Tuesday, April 13, 2010



The Clone Wars episode from last Friday combined two of my favorite things: Star Wars and Japanese kaiju movies. Kaiju movies are a genre featuring giant monsters, usually let loose in urban areas where they fight and destroy buildings, with Godzilla and Gamera being the most famous of the bunch. The Clone Wars supervising director Dave Filoni is reportedly a huge Godzilla fan and "The Zillo Beast" is a loving homage to Godzilla and other kaiju movies.

"The Zillo Beast" takes us to the planet Malastare, and features the Dugs who were first introduced with Sebulba in The Phantom Menace. The Dugs were one of the coolest and most alien races introduced in the prequels and I'm happy to see them reintroduced in The Clone Wars. They have some very memorable scenes where they ride mounts and fight droids using electrostaffs.

It turns out that Malastare and its fuel supplies are crucial the the Republic war efforts and the Republic is fairly desperate to sign a treaty with the Dugs, which will give them access to the needed fuel. I really like that The Clone Wars has dug pretty deep into Star Wars and given us a situation that is complex and believable with parallels to our own geopolitical situation.

To thwart the massive Confederation force that has invaded the planet, the Republic unveils a new weapon, an Electro-Proton bomb, designed to take out the droids with little or no effect on organics. Mace Windu and Anakin look on skeptically as the bomb is deployed and takes out the droids but also creates a huge sinkhole on the planets surface and ultimately releases the Zillo beast, which is huge, combines features of a reptile and a segmented worm, and is imperious to almost all weapons (including lightsabers). The beast has a sort of awkward, spindly design and even sports a third arm from its back.

Like Godzilla, the Zillo beast is awakened by the use of a "doomsday" weapon and unleashed upon the land. The Dugs are dead set on destroying the creature but Windu insists on capturing this monster, the last of its kind, and taking it to a remote world where it is allowed to run free. We get some great scenes that showcase how out of sync the Jedi are with the more worldly and military forces. Their role as preservers of life is not always comfortable when they are also generals with military and diplomatic responsibilities. We see some nice foreshadowing of conflict between Windu and Palpatine as the Chancellor will not allow the Jedi to ruin the chances of having the treaty signed which will allow access to Malastare's resources.

The Zillo beast eventually escapes from its pit and is knocked out by the Jedi using some vehicles that are clearly inspired by the ubiquitous Maser tanks featured in the Godzilla movies. As they are preparing to beast to be taken off world, Windu receives a message from Palpatine that the creature will be taken to Coruscant for study, setting up next week's no-doubt kaiju-tastic second part. Palpatine has taken an interest in the monster and its nearly impenetrable armor. Obviously, he has never seen King Kong or any other monster movie to know that creatures and big urban areas do not mix well.

"The Zillo Beast" is a really fun and surprising episode that plays to what is the absolute strength of The Clone Wars: the ability to present a wide variety of stories that span wildly different tones and genres all set in the Star Wars universe. Never in a million years did I think I would see a Star Wars kaiju story, so I was sold just on the premise. Again, the opening scenario for the episode-putting a pair of Jedi in the middle of a war for resources-feels very contemporary and real and hints at things going on in the background of the Star Wars stories that we don't really ever think about. After all, those Star Destroyers don't fuel themselves. This enriches the "used universe" concept of Star Wars that has been present since the very first film in 1977.

Patrick Garone
Creative Director

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