Clone Wars: The Micro Series (2003)

While I discussed the ongoing 3-D animated series in detail, I mentioned that the artistic influence came from the 2003 2-D micro-series directed by Genndy Tartakovsky.   For those not in the know, like the ongoing 3-D series, the episodes take place between the prequel films Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith.

Many fans of the micro-series may know Tartakovsky from his great work on Samurai Jack (2001).  Samurai Jack possesses a very stylized sense of design and animation, as well as mastery the use of various senses.  Sound, minimal dialog (on occasion), color, and precise action are but a taste of what one can find in the various episodes.  Samurai Jack is quite the visual feast that seduces the eyes and ears.

Tartakovsky brings those skills to Clone Wars.

In 2-D the character and mechanical designs look good, and one can see its influence of the micro series on the 3-D program.   Many of my animation friends make a distinction here.  They feel that sharp, geometrical elements of the artwork fit perfectly in the 2-D world.  By contrast they suggest that the 3-D world makes them images jarring.

There is a lot of fun to be had with 2-D animation.  For me, it’s a style I’ve grown up watching. It’s a form that lends itself to exaggeration.  The medium itself is brilliant, and in the right hands (like any medium) we can see art and a quality level that some live action film/TV can only dream about.

Anakin Skywalker.  Obi Wan must've had an ulcer or five dealing with him.  We do follow Anakin through the micro series, as he matures from Padawan to Jedi Knight. His immaturity is brought into play as well as his skill level.   He does his best to be a better warrior, but his failings are set in stone.

2-D allows for greater exaggeration of events.  For example, Mace Windu’s single handed assault on an army of Droids, and their latest death machine. The battle’s quite sublime.   It’s hard to imagine Windu’s defeat in the Revenge of the Sith film, as the man is literally a one man army.   Does he even need the clones?

Luminara Unduli

Clone Wars even manages to use quieter moments, like when Master Luminara Unduli and her Padawan Barriss Offee are trapped beneath rubble.  The Jedi master kneels, meditates to command the force to keep from crushing her and Offee.

General Grievous’ debut and attack on the Jedi also is sublime as he shows that he is a creature formidable enough to fight and kill multiple Jedi at once.

Clone Trooper on the go!

The Clones are seen as crack commandoes, who are efficient and well trained.   By contrast to the live action films, we do not see the effectiveness of these characters. In fact, Both Jango and Boba Fett pale in comparison to the skills the Clones possess.

There is no sacrifice of action, as we get plenty of it.  We get to see several of the characters (Jedi, Clone Troopers, and Count Dooku) make some impressive feats of their skill.

This may explain how some see the 3-D art style as a more realistic approach to animation.  By borrowing the art style from the 2-D program, the 3-D show infuses a part of the 2-D that was distinctly Tartakovski.

Sound is so prevalent in this micro series (something you would also see in Samurai Jack).  Some scenes appear quite, and we are allowed to hear drapery rustle in the winds.     Sometimes simply the running engine of a vehicle is all you hear.   The fight between Asajj Ventress and  Anakin contains minimal dialog.  Mace Windu doesn’t speak a word in his fight.  He simply takes down the army

Several notable voice actresses here as well.  Cree Summer voices Luminara Unduli.  Ventress is portrayed by Grey DeLisle.   Summer gives Luminara an enlightened and strong voice.   DeLisle makes Ventress raspy and creepy.   Corey Burton makes an impressive Count Dooku (he also VA’s in the current 3-D series).

The Book of Eli

Movie Poster

I went into this film with prejudices, which is no surprise.  I often have mixed feelings about films that star Denzel Washington.   The films of his that I like, often feature him dying.   It becomes a bittersweet affair with me.  I don’t want to like his characters, because they die.   Needless to say its not like he doesn’t do compelling films.  Fallen, Man on Fire, and Malcolm X are my fave Denzel films, and he dies in all three.   The Book of Eli is no exception to my Denzel film favorites.

The Book of Eli is set in a post-apocalyptic world where civilization’s come to a screeching halt.  The sun blazes scorching hot, and people have to wear layers of clothes and shade when outside.   Some have turned to cannibalism, and in some subtle ways we see how bad that gets.  All meat if fair game, and poor kittens’ can get eaten if they don’t watch out.

In The Book of Eli, Denzel plays Eli, a man on a pilgrimage to bring the holy bible to the West.  His faith is strong, and relies keenly on his other senses.  Eli hears a voice communicate with him.   Only hears.  One needs to see the films a second time to understand what Eli’s really capable of, as his senses make him unique.  He hears and smells people near him (trying poorly to ambush him), and hunts with accuracy.

Senses play such a dynamic part in this film.  We know that Eli is a skilled hunter and fighter who can kill with such accuracy and graphic details, its not only scary, but in some ways spiritual.  He’s committed himself to the art of survival that he can fight multiple people with knives, guns, and a bow and arrows.   Many underestimate Eli and take him for a victim to their peril.   The man is no victim.

Gary Oldman plays Carnegie, a man who runs a town through fear and intimidation.   He covets the bible, as he knows that it is a tool that will unify people.  His desire is pure selfish.  This bible is a mere tool to help him control the masses.   Upon discovering Eli has a bible, he makes it his mission to retrieve it at all costs (including loosing his armed thugs/control).  Carnegie risks and loses all for his lack of faith.   His defeat is both physical and spiritual.

Carnegie is the perfect foil to Eli, and yet both have some similar attitudes.  Carnegie is single-minded, driven by a need for control.  Eli is also goal-oriented, refusing to stray from his path (which he wishes to walk alone).  The difference is that Carnegie is a selfish bastard and it doesn’t matter who dies.  There’s no remorse whatsoever in his actions.   By contrast, Eli attempts to atone for his acts through his prayers.

Eli and Solara at the house of the Cannibal Elderly

Mila Kunis plays Solara, a woman at the mercy of Carnegie until she leaves him to follow Eli. (who doesn’t want her tagging along).   It’s a different role I’ve seen for her, as she usually does comedy, but I liked her.  She’s got a certain sweetness and likeability to her character.  Her newfound strength at the end of the film actually informs me that she’s capable of surviving on her own as she begins her pilgrimage.

Eli’s protection of his bible is clear, but when he looses it, he still retains the knowledge of what he carried.

Sound is so important in this film.  In the beginning we hear only sounds of nature in a harsh forest.  There’s an old iPod that Eli uses to listen to an Al Green song.

Eli in Carnegie's town

One drawback is that I would have loved to see how the world became the scorched world, but at the same time it doesn’t matter.   We’re given a lot, and sometimes the how is only important for context.   We do know there was a war, and a “hole opened in the sky.”  Man has lost his way, and destroyed all of the bibles they could find.

There are a couple of twists in the story, that will make you do a double take, but I find its best that one sees the film, and me not tell you.