Best of Star Wars in 2011: On screen

Continuing our review of the year that was, we have a glimpse back at how Star Wars has been lighting up the video screens – mostly our televisions in 2011, with an epic year for The Clone Wars, and the Blu-ray release of the Star Wars saga.

The Clone Wars
2011 kicked off with a big bang on Star Wars: The Clone Wars, with the introduction of Savage Opress in the Nightsisters arc. The second half of season three continued on a high note with multi-part story arcs that pushed the mythology of the saga with the Mortis arc, and gathered some familiar faces for a jailbreak mission in the Citadel arc, before concluding with a strong and visually stunning finale with Ahsoka and Chewbacca.

As promised, season four has raised the bar both in animation and storytelling. From a show that was timid to show bodies of water in the first season to using Kamino to start season three, and then develop the capacity to depict underwater character movement and massive undersea battles in the Mon Cala season opener arc – you’ve come a long way, baby! ‘Shadow Warrior’ showed a well-crafted single-episode storyline, and whodathunk that the Gungans would be the ones carrying Grievous off in shackles. But the real kick-it-up-a-notch-BAM! award goes to the four part Umbara arc, especially the last two chapters, ‘Plan of Dissent’ and ‘The Carnage of Krell’. If you haven’t been watching The Clone Wars, you’ve really missed a great story here, pushing on some big issues for a show that is nominally aimed at kids – the clones, while bred and trained to be alike, really show their individuality with their choices as they face a new threat: a commander that treats them as unthinking cannon fodder.

Clone Wars has shown its versatility in stories, going for the comic in the wacky adventures of ‘Nomad Droids’ and dishing out the weird with ‘Nightsisters’. It also raised some interesting notions about the Prophecy of the Chosen One, about droids having honor (Artoo’s reprogrammed battle droids on the Citadel mission), and the clones starting to think about their long-term prospects, and the needs of the many versus the one in the Zygerrian slavers arc. Additionally, we’ve gotten a slew of movie character cameos: Qui-Gon Jinn, Tarkin, Chewbacca, Ackbar, and Tarpals. It hasn’t been entirely smooth – the ending of the Mortis arc, while epic, went a bit Matrix-philosophy overload, with no real repercussions, and some aspects of the Mon Calamari civil war were driven by action scenes first and story second, and the droid-centric ‘Mercy Mission’ just didn’t quite cook long enough.

Stand out moments of The Clone Wars in 2011:

  • Fives and Jesse face the firing squad, ‘Carnage of Krell’
  • R2-D2 and his droid squad outsmarting tactical droid K2-B4, ‘Counterattack’
  • Dooku facing invisible Nightsisters in his pajamas, ‘Nightsisters’
  • General Grievous has a face-to-face meeting with Jar Jar Binks posing as Boss Lyonie, and later fights the Gungan army, ‘Shadow Warrior’
  • Ahsoka and Chewbacca take on the Trandoshan hunters, ‘Wookiee Hunt’
  • Kit Fisto’s line: “Ah… eels. Very dangerous”, ‘Prisoners’
  • C-3PO introducing democracy to the Patitites, ‘Nomad Droids’
  • Rex discovering that his enemies on Umbara are not Umbarans after all, ‘Carnage of Krell’
  • Savage Opress, Asajj Ventress, and Dooku agree to disagree, using lightsabers and the Force, ‘Witches of the Mist’

On the big screen
Not a lot of Star Wars at the movies this past year – we had the trailer for The Phantom Menace 3D, which focuses more heavily on Darth Maul and the action over Queen Amidala and Jar Jar Binks. And what was it first put on? Quite possibly the awesomest 3D movie to combine ninjas, steampunk, and Dumas.

Finally, someone has the sense to take a photo of Yoda in action.

Other TV
I gotta say that probably one of the best Star Wars productions this year for television was the immensely funny LEGO Star Wars: The Padawan Menace. Written by Michael Price of The Simpsons and using LEGO humor, it mashed up the prequel and classic trilogies in a comedic way, as Threepio and Yoda have some misadventures with some younglings. Originally aired on Cartoon Network in July, it was released in a Blu-ray / DVD combo pack in the fall, and since I got it for Christmas, I can now clear it off my DVR. Way better than the Family Guy retelling of Return of the Jedi in It’s a Trap!, which aired in May and mostly had Seth Green and Seth McFarlane calling each other douches. Meanwhile, George Lucas, showing up at the Spike Scream Awards, revealed Ultimate Villain-winning Darth Vader’s weakness – he can’t see low things in front of him.

On the internets
Dunc and Paula have covered some of their favorite commercial and fan videos on the net, but here are my favorites:

And because it is cool, and we haven’t linked it yet: the flash mob in Times Square doing Jedi vs Sith freeze tag for the release of The Old Republic on December 20:

Viewing experiences
What better place to watch your favorite Star Wars clips than in the Star Wars Blu-ray booth at Comic-Con this past summer? Designed to provide the feel of the Rebel base on Yavin IV on the inside, fans were treated to the assault on the Death Star in a multi-screen Blu-ray experience, complete with live Rebel generals and pilots to put the viewer in the war room action.

The final rankings

  1. Star Wars: The Clone Wars Umbara arc: ‘Darkness on Umbara’ / ‘The General’ / ‘Plan of Dissent’ / ‘Carnage of Krell.’
  2. LEGO Star Wars: The Padawan Menace
  3. The Old Republic trailer ‘Return’
  4. TCW: ‘Shadow Warrior’
  5. TCW: Citadel arc: ‘The Citadel’ / ‘Counterattack’ / ‘Citadel Rescue’
  6. Star Wars saga Blu-ray deleted scenes and special features
  7. George Takei building a bridge between Star Wars and Star Trek

3 Replies to “Best of Star Wars in 2011: On screen”

  1. Really good choices! Somehow I had completely forgotten about The Padawan Menace, but it really was a highlight. My personal vote goes to ‘Shadow Warrior’ — they did so much with those 22 minutes, but it never felt too stuffed. Great Star Wars.

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