possessing.

But above all else the real tour de force of what have now become the final episodes of The Clone Wars to air on television was the story. It can be hard to really compensate how the Jedi went from their high standings in Episodes I and II to their near obliteration at the end of Episode III, but the stories told in The Clone Wars, this one in particular, go a long way to filling in the gaps.

Goodbye, any semblance of happiness my Saturday mornings ever knew.

Goodbye, any semblance of happiness my Saturday mornings ever knew.

In a time of peace Ahsoka would have grown to be an entirely different person and an entirely different Jedi. But she didn’t come up in a time of peace, she came up in the Clone Wars, a time where being a Jedi didn’t actually mean any one thing as the millennia-old organization found itself trying to compensate being keepers of the peace with being generals and war fighters. It’s an identity crisis that Ahsoka has come to personify and that crisis reached a head with the series finale “The Wrong Jedi.”
When the Jedi council turned their back on Ahsoka they turned their backs on the Jedi ways of old and cemented not only themselves as war mongers and political tools, but also their looming fates. Palpetine is no doubt to blame for his active role in the fall of the Jedi order, but his plans would never have succeeded without the corrosion of the Order from within.

Of course viewers already knew how things turned out for the Jedi and the Jedi Council, it was the semi-unveiling of Ahsoka’s fate that proved the most poignant. Her decision to leave the Jedi order felt like the perfect next step for the character and her conversation with Anakin on the steps of the Jedi Temple hit me in the heart like a torpedo hitting Red October in that movie**. We all know about Anakin’s struggle to separate himself from attachment and the revelation that Ahsoka was well aware of this, with her simple declaration, “I know,” which voice actress Ashley Eckstein absolutely nailed, was incredibly powerful. We now know why Ahsoka isn’t around in Episode III and its impossible not to wonder what could have been were the Jedi Order not such a gang of holier-than-thou d-bags.

Kind of like it’s impossible not to wonder what Disney douche bag from hell decided The Clone Wars didn’t deserve to wrap up the slew of fantastic narrative threads it spent five years creating. I mean, I’m not going to sit here and spill on my opinion of the matter, but I will tell you that I totally appreciate Disney trying to win my fandom by dangling carrots in front of me like J.J. Abrams and the Big Three while they gut the things that have actually earned my fandom through hard work and solid story telling. I think that that is a very stand up thing to do and that it bodes well for Disney’s use of their newly acquired property. Also I’m being sarcastic and I think that this is bullshit and I wish Mickey Mouse were dead like my happiness. But personally, I’m keeping my thoughts on the matter close to the chest.

On an unrelated note – this is bullshit. Disney is bullshit. Everything is bullshit. Clone Wars is the best. Rest in peace. Never forget.

*I have never seen 2 Fast 2 Furious. I am not an idiot.

**I have never seen The Hunt for Red October. Is Red October a submarine? It’s a submarine. Right? Is it?