Friday, August 26, 2005

Star Wars, Nothin' But Star Wars

I finally got around to seeing the latest Star Wars. Revenge of the Sith, is it? Something like that anyway. Let me first say that the last Star Wars I saw was The Empire Strikes Back, from which you might conclude that I am not a big fan of the Star Wars movies. And that conclusion would be correct.


I absolutely loved the first Star Wars. Granted I was a wee and unsophisticated lassie when it came out and had very little movie-going experience under my belt, but as soon as I heard the opening bars of John Williams' splendid score and saw that prologue scrolling horizontally through Deep Space, I knew it was going to be like no other movie I’d ever seen. It had my full attention. I just marveled at how innovative it all seemed: the planet with two suns; the way the stars blurred when the Millennium Falcon went into warp speed (the term warp speed!), the primeval scariness of Darth Vader, the comedy duo of R2D2 and C3P0. It was all just so well imagined; I really felt I had entered another world.

Naturally, I was super excited when The Empire Strikes Back finally came out. Eh. I found it boring and remember very little of it, except that Harrison Ford gets turned into pencil lead. I wasn’t motivated to see any more effete Star Wars sequels after that. But when the original Star Wars was re-released in 1997, I did go see it again, just to see if it was as groundbreaking and awesome as I remembered it.

As an adult I could tell that the acting was, for the most part, cringingly bad. The plot and character development was rudimentary, but I suppose the characters are meant to be archetypes. Also, Luke Skywalker’s haircut! All winged out on one side. Did Mark Hamel just cut his own hair or what? I’d forgotten that guys’ hairstyles were so unpremeditated back in the 1970s.

Still. Despite the fact that as an adult I could see flaws, it’s still a great movie. And it truly was innovative for its time.

So. The new one. Revenge of the Sith or whatever. My interest in the movie was so tepid, that I hadn’t even bothered to find out who was in it and spent most of the movie wondering why they had such an incompetent actor playing Anakin Skywalker. An actor who made Natalie Portman, whom I normally cannot stomach at all, look good. I was shocked to realize at the end of the movie that it was Hayden Christianson, who did such an excellent job portraying the fabricating journalist and top-notch dork Stephen Glass in Shattered Glass, who played Anakin Skywalker. I guess that just goes to show how awful the script and story were. I also had no idea that Obi Wan Kenobi was being played by Ewen MacGregor. The beard totally neutralized his usual lustworthiness. Note to Ewen: Accept no more parts that require you to grow a beard!

I guess the movie was supposed to be all about wowza special effects, something I have little patience for--especially with the absence of story and character development/motivation. Of course, it was CGI all over the place. It made the movie look phony and cluttered. There were too many light-sabre fights; too many spaceship battles; and too many things that blowed up. Plus, are we really supposed to believe that one Jedi knight, armed with one light sabre, is going to be able to defend himself against a droid with six arms (and six light sabres) and a cadre of droid henchmen? What? The droids never thought to sneak up behind the Jedi and slice his head off? Hmmm. Let’s just say that I wasn’t the only person in the audience guffawing in disbelief.

There were a few things I liked.

  • R2D2. Who knew he was such a talented computer hacker and assassin? I wonder why he didn’t use those skills in the original Star Wars, where all he did was beep endearingly.
  • The cityscapes. I’m a sucker for any movie that is set in a sinister futuristic city with a lot of weird-ass skyscrapers (Batman, Dark City). I could have done without the constant visual noise of traffic—all those air vehicles buzzing about in the background. Very distracting to the eye.
  • The transformation of Anakin Skywalker into Darth Vader. This is something I’ve been waiting for ever since I saw that one scene in one of the earlier movies, where you get a brief glimpse of the helmet being fitted over Vader’s horribly deformed head. I was suitably impressed with the Skywalker-to-Vader operation until, transformation complete, he asks about the status of his wife (FYI: dead) and lets out a girly squeal of anguish.

Most un-Darthly.


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