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May 22, 2005
Star Wars: Sucks
Saw it late last night. I don't even think it merits a full review. I'll just make a few points:
1. You know that Christmas special, Santa Clause is Coming To Town, where they explain the origins of Santa and the various rituals associated with him? And then a chorus of off-screen children (to whom the story is being told) all say, "Ohhh! So that's why kids started writing letters to Santa!"
This whole trilogy was like that. Half the movies were just showing you how the original Star Wars trilogy myth began. "Ohhh, so that's how Anikin became Darth Vader!"
But none of this is necessary. Look, all that was just backstory in the first trilogy, and you don't need to show how the backstory happened. We all figured that Anikin was burned by fire or radiation or something, thus requiring his Vader armor/life support; does it really matter it turned out to be lava? I don't think so.
Half the plot points in these prequels aren't there to advance the story (such as it is) in the prequel trilogy, but just to explain the starting situation in Star Wars IV. And that's kind of boring.
2. Hayden Christiansen was better as Anikin, but not quite good. He's a bit beefier, a bit manlier, and the scar on his face and mechanical arm make him a bit less callow. As I was watching a late-night showing, I had to drink a lot of diet coke, and the Padme-Anikin scenes were welcome opportunities to use the lavatorial facilities. From what I saw of them, though, they were bad.
3. I still find the digital video fairly low-res and blurry and I miss the crispness of actual film.
4. In each of the first-trilogy films, there was a strong narrative drive. A leads to B leads to C leads to D, etc. (One exception, of a sort, is RotJ, which actually is two films-- the rescue Han film and then the assault on Endor film. But both of those stories had their own strong narrative drive.)
These prequels have nothing like that. Because there's no real narrative drive, they have to go to Jedi Council periodically and get some sort of random side-mission in order to find something to f'n' do with their time. These movies are like video games in more ways than one-- including, alas, in terms of story, where fairly self-contained and non-plot-advancing "side missions" are the norm.
There weren't any "side missions" in the first trilogy. Each next bit of action was more or less inevitable due to decisions and circumstances from the previous scenes. In each of the new movies, one could easily imagine a thousand other meaningless side-missions rather than the ones chosen without losing much at all.
Long story short: Everyone knocks Lucas on his dialogue. But any decent screenwriter can come in and give the dialogue a polish. His real failing as a writer is in terms of structure, plot, inevitablility, and narrative arc. And those problmes are much more difficult to fix, particularly if you have a headstrong filmmaker like Lucas who apparently isn't compentent enough to know he's incompetent.
5. The much praised action is actually kind of sucky. The opening battle starts promisingly enough, with a roller-coaster vertigo-inducing tracking shot of fighters weaving in between proto-Star Destroyers, but then the action gets too frenetic, too busy, too silly, and just too much to have much of an impact.
The later light-saber fights are like this. Yes, these guys move their light-sabers pretty damn quickly, and I guess their stunt-coordinators should be praised. But in so many scenes it's just the same damn thing over and over again, a tumble here, cutting a droid in half here, etc. And the very fast pace of the saber-fighting makes it a hard to follow; indeed, with all of the flashing light of the sabers, the fights just tend to look like stroboscopic dances where you really can't see much except white-blue flashes moving quickly across the screen.
6. Threepio gets his memory wiped. Artoo does not. That means that little bastard has known throughout the entire trilogy that Darth was Luke's father, and Leia his sister, and yet the little piece of shit never said a word. (And he could have of course-- not only did Threepio understand his buzzes and beepings, but of course Luke picked up his musical language eventually, too.)
7. No one has yet explained why, if the idea was to hide Anikin Skywalker's child "where the agents of the Sith would never find him," the best place to do so was on Anikin's home world of Tatooine, with his brother's family, and under his actual given name of Luke Skywalker.
Jesus. You want to knock the Stormtroopers' marksmanship; but they seem to be better shots than the Imperial Intelligence Division are detectives.
8. Lucas, an aging boomer liberal, feels bad about the original trilogy being pro-war and militaristic and about good guys versus bad guys. So now, with more money than God, he attempts to do another swashbuckler, except his liberal pieties won't admit of actual "bad guys" anymore.
The war here is of course all contrived, a "fictitious threat" if you will; both sides are pawns of Chancellor Palpatine. That really makes the movies sort of lame, because we know it really doesn't matter who wins in any particular engagement; Lucas' point is that war is futile, all created by the manipulations of the powerful.
Well, fine. But in that case, what the fuck does it matter if the Separtists win or the Republic wins? It doesn't.
Sorry, Lucas. But if you're going to make a swashbuckling space fantasy war movie, you really can't make it an anti-war movie, along the lines of What If They Gave a War and No One Showed Up? except with rayguns and light-sabers.
The final Matrix movie did this too-- the liberal filmmakers wanted to make an anti-war statement, so they contrived an unsatisfying conclusion whereby the humans just negotiated with the machines that had been exterminating/imprisoning them for hundreds of years.
A cop-out, I think. Throw a lot of action at the screen to impress the yabbos while constructing a confusing an unsatisfying point about peace being preferable to violence to impress the New York Times' film critic.
All in all-- a snoozer punctuated by occasional pretty flashing lights and silly robots and not a single surprise in the whole thing.
Oh, wait, there's one tiny suprise that comes right at the end, involving Liam Neeson's Qui-Jonn character; but it's a stupid surprise, and once again exists solely to explain something that happens in the later trilogy.
Wait for DVD.
"The Prophesy Said the Chosen One Would Bring Balance To the Force: And of course the prophecy turned out to be 100% right. Did a single Jedi, including the incredibly-wise Yoda, ever wonder if bringing "balance to the Force" was a good thing?
In the beginning of the trilogy, the Force was quite unblanced. There were several thousand Jedi and, as far as we know, two or three Sith, tops. The Force was "unblanced," but in a good way.
Well, Anikin sure did bring balance to the Force. At the end of this trilogy, there are two Sith and two Jedi left alive (well, four, if you count the infants Leia and Luke, but you really can't count them, as they're not Jedi yet).
Balance. Two and two. Can't get much more balanced than that.
Did this stupid green puppet Yoda ever once consider the possibility that you don't want "balance" when your side is clearly winning?
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