Robot Chicken: Star Wars Episode 3 Review
|REVIEWS - DVD REVIEWS|
Wookiee love; overzealous violence; the Death Star's escalator service - it can only mean one thing, Robot Chicken: Star Wars is back...
It's a drunken Saturday morning in Bristol. My head is tormented by a low, buzzing sensation, no doubt caused by the previous night's discotheque adventures. My mouth is reminiscent of a college party aftermath, both in texture and bile-infused sickness; and the copious levels of alcohol consumed are now making themselves known through every pore in my body (seriously, I am sweating Jack Daniel's at this point).
Yet, while the situation is indeed grim, it is inconsequential when compared to that of the Sith Lord depicted before us. Falling to his death - courtesy of his once prolific prodigy - our protagonist partakes in an American Beauty style recount, with the same music (Baba O'Riley by The Who) playing in the background (see below, but skip to 1:09):
Then, when Lord Palpatine utters the phrase "Dream Big; live big; love big...fall to your death down a giant f**king hole", we all look at each other with big grins across our faces - Robot Chicken: Star Wars is back.
As the longest instalment to date - 45 minutes as opposed to the 11-minute season episodes and the 21-minute run time of the two previous Robot Chicken: Star Wars instalments - the release had a lot to live up to, but, despite the prevalence of RC's dark and somewhat twisted humour, I feel that this is the weakest of the bunch.
The biggest change is to the set up of the episode. Robot Chicken is renowned for its short - and I mean short - skits and stop motion send-ups of some of the most recognisable franchises of the 20th and 21st Century, and it's ultimately what made the show unique. However, Episode III, while still retaining a number of recognisable skits, has an underlying story throughout - similar to that of any other television show - and as such is constantly having to link back to the original concept (Lord Palpatine's recap). The problem is that this just isn't Robot Chicken. Fans loved the show's eccentric feel - one which could take them from a robot humping a washing machine to Napoleon Bonamite (you can guess what this spoofs) flawlessly - and I feel this has been lost in this forthcoming episode.
Remember, Robot Chicken has always been a hit-and-miss sort of comedy (check out my review of season four), but the fans would accept this because even when it missed, it was four to five seconds at the most. For me, this intertwined running has altered the show's balance too drastically, ultimately highlighting the show's 'misses' in a far worse light than its series counterparts. While it's not damning per se, it certainly doesn't do Episode III any favours, and I'd say other fans will agree with me on this.
Now, this isn't to say that Episode III is void of laughs - far from it in fact. It never ceases to amaze me how Seth Green and his team of merry men can come up with some of the ideas featured within the show, and Episode III is no different. For sheer originality alone, the boys deserve a Wookiee-endorsed pat on the back, because they have yet again exploited all comic potential from the scenarios featured within; sure, just check out this little snippet:
What's more, their dedication and love of the franchise is obvious throughout the episode, for only a fan could analyse and dissect a series like they do. Every inch of the sets; every bit-character; every alternative spin on a situation - all beautifully transformed into a number of short, comical clippets for us all to enjoy. Furthermore, these boys know their Star Wars - there are references and quotes throughout that I feel will make even the most devoted of SW fans blush - so it's unlikely to see much shtick from aggrieved sci-fi fans.
As ever, the cast is as A-list as they come, and is a further testament to their love of the franchise. Ahmed Best (the original Jar Jar Binks), Anthony Daniels (the original C-3PO) and Billy Dee Williams (the original Lando Calrissian) are just three examples of Star Wars icons who lend a voice to the spoof, giving the release a degree of authenticity rarely seen these days. Backed up by the likes of Donald Faison (Turk from Scrubs), Zac Efron and Breckin Meyer, Robot Chicken have once again outdone themselves, offering viewers some of the finest and most-recognisable voices to date.
However, it is the blissfully ironic casting of Seth MacFarlane - a somewhat pivotal addition to the episode - that continues to make me laugh. With critics panning the Family Guy Star Wars covers, it's peculiar that Mr. MacFarlane would make himself so readily available for what is ultimately a competitor. That said, Seth Green does play Chris Griffin in MacFarlane's Family Guy - and MacFarlane has just signed a $100 million deal with Fox to become the world's highest paid television writer - so maybe he's just in it for the fun. Don't get me wrong, the guy is one of my icons, but it's humorous nonetheless.
Overall, Episode III is a welcomed addition to Robot Chicken's back catalgoue, but fans and viewers alike should be aware that this is the weakest of the three. The jokes are insane; the casting is spectacular; and there is a genuine love and loyalty to the sci-fi giant, but the episode's overall hit and miss ratio is much worse than its two previous instalments. When it gets it right, boy does it get it right - on a number of occasions we simply had to rewind and rewatch certain clips, such was the laughter gained from it - but, ultimately, the back story running throughout felt out of place (IMO).
If you are a fan, you are probably going to buy this regardless, and I don't blame you - Robot Chicken is, for me at least, the most original animated comedy on the market at the moment. However, for new viewers to the franchise, I suggest you start with Robot Chicken: Star Wars Episode I or II, as it would be unfair to tarnish your impression of the series from this instalment.
A fine bevy of comical extras litter the 'special features' of Episode III, and I'd say they actually deserve equal - if not more - praise than the episode itself. Deleted scenes, Robot Chicken panel Q&A, trailers, special commentary - everything you could ask for is there. It's a shame that the episode itself isn't a bit better, because the extras alone make a great little addition.
Robot Chicken: Star Wars Episode III is released on July 4th and can be pre-ordered now.
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