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Saturday, November 19, 2022 11:08 PM
(Last updated on Saturday, November 19, 2022 11:25 PM)
On the Viewer - Guillermo del Toro's Cabinet of Curiosities: Season 1
 by Fëanor

Hello folks! Been quite a while since I posted on here about anything other than my books, but I recently finished making my way through the first season of Netflix's horror anthology show, Guillermo del Toro's Cabinet of Curiosities, and I thought I'd talk about it a bit.

Guillermo del Toro, if you are somehow unaware, is a film director who is known for fantastical movies about monsters. I'm a huge fan. This show is kind of his version of Alfred Hitchcock Presents; he shows up at the beginning to introduce each episode, but it's a different director telling a different story each time, and there's no connection between the stories, besides the shared genre.

Episode 1 - Lot 36
This is one of the two episodes co-written by del Toro; it's directed by Guillermo Navarro, a cinematographer and long-time collaborator of his. It's set in America during the Gulf War and stars Tim Blake Nelson as a mean, greedy, self-interested, misanthropic veteran who buys the contents of abandoned storage units and sells off the items in them for as much money as he can get. He has no sympathy with, or interest in, the former owners of the units, and when one shows up to ask for some of her personal effects back, he refuses out of pure spite. He's the classic awful horror protagonist that you spend the whole story just waiting to see get his comeuppance.

His latest unit, it turns out, belonged to a former Nazi, and has some very creepy, but also very rare and valuable, items hidden away in it, including an infamous set of volumes on black magic. If he can find the final volume in the set, a collector promises him a huge cash payout - large enough to pay off the loan shark who's been threatening him.

This is a pretty solid horror story, with a creepy story, creepy and effective visuals, and some of my favorite horror tropes. But it does suffer a bit from having a completely unlikable and occasionally stupid protagonist. It also introduces some mysteries that are never satisfactorily explained. I'm okay with that sometimes, but this time I really wanted to know why that guy was skipping on the security cam footage. The conclusion of the story, though satisfying in its own way, feels a bit anticlimactic. You're told what's going to happen, and then you have to wait around while it inevitably happens.

Episode 2 - Graveyard Rats
This one's quite fun. It's written and directed by Vincenzo Natali, who made the original Cube. It has a darkly comic flavor to it and stars David Hewlett as a highly-educated man who, nevertheless, finds himself trying to scrape by as a graverobber. The cemetery where he plies his trade has had only slim pickings lately due to an extraordinary rat infestation - they keep stealing away the corpses, and all the valuable items buried with them, before he can plunder them. If he doesn't come up with some big ticket items soon, the sketchy guy at the dock who buys the goods off him may just bury him instead.

You may notice the plot here is very similar to that of the first episode: a down-on-his-luck guy engaged in a seedy enterprise must make a big score or likely die. This time, though, our protagonist is slightly more likable. Sure, he's a little pompous and awkward, but he has something of the sad, bumbling clown about him, too. Oh, and he's also claustrophobic. You can imagine what happens to him later.

This episode is a lot of familiar tropes presented well, with good effects and cool visuals. There's nothing astonishing here, but it gets the job done in the creepy crawlies department.

Episode 3 - The Autopsy
Another rather strong entry, this one directed by newcomer David Prior, and written by the prolific and talented screenwriter, director, and producer David S. Goyer. Our main character this time is a clever, likable medical examiner played by F. Murray Abraham. He's deathly ill, but facing it with wry equanimity. A sheriff who's an old friend of his has called him in to perform autopsies on a bunch of dead bodies recovered from the site of a mining accident. The "accident" was preceded by a strange series of disappearances, reappearances, and grisly discoveries, and the sheriff wants to know how it's all connected and what it all means. Our medical examiner hero discovers the answers, to his cost.

This is a disturbing and gory one. There were a couple of scenes where I had to turn away and squeeze my eyes shut until they were over. With Abraham in the lead, and other talented actors in the secondary roles, it's full of fine performances. There's a thoughtful, philosophical feel to portions of it, but in some ways I feel like it explains too much. The villain is an inveterate monologuer, and he gets a little tiresome. But if you want the creeps, this will give you the creeps!

Episode 4 - The Outside
Hoo boy. This one is something! I'm not familiar with the writer or the director, who are Haley Z. Boston and Ana Lily Amirpour, respectively. This episode features our first female main character, a bank teller named Stacey. She's played by Kate Micucci, with Martin Starr as her husband and Dan Stevens as the host of the unsettling infomercial that claims it can make Stacey's dream come true. Said dream is to be beautiful and popular, so she can fit in with the beautiful, popular girls at work. Why this is her dream isn't always easy to understand, as the other girls at work are pretty awful to her, and do nothing but gossip incessantly about all the sleaziest local drama, insulting and disparaging everyone they talk about.

After a hallucinatory interaction with a late night TV commercial, Stacey becomes obsessed with a skin cream that she's sure will help transform her into her perfect self. She uses it and continues to use it, despite the fact that it makes her break out horribly in red itchy spots. The cream is white and does a lot of splurting and squelching. The resemblance to another white substance is definitely not a mistake.

One thing I found interesting about this story is that, counter to the expected stereotype, Stacey's husband is not an abusive jerk! He is unflaggingly supportive and loving. It doesn't make any difference in the end, but still, it's refreshing.

This is really the only story in the whole anthology that features social commentary. It talks about the cultural obsession with a very specific kind of shallow, boilerplate sexual attractiveness, which television media encourages women to seek out and inhabit at the expense of all else. The pursuit of the destruction of idiosyncratic self in preference for this smooth, plastic ideal leads one woman into madness, violence, and death. It's surreal, darkly funny, and often deeply uncomfortable to watch.

Episode 5 - Pickman's Model
This was one of the episodes I was looking forward to the most, as it's based on a classic short story by H.P. Lovecraft that I quite enjoy. Sadly, I was disappointed. It's directed by Keith Thomas, another newcomer I was unfamiliar with. I did recognize the two male stars, however: Ben Barnes is our main character, Will, and the perpetually weird and creepy Crispin Glover plays the titular Richard Pickman. Will and Pickman are both art students at Miskatonic University, a school familiar to anyone who's read Lovecraft, and a school which is, most unfortunately, located in Arkham, Massachusetts. I say "most unfortunately" because this setting convinced the filmmakers to have Barnes and Glover speak all of their lines in absolutely atrocious Boston accents. Glover's is particularly egregious. It makes listening to the dialog a truly painful experience, far more horrifying and off-putting than any of the nightmarish sights we're presented with.

The plot is tiresome, proceeding in odd stops and starts, and sometimes veering off unexpectedly. It opens with odd outsider Pickman joining Will's art class. Will is fascinated by the man's unique, nightmarish paintings, and at first tries to befriend him, even calling him by the unfortunate nickname "Dickie." But Will quickly discovers that Pickman's work doesn't just look nightmarish - it also seems to bring nightmares to life in the waking world. The surreal visions Will experiences after looking at Pickman's paintings nearly ruin his relationship with his girlfriend and her family. Luckily for him, at this point Pickman inexplicably decides to pick up and leave, taking all his paintings with him.

Here the story makes a jarring time jump. All of a sudden, Will has gray in his hair and the girlfriend who seemed to have dumped him in the previous scene is now his wife. They even have a young son. This was such an unexpected and unexplained turn of events, I thought maybe it was meant to be a dream - but no!

Anyway, Will's successful, comfortable life is once again thrown off the rails by the sudden (again, unexplained) reappearance of Pickman and his oddly infectious paintings.

There's an attempt made to connect this story with the larger Lovecraftian Mythos by having some of the characters start chanting about Yog-Sothoth (the name of one of Lovecraft's Great Old Ones), but it doesn't go much of anywhere.

What exactly is the deal with Pickman's art? What does it do to people, and what does that have to do with his family history and the thing in his basement? It's not entirely clear. This adaptation does eventually recreate the shocking reveal that was the climax of the original short story. But since by that time we've already guessed as much, it's not very shocking. Furthermore, this adaptation seems to be telling a different story entirely, so the reveal doesn't make a great deal of sense. The final scene, though certainly horrific and effective in its way, is also a well-used cliche. After it's strongly implied that a certain horrible act has been performed, we crawl slowly toward the shocking reveal that...yes, that's just exactly what happened. Clumsily undercutting your own final revelation doesn't make for a great ending.

Episode 6 - Dreams in the Witch House
Another disappointing Lovecraft adaptation! Yay. This one was directed by Catherine Hardwicke and written by Mika Watkins, and it stars Rupert "Ronald Weasley" Grint in the main role, struggling with another very bad fake accent. He plays a spiritual investigator who, as a child, witnessed his twin sister's spirit being dragged away into another dimension upon her untimely death. He's been obsessed with finding his way to the other side ever since. With the help of a mysterious drug, and a stay in a haunted house built by a witch, he succeeds - unfortunately for him.

"Dreams in the Witch-House" is a lesser known Lovecraft story, but one I quite like, with fascinating ideas like mad geometry, impossible angles, and a creepy rat-like familiar named Brown Jenkin. Unfortunately, this adaptation doesn't really capture the flavor of that story, though it does include some of the characters and plot elements, and certainly features some really fantastically unsettling images. The crooked silhouette of the witch, lit only by her own burning eyes, lurking in the dark corners of the old house; the walls covered with strange symbols and creeping vines; and within those walls, the pattering feet of a rat with a human face...yeah, that's quality stuff.

Sadly, there's a lot of other stuff here that feels like filler, and doesn't work as well. The episode drags on a bit, and certain twists of the plot, including the final one at the end, feel random and arbitrary.

Episode 7 - The Viewing
A lot of horror stories can be broken into two parts: the slow buildup of tension and mystery, and then the horrifying revelation and payoff. The Viewing is like 80% buildup. It's well done, and super stylish buildup, but still...that's a lot of buildup. And the payoff, when it finally comes, is anticlimactic.

This episode was written and directed by Panos Cosmatos and Aaron Stewart-Ahn, who are also responsible for the absolutely insane and surreal Nicolas Cage vehicle, Mandy. I was not surprised to learn this, as the music and visuals in this short reminded me of that film. The music and visuals are effective and fun - this thing is dripping with style.

Eric Andre, Charlyne Yi, Steve Agee, and Michael Therriault play experts in widely varying fields who are all called together for a mysterious "viewing" by a reclusive and fabulously wealthy eccentric played by Peter Weller. After a lengthy intro, a rambling conversation, and a lot of drug-taking, Weller's character finally reveals that he's brought this group together to look at a weird rock he found. The rock is much more than it seems (natch), and things go horribly awry (natch).

The climax is exciting and gory. But then the story just kind of...trails off. There's a lot of philosophical talk, and a pretty cool monster, but what exactly is the point of it all? It's not clear.

Episode 8 - The Murmuring
This episode is easily the best of the season. It's written and directed by Jennifer Kent, who made the modern horror classic The Babadook. This short is concerned with the same theme as that film - grief.

Nancy and Edgar, a married couple who've recently experienced a terrible loss, are researching why and how birds are able to move so swiftly and seamlessly in enormous flocks called murmurations. As part of their research, they head out to a secluded island to record the behavior of birds called dunlins. They've been provided an old house to stay in while they're out there, but the house is haunted by its own terrible secrets. As Nancy struggles with sleeplessness and terrifying hallucinations, she becomes obsessed with learning the history of the house and the family that once lived there, and her relationship with Edgar begins to break apart.

Powerful, visceral performances from Essie Davis and Andrew Lincoln give this story weight and realism. It's a slower, more lyrical story than the rest, but it has plenty of scares and terrifying moments. It's also far and away the most emotionally hard-hitting episode of the season. My eyes were definitely leaking by the end. It's a gorgeous, deeply moving piece - a wonderful conclusion to the season.

It sounds like del Toro is already planning a second season. The first one was uneven, but that's to be expected of an anthology series. I'll definitely be curious to see more.
Tagged (?): Horror (Not), Lovecraft (Not), Netflix (Not), On the Viewer (Not), TV (Not)
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Thursday, June 9, 2022 03:31 PM
It's that time again
 by Fëanor

I made you another STRANGER WORLD book! This one is called BOOK AND HALL and you can pre-order it now on Barnes & Noble. It will be officially released on June 27, 2022, when it will also be available on Amazon.com.

This is the hardcover edition, by the way. The paperback and eBook editions will follow either late this year or early next year. I'll certainly let you know!

This particular entry in the Stranger World series is a pretty fun one I think. The main setting for the story is a maze-like museum full of creepy and fascinating magical artifacts, overseen by a mysterious collector and his grumpy bear butler. There's also a winged horse, a squad of werewolves, and the return of two recurring characters: the Puzzle Piece Man and Esthuan Thievesbane.

I'm sorry to say this book also features the final appearance in the series of Hunter's best friends, Gertrude Clemmons and David Kim. My first draft of the Stranger World story was one enormous novel, and in that version, Gert had even fewer scenes, and David had almost none. When I decided to split the book into six parts, and it came time to flesh out this section of the story, I made it a priority to give Gert and David more space, because I really enjoyed the dynamic between Hunter and his friends. Also, with the story split into separate books, I needed to find ways to remind you of what happened last time at the beginning of each book. I found a way to combine both those purposes with this book's opening scene.

It was also breaking the story up, and then needing to flesh out the separate parts into their own books, that gave birth to the character of Esthuan Thievesbane, who ended up being one of my favorite things about the story. She gets a chance to shine again here.

Anyway, I hope you like the book, and thanks for reading!
Tagged (?): A Stranger World (Not), Book and Hall (Not), Books (Not)
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Sunday, March 6, 2022 10:34 AM
You Get a Book! And You Get a Book!
 by Fëanor

Hi, folks! Just popping on to mention that you can now purchase my latest book, RING AND IRON: A STRANGER WORLD ADVENTURE, in paperback format on Amazon!

It wasn't supposed to come out until tomorrow, but Amazon is weird about paperbacks and doesn't let you put them on presale or set exactly when they're going to be published; you just have to push the button a little before they're supposed to be available and hope for the best. So you get it a day early! It'll be officially released in paperback and eBook everywhere else tomorrow.

I'm afraid the Amazon paperback edition of RING AND IRON is a bit more expensive than the previous volumes in the series, and I'm honestly not entirely sure why. It's a bit longer, mostly because I increased the font size, so that might be it. But it's also possible that production costs have just gone up.

The good news is, if paying for books is not your thing, I've still got you covered! Now until the end of March, you can enter a giveaway for a FREE copy of the Kindle eBook edition of RING AND IRON on Goodreads! A lot of people have already entered, so better get on it if you want your chance.

I've said it before, but RING AND IRON really is my best book yet, and it catches you up on the story so far, so if you've been avoiding the series until now, I hope you'll give this one a try.

Regardless, as always, thanks for reading!
Tagged (?): A Stranger World (Not), Books (Not), Ring and Iron (Not)
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Thursday, December 2, 2021 10:49 PM
Interview!
 by Fëanor

I got interviewed! Check it out.
Tagged (?): A Stranger World (Not), Books (Not), Sea and Sword (Not)
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Tuesday, November 2, 2021 08:46 AM
Do you like free stuff?
 by Fëanor

If you're curious about my books, but aren't sure you want to spend money to find out if they're any good, I have good news for you! I'm giving away my latest book, RING AND IRON: A STRANGER WORLD ADVENTURE! There are separate giveaways running now on Facebook and Twitter. It's easy to enter, and if you win, I'll send you a free signed hardcover copy of the book! Just get in there soon, because I'll pick the winners in six days, on 11/8/21.

Thanks for reading, and good luck!
Tagged (?): A Stranger World (Not), Books (Not), Ring and Iron (Not)
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Sunday, October 31, 2021 08:36 AM
(Last updated on Sunday, October 31, 2021 08:38 AM)
My New Book Is Out!
 by Fëanor

Hey, I totally jumped the gun and released my new book! BOOM! RING AND IRON: A STRANGER WORLD ADVENTURE is out now!

Wee!

Yeah, I was planning on holding out until 12/6 for the release, and putting it on pre-order tomorrow, but then I was reading about supply chain issues that are effecting the publishing industry, and how book orders later than early November would likely not make it to folks in time for the holidays, and I decided to just pull the trigger. I want you to have it in your hands before the end of the year, so here you go!

If you don't want to buy it on Amazon, you can also pre-order it on Barnes and Noble. It'll come out on that site on 11/14. They wouldn't let me release it any earlier than that for some reason.

Keep in mind, this is the hardcover release; the paperback and eBook versions will come out some time next year.

Because I'm a self-published author, my books survive on "word of mouth," so I would really appreciate it if you would tell folks about RING AND IRON. It's my best book yet. It has magic and adventure and monsters and mystery, and I think it's good fun for all ages, 8 to 1000. Post about it on social media! Review it on Amazon! Tell people about it when you pass them in the street!

Of course, RING AND IRON is even better if you've already read the first two entries in the series, TREE AND BEAST and SEA AND SWORD, but you can start here and not be lost. I do the thing in the beginning where I get you up to speed on the story, don't worry!

Anyway, I hope you all love the book. Thanks for reading!
Tagged (?): A Stranger World (Not), Books (Not), Ring and Iron (Not)
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Sunday, September 26, 2021 12:41 PM
(Last updated on Sunday, September 26, 2021 12:42 PM)
Let's Talk Some More About Books!
 by Fëanor

Hey! I remembered I had a blog, and some things are going on, so I thought I'd post!

  • My next book, RING AND IRON: A STRANGER WORLD ADVENTURE, the third entry in my Middle Grade fantasy series, will be out in hardcover on December 6th! Mark your calendars! I'm not sure when I'll put it on pre-sale on Barnes & Noble...probably some time in November? Anyway, I will definitely shout about it when it happens.

  • Kirkus Reviews just reviewed the book! You can read it here, and I added a quote from the review to my Published Works page. TL/DR: they liked it! Although apparently they think the kids these days don't know about LORD OF THE RINGS, and might not get my references to it. Well, they should! That's all I have to say about that.

  • As I mentioned in my last post, I asked some folks to read the early draft of my next, non-Stranger-World novel, the title of which I haven't decided on yet (currently I like IN THE CITY OF A HUNGRY GOD - what do you think?), and they gave me a lot of useful feedback. One thing I kept thinking about was the complaint that it didn't feel like it had a solid conclusion. I had indeed purposefully left things at a cliffhanger, but the more I thought about it, the more I thought the first book in a series shouldn't end that way. It did need some more satisfying ending, in which our heroes accomplished something more tangible. As I said to my brother, "this one should be A New Hope, not Empire Strikes Back." I thought maybe I could slap together a better ending in maybe 5 or 10 thousand words. Well, 27,000 words later, I was done! Yeah, it's quite a bit longer now, but I'm also much happier with it.

  • Still on the topic of the new book: I'd assumed as I was writing it that it would be for the Young Adult audience. But the new word count puts it outside the established range for YA - even for the traditionally longer fantasy genre. I talked to a literary agent friend of mine, describing my problem, and he pointed out that since two of my main characters were adults, what I had wasn't really YA anyway. So yeah, turns out I wrote an adult fantasy book. I guess it's also technically urban fantasy, since most of it takes place in a present day city. Who knew?? Anyway, that's actually good news really, since for adult fantasy, my word count is just right.

  • The next step for my new book is for me to do yet another editing pass, making sure it all hangs together and sounds good. Then I'll send it back out to my test readers again for them to do another pass. I'd also like to get a sensitivity reader or two to take a look at it, as I'm dealing with some minority groups here and I don't want to be saying anything stupid by mistake. Then I start searching for a literary agent who's interested in this kind of book. Then I write query letters, send them out, and cross my fingers. I hope you'll cross your fingers for me, too!

  • As for stuff I'm reading, I'm currently on the final book in Maggie Stiefvater's Wolves of Mercy Falls series, SINNER. Each book in this series has been better than the last, and this one features a particularly complex relationship between two particularly broken individuals. Interestingly, it's focusing a lot more on real world emotional issues than it is on the werewolf stuff. It's good!

  • Other books I've read recently are STORMSONG and SOULSTAR, the last two entries in C.L. Polk's Kingston Cycle (thanks to my friend Cynthia for turning me on to this series; I stalk her Goodreads and add everything she rates highly to my "to read" shelf!). These are also fantasy romance books, like The Wolves of Mercy Falls, but they also each feature a murder mystery, and are set not on a subtly altered present day Earth, but in a completely different reality full of magic, ghosts, and angels. Also, the romances featured are LGBTQ+. The final book has the most complex romance, as there's no meet-cute or passionate first kiss; instead, we follow along as two people who were separated 20 years ago re-learn how to be a couple. It's well done.
Tagged (?): A Stranger World (Not), Books (Not), Ring and Iron (Not), Witches (Not)
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Friday, July 30, 2021 02:41 PM
Books! Wow!
 by Fëanor

A couple of updates for all of you fine folks who still check in on my website (bless you, all two of you): I created a page on Goodreads for my new book RING AND IRON: A STRANGER WORLD ADVENTURE, which will be the third entry in my STRANGER WORLD series. I really think this one is my best book yet, and I'm not just saying that. It introduces one of my favorite characters, and features a life-or-death game of Candy Land. Not a lot of authors can claim their book has that! You can add it to your Want to Read shelf on Goodreads, if you'd like. That would be awesome. (There was a bug with those Goodreads buttons on my site, but I fixed it, so should be easy to do now.) The book also now appears in the Goodreads widget over on the side of my blog, and I made a space for it on the Published Works area of my site. The plan is to release this one in hardcover on December 6th, 2021, so mark your calendars! I'll set it up to go on pre-sale on Barnes & Noble by Black Friday/Cyber Monday, so you can order it as a gift for the holidays. (Unfortunately, Amazon does not allow you to put self-published books on pre-sale for some strange reason.) So, everybody's going to order each other copies of my book for Christmas and Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, right? Please??

I've also finished the first draft of a new novel which is the first entry in what I plan to be a YA fantasy trilogy. It's about an alternate history version of America where an evangelical protestant church basically runs the country, magic is real, and witches are outlawed. I sent it off to some family members and am anxiously awaiting their responses. I have to say, I'm a little sad to not have any writing project to work on at the moment. Maybe I should start the next entry in the series...

Meanwhile, I've been obsessed with the work of Maggie Stiefvater lately and have been reading all her stuff. She's pretty amazing. I particularly recommend her Raven Cycle (starting with The Raven Boys), which is followed by the Dreamer Trilogy (still ongoing), and also her standalone book The Scorpio Races which really blew me away. I've just started her YA werewolf romance series, The Wolves of Mercy Falls, which is fun.

Wow, it's been a while since I wrote a post this long on here! Anyway, happy reading everybody.
Tagged (?): A Stranger World (Not), Books (Not), Ring and Iron (Not), Witches (Not)
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Wednesday, May 19, 2021 03:35 PM
(Last updated on Thursday, May 20, 2021 11:50 AM)
UPGRADE!
 by Fëanor

Hey folks, just letting you know, I went ahead and upgraded my website to a newer version of PHP, because my host warned me the one I was using was painfully, unsupportably old (oops!). So, please let me know if you see any issues as you're poking around. Thanks!

ETA: While I was at it, I also got myself an SSL certificate, so you can now visit my site in a secure fashion using https! Very exciting. To me, anyway.
Tagged (?): Meta (Not)
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Wednesday, April 7, 2021 10:03 AM
(Last updated on Wednesday, April 7, 2021 10:07 AM)
On the Viewer - Star Wars: Clone Wars (2003)
 by Fëanor

Here's another live-tweet compilation, this time from a re-watch of Genndy Tartakovsky's Clone Wars micro-series, which recently got added to Disney+. Technically, I believe this series is no longer canon, but as this article points out (thanks to my friend Camden for sending me the link), it could pretty easily be inserted into the story that the later The Clone Wars series tells, with a few small exceptions. And it should be, because it's great!

——

Like a lot of Tartakovsky's work, the original Clone Wars strongly emphasizes action and awesome visuals over words. There are lengthy sequences with no dialogue of any kind. Yet you always know what's going on. It's a very clear visual story, often told on a massive scale.

——

A lot of really fun and inventive designs, for the characters, settings, and vehicles. Also some great characters are introduced and developed here, like Ventress and Grievous. The Grievous we meet in this show is far more terrifying and dangerous than the one in the movies.

——

Durge is another really interesting character design. The way he bulges and extends and persists reminds me of Akira, and of the rampaging poisoned animal spirits in Princess Mononoke. I'm pretty sure the character never speaks, either. At least, he hasn't so far.

[Editor's note: indeed, he does not.]

——

One of the things Tartakovsky's Clone Wars is better at than maybe any other Star Wars show or movie is capturing the awesome power and incredible abilities of the Jedi, especially Jedi Masters like Windu.

——

It's also amazing at handling things of massive scale, like a gigantic warship with a huge, army-flattening piston on the bottom. Not a vehicle we see anywhere else, but this show makes it very memorable.

——

Anakin's duel with Ventress near the end of volume one of Clone Wars is just a masterpiece. Gorgeous setting, dramatic lighting, amazing action. And then of course the powerful metaphor of him picking up one of her own red lightsabers to ultimately defeat her.

——

The duel is followed by the introduction of Grievous, which is equally fantastic. Previous episodes have established how powerful the Jedi are, and now we see them defeated and cowering in terror from Grievous, who easily defeats a group of them single-handedly.

——

On Tartakovsky's Clone Wars, we learn more about the rituals and ceremonies of the Jedi than we ever have before. We learn there's a series of trials a padawan normally has to overcome to be granted knighthood, and we even get to see the rite where Anakin becomes a knight.

——

Yoda himself cuts off Anakin's braid to officially knight him. In a nice touch, Padme receives the braid and places it in a keepsake box along with the japor snippet necklace Anakin made for her when he was a boy. There's also some nice Qui-gon references.

——

There's a funny scene where Anakin gets to see 3PO in his gold plating for the first time. Then scenes of Anakin being a competent hero, coming to the rescue of other Jedi. Which is nice. Sometimes in the movies he's such a jerk it's hard to understand why anyone likes him.

——

Padme sees Anakin with his scar for the first time. R4 is destroyed and R2 becomes Anakin's droid. Lots of milestones in their lives, but it doesn't feel like they're just ticking boxes; it feels organic, like you're watching these characters change and grow.

——

I appreciate that Commander Cody first appears flying in with a jetpack. He's named after an old serial character who was famous for flying around with a jetpack.

——

Star Wars repeats lines of dialog like it repeats musical phrases and themes. I like that Obi-wan gets to say, "What an incredible smell you've discovered." They do a good job here developing their slightly antagonistic, big brother/little brother friendship dynamic.

——

Anakin is the hot-headed, action-oriented guy, while Obi-wan is more patient, thoughtful, precise. "There are alternatives to fighting," more repeated dialog...

——

It's nice that Mace Windu has a purple starship and a purple droid, all to match his purple lightsaber.

——

I'm not a huge fan of Star Wars' heroes tending to take advantage of a native alien culture's beliefs to manipulate them into assisting in their wars. It happens again here, with Obi-wan putting Anakin forward as some kind of prophesied hero.

——

Yoda absolutely wrecking the droid invasion forces with jaw-dropping displays of power. Good stuff.

——

Let's pick up where we left off with Clone Wars!

Yoda & Windu together are an almost unstoppable force.

I love the image of the Chancellor calmly drinking tea, watching the battle outside his window. He's orchestrated this war between disposable armies and he's gonna enjoy it!

——

Fantastic build of drama and tension as the Jedi wait at the elevator, watching the closed doors of the chancellor's office, behind which they can hear Grievous picking apart the clone soldiers...

——

Grievous is a deadly force of nature in this show. Just a terrifying monster. It's great.

——

The Ithorian Jedi's roaring trick is a unique ability that we haven't seen before. Fun.

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I think this marks the first appearance of Grievous' staff-wielding bodyguards, another fun creation.

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One of the trials a padawan faces to become a Jedi is the trial of the mirror, where they must overcome the darkness within themselves. This is the trial Luke faced in the cave on Dagobah, and the trial Anakin is facing on this alien world.

——

In Anakin's cave, the pictures on the wall begin to move, and they tell the story of a warrior whose hand was lost in a battle with evil. The new hand that took its place gave him power with which he defeated many enemies. But the power ran wild and killed his friends, too.

——

As the story ends, a face appears in the midst of the twisting vines of darkness: the face of Vader.

What a powerful moment. And as with a lot of Tartakovsky's most powerful scenes, it is entirely wordless - a purely visual story.

——

I love the realistic details, like the recorded voice repeatedly asking them all to "please deposit two Republic credits" as they run into the subway.

——

I love the inventive ways they use the force here: quietly lifting up the end of Grievous' cape and tying it to the end of a departing train. Brilliant!

Also, "no capes!" :LOL:

——

Yoda and Windu aren't just incredible warriors, they're also brilliant thinkers. As they're fighting, they both realize at the same moment that the invasion is just a distraction to hide the enemy's true purpose: the kidnapping of Chancellor Palpatine.

——

Shaak Ti stays behind to give her fellow Jedi time to get Palpatine to safety. Man, you just hate Palpatine even more in this scene, knowing that her sacrifice is meaningless, that this is all just a little play he's directing, and that his kidnapper is really his servant.

——

Anakin: "Do you think they'll be able to reclaim their old lives?"
Obi-wan: "I sense they will, as long as each of them is able to accept himself."

Anakin cringes at this. He doesn't seem sure he can accept what he might become...

——

Shaak Ti actually survives this, but is defeated. Windu manages to get a parting shot in on Grievous, crushing his chest plate, which explains why Grievous is always coughing and wheezing in Revenge of the Sith.

——

Anakin replaces his destroyed mechanical arm with a new one, now gloved in black - an ominous sign of what's to come. Obi-wan tries to comfort him, saying what we see inside ourselves can be frightening, but our choices shape our destiny. Unfortunately, Anakin makes bad choices.

——

Clone Wars takes us right up to the opening of Revenge of the Sith, ending literally moments before the events of that movie begin.

It's a thrilling, gorgeous, brilliantly realized part of the Star Wars story. I was really glad to be able to see it again.
Tagged (?): On the Viewer (Not), Star Wars (Not), TV (Not)
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