Sunday, April 10, 2011

Ghosts of Mortis Review

Once again the Clone Wars has left me speechless. I can honestly tell you that I was prepared to rip this episode apart if it either did not provide closure to all the lose ends in the previous Mortis episodes or it dramatically contradicted what we know about the Force and the Star Wars saga. However, on the contrary, I believe this episode did the opposite. Thus I am surprisingly elated. "Ghosts of Mortis" put me in a place where I didn't care about continuity, where I forgot the complex politics of the series, and where I cast aside my expectations of how my favorite Star Wars characters should be depicted. My long held optimism for the future of the series has been validated once again in the most decisive way yet. I didn't criticize this episode, I didn't doubt it, and I didn't feel confused by it. I just watched it, and I loved it. That's what Star Wars should be, and that's what this episode was.

Many Star Wars fans were shocked when the Force was personified in three ultra-powerful beings at the beginning of the Mortis trilogy. To some it seemed sacrilegious and belittled the stories that they held dear. But alas this episode revealed Mortis to be the only thing that it should be, an allegory. And from that point of view this episode and the ones before it fit the Star Wars saga like the black glove on Luke's cybernetic hand, and furthermore they not only illuminate the story of Anakin Skywalker, but deepen it. Because this time, we saw his fall not amongst a sprawled war and shiny special effects, but on the stage of raw emotion, and defined through the eyes of two close friends. The irony of the plot device used to tip the scale in Anakin's head was evident. We saw him become Darth Vader to prevent Darth Vader. The psyche of the Chosen One was left exposed by the simmering lights of a'a lava; his attachments in the present weigh on him, but it is his unquenchable thirst to control the future that was his downfall. Anakin must conquer what he fears he will become, and in doing that he forsakes the present and the reality of his world.

Aside from the compelling epic of Anakin Skywalker, this episode also further illuminated the nature of the Force. Many theories abound concerning the opposing sides of the greatest power in the Star Wars universe. Some believe the Light side to be inherently good and the Dark side to be completely evil. Others see no "sides" but only a manner of use that is born of either malevolent or benevolent intent. In this episode the Father seems to refer to the Dark side as an entity that has a "will". So the question remains: does both sides have their own separate "wills"? In study of the Son and the Daughter, it can be gleaned that the Dark side is characterized by selfishness, and the Light side by selflessness. Thus it can be determined that the "will" of the Darkside is to do what is selfish, and the opposite can be said of the Light side. Therefore the "will" of the Force, be it a representation of intent or a cause of that intent, is clearly outlined as both a symbol of good and evil. In my opinion the Father of Mortis represents Anakin himself -and perhaps even every sentient being in the galaxy- as a person torn between good and evil (represented further by his two children) who ultimately sacrifices himself to bring balance. Among all these questions I consider answered, there remains one that is still shrouded: what does balance mean? Is it the equality of light and dark (that would imply the equality of both good and evil)? Or is it the triumph of light over dark? And can there be light without the existence of dark? In the Star Wars universe this remains to be seen in my opinion, but to editorialize, I believe that free will must triumph over the temptation of selfishness and evil to be considered selfless and good, and that belief is enforced through my eyes by the events of the Star Wars saga as an allegory of the nature of mankind.

Perhaps I should have gotten to the details of this episode before going on long tangents about morality! If you're still with me, I have to tell you that I thought the animation of this episode was fantastic. The destitute plains of Mortis was the most wonderfully detailed nothingness I have seen yet in this series, and the fiery chasm in the heart of the planet was a sight to behold. Though arguably trivial, I thought the goggles worn by Ahsoka gave her character a really cool vibe, and I find it interesting how handy with a wrench she has become! I guess Darkside tendencies aren't the only traits of her master that are rubbing off on her. And to bring up one of the most epic moments in the episode, how awesome was it to see the hallowed mask of Darth Vader in the Clone Wars! However brief, this nod to the films authenticated Anakin's visions to the highest degree while surely delighting fans of all ages. As it has been in the Mortis trilogy, the music was perfect. I was ecstatic to hear notes from "Battle of the Heroes" and repeated use of the "Imperial March". It is indubitably true that even a hint of John Williams breathes mountains of life into these episodes, and the further echoing of his motifs in Kevin Kiner's score makes for a well rounded and satisfying package.

In conclusion, "Ghosts of Mortis" was a fitting finale to a groundbreaking trilogy. I wish to express my sincerest thanks to George Lucas for conceptualizing and green-lighting such a compelling story and to Dave Filoni and the entire Clone Wars crew for executing it in such an astounding way. The Mortis story arc was filled with amazing scenery, fantastically choreographed action, excellent character development, countless echoes and nods to the Star Wars films and other fantasy franchises, heightened suspense, tantalizing drama, and the most epic awesomeness ever to grace the small screen! Star Wars is more alive than ever and it is super-duper-clone-trooper-plokool-forcetastic!

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