Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Star Wars III

I had a column in my high school newspaper one year devoted to 'critiquing' (read insulting) a variety of classics, but never once was there a work of literature or cinema that I have hated as much as the new Star Wars. Sad, but true. Including, by the way, the Lord of the Rings books, which is a whole separate rant and one that will probably get me lynched some day.
Anyway, I went to Star Wars with my brother Mike expecting it to be awful (I had seen the two previous ones), but hoping that it would at least be entertainingly awful. I was disappointed. Not that it didn't have its laughs (never intended by the scriptwriters), but such moments were drowned by the flood of unmitigated awfulness.
I will try to list my objections in some sort of orderly fashion:
1) The scene cuts. Apparently whoever wrote the accursed script thought that anyone viewing it had an attention span of about ten seconds, so it refused to focus on any battle, conversation, or inner musing for more than that. Any dialogue was limited to about three back and forth lines, and that's counting the 'clever' or 'drawing' one that they always had to end with and of course the cut-away shot. The light-saber battles would always be spliced with one another because somehow that would bore the short-attentioned watcher less. And any quiet dialogue had to be frequented alleviated with loud action shots involved light-sabers or space-ships. I was more than once tempted to scream out that I was not a moron, but the fact that I was watching the movie seemed to belay that.
2) The dialogue. Oh, that dialogue. A classic example is the Anakin/Padme conversation about exactly why she is so beautiful. I quote (as best as I can recall): 'You're so beautiful.' long pause. 'That's because I'm so in love.' Pause. 'No, that's because I'm so in love with you.' Pause. 'Are you saying that your love blinds you?' Very long pause where nobody cracks a blinking smile. 'That's...not exactly what I meant.' Cut-away camera shot to some more exciting action scene that would engage my quickly-fading brain cells. HELLO? Is that dialogue? Is that normal? Or what exactly is with the word 'youngling'? 'He kills younglings?' Of all the times not to add an exotic flavor to your pathetic script, the sentences discussing exactly how evil the hero has become and trying for some shock value are NOT the ones to call children younglings as if they were...puppies or something like that. And of course, the words that will echo in my nightmares for a long, long time- "I have been waiting for this moment a long, long time, my" I'd quote more examples but A) Almost every line was awful and B) They tried to avoid dialogue in favor of action scenes, which started all to look the same.
3)Acting. Little Orphan Ani's tranformation makes no sense unless he's insanely emotional (even then it takes believing). The fact that the actor had no talent and no emotions did not help my straining suspension of disbelief. The emperor was moderately better; at least his Cookie-Monsterlike "Gooooooooood" made me laugh (at, not with). Padme was simply annoying, Yoda was typical Yoda, though stilted, and no one else really mattered enough to be painful. Obiwan was actually a decent actor and got my only genuine moment of empathy for the film with his 'You were like my brother' line.
4)Plot. Talk about suspension of disbelief. Why exactly does the secretly married couple have public romance scenes, an unexplained pregnancy, and a shared apartment? And how does she go from invisibly pregnant to nine-months in what seems to be a few weeks? Why do the newborn babies look that way?(I've seen a newborn within minutes of a birth, and trust me, those babies are not it) Why kill the children- they might make good Sithlings? Why does Obiwan leave Anakin almost dead, but not quite? Mercy, if not intelligence, would have gotten me to finish him off instead of letting him be eaten alive by lava. Why does nobody on the council notice the whole going-evil thing and have just a bit of tact? I mean, flatter the stupid boy, call him master if he wants, who's it going to hurt? But of course, the most glaring and disappointing problem was the story of Anakin's reasons for going evil. I personally had been hoping for something very deep, very Machiavellian, about his having strength and that being all that matters, a bit of might-makes-right, a bit of why-evil-is-funner-than-self-control, etc. Instead, there was some convoluted mixture of worry about his ridiculous wife and the treason charges, ricocheting randomly back from one to the other whenever they got sick of one idea. But even worse, if possible, was the end of this sequence, where Anakin went from painfully deciding to save the chancellor to slaughtering little children and choking his wife with no further moral struggles in between. If I were going down to the Dark Side, I'd have a lot more issues murdering children (younglings, I should say) than preventing a pre-mature execution. But maybe that's just me.
5)Messages. Yoda told Anakin to release all feelings for all people; he didn't and went to the Dark Side. Is then the message of the film that Yoda is right and we should stop loving everyone? Or is that just for Jedis? Had I been Yoda or anyone trying to give a young lad some advice, it would have been: Shut up about your stupid feelings. Forget your blinking feelings, nobody cares about your stupid feelings. Use your blinking brain, and if you're worried about your wife, go. to. a. doctor. But Yoda advised differently, and he's 900 of something, so perhaps he's right. Although his strategy didn't work all that well.
6) Subtleties. Learn to write them, my friends. When Anakin was refused the rank of master and was inexplicably enraged, he threw a temper tantrum on the Council floor, probably not the best way to prove his maturity. The scene would have lost nothing in terms of foreshadows of evil, and gained so, so much in terms of not causing pain had he said, simply and expressionlessly (and expressionlessness is his specialty, whether or not you want it) 'Of course,' nodded once and sat down. I think that the scriptwriters should have had enough faith in the viewers' intelligence to believe that they would have noticed the reaction without the tantrum. And how about the line 'This is how liberty dies- in thunderous applause.' Thank you, Padme, we had noticed that liberty was dying- you've got a political body here where only one person speaks and he is allowed to vote himself absolute dictatorship- we didn't need you to point out where this meeting was going.
And, to be fair, 7) The good things. Obiwan was adequately acted, with the one genuine line of the movie (see above). And Anakin had a good evil face. And lastly, and so very thankfully, there was no Jar Jar Binks. Had he actually been present, I might have been forced to charge the screen, screaming incoherently and attempting to remove him from the universe for the good of humanity.
I'm sure there are a myriad of other problems, but I think this post is quite long enough.


Tobie said...

Btw- thanks to my brother for his assistance in recalling all of the insults that we had raised throughout our viewing of the film.

Mike said...

I think it is unfair to Lord of The Rings to put it with Star Wars. Lord of the Rings took a pretty bad plotline and characters to develop and pushed them aside enough for people to enjoy the movie and action. Star Wars took a potentially great plotline and great potential characters and put them so badly even the cool and expensive action was overdone in a last ditch attempt to save the film. I wonder if they realized how bad it was too late so they kept the scenes short as possible to minimize the pain.

talia said...

tobie-excellent review (and i'm usually the one who calls you too critical). who says spending time on the internet doesn't do anything- I just saved $7.50!

Mike said...

Also it would have made sense for the Council to find out about the marriage and throw him out. He turns to the Dark Side to continue training and attempts to kill the Jedi as revenge

MiriK said...

did you notice, for all their trying so hard not to bore us, that boring us was the one thing they managed to accomplish with this film? there are many ways to rant abt the dismal final three Star Wars movies...but the truth of the matter is, if you watch the original three, the writing was just as stilted, the romances almost as forced, the plots and subplots just as implausible etc etc etc. the difference was, there they actually had decent actors with some amt of talent and chemistry between them and a way cuter furry sidekick.

Mike said...

Jar-Jar is not fuzzy but Episode 3 showed signs of trouble ahead with the Ewoks