(Editors note I noticed the name tags oops! Sorry Travis!) ~Justin
“On The Real Supergeeks Podcast this week we discussed, among other things, what out top three binges would be if we got stuck in quarantine.My first would be any JRPG.” They last for 100s of hours and take you from fetch quest errands to killing God.
I’m so happy my optimism in this series is paying off.
Three episodes in, and the future is looking bright in this final season of The Clone Wars. In a nutshell, I’m beginning to care about each character more and more, and the stories being told are getting better, or at least this one is. I’m still unsure if this final season will be the usual mini-arcs that the show is known for, or if it will be one big long arc. We shall see in the coming weeks. Regardless, everything going on right now? Thumbs up.
This episode picks up pretty much immediately where the previous episode left off, where we see Tech of the Bad Batch working fast in order to properly disconnect Echo from the Techno Union machine he’s hooked into. If you remember, Echo has been cybernetically changed, and it made me make a lot of dumb Star Trek jokes in the previous review. I’ll try to lay off those here. We pick up immediately right after this happens, we’re in some fun Clone War action and the “Advanced” Battle Droids of the Techno Union are making Imperial Stormtroopers look like crack shots (I always have to chuckle when the battle droids are standing like ten feet away from our heroes, guns blazing, and STILL missing.
When they are successful in disconnecting Echo, Echo gives the absolute best line of the entire episode. “Rex… I got a big headache.” Dammit, this line should give me tears, because despite not having seen this character since Season 3, it very much brings back the old jabber the clones would often give through the entire show, and it fits so damn well here. 10/10 on that line.
What also gets a 10/10 is that watching this, I began to realize just how much I was starting to like all these characters, particularly the Bad Batch. Admittedly when they first came onscreen, I wasn’t entirely sure I would care that much for them, but they are genuinely becoming pretty god characters, and I do hope they aren’t just dropped after this arc. There was actually a moment here in the episode where I had to ask myself if Wrecker was about to die, and I was actually hoping he wouldn’t die. That only tells me that I am really starting to like these characters.
Our heroes escape the Techno Union, and Wat Tambor survives an explosion that likely should have killed him (but he can’t die until Episode III so count your blessings I guess), and we get a sequence that genuinely made me uncomfortable to watch. There’s just something about a sequence in which our heroes balance on a pipe, miles in the sky, that makes me shiver. Maybe I have a slight fear of heights when watching these. I don’t know what it is, but I was once again convinced someone was going to die.
This might ironically lead me to one of my bigger criticisms of the episode… they probably should have had someone die. I don’t know, this might feel pretty trivial in the long run, but I mean, it really feels like this sequence was needlessly tense. I feel that the scene would have been far stronger if they showed us a little mortality here. Show us that the Bad Batch aren’t exactly immortal. The fact that everyone gets out of this jam just kinda took me out of it. Just barely. I don’t know if we will see the Bad Batch killed off in this final season or if they’re just a one and done team, but I feel that if maybe Wrecker, or Crosshair was lost here, it would have made me care even more for the surviving members of the Bad Batch.
Admittedly though, their leap of faith in their escape is pretty cool.
The heroes go to the village of the Natives who appeared in the last episode, and they get angry that Anakin and the clones have broken their word and that the war is coming to their village, and this is where my only other major criticism comes into play. Rex makes a bit of a speech about how yes, they unfortunately did bring the war to their village, but makes the excuse of what they did to Echo as a reason they had to? I don’t know, the speech he gives just doesn’t really fit the situation if you ask me. But I admit I do have to hold off on more Borg jokes with this speech with all the “turning him into a machine” and “robbed him of humanity” statements he makes.
Rex successfully convinces the natives to join them in their fight against the Separatists, and admittedly, this battle is pretty cool. It’s very much a well executed David and Goliath battle as we see the natives and this group of clones fight of this droid attack force, complete with two big walkers, some badassery from the Bad Batch, and some absolutely charming banter from Echo to Anakin which very much brings me back to the good old days of the show.
The way the episode ends isn’t anything special, after the awesome battle, the natives thank the Jedi, and say the Jedi will always be welcome, and then we get some more dialogue from Rex and Echo, and how Echo tells him that it’ll be just like old times. And Echo seems skeptical as he repeats the phrase in a very unsure manner.
DUN DUN DUUUUUUUN!!!!!!
Is Echo the equivalent of a sleeper agent? Is he perhaps still connected to the Techno Union in some way? Tambor said that the clones ruined years of research when they abducted him and destroyed his work, yes, but it’s not unlike this show to pull a potential fast one on us. I can’t help but feel that Echo might know more than we’re being led to believe here. That or he’s going to go through a whole lot of PTSD here, and won’t exactly get the happy ending we hope he gets.
Well I mean, we definitely don’t see him in Star Wars: Rebels, so yeah, I’m not expecting good old Echo to last much longer, sadly. Here’s hoping his final story arc here really delivers. I have no doubts it will.
Three episodes in, and this show is flying high in my eyes! Again, I’m not sure if this ends this particular arc, or if there’s more to come, or if the entire season will be one long arc, but regardless of what happens here, I absolutely have no doubt that this will be well worth the journey. While this episode isn’t perfect, it’s definitely the strongest of the three out right now, and I wanna see more of it right the fuck now. It hasn’t blown me away yet, but I have no doubts it will. Keep it coming, Clone Wars!
Previously on The Clone Wars, Clone trooper, Rex and Cody teamed up with a band of clones that operated a bit outside the book, known as the Bad Batch; a group of defective clones with desirable mutations. Realizing the droid army was more easily adapting to Clone Army tactics and better repelling them, Rex and the Bad Batch were dispatched to try and figure out how the Droid Army is doing this, and Rex makes a disturbing discovery when he detects a signal coming from off world that gives off the indication that his friend Echo, a clone thought to be dead, may actually be alive.
“And now, the continuation…”
“A Distant Echo” picks up directly where we left off last week pretty much, which is the formula of The Clone Wars. Much like the final season of Star Trek: Enterprise, Clone Wars tells its story in the form of several mini-arcs, but unlike Enterprise, Clone Wars knows what it is, and knows how to execute narratives and story in this manner that keeps my attention. Sideburn Enterprise. Last week, I called the episode, “The Bad Batch” kinda safe and nothing extraordinary, which wasn’t a bad thing, it was a good episode to get back into the feel of the series, and it did its job well. And in week two, I’m happy to say that the series has not disappointed in keeping my attention.
The episode starts off with Anakin getting briefed by Rex and Hunter (the commanding clone of the Bad Batch) the signal they found, and that it’s originating on Skako Minor. Rex also voices his suspicions that Echo is alive, which sets up the conflict of the story that Rex may be letting his personal feelings on the matter hinder his judgement. More on this later. Anakin sneaks off with Rex to make a secret phone call to Padmé, and I really need to talk about this.
If you recall last week’s review of the new Clone Wars episode, you’ll remember how I said I did not care for the prequel Star Wars movies. I care even less for how they handle their characters, and of those characters, the relationship between Anakin and Padmé was among the worst handled of the trilogy. Long story short, I don’t care about their relationship, they didn’t feel like a genuine couple a lot of the time, and I thought it ended hilariously bad. And if you can’t tell where this is going, The Clone Wars is the exact opposite. I cannot tell you how many times the relationship between Anakin and Padmé sucked me in when watching this show. Not only is it better handled, it fees genuine. Anakin and Padmé walk a very fine line between expressing their feelings for one another, and secrecy, and it can result in some genuinely shocking moments throughout the series.
It’s no different here as we see Anakin sneak off to give Padmé a secret call. It not only results in a touching moment between them, but again, it feels much more natural here than in the prequels.In Revenge of the Sith, they do little more than stand around and shower each other with bland romantic dialogue. I’m not saying they don’t have their good moments (the reaction Anakin gives to Padmé being pregnant is a true highlight), but The show just does a better job of making me care about these two as a romantic couple. They feel far more natural, far more passionate, and far more aware of the risks they have in their relationship. Despite this, they do a not so good job of hiding it, as seen here, Obi-wan kinda callls Anakin out for his sneaky call, and honestly, this might be one of the best aspects too since… without spoiling too much about this show, Obi-wan can actually kinda relate to what Anakin might be going through.
So Anakin and Rex go to Skako Minor to investigate this signal, and we almost immediately run into action with the natives of the planet who kidnap Anakin, and take him to their village, where they have a “Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra” moment. One thing I do appreciate about Star Wars is that they do get pretty creative with the language barriers, and it’s no different here. In fact, it isn’t until Tech (the clone tech geek of the Bad Batch) comes in and manages to translate everything that we realize that the natives don’t want the war brought to their world. It makes for a nice bit of world building that honestly isn’t used enough in Star Wars.
Admittedly, while I like this episode, this is kinda where it gets a little off for me, mainly because after we leave the village, and Anakin and the troops are back on the trail of the signal, we get a bit more of the conflict amongst the clones that was present in the previous episode. While it can make sense in the light that Rex is letting his personal feelings hinder his decision-making a bit in regards to the possibility that Echo is alive, I can’t help but feel like it just retreads ground that was’ even already seen as far as character conflict is concerned. I just wasn’t as interested in it this time around.
But I was happy to see Wat Tambor of the Separatists brought back. I do have a soft spot for the Techno Union Leader, his mechanical way of talking, and what he brings to the Confederacy in terms of battle droids. And seeing him set a fun trap for our heroes does lead to the first bit of Jedi action in this final season of the show.
As they fight through the droids and continue to trace the signal, we get to a lift which Rex uses to go up to a room. Wat Tambor taunts him, we see him open a capsule and low and behold, who is there but the crippled, cybernetic body of Echo? And my goodness, I didn’t think it was possible but they totally brought the Borg into Star Wars.
I’ll lay off the Star Trek jokes now, I promise.
The reveal of Echo isn’t anything spectacular or anything, and the episode ends shortly afterward, but this hook definitely has my attention. Echo oaks like he’s been through hell and back, and while I admittedly don’t think this episode would have interested me back in the day had I seen the unfinished footage of it beforehand, it just goes to show how great this show can execute a concept. When it comes to Star Wars, I tend to say if a character dies, they should stay dead. Boba Fett, Palpatine, Darth Vader, they need to stay dead now. Especially Palpatine. STAY DEAD. (That goes for clones too.) The Clone Wars is like the antithesis of this belief, because the characters they tend to bring back result in some of the best stories of the show. Darth Maul was a character I never saw coming back, but I’m very happy they did bring him back, because the relationship between he and Obi-wan gets REALLY damn good. No spoilers there. I have no doubt either that they will do something interesting with Echo in the next episode as well. We shall see this weekend!
“A Distant Echo” is a definite step up from last week. While again, probably not going to crack any personal favorite episode lists, it definitely feels like the crew of this show have not skipped a beat as they finally give some proper closure to this show that has been waited on for the longest time. The relationships are proving to be as immersive as ever, the voice acting once again is on point, and the action is just as fun as it should be. We didn’t really get any awesome dark side Anakin moments (yet), but two weeks into this twelve episode season, I am really liking what is being brought forward. I don’t know if next episode will be the conclusion of this particular arc, or if there’s another episode yet to come, but I’m curious where this will go, and what will become of both Rex and Echo here.
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So I just watched Pokémon: Mewtwo Strikes Back Evolution, and is it too early to flash this gif?
So I get that in the SuperGeeks world, I might be one of the few Pokénerds in the crowd, but I think this is still relevant enough to talk about. But before I go on, I should probably describe a bit about my love of the franchise. Arguably, I was much more into Pokémon as a child growing up. Yes, we all had that one thing we enjoyed as a kid. Being born in 1990, I was the prime target for the late 1990’s Pokémon fever that struck the United States. I remember just how big Pokémon was back in the ate 90’s. It was life itself. I was a huge collector of the trading cards, I watched the anime like it was crack, and I played plenty of Pokémon Yellow before the game cartridge itself was damaged. Good times, man.
And yes, with this epidemic of Pokémon in the States, I was one of many who went to theaters and saw the very first Pokémon movie in theaters. I remember this time with fond memories. I remember the Burger King toys they had for this movie, I remember the trading promo cards for the movie, I remember the card that came with the then very new DVD that I still own, and I remember my dad taking me and friends to go see this in theater.
And I honestly feel like I owe him an apology.
As much as I enjoy my memories of Pokémon growing up, and as much as I will admit that I still check out the franchise from time to time, I am not above saying that I am well aware that Pokémon is not very good when you analyze it for long, and I am not above saying that as an adult, I will not heckle it. The anime in particular has aged spectacularly in that “Wow, how did I ever like this?” kind of fashion. Granted, I actually own quite a few seasons of this show, and quite a few movies (Don’t you judge me!), but on the off-chance they are actually being watched, I find myself poking fun at it every single time, and I’m kinda accepting that the only real reason I still have these is that eventually, I’d like to be a happy father, and I’m 100% certain my children will find it as charming as I did growing up.
And since I intend to be a good father, I intend to keep this remake off their radar, because regardless of my stance of the film, whether or not I hold it in good regards as a nice bit of nostalgia, Mewtwo Strikes Back Evolution is about as good as an average Disney Live-Action remake.
Mewtwo Strikes Back Evolution is the CG-remake of the movie with the same name, and I am 100% convinced that had I seen this as my eight or nine-year-old self, I would think it’s just as bad as I do now. I just wouldn’t be able to fully comprehend just how much of a weird place Pokémon seems to be in right now. I don’t wanna sound like that one guy who is blinded by the nostalgia goggles over their eyes, but this just doesn’t do it for me. I had a pretty low bar watching this, and by the time the credits rolled, all I was asking myself was “Why did I watch this?”
So, inevitably, I’m going to be comparing a lot of this movie to the old, and some might say that this hinders my ability to fully comprehend the film as an adaptation, but the movie pretty much is a scene-for-scene remake of the entire film. It doesn’t do a lot different, and it does far too much in far too similar a fashion. If you’re gonna do this, I say the floodgates for comparisons are open and I’m going to enjoy swimming in it. Let’s just dive on in, shall we?
So before I rip this film a new one, I will go ahead and list off things I actually liked about the film. For one thing, I actually appreciate how the movie opens up. The movie opens up in a jungle where we see a small expedition coming upon some ruins which house carvings of the Pokémon, Mew, one of the rarest Pokémon in existence. The scene mainly serves to provide some exposition and setup for how they stumble upon a Mew fossil, and how they intend to use that fossil to clone Mew, but it’s a scene that was completely cut from the theatrical release of the film, so it was nice to see them include it here, especially since I believe it was a sequence that was originally included for Japanese audiences back in the day.
Another thing I can appreciate is the visuals. Why lie? Some of the animation in this remake is spot on. While admittedly, some of the character models are pretty weird, I will say that little details are actually really well done. The fabric of the clothes, blades of grass, shadows in the daylight, wrinkles in the clothes, the water looks fan-fuckin-tactic in this movie. Seriously, that water looks amazing! I just wanna go for a nice big swim in that water! 10/10 on that water! Even the Pokémon models are pretty stand-out for the right reasons with details and realism you wouldn’t normally see in the hand-drawn animated film being easy to spot and appreciate, from fur to scales.
I can also very much appreciate the battles and action in this same aspect. They do take full advantage of the CG here, and do their best to make these aspects look as good as they can with the new technology that arguably was not there for them back in 1999 when originally making this. I applaud some of these visual effects that they incorporate into this film, because it does look very good.
Okay, so it’s got the look. But what about the feel? The essence? Well, I mean I already flashed my MST3K response up above so I guess that answer is pretty clear.
By the time the familiar plot begins to lay itself out, I couldn’t help but notice something strange, and it’s a problem that plagues most Disney remakes of today. Despite having the longer runtime, it seems to want to rush through some of the scenes that it really shouldn’t rush. The opening sequences of this movie feel like they are so rushed as far as introducing Mewtwo, and who he is. Mewtwo in the original is far more questioning about who he is, and why he was created. It isn’t until he realizes that the scientists who created him care little about him that he decides to kill everyone in the lab… yeah that happens. Little moments such as him learning to clench his fists, or thoughts about him not alllowing himself to be just a simple experiment to be tested and studied are completely glossed over. It wasn’t anything masterful by any means in the original, but it was far more impacting.
Even when Giovanni arrives at the scene, he’s not nearly as manipulative as he was in the original. In the original, he earns Mewtwo’s trust (as short lived as it is in the runtime) by telling him that he and Mewtwo can control the fate of the world together. He makes awesome metaphors to how a wildfire destroys everything it touches, similar to how Mewtwo’s powers do, and that he can help Mewtwo better control those powers. Here… Giovanni barely touches this manipulation. He just kinda comes across as this black and white bad-guy who is somehow even more one-dimensional than his anime counterpart. The sequence of Mewtwo facing test after test doesn’t hit as hard when you don’t hear Mewtwo’s thoughts on him discovering just what he’s capable of. I mean sure, in the original, it was just a couple lines, but it delivers the point home that Mewtwo is still learning to control his power, and it better lands here. The same can be said for when he realizes that Giovanni sees him as nothing more than a tool for Giovanni’s own agenda; a moment that was so pivotal, it was shown to us twice in the animated media beforehand. I hate to say it, but so much of Mewtwo’s inner psyche and his inner thoughts on his existence, and the vendetta he develops with humans is completely gone. I just don’t care about it here. As silly as the original movie is, the goals and thoughts of Mewtwo are far better.
Man… all this over a Pokémon movie that’s 20 years old…
This of course brings us to our main protagonists of the story, and yes… it was nice to see Misty and Brock by Ash’s side again, even if their new voice actors leave a lot to be desired (one thing 4Kids didn’t mess up). But it’s around this point in the movie that I noticed one very strange thing that proceeded to bug me throughout the entirety of the film… the dialogue. So much of this film’s dialogue is absolutely terrible. And that’s not me watching a kid’s movie with an adult mindset, that’s me comparing the two movies dialogue together. The original is far more charming. And no, this isn’t nostalgia talking. The dialogue of this movie just sucks. For comparison, here’s a moment that happens towards the beginning when Ash Ketchum, in his weak and hungry state, is challenged to a Pokémon battle by a trainer. Ash happily accepts the challenge. And here’s how it plays out in each adaptation. First, the original:
MISTY: Ash, you just said you were too weak to work!
ASH: That’s right, I am too weak to work, but a Pokémon battle isn’t work!
BROCK: That’s progress. At least his mouth is working.
And here’s this same sequence in the remake:
MISTY: What happened to the guy who couldn’t move a muscle?
ASH: I can have a Pokémon battle before breakfast! Maybe two!
BROCK: You’re forgetting one thing… you’re battling before lunch.
Look, even if you’re not a Pokémon fan, I think you know what the more charming exchange is. And this movie is absolutely FULL of these changes. None of which is better than the original. Whether it’s taking out a little comedy in the chemistry of the characters like the example up above, or making Mewtwo not as intimidating, or making Team Rocket look like an even bigger joke than they do in the original, none of the dialogue changes work in this movie for the better! They messed it up! Granted, I’m not saying it should have been the exact same, but I mean would it have been too much to at least try and make it somewhat good? The fact that I could remember the sequence up above BY MEMORY (no, I did not watch the original movie prior to watching this) only goes to show what is the stronger batch of writing!
Another example? In this same area of the film, when Team Rocket is spying on our main heroes, watching them eat lunch, well here’s the original, by memory:
MEOWTH: I’m starving.
JESSIE: (takes out a frying pan) I can cook something!
MEOWTH: Thanks, but the last time you cooked, you wiped out eight of my nine lives.
And now for the remake:
MEOWTH: Am I hungry!
JESSIE: (takes out frying pan) I’ve got a frying pan!
MEOWTH: But without something to fry, it’s little more than a round anvil made out of iron!
Fuck this dialogue. And fuck Team Rocket in this film, they’re terrible. Granted, they never had a standout role in these movies, and were always on the back burner, but even in the original film here, they did FAR more than simply stand around and deliver weak comic relief. They actually helped piece together the mystery of Mewtwo’s creation in the original film to the audience, by showing us some decently executed exposition in the original. It’s been heavily watered down here.
I’ll once more give seriously props to the animation of this film, especially the water. Holy shit does it look good. I especially like how the characters actually look wet when the water clings to their clothes. Credit where credit is due, the visuals succeed with flying colors, and it’s almost enough to distract me from the terrible substance of this film.
As happens in the original, Mewtwo Sends out challlenges to a group of trainers to come face him, but creates a storm to challenge those trainers, so that only those who cross the sea in the storm and make it to his arena are deemed worthy to face him. And I was very tickled to see that they kept a certain highlight of the film. In the original, you can see a trainer flying across on a Fearow to Mewtwo’s island. Yet when we get to the island, that trainer is nowhere to be seen. And it’s heavily implied that this trainer died in the crossing.
Well, they not only keep this trainer in the cut here, they add another trainer as well! And none of these two trainers appear at the island. So not one, but TWO trainers get killed trying to get to Mewtwo’s island. I find this absolutely charming. Does that sound maniacal of me? Shut up!
Ash and his pals get to the island, and here’s something that I found odd. They kept a small section of Mew’s filler scenes of the original. Yet elongated it. Why? I have no idea, but there’s a section where Mew is being amused by a windmill in the original movie and it makes for a small bit of cute. And somehow, it’s just not as good in the remake. How do you mess that up?
See what I mean? Why elongate the newer one?
Bla bla bla, Mewtwo appears, we get more replaced dialogue that isn’t as good as the original, long story short, Mewtwo hates humans since he sees them as dangerous and he hates the Pokémon who would willingly work with them. And it was around this point where I was actually starting to look at the runtime of the movie. It felt slower. The original had its moments where it dragged, but not like this. It was still relatively quick to the action, and could keep my interest. Here, I can’t help but wonder if the energy is gone. And I think I know why…
It’s the music score. It’s terrible.
The music of the original was nothing spectacular by any means, but it’s not present much of the film here. There are way too many instances in this film where I was asking myself “Is it just me, or is this movie unusually quiet?” The original had a score that played when it was appropriate, and it gave the film more presence. Without the music score here, it feels like there are just one too many awkward pauses in dialogue between character or whatnot. There isn’t even any background noise for a good chunk of it. It really hinders my ability to enjoy this movie. The overall tone, atmosphere, and enjoyability of the movie is just not as good because the music takes such a backseat. This really hits the rest of the movie. And for any of you other people wondering if they still play the “Brother, My Brother” song by Blessid Union of Souls in this remake, no they don’t. Which is a pity because that actually kinda fit that movie. I guess it’s pretty sad when a 90’s throwaway single by a band no one knows about is one of the takeaways of your childhood movies.
As in the original, Mewtwo challenges the trainers to a battle, they lose spectacularly, leading Mewtwo to take their Pokémon, and create clones of them for his new world. Not only does this sequence feel not nearly as exhilarating as the original, but it results in more bad dialogue. Mewtwo isn’t nearly as intimidating here as he was in the original for one thing, and we get terrible lines from Misty like “Are you stealing our Pokémon?!” Where’s my pillow? I need to let out a loud groan into it.
Mew eventually shows up which leads to a standoff between the army of the trainer’s Pokémon, and Mewtwo’s clone army. Mew lets out that little “mew mew mew” speech about how powers don’t determine the true strength of Pokémon, but that true strength comes at the heart, which Mewtwo misinterprets, and the iconic powerless battle starts. This is where Blessid Union of Souls would start playing.
And it’s ironically here where I would say that Blessid Union of Souls would benefit the film, because without it, and with the quiet musical score paired with the sequences of Pokémon battling makes for a very weird sequence, and it feels far longer than it should feel. It also feels far more tame than I remember it feeling. I don’t know, it just has far more impact and far more brutality in what it shows in the original. Even the watered down morals that the film has about fighting being bad and whatnot have more impact. The morals of this movie were never strong to begin with, but the fact that they take such a nosedive here really says something.
If you’ve seen the movie, you know what happens. Ash tries to stop the battle, he runs in between Mew and Mewtwo like a moron, get hit by the combined strength of their attacks, and dies. A pivotal moment of the series, as this was the first time we’d seen something like this. It’s a landmark childhood moment to be sure. How is he brought back? Well, the Pokémon are moved by Pikachu’s sadness for his death, and they share in Pikachu’s sadness, crying him back to life pretty much. The thing is that the original explains this a bit better since they establish that long ago, a catastrophe resulted in the near extinction of all life on the planet, and that the tears of surviving Pokémon were the only reason life was able to survive again. As stupid as it is, they explained why Ash survived after the Pokémon brought him back to life. Here… no such explanation exists, so I’m left with the assumption that Pokémon just have magic tears or something.
The one thing you probably couldn’t mess up in the film, and you messed it up. Good job movie.
Even Mewtwo’s epiphany about the situation after Ash’s sacrifice feels watered down. It feels like he comes to the conclusion that all life is precious on his own, rather than having been influenced by Ash’s sacrifice. He barely pays the fact that Ash just killed himself any attention whatsoever.
I need to wrap this up so we all know how it pays out by now. Hopefully anyway. Mewtwo takes the clones and leaves, erasing the memory of everyone on the island, he sends them back to where they came from, the storm disappears, Ash sees Mew briefly, and the journey continues.
Holy shit was this a chore.
Look, even without my nostalgia goggles, this just isn’t very good from so many different angles. If you want to talk about a movie that no one asked for, this is it. If anything, this remake just makes me appreciate the flawed mess that is the original that much more! It’s not perfect, and you probably had to be there to enjoy it as I did, but I mean even to the kids of today who are getting into it I would say that the original movie is worth their time much more. The biggest problem with Evolution is that it has little to no heart. It might look and even sound Ike the movie it’s based on, but the essence that made is a true gem of my childhood is completely absent. And that might sound like bias, but I mean, there’s a reason most Disney remakes get this kind of criticism. They lack what made the original so special, and it’s no different here.
I don’t doubt that there was genuine intent to try and make this special, and it might just be the dub that suffers these problems (I have no idea if the Japanese version of this film differs), but from what I was shown, this just doesn’t have what made the original that special to so many of us Pokéfans.
So a few days ago, someone shared a Looper video which talked about the most underrated superhero movies of the most recent era, and I was surprised that one particular film wasn’t exactly talked about, and that was the Josh Trank movie Chronicle. Seriously, why was this not talked about? I mean sure, it wasn’t a box office bomb, and was critically well-received, but so was Avengers: Age of Ultron, and they talked about that one. For shame Looper. You’ll talk about a terrible film like Push, but completely overlook this film that honestly probably has more going for it than many realize? For shame.
Now I’m not going to say that Chronicle is perfect by any means, because lord knows it’s not, and I can’t exactly say that a lot of the production has aged very well, but for a film with the budget of only about $12 million, I can’t exactly hold it against the film too much.
Chronicle bases its narrative in the style of a found footage movie, and while I can dig the found footage genre as a whole, I will open this film’s analysis on the fact that it really doesn’t feel too much like a found footage movie. What I mean here is that most found footage films out there focus on the narrative perspective of a single camera. It’s not that hard to comprehend, the idea of a found footage movie is that someone has found a singular camera, and is watching the footage on said camera. And Chronicle doesn’t do that. Instead of one camera, the story is told through multiple cameras found throughout the entirety of the film. I mean, sure, our main character, Andrew (played by Dane DeHaan) has a camera (well, he actually has two in this movie), and we see a vast majority of the film through his perspective, but then there are times where we’ll see the perspective of this random girl that is a part of the story, and if that’s not enough, it’ll give us angles from things like security cameras, news cameras, or phone cameras that random people in the background are using. While I kinda like the idea they’re going for here, it very much defeats the purpose of the idea of a found footage movie.
Another thing is that there are angles with the camera not typically possible in your average found footage movie. Now granted, this is a movie about some high school seniors that are gifted with Telekinesis, and Andrew develops a habit of making the camera float around him. Fair enough. But then we go back to the previous point of the multiple camera perspectives. There’s a point in the climax where Andrew surrounds himself with cameras, and I honestly don’t know why. I mean, granted, with his camera, he’s filming his life, and that’s fine and all, lots of people do that. But towards the end when he surrounds himself with the random phones of other people, I can only assume that by this point, the writers had written themselves into a hole, since Andrew didn’t have his camera with him anymore, and said to themselves, “Well we’re a found footage movie, but he doesn’t have his camera, so fuck it, we’ll have him take a bunch of random phones and surround himself so the audience can follow what’s going on.” I would say that this very much defeats the purpose of a found footage film. I’d say that the film would work better as a typical superhero movie, but the more I look at this narrative, I almost wonder if it works best as a found footage movie. I shouldn’t think too hard on this.
So as I said, Chronicle follows Andrew, and his two friends, Steve and Matt. Andrew buys himself a camera, intent on filming his life, and we’re quickly revealed that he lives in a dysfunctional family, in which his father is an abusive drunk, and his mother is terminally ill. Andrew is quickly established as a bit of an outcast, often picked on, often bullied, and seen as a bit of a creep. His cousin Matt invites him to a school party, where he, Andrew, and their friend Steven come upon a hole in the ground making weird noises at them. So they decide to go into it, because movie I guess.
The boys go into their secret tunnel in the middle of the woods, wander through the tunnel, which messes with the camera, and they come upon a mysterious glowing blue rock crystal thing. What this is, where it came from, or why it’s there? Your guess is as good as mine, it’s the big MacGuffin of the film. It’s there to serve one purpose, and that’s about it. The boys interact with it, the film cuts out, and a few days later, the boys have seemingly developed the power of telekinesis.
Now since boys will be boys, they go about testing their powers by pulling silly pranks, and admittedly, these can be pretty funny moments. There’s just something so very innocent about this entire sequence of them making shopping carts move away while wielding a toy lightsaber, and mentally scarring a little girl by having her see a floating teddy bear, scaring the daylights out of her. And yes, as terrible as it will sound, I get a laugh when Steve pushes a car across the parking lot and confuses the person who parked it.
The way the three go about discovering just what they’re capable of with their newfound power is also a lot of fun. It goes beyond simple pranks, and mischief. Some very fun concepts are explored in what they do with their telekinesis, such as creating invisible barriers, or crafting lego Seattle Space Needles (Andrew is a bit of a show-off). I think they go a bit overboard with the talent show scene which pays out like a clichéd unpopular kid suddenly wins everyone over because talent sequence, but this movie is home to one of the absolute best, if not the absolute best flying scenes I have ever seen in any superhero movie.
The way this movie approaches flight is absolutely fantastic. At first it’s super chill in how it does it, showing Steve just kinda lounging around, trying to teach it to both Andrew and Matt with this slow and steady learning pace. You seen them struggling, almost like they’re learning how to ride a bike again, and then it transitions into them all zooming across the skies at super fast speeds, cheering like any sane person would at such a discovery. I even love how they kinda address that flying at that height would be very freezing. I mean, sure they don’t address every point that Because Science addresses in why no one would actually want this kind of flight, I do dig that they don’t just completely Superman it. (They don’t do that until later.) Their joy and excitement at learning how to fly is easily one of the things that makes this movie so damn fun.
Now of course, this movie isn’t without the boys getting into some actual trouble, and they very quickly realize that (as cliche as this will sound), with great power comes great responsibility. They realize that as their powers get stronger and stronger, they have the capacity to do some real harm to people, and while this should come as no big shock, the way they discover this as well feels very fresh and believable. This is far from your typical superhero origins story. In fact, a lot might call it quite the opposite, though I’m hesitant to call it a supervillain origin story either. More on that shortly. When they realize they can actually put a lot of people in danger with their abilities, and force themselves to ground their abilities, it very much feels natural and something someone their age might feel. And as they progress, and things start to get out of hand, eventually leading to the death of Steve, you can see just how fast things hit the fan.
This of course brings us back to Andrew. The kid who is in a dysfunctional family with an abusive dad, and a dying mom. Arguably, this might be the biggest thing I’m not sure how to analyze, because I both love and hate what this movie does with Andrew. You see, one of the biggest criticisms I see aimed at this movie is that Andrew’s character doesn’t really go through a lot of development. One of the core SuperGeeks here went as far to say that simply having Andrew go crazy doesn’t constitute as character development. The thing is… it’s not supposed to.
I don’t think you should be viewing Andrew as a typical character. I mean not only is the found footage approach to film going to hinder character development in the way a typical movie normally would approach a character, but you need to really take into perspective everything that Andrew has been going on through life here. Andrew has had to put up with years and years of physical and mental abuse from his father, and classmates. Even his cousin Matt distanced himself from Andrew, and when life gets too hard, Andrew begins to take life into his own hands.
Andrew looks at his powers as something that makes him superior to other people. And he quickly gains a dangerous mindset that isn’t so much meant to make him look insane, but broken. You take away Andrew’s telekinesis, give him a gun, he’s your next Columbine Shooter. And no, this isn’t a tasteless joke, this is a legit comparison. You might think that Andrew goes from 1 to 11 in his vendetta against the world, but no one saw the Columbine Massacre coming in 1997. Two distressed, highly disturbed teenagers shocked the entire nation with one horrifying tragedy. And I can’t help but see Chronicle as a bit of a metaphor in this aspect.
You might think Andrew goes a little overboard with his monologues of apex predators and whatnot, but this mindset he has is eerily similar to what these kinds of people have. I remember the day the Columbine Massacre happened, and how it affected my mother in particular. When I grew older to fully understand this event, and looked further into it, there was just so much I couldn’t believe about the two who initiated such an event. Their mindset was highly disturbing, and Andrew very much has a similar mindset. You might think him declaring himself an apex predator is cheesy in the moment, but I mean it fits the character. A guy who’s no longer able to be reasoned with, will do everything he can to hurt anything and anyone around him, until he is eventually taken down.
I’ll step aside from the depressing school violence comparisons here because I’m not going to say that the film’s night climax in Seattle is exactly perfect. I do feel like it goes just a little bit over the top. While again, things like transitioning between certain camera angles, news cameras, phone camera’s, police dash cams, and security camera footage is a pretty neat idea, it does make for a rather weird found footage movie. Now I don’t want to say that this movie was just trying to do what Cloverfield did back in 2008, becauseI never felt like it was at all trying to imitate that film, but I mean again, in so many ways it felt like they wrote themselves into a corner here when trying to show us Matt and Andrew flying through the Seattle skyline, smashing into buildings, through walls (did they get durability from the magic rock as well?), and whatnot.
And yes, I do believe that Andrew in his last moment does go over the top. While I will defend his mental breakdown for the reasons stated, I can’t help but laugh when he’s shouting like Goku as he tries to pretty much unleash his full potential in this climactic fight scene. And I do wonder if Matt screams out “Andrew!” more times than Kaneda screams out “Tetsuo!” in Akira. Or Finn shouting out “Rey!” as often as he does in the latest Star Wars movies… okay Finn probably wins that.
Now when all this ends, I do believe the film ends on a very touching moment, and I won’t spoil it for those who are interested in this film. And I do believe that the overall taste the film leaves is very good. It doesn’t exactly leave you on a definite ending, but honestly, I don’t think it needs to. It hints at a sequel, but I don’t think it needs one. I mean, sure, the film doesn’t properly explain everything that happens to them in this film, it doesn’t explain how Matt and Steve tend to know when Andrew is in emotional distress, and whatnot, but in the same way, it didn’t need to do this anymore than it needed to explain where the magic rock came from. Sometimes, it’s best to leave these kinds of things up to the imagination.
So where does that leave Chronicle?
Chronicle has its fair share of problems admittedly. But in the same way, I do believe it has far more going for it than people give credit for. Granted, around this point in time, I was not exactly onboard with the MCU, and thought costumed superheroes were pretty dorky, and I much preferred the approach like this film, or even Heroes had in its heyday. But even 8 years later, I find this film not only to be thoroughly enjoyable, but surprisingly complex for a simple movie about three boys who find out they have extraordinary abilities. I’m not going to say it’s a masterpiece of social commentary, and I admittedly may be overthinking some aspects of the film here, but it is nice to see a superhero movie with substance that goes beyond your typical superhero trope story. I haven’t seen another superhero movie quite like this one, and the fact that so little people talk about it just doesn’t do it a service if you ask me.
Is it underrated? Absolutely. Is it perfect? Absolutely not. I get that the found-footage genre isn’t for everyone, and that on first glance, seeing the characters doing what they do in this film might seem odd or whatnot, but I do believe it is by design. If you’re curious about this film, give it a watch. I’m willing to bet there’s something inside you might enjoy. Might even get you thinking. If anything, at least check out those flying scenes. I’m telling you, those kick ass.
Well with all this Star Trekkin’ going on right now with Star Trek: Picard, and how awesome a series that’s turning out to be right now, I almost completely forgot that this month, we get the final season of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, which debuted on Friday. I would not have seen this for a while had I not been browsing one of my Star Wars groups just now to see if they’d shared a music video by The Hu. They had. But the silver lining was that I found out that The Clone Wars had finally debuted!
For a small summary of what I thought of The Clone Wars, let’s just say that I am not a very big fan of the Star Wars prequels. In fact, they are the movies that birthed my inner critic. While I can appreciate the aesthetic of The Phantom Menace, the jumbled narrative of it trying to squeeze as much as it does into a two hour movie hinders the story immensely. Attack of the Clones is no better. If it weren’t for that awesome final act of the film, I’d write off Attack of the Clones as potentially the absolute worst Star Wars movie ever made. Revenge of the Sith I find myself in a minority on. Everyone calls it the prequel movie that’s actually really good. I highly disagree. I find it the most disappointing of the trilogy. Partly because I ruined my viewing experience by reading the novelization before watching the film (seriously, the novelization kicks ass), butI mean even without the novelization, the movie just doesn’t know how to handle its characters, making every decision in this movie feel so forced and uninspiring. Anakin’s conversion to the Dark Side of the Force remains one of the most underwhelming moments I’ve ever seen in all of Star Wars (and yes… the book does it better, don’t fucking say it doesn’t). You can say what you want about the sequel trilogy films, and the problems they admittedly have, but they are a much easier watch for me than the prequels, and I tend to care about what each character is going through in that trilogy more than I do the prequels.
Enter The Clone Wars, which despite starting off with an absolutely forgettable movie (seriously, does anyone talk about that thing anymore?), exceeded pretty much every expectation I had. This show takes one of the most integral plot points of the entire Star Wars franchise, and runs off with it, crafting one of the most intriguing, well developed, tenderly handled animated shows I’ve ever seen. I was not expecting this level of excellence in a show that was taking place in the same universe of movies where someone literally says “I hate sand.” Hell, for as forgettable (or even cringey) as the opening movie is, it handles so much of the Star Wars universe rather nicely, and shows that it cares about how it handles characters like Anakin, Obi-Wan, and the new face, Ahsoka Tano, and that’s not to mention Asaj Ventress, who is easily one of my favorite characters of the franchise now. While the series definitely has its not-so-good episodes (usually those that focus on the droids, or Jar Jar Binks… yeah he’s in it too), this series would blow my mind with how it handled its stories, characters, concepts, it was so great that I actually almost want to refuse that it takes place in the prequel movie universe. There is no fucking way something this good takes place in a trilogy of movies that bad. And there is no way a paragraph will properly tell you how great it is. I’ve also recently started watching the spinoff, Star Wars: Rebels, which while not exactly the same quality material, is still pretty fun. If you have not seen this series, there is no better time to start! And this is coming from a die-hard Trekkie!
With all this said, how is the debut episode of its final season?
I am happy to say that The Clone Wars doesn’t feel like it’s skipped a beat at all. By the time the familiar opening theme played, the little words of wisdom displayed on the screen, and the narrator set up the scene for the episode to play out, I was ready to take a nice big bite out of this Star Wars sandwich. I was happy to see that the voice-acting felt as lively as ever, and the animation feels strangely more fluid. I hear a lot of complaints about the animation in this series being hard on the eyes, and I just don’t see where it comes from. I personally enjoy it. It has a charm.
Now I’m going to get a little spoiler-y here so read on at your discretion.
“The Bad Batch” begins an arc with the clone characters, Rex and Cody, as they discover that their friend, Echo might actually be alive. Echo was last seen in the third season, giving his life so his friends could get away. After the Clones find themselves on a losing streak on the planet Anaxes, due to droid army starting to better analyze tactics used by the clone army and better adapt them, Rex gets a gut feeling that his friend is alive when he realizes the Clone Army is using a lot of skillsets and Strategies he and Echo put together. So Cody and Rex enlist the assistance of Clone Force 99, otherwise known as the Bad Batch.
Think of the Bad Batch as a Clone Army A-Team, only more unstable. The team consists of four clones, with varying unique abilities that make the team a force to be reckoned with. One has super-human strength, one has enhanced eyesight, one has superior mapping senses, the other is a computer wizard, you get the idea, the show describes them as clones that are defective, but possess “desirable mutations”.
Admittedly, this is an element of the episode that I have mixed reactions to. The characters are fun and all, but they’re a little too by-the-book in how they’re portrayed as characters. The computer wizard is super smart, the guy who maps out the area super well has a headband that very much makes him feel like a discount Rambo, you got the enhanced eyesight guy who is broody, doesn’t say a whole lot, but can snipe enemies really good, and then you got super-human-strength guy, who feels like a psychopath. Their ship is crashing, and he’s just laughing as it happens. Like a maniac. It just feels like they play too much like a character archetype. And this leads to some predictable clashes with the main characters which doesn’t feel that interesting. granted, I am happy they stay away from being too predictable in which their clashes only get them into trouble, only for them to understand and respect their differences and get out of trouble at the last moment, but honestly, had they gone this route, I would not have been surprised.
This debut episode for this final season doesn’t pull too many punches, it feels like a setup episode, which a lot of Clone Wars episodes are. If they’re going to be giving us the typical mini-arc stories this show is known for, I can expect things to pick up in the upcoming episodes, but that’s not to say this episode is dull, we get some fun action, we get a fun story, and it does leave me on a good note in which Rex makes a startling discovery (SPOILER) when he realizes his friend Echo might not be dead as once thought.
I really need to credit Dee Bradley Baker, who voices all these clone troopers. I have no idea how he does it, but the guy knows how to bring out each performance as if it were an entirely different person. This cannot be easy. The guy is basically acting with himself a good amount of the time, likely listening to his own lines through a headset, and interacting with it as if it were someone completely different. I have no idea what he does to bring these performances to life, but he does it so great in this series, and it’s no different here. Granted, I think some of these Bad Batch clones have different voice actors, but Baker still puts up an impressive performance(s).
There’s not too much to analyze in this episode as it’s a pretty safe plot for the most part, in a show that’s only 30 minutes long, but as safe as it feels, I am very much looking forward to what this final season has to offer us. Already we have a hook for what to expect next episode with Rex maybe once more coming face to face with Echo, and while there hasn’t been any Jedi action yet, we know that later on, we’re expecting Darth Maul and Ahsoka Tano to make another appearance. Apparently, it’s also going to be exploring the Siege of Mandalor, which is an event that impacts the other Star Wars show everyone’s raving about, The Mandalorian, so why lie? I’m excited.
I mean sure, Star Trek: Picard is still on the frontlines as far as my priorities are concerned, but I am happy to see this show finally getting some proper closure. This is a show that very much always felt like it got the short end of the stick when it came to properly finishing it. Season 5 was a good finale, but it still felt like something was missing. Season six was also good, but was hardly something I’d call closure. While I’m not going to say that this final season will be proper closure until I see how it finishes, I have little reason to be nervous about how it will end. This was a show that always managed to surprise me while I watched. There were times they showed something that was absolutely jaw-dropping in execution, and I have no doubt that this final season will have these moments as well.
How was this debut episode? It gets a thumbs up from me. As simple as it is, simplicity is not a bad thing. It’s a good way to get the fans of the show back in the mood, back in the groove, and it does a good job of showing that it’s got some cards to play still. I look forward to seeing how this season goes, and I wait with baited breath for this second episode to drop.