The Star Wars
My sincerest apologies for the lateness of my review, I know I promised you this well over a week ago. Hopefully, once you’ve made your way through this (or skipped over the 700 paragraphs and read the end), you’ll understand why it took so long to finish.
Quite honestly, I would have loved to have written something much longer and more in-depth, detailing all of the Star Wars mythos, in as well as around the movies; I’ll leave that for a later day.
A Long Time Ago…
1969 – George Lucas, while shooting THX 1138, tells his composer Lalo Schifrin about his desire to do a Flash Gordon movie.
1973, January – having finished American Graffiti, Lucas writes the first draft of Star Wars.
1977 – A long time ago in a galaxy far far away. STAR WARS.
Walking out of the cinema had left me emotionally spent, visually overpowered and thoroughly satisfied. A fantastic finale to an amazing journey that had swept through the world and won hearts and mind where ever it went, truly living up to its heritage.
In 1997, before seeing Phantom Menace, had I been blogging, I guess that is how I would have imagined the start of this entry once the prequel trilogy came to an end. Instead the above paragraph is more applicable to the Lord of the Rings trilogy, which is without a doubt the winner of the great trilogy wars we have been caught in these last few years; being after all the only of the three major trilogies that has been able to stay consistently great throughout.
Personally however, I think of myself as the real winner. One Science Fiction trilogy (Matrix), One Fantasy trilogy (Rings) and one Science Fantasy trilogy (that would then be Star Wars). What more could I possibly want?
My words for Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith are not quite as pleasant as I would have liked, but nor are they as searing as I had expected. All in all Episode III is not entirely a waste of time.
Tendencies and Fences
Were one so inclined, one can easily nitpick, analyze and inch by inch tear the movies apart and prove them to be little more than elaborate children’s stories with visual effects on top. Likewise one could, if so inclined, fill them with allegorical intricacies and dualistic imagery. One could attack Lucas for being a lousy director of actors, too focused on technical issues and lost inside his own little world of ‘yessir’s’. On the other hand one could also point out his role in leading the New Hollywood, bringing to the masses Star Wars, Indiana Jones, THX, ILM, digital photography for film, non-linear digital editing and much much more.
One could do all of this, and be quite justified on either side of the fence.
Sitting on the Fence!
It has been 36 years since Lucas shared his hope with Lalo Schifrin on the shoot of the first THX and 28 years since lights dimmed on the first Star Wars movie (which premiered in a mere 30 theaters, contrasted with Episode III, which premiered in thousands!).
I was born in 1978, just short of a year after Star Wars premiered.
And to tell you the truth, due to this little coincidence, I think it is quite impossible to really measure the effect of Star Wars on me, or you. Consider therefor not only this review, or indeed any of my writings, and even my person, to be forever too tainted to truthfully speak out about Star Wars.
In its genre, in its time, Star Wars—that is, A New Hope as it was later dubbed—was unparalleled. In today’s blockbuster market, it’s easy to loose sight of, but Star Wars was boss when it hit screens in ’77. The Empire Strikes Back equally so, still to this day often deemed the best sequel ever made by many a nerd.
Return of the Jedi? Not so much really.
Putting aside youth naivety and feelings of nostalgia—I’m almost afraid to say it—Return of the Jedi downright sucks in places. You know I’m speaking the truth (the full list) That’s not to say it’s worthless; any movie with motion controlled space battles looking like the ones in Jedi is alright by me, and the whole Luke / Vader / Emperor getting it on is right up my alley as well.
But ultimately it’s just not a particularly good movie.
For reasons I can’t go into here, I can’t speak for you (I’d love to though). But personally that’s alright with me. I don’t think Terminator is a perfect movie either, but that doesn’t mean it can’t hold a special place in my heart.
And that’s the attitude I’ve learned to approach the prequel trilogy with. Do I think they’re good movies? Not really. But I can rejoice over the good parts, get more Coke during the bad ones and spend hours talking about both over lunch with my fellow nerds.
When Luke is speeding down the trench of the first Deathstar, everything is at stake. If he misses his shot, that’s it, game over for the rebellion. The entire movie leads up to that moment and everything that has come before it exists to support it (or at least that’s the case in the theatrical release; I’m not sure what the ‘funny-haha’ of the special edition Mos Eisley sequence does for the story, but it makes me slightly queasy).
Turn to Episode I. Our heroes are speeding along in a submarine after having had a detour to an underwater city where they for whatever reason decided to hook up with a certain Mr. Binks (a decision which will later, quite literally be the downfall of the Republic, thank God). They then encounter not one, not two, but three big fishies in an action spectacular which leaves the audience… entirely nonplussed. The Jedi are calm as hindu cattle, never breaking a sweat. Which is possibly meant to convey something to the audience, but fails miserably.
And the fish? Well who cares about random fish? Not a single soul.
And this is how Episode III: Revenge of the Sith opens up, in an action spectacular which left me entirely nonplussed.
Anakin and Obi-Wan, now veterans of war (as chronicled in the Clone Wars, which I highly recommend you watch, especially since they lead right up to the opening of Episode III, but more on that at some other time), bob and weave their way across a mighty fleet, towards Dooku’s ship.
The visual effects are spectacular, colorful and almost overwhelming. The on-screen action on the other hand seems to serve no particular purpose other than ‘grand adventure’ and ‘resourceful Jedi’.
Roll back to 1977, the climactic battle of the first Death Star. Those weren’t seemingly all-powerful Jedi waltzing around in their little nimble fighters; those were guys we could relate to, head held high in the face of overwhelming danger, their eyes fearful.
WEDGE: Look at the size of that thing!
RED LEADER: (over headset) Cut the chatter, Red Two.
RED LEADER: Accelerate to attack speed. This is it, boys!
I don’t think I need to reiterate the following dogfights. From start to finish, that felt like a military operation against an impossible objective. Their banter is what you’d expect from a squadron of professional fighter pilots, they move in formations, cover each other and communicate positions of enemy fighters and gun towers on the surface of the Death Star.
Anakin and Obi-Wan bumble their way through a hail of stupid little buzz droids, droids fighters and other nonsense, before finally crash landing into their destination.
All done to perfection, visually. But it just left me shaking my head in disbelief, thinking to myself: They’re doing it again! Just like that stupid kid in Episode I!
Another Villain. And another. And another.
And then we get to meet General Grievous, whom I don’t know how I feel about. On the one hand I think he’s ridiculous. Overly animated, a terrible obnoxious voice (of which there were quite a few in this iteration!) and delusions of grandeur. Not to mention how, in Clone Wars, he manages to hold his own against 5 Jedi, even killing a few of them, yet when Obi-Wan later faces him on Utapau, he’s quickly dealt with. Obi-Wan might be cool and all, but…
(By the way, if you don’t understand why he coughs all the time, it has to do with how Mace Windu crushed his chest when Grievous abducted Palpatine. This is all in the Clone Wars of course).
On the other hand, I can’t help but like the idea of a cape-wearing, delusions of grandeur, lightsaber wielding droid which is not a little cowardly.
Ultimately, regardless of whether I’ll come to like him or not, he represents yet another one of the trends in the new trilogy: The endless villain trend.
Episode I introduced us to Darth Maul. Little in the way of lady charm, but agile and ferocious. It would have been interesting to have seen him follow Palpatine into Episode II and have him face Anakin. Yoink, off your torso goes, see ya!
Introducing Count Dooku, alias Darth Tyrannus. Haven’t I seen this guy in some other movie where he played a similar role? What an odd choice, especially considering the many fucking awesome siths brought forth in The Art of Episode II. Among them the then unnamed Asajj Ventress. Instead they chose an old man (who chose to not take the stairs, but instead degrade himself into a backflip over the railing in Episode III). Great.
And then on the sidelines we have
Boba Jango Fett. Nice throwback to the community, but kinda boring, yes?
Episode III then goes ahead and kills off Dooku with one hand, while introducing yet another villain with the other. General Grievous. Whom we never get to know before he is killed off. Doubly great.
Had it been my movie, I would have kept Maul in the game up until late Episode II or early Episode III and gotten rid of Dooku entirely. Jango Fett, alright, but at least have him do more than hiring others to do his dirty work, like leading the clone troopers into battle and then having him turn on the Republic.
A Spaceship. And Another. And Another.
“HAN: Han Solo. I’m captain of the Millennium Falcon. Chewie here tells me you’re looking for passage to the Alderaan system.
BEN: Yes, indeed. If it’s a fast ship.
HAN: Fast ship? You’ve never heard of the Millennium Falcon?
BEN: Should I have?
HAN: It’s the ship that made the Kessel run in less than twelve parsecs!
Ben reacts to Solo’s stupid attempt to impress them with obvious misinformation.
HAN: (continued) I’ve outrun Imperial starships, not the local bulk-cruisers, mind you. I’m talking about the big Corellian ships now. She’s fast enough for you, old man. What’s the cargo?”
The Millennium Falcon is a cultural icon. Instantly recognizable as a heap of junk capable of doing .5 past lightspeed. When Han tells Lando to take care of her just before the battle of Endor, we’re not too keen on the whole situation. What if something happens to her? Sure Lando knows her, after all he had it before he last it to Han, but still? I wonder if they fixed the hyperdrive yet? Remember not to get her to cold, she won’t start then!
Things have value, weight and sentimental value in the original trilogy. They’ve been with us for a long time, we know them well, and they have a feeling of being more than set pieces and props.
It then seems an odd choice to have Amidala go through four spaceships in the new trilogy. Four! Alright, she’s a queen / senator and all, but still?
And none of them ever managed to gain an ounce of character. “Oh it exploded, okay… Ehm, bring another around.”
There is no lingering anywhere, but in awkward love scenes and doubly so in CG droid action-comedy scenes in the prequel trilogy (Remember that segment in Attack of the Clones where 3PO’s head gets switched? Yeah, me too; if you figure out a way to forget about it, let me know).
I always had an image of the Star Wars universe as being a place of constants. The original trilogy had Star Destroyers in all of the movies. Same wedge-shaped mile-long starship, standard imperial issue. The Falcon, X-Wings, droids. These all changed very little over the course of the first trilogy. And though they enforced their ranks on both sides with new Tie’s, B-Wings and other shenanigans, you always maintained your relationship with the universe.
I wish I could say the same for the prequels.
Had they been my movies, the red Blockade Runner-like ship Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon first arrive at Naboo in, would have seen a lot more action throughout the prequels.
And So Much More
I could go on about the little things I don’t like, the inconsistencies, the piss poor love scene dialouge and the downright moronic gags (that, ehm, make me gag). But it would take me the length of Moby Dick to get into all the corners, and the point would be somewhat moot, considering that we have established the prequels to fall short of our expectations.
Much of it I believe, is in how Lucas manages, or fails to manage the subtleties of his own universe, story and characters. Not that I necessarily blame him, but Star Wars has become too self-aware for it to maintain the free pioneering spirit of its humble beginnings.
Not that I would ever want the task of writing a sequel to something like Star Wars, going up against the largest bunch of sex-deprived socially inept super geeks ever to assemble in one place; The Internet… Oh wait.
That Last Act
And then, just as I had started to shovel popcorn down my own throat, annoyed at Lucas for creating yet another mediocre adventure movie, something started to happen. Anakin turned, a bit rash one might say, to the dark side; and the movie took off.
It’s like the prequel trilogy had to spend 5-6 hours gestating in dashingly colorful but ultimately dull and brain dead CG effects before someone finally thought to themselves: “Hey, how about we tighten up this last act?”
And so they did. No more fooling around on pointless quests, fighting wave after wave of funny-voiced droids, riding on the back of cow-like creatures in a Sound of Music-like landscape. And thank God, no more “Mesa gugudada Oobidoobi”.
Pardon my baseball ineptness (being Danish after all), but this is the batter pointing to the sky and then proceeding to knock the ball out of the park.
And how wonderful it is to see everything finally come together to deliver a thrilling and sometimes even chilling story to the audience. I felt moved, for the first time in a Star Wars since I don’t know when, when PadmÃ© watches the Jedi temple burn from her balcony. When facing Anakin on Mustafar she breaks out: “Anakin, you’re breaking my heart!”
Who would’ve known?!
Anakin lying on the brink of the lava stream, burning up. Obi-Wan leaving him there. Not to talk about the younglings scene. Nasty business! Who would’ve thought Star Wars could be this dark, after all, this is the series that had laser blast impacts removed from officers in A New Hope, Greedo shooting first and who knows what else.
If all three movies had been made with the drive of the last act, perhaps we Star Wars nerds wouldn’t have had to go into hiding for all these years! And while it doesn’t quite make up for past atrocities (Holiday Special anyone?), it certainly makes me sense a light at the end of the tunnel.
It felt honest and from the heart.
Which Sums Up To What Exactly?
I enjoyed Episode III a lot. I thought it was good fun, despite the first half of the movie being of little interest to me. The last act almost makes up for the lack of soul the rest of the movie throws at us. I can almost believe in the characters this time around (I even think Ewan McGregor’s Obi-Wan is kinda cool now).
But I don’t think it makes for a particularly good movie, overall (and this despite the fact that Rikke actually enjoyed it; a first in terms of Star Wars I believe).
Throughout the prequel trilogy, Anakin’s fall from grace seems clumsy and at times entirely unrealistic, as does his and PadmÃ©‘s love affair. Palpatine, this ‘master of words’ couldn’t convince an 8-year old to give up his lollipop as far as I’m concerned, and what was with the slow-asmolasses Palpatine vs. Windu lightsaber fight?
In my Star Wars universe, Palpatine doesn’t use lightsabers. Then, nor does Yoda… (On the other hand, Yoda knocking over the Imperial Guard in Palpatine’s office, pure gold!).
Skimming the cream.
And the end of it all, we grew up with a cultural point of reference, an imaginary playground and a major science fiction franchise that almost legitimized our geekdom. We obviously hoped for more than two less-than mediocre and one crippled followup.
The original trilogy is another league of films entirely, complete with their own batch of problems.
Sad as it may be, I still love the Star Wars universe, flawed as it is. Luckily I can make more popcorn during the bad parts and savour the good ones.
And I think this is where we came in, about 28 years ago.