Sunday, April 18, 2010

TV REVIEW: THE CLONE WARS "The Zillo Beast Strikes Back"


Friday's episode of The Clone Wars continued the story of the Zillo beast, and this two-parter is one of my favorite story arcs of the series. Both last week's "The Zillo Beast" and this week's "The Zillo Beast Strikes Back" are a loving homage to Japanese giant monster movies. At the end of last week's episode we saw the beast captured and ready to be sent to Coruscant, a decision made with the typical lack of judgement of characters in a giant monster story. Whether it's King Kong, Gwangi, or Mothra, it's never a good idea to bring a giant monster to town.

Like any most great monsters, the Zillo beast is as much a victim of man as it is a destructive force. We see some very intense scenes in this episode of the Beast locked up and subjected to cruel experiments and, finally, gassed to death at Palpatine's orders. The episode nicely captures the fundamental theme kaiju stories in which man suffers for being grossly out of harmony with the natural world. These two episodes make me wish the people who made this episode were in charge of the new Godzilla movie because they really get the genre.

These episodes mark a turning point for Palpatine's characterization on the show and the makers are far less coy about his true nature, even to the point where he shares an evil grin with the camera. He comes off as a real bastard in "The Zillo Beast Strikes Back." A running joke in the episode is that the Beast seems to be on to him when no one else is and the monster pursues him through a big chunk of the city. He could have done the galaxy a big favor if not for the Jedi.

Speaking of Palps, he has a great scene in this episode. Padme and the Jedi get wind of his plans to kill the Zillo Beast and, in a foreshadowing of Revenge of the Sith, they try to get Anakin to talk him out of it. Anakin and Padme go into the meeting on the same side, but at some point Palpatine pulls him to his point of view. It's a great scene because there are lots of things going under the surface and it really showcases Anakin's uncomfortable, shifting loyalties.

While the Zillo Beast's design is a little odd-looking in static poses, he was quite impressive moving and spinning through the sky lanes and buildings of Coruscant. That extra arm gives him the ability to move on another axis, which is visually interesting. It was really cool seeing this kind of kaiju urban destruction in a Star Wars setting.

Ultimately, the Beast is a confused and terrified creature which has been taken out of its element and meets its end at the hands of man (and aliens) like many great movie monsters before it. This great Zillo beast story arc gives me hope that The Clone Wars will continue to be adventurous in exploring different genres and ways to tell stories set in the Star Wars universe. After all, Star Wars itself is mix of many disparate styles and influences, and The Clone Wars offers a low risk venue for storytelling experimentation.

Patrick Garone
Creative Director

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