A university is just a group of buildings gathered around a library. ~Shelby Foote

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

A Really Late Movie Review

Spoiler alert: If you are even slower than I am in watching movies, I will be discussing important bits about the movies-- so don't read on if you have been living in a cave and don't know how the Star Wars saga turns out.

Okay, so over the weekend I watched Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones and Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith with my kids. Having heard the various criticisms of them both when they came out, my expectations weren't too high, and consequently I wasn't disappointed. Actually, they were both entertaining, and it is startling to see how far the effects have come in the nearly 30 years since IV was on the big screen.

And I rather liked Hayden Christensen in II-- I found his tightly held anger and resentment pretty believable, and what clunkiness there was I mostly attribute to the writing. Which, quite frankly, was pretty bad. Unquestionably the worst part of both films-- I don't know if Lucas lost whatever gift he had that made the banter good in IV-VI, or if the first three are just so much darker that the tone he used in the IV-VI is just totally out of place in the first three. Maybe a bit of both explanations, but in general the dialogue was dreadful. The only consistent exceptions to that observation were the scenes between Christensen and Natalie Portman, the scenes with Christopher Lee, and the scenes with Yoda. Some of the scenes between Ewan McGregor and Christensen are absolutely torturous, and Samuel L. Jackson comes across as a rather daft cardboard cutout hero.

So, the action scenes were very good, and the movies were generally fun to watch-- as fortunately the dialogue is fairly limited. And the plot had potential-- though handicapped by the fact that we know what's going to happen in the end. A definite drawback to making parts I-III after parts IV-VI. The plot was also handicapped by the dialogue-- it became somewhat difficult to figure out what was going on because much of that was explained in the Jedi Councils, which were almost as painful to listen to as some of the scenes between McGregor and Christensen.

A few other annoying bits. The largest of which is that Annakin's decision to join the darkside is waaaaaaaaaaaay to abrupt and, to me anyway, almost completely unbelievable. He goes from turning Palpatine in to about an hour later saving the old slimebucket's biscuits and killing one of the most prominent Jedis in the galaxy. After that, he starts killing willy-nilly, including slaughtering a bunch of sever-year-olds at Jedi Central. The "moment of truth" was awkward enough, but then his complete and total surrender to Palpatine was just brutally unbelievable to me-- this was a man who had struggled his entire life to leash his incredibly strong abilities and ego to serve under others. He had never once been entirely successful at subjigating his will to someone else's direction-- and suddenly he's killing kids and abandoning every priniciple he's ever believed in for a guy that an hour earlier he had nearly killed.

Not. Buying. It.

Other annoying bits-- what the hell is Obi Wan doing letting Annakin burn slowly to death on the shores of that lava lake? A) Annakin is the 2nd most dangerous enemy to the Jedi in the entire galaxy-- don't you bloody well make sure he's dead? B) Only a minute or so before, Obi Wan had bemoaned the loss of Annakin-- his brother-- to the dark side. If your apprentice, a man who was like a brother to you, is slowly and painfully dying on the shores of a lava lake on some desolate hell-like wasteland you either try to save him or put him out of his misery. You don't just shake your head and walk away.

"Well, that's that then. Pity about the lad-- loved him like a brother, but hey, I have other stuff to attend to. Guess I'll just let him slowly die here with 2nd and 3rd degree burns over most of his body and his legs cut off below the knee."

If all the Jedi can sense the Force in each other, how come no one sensed the Force, much less the Dark Side, in Palpatine?

Given that the Emperor presumably has a full biography on his new apprentice, Annakin Skywalker, why does it never occur to him that Darth's kid might be on Tatooie? Being raised by Annakin's only remaining family?

Smallest complaint-- if you have Natalie Portman, both talented and gorgeous, as the only woman of any consequence in your film, don't you A) Get her on screen far more often than Lucas did, and B) Find something like the Princess Leia slave bikini outfit for her to wear at some point in the film?

Okay, enough nitpicking. I really enjoyed Christopher Lee as Count Dooku-- his career has made a remarkable comeback, with significant roles in both The Lord of the Rings and Star Wars in recent years. Good for him.

The scenes with Yoda were all great-- Frank Oz is terrific as his voice, and the CGI/Muppet stuff is wonderful.

Overall rating, II is the best of the first trio, and I'd probably give it a hesitant thumbs up. III was good up until Annakin's conversion-- then it rapidly went over the top into the theater of the absurd. Might be worth it for the battle scene between the Emperor and Yoda.

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Comments:
Great review—you nailed most of the problem with the second run Star Wars saga: the writing, and the acting. Oh, yes, and the story. There was absolutely no suspense, we knew everything that was going to happen.

I especially liked the part where Natalie Portman wills herself to die, right after giving birth to twins. Maternal instincts, you gotta love them. Good luck, kids! I’m sure you’ll have great lives somewhere!

Finally, those clone armies, how pathetic are they? Shooting their underpowered little blasters, no air support, no artillery, very little heavy weaponry. Heck, the Iraqi army could take them.

Lucas shouldn’t have made a prequel. I guess he needed another billion or two to put into his bank account.
 
I actually thought the acting was pretty good-- there's only so much you can do with the plot and dialogue Lucas gave them to work with. And those underpowered clone armies turned into the storm troopers-- that part I didn't really have a problem with.

There were plenty of other things to have a problem with. ;->
 
I don't know... I thought the new trilogy was pretty pathetic. It was entertaining at times, and the overall story concept is/was a good one, but it comepletely falls apart upon close scrutiny. I found the acting inconsistent and the dialogue, as you said, was just dreadful. There was no chemistry IMO between Padme and Annakin and I found their whole relationship unbelievable from every angle.

I don't know. I remain unimpressed.
 
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