The Clone Wars review: ‘The Zillo Beast Strikes Back’

It's the eye of the Zillo, it's the cream of the crop

When The Clone Wars started, who would have thought that it would become a non-stop homage to classic films?  This season has seen tributes to Notorious, The Longest Day, a couple of Kurosawas, Aliens, Agatha Christie mysteries, and I’m sure some others that I missed.  And of course, last week was all about Godzilla, and I fully expected this week’s installment to be more of the same (in a good way).  But Dave Filoni tipped his fedora to another movie monster instead — and unlike Peter Jackson, the Clone Wars crew did it right.

Yes, I’m talking about a certain Mr. Kong, the one whose first name definitely isn’t Donkey.  Zillo becomes the King in this episode, starting with the welcome revelation that it’s not just a giant creature who goes smash in the night — it’s an intelligent giant creature who goes smash in the night!  In fact, Zillo may be the smartest dude on Coruscant, since it’s the only one who can see Palpatine for who he is.  It’s enormous fun watching Zillo zero in on ol’ Palpy, who exhibits some rare moments of fear, and by giving Zillo a reason for its rampage, it becomes an even more sympathetic character.  Last week we empathized with Zillo because it was an innocent victim, but here we’re rooting for it because it’s trying to save the galaxy!

King Kong aint got nothing on me

It’s not all action, though.  There’s a great build-up in the first half of the episode, which consists almost entirely of dialogue – weighty, issue-driven dialogue.  But amazingly, it all works.  Padme takes over Mace Windu’s job as Lead Defense Attorney for the Zillo, and she’s absolutely terrific in the role.  She stands up to both Palpatine and Mas Amedda, and gets rightly pissed at Anakin for seeing “both points of view.”  Anakin, naturally, is just trying to please everyone, which comes off as a genuine flaw in his personality.  Bravo to The Clone Wars for finally letting a strong character take a stand, and for making the weak character seem like a real shmuck.

Even so, Anakin does get a chance to save the day, in a move that’s both clever and intensely reckless.  And to the show’s credit, all the other characters comment on this, cracking jokes at Anakin’s expense.  Come to think of it, this episode is a showcase for all the main characters.  Obi-Wan actually uses his Force powers, Yoda gets to hop around with a lightsaber, Palpatine is at his slimiest, and Mace Windu delivers the single funniest line of the season.  (This episode has the second- and third-funniest lines, as well.  I was surprised by how often I laughed out loud.)  Plus, C-3PO and R2-D2 are reunited, and as usual, they work best as a pair.  They also have their gayest moment yet — not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Like you weren't thinking the same thing

Visually, ZBSB is a another beauty, and though there are some neat references to King Kong (gas bombs!), I was also reminded of the  Jurassic Park series – especially during the multiple shots of Zillo’s eye peering into a window.  In fact, much of the episode is shot in close-up, giving the proceedings an eerie, intimate feel before blowing it open for the big action finale.  The music, too, is rather creepy — and I could’ve sworn that, during the climax, I heard a bit of the “Hero Falls” theme from Revenge of the Sith.  Considering Zillo’s fate, it’s a brave but totally effective choice.  And in a way, it’s appropriate, since The Zillo Beast Strikes Back is the best Star Wars I’ve seen since Episode III.

Grade: A+

6 Replies to “The Clone Wars review: ‘The Zillo Beast Strikes Back’”

  1. Great review Stooge!

    I originally didn’t like this episode nearly as much as some season two’s previous examples; Children of the Force, Landing at Point Rain, etc.

    However, after rewatching the episode with what you mentioned in mind, I enjoyed it a lot more. Maybe not to the extent of it being the “best Star Wars I’ve seen since episode III”; that would be Rookies for me. But nevertheless, it was more enjoyable.

  2. Great episode, Jedi’s using their powers, Palpatine actually being a Sith, and a great new Star wars Monster. To 5 in my book.

  3. which of Mace’s lines gets the nod for funniest of the season?

    my wife and i cracked up at Rex’s line: most of General Skywalker’s plans involve falling.

    one plot point that kinda bugged me: Dr. Boll or whatever her name was – she went from being an EM pulse weapon designer to megafauna exobiologist pretty darn quick. seems unlikely. and her voice really didn’t match her visuals.

    still, i really enjoyed the giant monster storyline – part cloverfield, part king kong (and with the requisite people in a board room scene)

  4. I originally didn’t like this episode nearly as much as some season two’s previous examples; Children of the Force, Landing at Point Rain, etc.

    It has been a remarkably strong season, and it’s interesting how different episodes appeal to different folks. And I certainly did love Children of the Force… I remember being jealous that James got to review it. ;)

    which of Mace’s lines gets the nod for funniest of the season?

    “How can it be a plan if its improvised?” Though Mace also had a killer line in this past week’s ep… who could’ve predicted that he’d get the best dialogue of all the characters?

    And you’re right about Dr. Boll… that was a quick transition. But I totally didn’t notice it at the time. Maybe I was just happy that they gave her a bit more personality this time around?

    (and with the requisite people in a board room scene)

    I forgot about that, but it was hilarious! And you’re right, it’s the perfect nod to the genre.

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