Thursday, May 19, 2005

And Lucas stays in the game...

... barely. I would not call Revenge of the Sith a strike, but it was definitely not a home-run. At most it was a base hit. But it honestly felt more like a ball. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the movie. But it was not the Star Wars that I have known and loved for 25 years. It's a lot closer than The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones though, that's for sure, which is one thing it has going for it. But still, there's really no excuse for mediocrity. This movie should be AWESOME, given the incredible plot line and build up - it should make people jump out of their seats in thunderous applause. Come one, we're talking about the transformation of the greatest villain in modern pop culture here, for God's sake! There are small moments that pop up here and there throughout, which, taken on their own, do have resounding effect. The trick is keeping it up for the entire movie, and it doesn't even come close to that. At the end, it got a smattering of golf-applause at the most. And this was at the midnight opening on the day of the release, when the crowds are at their wildest - if the movie is deserving of course.

I mean, it's pretty obvious that I wasn't too impressed since I couldn't even bring myself to write this until 6:00 the next day. I had to process it and figure out what I really feel. I can say for sure that I am SICK TO DEATH of the whiny nitpickers out there. But I guess they come out of the woodwork for any highly anticipated fan-based movie. It's just a fact of life I suppose. Same thing happened for Return of the King when it was released. Too much expectation and hype do not a good thing make.

Okay, here's one glaring problem that I can point to outright (and it's not a nitpick - it is a problem, plain and simple): the prequels as a whole are just not as accessible to people because of their plot complications. I know these complicatons are needed in order to tell the story, but I have no doubt that it could be told in a less confusing manner, using more concise dialogue, by a better screenwriter. Personally, I had no problem following along and very much enjoyed a lot of the subtle undertones and plot points of Palpatine scheming and playing both sides, but I know it was confusing to many people, due to the amount of which I had to explain to my friends (who are Star Wars fans, but don't follow the universe as closely as I do) after the fact. The original trilogy films are accessible to everyone, not just Star Wars fans - the prequels are not. Especially when Lucas throws in random references to the Extended Universe, such as Grievous' whooping cough. Which is just plain unacceptable. It leaves glaring plot holes to the casual movie-watcher that cannot be filled without reading the novels/watching the Clone Wars cartoon/etc. (not to mention a few plotholes that cannot be filled at all).

There is also a level of inaccessibility arising from the fact that there is no clear wrong and right in the prequels. It's always jumbled and full of shades of gray. For instance, in the scrolling text at the opening of Revenge of the Sith it talks about "War!" and how there are heroes on both sides and evil on both sides ("evil is everywhere"). I don't think that a lot of people really "get" this shades-of-gray thing. Or not that they don't "get" it, but that they don't really want to go into the philosophy of the world in escapist movies. They want to see Darth Vader kick some ass, plain and simple. I don't agree - I love that philosophy shit, but I don't think most kids/teenagers/people who just want to get away from it all like it. Favorite lines from the whole movie:

Anakin: "If you're not with me, you are my enemy."
Obi-wan: "Only a Sith speaks in absolutes."


I have a feeling that this "shades of gray" thing is the reason behind the complaints about how quickly Anakin's transformation to the Dark Side went - or how they really didn't see the reason that he changed over. Now see, this is one thing that I really have no problem with - his transformation is subtle throughout his life, starting with being taken away from his mother to be trained as a Jedi (probably too old and arrogant already by that point) and to me, that's the way it should be. It just wouldn't be right to see Palpatine use the Force to force (hahaha - I made a funny) him to be his assistant - Anakin must make that decision on his own, and Palpatine must play him just like he's played both the Senate and the Separatists. Anakin has always possessed quite a bit of the Dark Side in his psyche, and Palpatine knows this and makes good use of it. For instance, when Anakin scissors off Dooku's head - I was yelling "No, don't do it!" at that point, even though I knew good and well that he was going to do it. But the 100% point of no return comes when he helps Palpatine kill off Mace Windu. After that, there was no other choice left for Anakin but to join with Palpatine. This is a disturbing and very well-done scene. Kudos to Samuel L. for really doing a great job in this film. Didn't particularly like him in the first two, but he has redeemed himself in my book.

Another thing I really don't have a problem with is Anakin's "whiny-ness". People say that he shouldn't be a whiny, arrogant brat because Vader is not a whiny, arrogant brat. Which is correct - if you are only referring to Original Trilogy Vader. But he had to become a mean killing machine who shows no mercy - he is not just born a mean killing machine who shows no mercy. His arrogance is key to his eventually becoming the evil villain that we all know and love. His arrogance is what causes his transformation to "more machine than man". And that last bit of whiny arrogance died in him when he learned of Padme's death. And that is the point of no return for Vader. He will never show mercy or love again. He will feed off of other people's fear. That's pretty powerful imagery to me. But I CERTAINLY could have done without the slo-mo "NOOOOOOOOOOO" he lets out while in the Vader costume. Damn, that sucked. But at least now we know where Luke gets it from.

My main problem with the movie is that this powerful social commentary gets completely lost in needless plot complications, horrible dialogue, and showboat effects-for-effects'-sake. I honestly think that this is the main problem for the whole batch of prequels. Luckily the effects aren't quite so fake-looking in this one, so it's a little easier to ignore it, but it's still way too flashy, which detracts from the passionate story. And good LORD, Lucas, please let someone help you with the "love" dialogue and direction of the actors. As it stands, it is positively cringe-worthy and laughable. I felt no passion and no love whatsoever - umm, except the kiss at the beginning, but that's just because I was pretending to be Natalie Portman and it made me all hot and bothered - that boy is very nice to look at, I'll give him that much - and don't even get me started on the shirtless nightmare scene - *fans self*):

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Rooooooowwwwwwrrrrrr.

Ahem.... where were we?? (sorry I was getting boring and had to add some excitement to rev up the review)

Questions:

  • Yes, C3PO's memory gets erased, but what's to keep R2 from telling him everything later?

  • How does Padme go from just barely being pregnant to giving birth in a matter of days/weeks?

  • How can Leia remember her mother if her mother died so quickly after giving birth?

  • Why didn't Obi-wan kill Anakin and put him out of his misery after chopping off all his limbs and watching him burn? (Yes I obviously realize that if he had done this there would be no Original Trilogy in the first place, but it just seemed so out of-character for Obi-wan to let him burn like that.)

  • So who ordered the making of the Clone troops in the first place?

  • Why is Grievous such a crappy fighter in this one? He kicked so much ass in the Clone Wars cartoon - if you're going to make a huge deal out of the newest villain for merchandising, you might as well make him awesome (like Darth Maul was). I still think that the Sideshow Grievous statue is to die for, and will hopefully someday be able to afford it. I just wish Lucas had done a little more with him in the movie - he had such potential as a baddie.

  • And why did R2 kick so much ass? He had so many cool gadgets he was like Batman in this one. Too bad they never make an apperance in any other Star Wars movie...

  • Why do the kids have to be hidden? Vader doesn't even know they exist. And if the purpose was to hide them well, why did Luke get placed on Anakin's home planet, with Anakin's (half? step?) brother, using Anakin's last name? WTF?


Scenes that made me cry:

  • Anakin and Obi-wan parting ways as brothers - I knew what was going to happen and it devestated me.

  • The killing of the Jedi and burning of the Temple.

  • The whole Anakin vs. Obi-wan fight. I had been waiting 25 years to see this take place, and it was better and more powerful than I had imagined. I think I sobbed pretty much from the time he Force-choked Padme unil it was over.

  • Padme naming the twins. This was especially moving for me because Star Wars was my LIFE growing up - I was Leia and Luke was my brother. Hearing them being named brought back incredibly great memories.

  • Seeing Leia and Luke placed in their new homes and hearing the musical themes for each one. I absolutely adore the music from these films.


Wow, this is getting really really long, I better shut it down for the day. I'm going to have to go watch the Original Trilogy now, because I have a feeling it's going to have a different tone from now on. I'm eager to experience that. But I also need to watch Arrested Development Season 1 and some more Buffy. Oh, and thanks to my friend Kevin over at kapgar.com for pointing out that Scrubs Season 1 just came out Tuesday, which I promptly picked up at Best Buy last night. Arg.

I will close with a link to Darth Vader's final post on his blog. If you haven't read this already, I HIGHLY recommend it. All the great memories from childhood come flooding back. It's especially poignant after just watching Revenge of th Sith. Plus, I don't think I've ever seen a blog entry with over 400 comments before! Most impressive. I will miss the daily dose of Darth for sure. But I suppose all good things must come to an end.

Until next time....

6 Comments:

At 9:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Carol,

Yes, there are a lot of questions that need answers and there will be hundreds of theories thrown about to explain everything. Let me be the first...

Regarding Leia remembering her mother as per her line in ROTJ, I've got this theory: It's a created memory. I often wonder how many of my childhood memories are legitimate and how many are created by my brain in response to photos I've seen and snippets that people have told me about said events. It's possible that Leia remembers her mother via photos that she's seen in historical records (Padme was a Queen and a Senator after all, she would be noted in historical records), and if her public appearances are any indication thus far, she never smiled at any of them. These could be enhanced by information given to her by Bail who only really knew her as sad because they watched together as the Republic was thrown into civil war. Just my two Lincolns.

Oh, and you're welcome for the Scrubs news. Thanks for the reciprocating link as well. Got you on mine for the 50 Fun Things...

And why would this thing let me log in yesterday, but not today?

Okay.

Kevin at Kapgar.com

 
At 1:46 PM, Blogger Demosthenes said...

Quite amazing indeed... I just finished my own post concerning this topic and it touched on some of the exact points that yours did, including the cheesy "Nooooooooo!" line that every good drama must have. I think I have some answers for your questions, or at least some guesses that may or may not make any sense. Firstly, I was under the impression after reading the "Art Of" series for Star Wars that Senator Organa's wife was supposed to look a lot like Padme and that was actually what Leia remembered. Second, I'm getting sick of everyone calling the Greivous-Kenobi fight the best scene in the movie, because it was barely a fight, it was just Obi-Wan exerting human supremecy when it comes to light saber wielding. Greivous was definately a little on the weak side. And finally, the reason for Obi-Wan leaving Anakin alive... hm. Hm. Hm. HMMM. To be frank, he was missing 3/4 of his limbs (all of them if you consider that his mechanical arm means that his ACTUAL arm is already gone) and was on fire. Which was funny. And heart-wrenching at the same time. Anyway, maybe Obi-Wan didn't have the stomach to watch and I for one would have assumed that only the Black Knight for Monty Python could take that kind of punishment and live. But I can see his reasoning.

 
At 10:32 PM, Blogger Carol Danvers said...

Kevin - that is a new theory. I haven't heard that one yet, and I really appreciate originality, so thanks! Not sure about the logging-in thing - Blogger has a mind of its own sometimes I've heard :)

Demosthenes - I agree with both of your first comments. I still think it's out-of-character for Obi-wan to prolong Anakin's suffering by not killing him. I agree that he probably pretty much assumed that there was no way Anakin could survive what had happened, but to make him go through that suffering before inevitable death was very un-Jedi-like in my opinion. And I like your mention of the Black Knight too - that's exactly what I thought of after the 3 limbs were cut off - except there was no squirting blood since the lightsaber immediately cauterizes the wounds. Man, I love the Dark Knight scene in MP and the HG - I remember laughing myself silly on my first viewing of that movie... good memories!

Thanks for your comments!!

 
At 10:12 PM, Blogger Radioactive Jam said...

Another twins issue - surprising to see two apparently full-term, definitely full sized babies delivered from someone who looked barely six months along. But I admit to not keeping track of time; maybe it had been longer. Or maybe Naboo gestation is 5 or 6 months.

Something else that seemed "odd" - given the Death Star scene at the end, does that mean it took like, 15 or 20 years to finish? Again I'm not well versed in many details, so I might have misunderstood.

 
At 11:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jam,

Yeah, we've been debating the whole Death Star thing over at originaltrilogy.com. Nobody can really come up with a good answer for that one. Somebody hypothesized that, like a new car, the first model usually takes years to build and subsequent copies take far less time. But 20 years?!? But, who knows if a year there is the same as a year here.

-Kevin @ kapgar.com

 
At 7:06 AM, Anonymous David Kaspar said...

Nice analysis Carol, here are my 2c.

I think that Obi-One did not kill Anakin because it's against the Jedi code to kill unarmed foe.

Anakin himself mentions this just before killing Count Dookoo.

I watched New Hope just a day after ROTS and the Obi-One vs Darth Vader fight had a whole new meaning than when I watched it the first time.

Order 66 was a tear jerker :-)

 

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