Monday, May 30, 2005

Revenge of the Sith

There are many things that George Lucas is. There are also several that he is not. Both of these classifications are very apparent in the latest Star Wars installment, Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith.

Lucas is visionary - given the story he wanted to tell, he was quite able to assemble the components to accomplish exactly that: the production staff, special effects and technological capabilities, and of course the visual element composition (though his role in this was likely more story-board approval than creation). The pieces of the over-arching plot to connect these previous episodes and lay the groundwork for the first original film from 1977 fall into place obviously but appropriately for the intended audience. "Intended audience" has obviously been a major influence in these most recent films, with several nods toward the younger crowd that has been the merchandising cash-cow. This last installment abandoned much of that premise with its extremely dark material and made it much more palatable for the adult consumer. And the soundtrack was phenomenal.

However, the list of good bits is, I'm afraid, the short one. While Lucas may be able to represent conflict on a galactic scale (which was so far buried in the sub-text of the last 2 films as to be very disappointing), he completely lacks humanity. I once heard an excellent definition of "romantic" as: ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. Here in this film the characters are so far from believable alignment in their motivations as to be outlandish and caricatured; grotesque and unrecognizable. And this is saying quite a lot - the human perspective will anthropomorphize pretty much anything to imbue it with those elements which make it that much easier to treat it in a familiar way. However, when the expectation is for the personality to already exist and we find it failing the result is a revulsion. Add bad acting and it's really a disappointment.

Natalie Portman did OK - her talent comes through in the portrayal of Padme and is satisfying. This owes partly to the writing in that hers is also the most believable character. Hayden Christensen raised the bar from the previous film, though this is hardly a challenge with as low as the expectation had been set. Still wooden, but more intense in the projection of negative emotion - which there is certainly quite a bit of. Combining this with the unbelievably swift transition to the dark side and Anakin Skywalker becomes a farcical image of angst. The motivation of "I want to save 1 person so I'll kill everyone else and sacrifice all" is not something to which the public can easily relate. At some point the concept of "greater good" becomes overriding.

I am a husband and father - I have 2 beautiful little girls. I know what it's like to worry about every part of the process of bringing one of them into the world, up to and including the extremely visceral act of child birth. And if the evil extreme ruler of the galaxy held the only clue to saving mother and child, I would still have to do away with him. No question (don't hit me, my wife agrees).

Humanity is the point of all this, as mentioned. It's something Lucas (who has writing credits on this movie) cannot satisfactorily capture. Even during the wrap up when Senator Organa is taking the infant Leia home to Alderaan - and his wife just sits there waiting for him to bring her over for the introduction! Let's dissect this - a husband, returning home from an embattled planet during a war that has led to the overturning of the values of the previous regime, with a new child. And would any woman sit there demurely waiting for him to waltz on in? Um - no. But that made the better camera angle and didn't put too much emphasis or interest on what are supposed to be side characters, so don't bother developing them too much.

*Sigh*. This is not meant to be a blow by blow, so I'll knock that off. Otherwise this would be way too long.

Other major components missing are physics (planets which couldn't possibly hold a breathable atmosphere, inaccurate principles applied during space combat), medicine (evidence of grossly negligent or completely absent prenatal care, inconsistent application of terms ["surgery" mentioned but natural child-birth portrayed - and where's the epidural? fluid replenishment? support equipment (or read-outs)?], etc. - and this is supposed to be at a far advanced level of technology at that), and theology.

But hey, the fights looked good, right? And even if nobody in their right mind goes to bed with fresh lip-gloss on, the screen is still lit-up beautifully. The public will buy anything that's at least pretty, so that's all that matters.

There's more, but it's a holiday and I'm going to spend a little more time with family.

- Paul

PS. Obi Wan: "Only Sith deal in absolutes." That's like, "Help stamp out Intolerance!" or "I HATE bigots!" (which I read in someone's online profile once). To quote the highly sarcastic words of the venerable Sideshow Bob: "That was a well-plotted piece of non clap-trap that never made me want to retch." Good grief.

1 comment:

Rick said...

Thank you! Aaaggghhh! Everyone I've tried to complain to becomes immediately defensive. Like there's something wrong with ME for not being completely enamored of George Lucas. He loves himself enough for all of us, I think. Best Star Wars movie ever?! NOT, if anything to say about it have I.