The Clone Wars review: ‘ARC Troopers’

Everyone’s talking about the four-second deleted scene in ‘ARC Troopers,’ but nobody seems to be mentioning the other cut made by Cartoon Network.  I speak, of course, about the fortune cookie, the little blue moral that pops up at the beginning of each episode.  ‘ARC Troopers’ fortune cookie was apparently a casualty of airing two episodes back to back, and to be honest, I didn’t miss it a bit.  In fact, its absence actually helped the episode.  I was suddenly unsure of what lesson I was supposed to learn, which gave the proceedings just a little more mystery, a little more suspense.   And, weird as this sounds, I found myself trying to figure out what the actual fortune cookie might be.  I even wrote down a few guesses, starting with…

Fortune Cookie #1: “Even General Grievous gets to use strategy sometimes.”

Granted, this guess wasn’t even close, as I learned from the starwars.com episode guide.  Still, it was great fun to see Greivous plan an attack with, well, a plan of attack.  He used a diversion to draw away the Republic forces, then created a clever ruse to infiltrate the planet.  Yes, I could quibble about whether it all was necessary – Ventress seemed to be on Kamino the whole time, completely undetected – but y’know what?  It was fine.  Overly-complicated strategy is better than none at all.

Better yet, Greivous and his merry band had a clear and identifiable goal: to steal the original clone DNA (or something like that).  Not only was this subtly set up in the previous episode, but it’s a fascinating idea on its own.  I mean, why wouldn’t the Separatists want that original DNA?  Imagine the possibilities!  They could engineer a clone-attacking virus, or grew their own army of clone saboteurs.  As MacGuffins go, this was a good one, and I hope it’s not the last we hear of it.

Fortune Cookie #2: “Don’t judge a clone by his horribly disfigured appearance.”

I’m not going to lie – I had a hard time keeping track of all the clones in this episode, as well as the previous.  It was smart to bring back Daniel Logan to voice the clone yutes, which helped diversify them a bit, but really, the only clone with a real personality was 99.  He’s something to an archetype, to be sure – Star Wars always had a thing for wise old geezers – but he’s also the first Clone Wars character whose backstory really intrigues me.  Was he an experiment that went wrong?  A tragic victim of accelerated aging?  An agent of CONTROL?  In any case, his story was by far the most interesting of the episode.

Of course, that may be because every the other storylines seemed to get lost in the shuffle.  ‘Arc Troopers’ followed the grand Star Wars tradition of intercutting several different battles, which worked pretty well at first.  The tentacled attack craft used by the Seppies were quite cool, with scenes of carnage that reminded me of the Tripods from War of the Worlds.  (The squid look also meshed very well with the watery Kamino surface.)  And the brief space battle looked absolutely fantastic.  But as soon as our main characters get in on the action, things get wacky.  Obi-Wan starts the episode as the voice of reason, the one Jedi who notices that the Separatist attack makes no sense – but then he starts to make no sense, literally diving into danger and, later, challenging Grievous to a duel seemingly for the exercise.  And he only survives the duel because Greivous, instead of delivering the killing blow, decides to start monologuing.  Of course.

Assaj Ventress is the other featured villain, and her shtick gets old fast.  She tries to give off the same femme fatale vibe as last season’s Aurra Sing, but it falls flat (unlike, it must be said, her oddly-shaped chest).  Maybe the deleted scene would have helped her case, but as it is, there’s nothing sexy about Ventress.   It doesn’t help that her dialogue with Anakin is comically awful – though the worst line of the night belongs to Obi-Wan.  When he tells Grievous to “Define easy,” I was hoping he’d next ask him to use it in a sentence.  Obi-Wan’s relationship with an aiwha, however, was thoroughly charming.  Those two make a great couple.

Fortune Cookie #3: “I laugh at your concepts of linear continuity!  Love, Dave Filoni”

‘ARC Troopers’ has an arc, alright – one which started in the season premiere, continued in the first season episode “Rookies,” then came right back around to this ep.  I had been avoiding spoilers, so I had no idea that they were going to pull this stunt, and I was completely disarmed by it.  It gave the show both a huge scope and a small, character-driven feel.  And it made me think, which is never a bad thing.

But taken on its own, ‘ARC Troopers’ is just good, not great.  I appreciate all the cool details that were thrown in, such as underwater choral music (wordplay!), but there were also too many characters vying for the spotlight.  Three Jedi, two villains, five clones and one adorable aiwha is simply too much to care about in the span of twenty-two minutes.  Thank goodness for 99, whose heart and valor proved that even a clone can stand out in a crowd.

Grade:

5 thoughts on “The Clone Wars review: ‘ARC Troopers’

  1. Meishe

    I agree. Maybe a bit too much was in the 22 minutes span of time. None of the new characters had an opportunity to develop.

  2. jawajames

    As you point out, the space battle visuals were absolutely fantastic – it felt like the opening of Episode III.

    I felt that ‘ARC Troopers’ was the stronger of the two episodes for being the season premiere because it had a more epic plot: Kamino under attack, with stuff happening in space, underwater and in and on the cities, with some pretty awesome lightsaber duels.

    Fortune #1: The Cylons… err. Grievous has a plan: a good plan with a great goal: the DNA. my one quibble was that how the heck did Asajj start off on Kamino with a ship or two? Did they smuggle that in piece by piece? I really did like the look of the new aqua droids, and some of the scenes of the attack on the outer platforms of the city reminded me of the fun of Battlefront II.

    Fortune #2: 99 – like you, i was intrigued at his existence (wouldn’t the Kaminoans been more likely to have scrubbed bad product? or is this a subtle change from the cold Kaminoans shown in Karen Traviss), and genuinely felt sorrow when he died in battle (though i wonder if he was ever allowed to use a weapon at all in his life, considering he can only carry stuff). and seeing that Fives and Echo mourn him as one of their fallen brothers (and did you notice that Fives and Echo have a ‘tattoo’ on their armor of Hevy’s blaster with “For Hevy” in Aurabesh)…

    but yeah.. Obi-wan – starts off rational, but then after he calls in that he’s found Seps underwater, rather than go back to get a fighting force, he decides to go get up close and personal on the welding aquadroids. There’s recon and then there’s just stupidity. Luckily his aiwha date was there for the save. It’s like Free Willy. and how many times does he get to fight Grievous so that their duel in Ep III is just more of the same.

    and Asajj: making evil look sexy but making sexy look creepy with her stroking of Grievous’ mask. and then her escape in Dr. Evil’s eggship with Grievous… talk about awkward car ride home. “So.. uh.. what are we going to tell Dooku?”

    Anakin: just willing to let the clones kill Asajj when she’s in a place where she could be forced to surrender? + 1 Dark Side point.

    I was also surprised at the premiere’s storytelling device of giving us Acts I and III bookending Rookies, and wasn’t sure overall that it would have been best to premiere this way… but i thought ARC Troopers was definitely premiere material (lots of great action, and some awesome visuals and movie level of having so much stuff going on) and would have given it an A. but as you point out, maybe too much to focus on — too many characters, perhaps?

  3. mike

    the first episode was ok but following it up with a direct follow up in a way elevated it. Having 99 be the proxy for the audience was a great idea. The Separatist army strategy and new equipment was very fresh and nice to see a growth there. The DNA story line might be interesting if they actually lose it and need a new donor. That’s actually where I thought the story was going. Its an ok start to the season but I have high hope for the rest of the season based on where they started.

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