Thursday, May 19, 2005

Revenge of the Sith

dir. George Lucas

This will be a bit of an essay as well, so I hope you stick with me and read the whole thing, but if you skip around, I will completely understand. First off, like it seems we all have to do, I will defend my fondness for Star Wars. While waiting to go see the noon showing today at the Wynsong 16, I gave a cigarette to a guy dressed up like Darth Vader, and we talked for a bit. I can't tell you what a surreal experience that was, but I try to be accepting of every weirdo I meet. Anyways, after the movie was over, he passed by me and asked me what I thought of the movie. I told him how indifferent the whole experience made me feel, and he said, rather rudely, that I must not be a true "Star Wars" fan because if I was I would have appreciated the film more. Damn! That's the last time I give Darth Vader a ciggarette.

So, I love Episode's 4 and 5 ("The New Hope" and "Empire Strikes Back"). As for "Return of the Jedi," it always has left me a little cold in the end (more on that in the next paragraph). I found "The Phantom Menace" to be as entertaining as a movie about intergalatic real estate can be. And, having recently watched "Phantom Menace" and "Attack of the Clones" again, I have to say that "Attack of the Clones" is possibly the worst of the bunch. At least "Phantom Menace" had the performance of Liam Neeson and the best light saber duel of this trilogy. "Attack of the Clones" just had a lot of color and even worse dialouge, but it did have that kick ass performance by Christopher Lee. So, basically I fall into, as far as the movies go, your average "Star Wars" fanbase. I do not collect the merchandise or dress up like the characters, but I have enjoyed the franchise for the most part.

What I can't figure out is why people were shocked that "Phantom Menace" and "Attack of the Clones" were less than par? Granted, these are prequels, but it's still the fourth and fifth film to be released in the franchise, and how many part 4's and 5's from other film series do you know that are that special (Halloween 4, Lethal Weapon 4, Police Academy 5: Assignment Miami Beach). I'm not seriously comparing "Star Wars" to "Police Academy," but I think you can catch my drift. Also, why are so many "Star Wars" fans so hard headed that they don't see how Lucas started losing focus as early as "Return of the Jedi?" Yes the opening sequence with Jabba the Hut is a lot of fun, but it really has no bearing on the rest of the film. Han Solo was turned into some kind of goofy love struck dude with some terrible one-liners. Bitch about Hammil as much as you want, but in episode's 4 and 5 I always thought he was fine as the youngster wanting to be a Jedi; however, in "Return" the transformation to bad ass Jedi was just too much for this limited actor to handle. The Ewoks have been talked about enough, but the fact that only one of these weak ass creatures dies in the battle has always struck me as ridiculous. And the most insulting aspect was the revelation that Leia was Luke's sister. I really don't think this was Lucas's plan in the long run; I think he needed a twist comparable to "Luke, I am your father," so this is what we got. Because, if he did plan this, we probably wouldn't have seen Luke's jealousy and flirting in the first couple of films; after the revelation in Jedi, those scenes become flat out creepy. "Return" showed that Lucas was becoming money hungry. He knew the more aliens, the more action figures and merchandise he could sell. He saw a way to build an empire on this thing, and the result was a lack luster film that for some reason has been overpraised by the masses.

That being said, "Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith" is the best film to come out of the franchise since "Empire Strikes Back." And with that being said, "Revenge of the Sith" still isn't very good. The opening battle sequence is awesome to a point; I especially loved R2D2's roll in it. As KW mentioned it harked back to him fighting along Luke in "New Hope." What I didn't like was the fact that they kill off Count Dooku, and they don't even make it a hard fought battle. Like I said, Christopher Lee was the best thing about "Clones," and might be the best thing about this trilogy, but to kill him off in such a lame ass way just sucks. At least he didn't have the Captain Kirk line from "Star Trek: Generations": "It's been fun." After this, the movie is rather boring for about the next thirty minutes or so. Everyone's talked about the bad dialouge, especially between Anakin and Padame, and eveyone has been dead on. I don't remember one good line from the film. Even "You were supposed to be the Chosen One" came off a little stale to me. The last act is the one everyone came to see, and I have to say it only made the movie a tad better. I found the final fight between Anakin and Obi Wan to be rather well done, but the one between Yoda and Palpatine is even better. This trilogy has made me actually like Yoda a little bit; I alwasy thought he was the one weak link in "Empire Strikes Back." And yes, it's cool to see Darth Vader be unveiled, and especially cool to hear James Earl Jones again. Luke and Leia are born, yippee!!! So on, and so on. But what lead up to it is so uninteresting that it comes off a little anticlimatic.

As far as the performances go, I don't know what to say. It's a lot of fine actors given bad dialouge or very little (Christopher Lee), and they do what they can. Samuel L. Jackson has never really worked for me in this trilogy. He is one of our finest actors working today, but he just doesn't fit in this universe. I can't blame him for taking a shot at it. Ewan McGregor is fine; I give him credit for keeping a straight face with a lot of these lines. Ian McDiarmid seems to be getting a lot of praise, but frankly I thought he was a little over the top. Natalie Portman and Jimmy Smits are given so little to do, I don't really know how to critique them. So, the big question for most people is how does Hayden Christensen do? I really thought he was going to give one hell of a performance after the first battle sequence. He was really good in these moments, but then he turns into his usual whinny self. This just wasn't the actor to pull off this transformantion. His decision to join the Dark Side is not executed well at all; one moment he's turning against Palpatine and then not two minutes later he's calling him master. Granted, this has a lot to do with the writing, but I don't think Christensen would have pulled this off any better with David Mamet or Paul Haggis at the reigns.

Other bad things in the film. General Grievious is a terrible creation. There's nothing interesting about him; he's a droid for christ sakes. I wish Dooku could have just taken all of his scenes. The romance between Christensen and Portman is terrible; no chemistry, and the birth of the twins is one of those don't blink or you'll miss it things. The killing of the Jedis has no build up or drama to it; it just kind of happens. The light saber duels, compared to the other films, are not really up to par.

What's good? The movie looks incredible. The first two chapters in this trilogy were just way too colorful and CG enhanced for my tastes. But with the technology advancement and Lucas's eye for detail, he has created one of the best looking movies ever made. I could probably watch this movie again for that alone. I already mentioned R2D2, but he ends up being, along with Yoda, the most interesting character in the movie. And for the fan boy in me, it was fun to see Darth Vader rise, and them watching the Death Star being built (even if chronologically that makes no sense). And there are quite a few other nice moments spread throughout the film, but you got to wade through a lot of mindless shit to get to them.

Overall, the film just didn't really work for me. I went in with no expectations, and left, as I told Mr. Vader, feeling rather indifferent. The funny thing is, this is one of those movies that no matter what we say about it everyone's going to be seeing it anyways. So, I'm just chiming in with my two cents. And if I learned anything from the movie, it's that if I'm ever in a light saber battle I will not be letting my opponent take the higher ground.



At 5/19/2005 04:16:00 PM, Blogger Jonathan said...

Something I forgot to mention. When I was walking into the theater to see the film there was actually a sign that said "Please turn off all light sabers and cell phones." Man, that seriously made my day.

At 5/19/2005 04:47:00 PM, Blogger Kennelworthy said...

That's hilarious!

I think I enjoyed your bit about the "turn off lightsabers" sign and the story of Darth Ungrateful Cigarette Taker Vader more than I enjoyed the actual movie.

Here's something: I didn't see the movie with a crowd. Some I've read on other sites who praise the movie saw it with all their friends, in a packed auditorium full of dressed up weirdos. That might actually have helped me overlook the inane stuff more.

And I've also noticed an intense backlash (on AICN and other sites) from people who loved the movie. They, much like the Smoking Vader you met, seem to indicate that anyone who doesn't like the movie is a moron, is not a true fan, and has been waiting for years to bash this movie. That really bugs me. But what are you going to do?

Man, I'm giggling and grumbling all at once that the Vader guy told you that you weren't a real fan! This is the mindset of many (read: not Chris) who like the movie!

The freaking high ground, man. That's still bothering me! He might as well have said, "Don't try it Anakin...I'm downwind of you!" Argh.

By the way, Jonathan, nice point about Jedi and the commercialism. I think you're right. I think Lucas has two obsessions: digital filmmaking and moneymaking. Unfortunately, he doesn't have to make good movies to acheive those two goals.

Last thought of the day (I promise): It's sad to me that the Qui Gon and Obi Wan duel with Darth Maul is the best of the prequels. Here's the first prequel, where we have to adjust as viewers to not only a younger Obi Wan but also a brand new character or two in Qui Gon and Maul...and you'd think it'd be tough for that duel to have much emotional resonance...but it does. I still get chills watching calm Qui Gon meditate while wild Maul paces back and forth like a Tiger.

And in ROTS, the mother of all duels...with characters we've come to know and be used to in Obi Wan and Anakin. And the duel just falls flat. Sad.


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