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May 16, 2005

"I've Got A Bad Feeling About This"

Yeahp, the line that (I think) appears in every single Star Wars film captures my feelings about the upcoming final prequel. I had allowed myself to gain a New Hope about the possibility of the series' redemption, but now I fear it will be another attack of the clones.

Someone at NRO (forget who) said the movie was bad, bad, bad, and that critics had simply become so pussified that they couldn't bear to be on the wrong side of mass opinion (or Hollywood power) and thus claimed the film to be far better than it is.

The New York Times reviews the movie fairly enthusiastically... however, the review tends to praise the film for its technical achievements while denigrating the acting and scitpt. I remember that that's the same sort of "rave" Ebert gave the first Star Wars prequel. Trouble is, while special effects and major technical accomplishments are nice and everthing, a movie is only as good as the story it tells, and most of the positive reviews of the first prequel (and, I'm guessing, this one) neatly avoid that whole troublesome "story" thing.

Lucas is increasingly comfortable in his liberalism (having more money than all the Hutts in Huttspace will do that), and increasingly desperate to atone for the supposed proto-Reaganite cryptomilitarism that animated his original trilogy. ("Animated" is the right word, because that's what made the movies fresh and gave them life.) As in his previous two entries, he obliquely comments on modern-day politics, and I don't think many of you are going to like his newest shit:

More than that, the trajectory of the narrative cuts sharply against the optimistic grain of blockbuster Hollywood, in that we are witnessing a flawed hero devolving into a cruel and terrifying villain. It is a measure of the film's accomplishment that this process is genuinely upsetting, even if we are reminded that a measure of redemption lies over the horizon in "Return of the Jedi." And while Mr. Christensen's acting falls short of portraying the full psychological texture of this transformation, Mr. Lucas nonetheless grounds it in a cogent and (for the first time) comprehensible political context.

"This is how liberty dies - to thunderous applause," Padmé observes as senators, their fears and dreams of glory deftly manipulated by Palpatine, vote to give him sweeping new powers. "Revenge of the Sith" is about how a republic dismantles its own democratic principles, about how politics becomes militarized, about how a Manichaean ideology undermines the rational exercise of power. Mr. Lucas is clearly jabbing his light saber in the direction of some real-world political leaders. At one point, Darth Vader, already deep in the thrall of the dark side and echoing the words of George W. Bush, hisses at Obi-Wan, "If you're not with me, you're my enemy." Obi-Wan's response is likely to surface as a bumper sticker during the next election campaign: "Only a Sith thinks in absolutes." You may applaud this editorializing, or you may find it overwrought, but give Mr. Lucas his due. For decades he has been blamed (unjustly) for helping to lead American movies away from their early-70's engagement with political matters, and he deserves credit for trying to bring them back.

Eh, what the hell. It's space-fantasy. I guess I can put up with this sort of aging-boomer pablum to see an army of Wookies.

But really-- I've got a bad feeling about this.

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posted by Ace at 03:52 AM

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