Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Full of Sith


(If you haven't seen Revenge of the Sith yet, be forewarned that this is chock full o' spoilers.If you don't care one way or the other, what are you doing here anyway? Go read Rosie O'Donnell's blog. Maybe there's a sequel to Riding the Bus with My Sister in the works.)

So the Star Wars saga is now complete. Revenge of the Sith, the third and final piece of the big jigsaw puzzle has been set into place, connecting the entire series together.

And the verdict is...

IT DOESN'T SUCK!

Everybody fanboy in the world has been tripping over themselves so that may grovel at the feet of George "Don't call me Toad" Lucas for not screwing this one up too.

"Shank you, Mishter Lucash! Shank you! You've given us all a reashon to live again! We have all been sho disshapointed in the lasht few yearsh. Shtar Trek let ush down....The Matrixsh shequelsh shucked...sho did The Lord of the Ringsh... Oh wait, that didn't shuck. But that was fantashy! Thish ish schinche fichtion! What you have done, George...can I call you George?... Mishter Lucash. Yesshir... What you have done with Shtar Warsh-Chapter Three-Revenge of the Shith is bring it all together and sheamlishly connect it with Shtar Warsh-Chapter Four: A New Hope. That'sh what you given ush...A New Hope. Shank you again for lowering our shtandardsh sho much with the last two moviesh than when you've made a half-way dechent attempt thish time around, it looksh like a freakin' mashterpiece in comparishon! Shank you, Mishter Lucash! Oh, shank you...and may the Forche be with you!"

Look, kiddies, don't be so goddamn grateful to Darth Lucas. Sith had to be good. He owed it to you. He owed it to me. He's owed it anyone who has ever given two figs about Star Wars at all. What he did was make up for lost time and that is the twenty years that passed since Return of the Jedi. It's no secret to anyone that The Phantom Menace was not only atrocious, but a slap right across the pimply face of every fan out there. He himself has admitted that the first two prequels only had about 20% story in each. The rest was all padding...and that padding was out and out pimping of merchandising-toy, games and other piles of future landfill. Over the years one truth has emerged from all of Lucas' raping and pillaging of the young and the young at heart...

George Lucas is NOT a Jedi. He went over to the Dark Side a long time ago in a Bay Area far, far away... Okay. Fine. That's overstating it (No! Really?) He's just such a goddamn disappointment to me.

My anger at Darth Lucas is not directed at the film, which I'll get into later. This all stems from the May 20 interview with Lucas in Entertainment Weekly that preceded the release of the film. I held onto it until after I saw Sith since EW should really be called Spoiler Weekly and I'd rather see the movie first. (I know, I said I have spoilers in this thing too but how much money did you pay to read this? Spoilers in the media equals bad journalism, so there) I guess what infuriates me about Lucas is his total lack of passion for his own creation and how he spits in the face of anyone who cares more he does. He had to "add Hamburger Helper" to fill out the first two movies. This all stems from his "aversion to wordsmithing". Fine. You hate writing so much then why didn't you get some help, Toad? One of the reasons The Empire Strikes Back is generally acknowledged to be the best of the bunch because the screenplay was written by legendary screenwriter Leigh Brackett and Lawrence Kasdan, no slouch himself. You remember him? He co-wrote Return of the Jedi with you. What's the matter, couldn't afford him? Maybe someone could have helped with some of the more embarrassing moments in the new film too. (Let me also give credit to both Irvin Kershner and Richard Marquand who directed the second and third installments as well)
I guess what really just rankles my Bantha is that George was one of the great hopes of my generation. He was a rebel that broke ranks with Hollywood years ago and was going to right the wrongs of a system that was spinning into the dark morass. In days past he championed the future of film with his creation of Industrial Light and Magic and THX soun. He even helped fund some interesting side projects, like co-producing Akira Kurosawa's Kagemusha and Paul Schrader's Mishima. Unfortunately, he became part of the very problem himself. Projects were announced and dropped like so much litter so as the story of The Tuskegee Airmen that was eventually made by HBO without Lucas. Movies became less important than the products themselves. He became more of a toymaker than a filmmaker. By setting himself up as king of his own empire, Lucas has found absolute power...and you what they say about that, don't you?

As far as Revenge of the Sith goes, I have to say that I liked it for the most part. It is actually the only one of the prequels I would see again, but that's not to say it's not without its problems.
I will say that is is a good movie...not great. It falls into fourth place behind Jedi, with Empire being number one followed by the first. (NOT CHAPTER 4! I REFUSE TO PLAY THAT GAME!) However, I will say it is the only one in the series that actually engaged me emotionally in a couple of instances, so on that level, it damn near succeeded. I didn't really get into it until about half way through the picture. The first hour reminded me of Clones, technically adept but flat, clumsy and uninvolving. The whole rescue of Palpatine had a been there, done that feeling. More should have been made of the death of Count Dooku, especially how he was killed.
AND ANOTHER THING...
Christopher Lee is one of my boyhood idols and one of the greatest genre actors of all time...Couldn't you give him a more dignified name than Count fucking DOO-KU?
But Lucas gets points for giving Mr. Lee his due in this last movie and not cutting him out like Peter Jackson did in Return of the King. Advantage, Lucas. In your face, Hobbit boy!
Oh, but you lose those points anytime Padame refers to the future Lord Vader as "Annie".

The PG-13 rating seemed to liberate Lucas quite a bit, knowing that if he was going to tell this story right, he'd have to delve deeper into darker territories and eliminate a lot of baggage. Gone thankfully are many of the cutesy elements that have plagued the series since the days of the dreaded Ewoks (though there was still to much R2-D2 for my taste).
More should have been made as well when Anakin kills the kids. That should have been the pivotal moment. He killed children, for Chrissakes. Lucas treated it as though he shot the cat. This horrible act, certain proof that Skywalker had crossed over to the Dark Side, was so glossed over that it seems that Lucas was embarrassed by it all. Maybe he felt it might appear he was taking it out on the younger audience. If Uncle George was so uncomfortable with it, he shouldn't have included it. The final duel on the volcano planet is quite something to behold, concluding with Annakin’s loss of limbs and sizzling on the ground like fajita night at Chili’s. (Except for the fight on the tiny platform in the lava flow which looked like a gag from a Zucker Brothers movie when adversaries in a gunfight shoot at each other from both sides of a small table) This and the final metamorphosis of burn victim into the Dark Lord was worth the price of admission.

A couple of elements I feel lacking:

Maybe, since Anakin killed all those kids, he should have made some reference to his own unborn children and perhaps threatened their existence somehow. Hey, I’m just throwing it out there.

It’s quite telling that all of the breakout characters from the last three films have been the Dark Side (General Grievous and Darth Maul, even the Emperor himself). Everyone of the “good guys” (with the exception of Yoda, better than in the last film, but he is not a new character) are dull as dishwater. No wonder Annakin wanted to cross over. Ewan MacGregor is decent enough as Obi-Wan but I have problems with him. I've wanted to punch his face since Moulin Rouge. Lucas really missed the boat not evening the field with someone along the lines of Han Solo, without being just another “rascal”. Mace Windu could have been that character, kind of a cooler version of a Jedi Master. Who’s cooler than Samuel L. Jackson? This is not to say he should played like Jedi Superfly with a switchblade light saber. He just could have been at the very least a little stoic and maybe just a little swashbuckling. Perhaps if he were a little less bland, his eventual death would have meant more than it did.

All this is probably making this space opera more complex than it really should be. Remember the simplicity of the original? Sometimes George went too far and was unable to go far enough to make it wholly satisfactory.

I did like the small touches here and there of things to come, especially the Peter Cushing look-alike toward the end and the too short of a trip to the Wookie planet. Having Chewbacca as a general was a bit gratuitous. I would have bought it more if he was a foot soldier. How did he go from military brass to second banana to a bandit? Did he hit the skids? Maybe Chewie was hitting the pipe. I’m so glad Lucas resisted any urge to have a little smart-ass punk stealing some fruit from a vendor who’d yell “Han Solo! You bring that back!”

Hayden Christensen perhaps he realized "This was it" and had better up his game if he was to make this movie work at all. Those of us that were afraid he would become Darth Whiner can be suitably relieved. Maybe he knew that if he botched it, he'd be victimized the rest of his life by legions of geeks, nerds and fanboys from every corner of the universe. If you can accept the premise that this is the guy who will be Vader, you can see Christensen is at long last credible in the role.

By the end, I found myself actually engaged emotionally a couple of times, something that has never occurred in the other five movies. Through all my cynical veneer toward this whole enterprise, I was into it to the final scene.

As a whole, I can say I walked away satisfied that it's all over now, though I know better after all this time. It ain't over cuz Geoge doesn't know when to leave it the hell alone. He'll release the entire she-bang in 3-D as he's announced but he'll still mess with them. Some day Alec Guinness will be doing backflips and jumping around the room like everybody else. Jabba will probably be on the Atkins diet and we'll see a slimmer version of the Hutin order to promote a healthier lifestyle. Just for fun, Padame could get some breast augmentation toob. There'll be the TV shows and the novelizations of course and one day, mark my words, there will be another movie. I don't begrudge him controlling his universe however he wants. I just wish he'd quit rewriting history and just move on...and NOT to another Indiana Jones movie. LEAVE THAT ALONE TOO! (That is unless you want to make a geriatric Jones picture since Harrison is aging rapidly even as we speak.)
The thing is, Lucas has regained some goodwill he's lost in the last decade with this what should be the grand finale. He's said that he wants to make a small picture like he did back in college. Maybe he can be a little more like Martin Scorsese, one of his peers and do something about film preservation or help give some filmmakers a boost that really need it in this day and age. We'll just have to see what he does.
To quote another source, George:
With great power comes great responsibility.
Don't fuck it up again.
Oh, and may the Force...well, you know.
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