Friday, May 20, 2005

Star Wars Post-Mortem

A sampling of criticisms, now that "the saga is complete"...

Rolling Stone's Peter Travers is right: Lucas is a "skilled producer, clumsy director and tin-eared writer." And Travers is dead on with his assessment of the prequels as an "investment portfolio." Star Wars, the scrappy little movie that nobody believed in-- not even Lucas himself-- has become an institution, and nobody at Lucasfilm wanted to be the guy who came up with New Coke.

Roger Ebert is smoking crack. He recognizes the film's many flaws-- for example, "[t]o say that George Lucas cannot write a love scene is an understatement; greeting cards have expressed more passion." But Ebert still gave it three and a half out of four stars. Excuse me, but isn't the love story supposed to be the central fucking theme of this whole tragedy? And you're giving it a pass because hey, look at all the shiny spaceships? Smoking crack. And Roger, you need new glasses, because digital projection also sucks. Stop shilling.

The SF Chronicle's Mick LaSalle rightly calls it a swing and a miss: "the movie omits the one scene it most needs to show -- the one in which Anakin commits an act of such evil that there's no turning back. It's the 'Macbeth' moment, the scene this trilogy has been leading up to, the dive off the moral high board -- and Lucas just skips it." Sad but true.

(I, too, felt like the script missed lots of crucial details and failed to explain important developments. But then I remembered that this is not a film for thinking adults; this is a film for thrill-seeking adolescents and malleable younglings. I wonder if the original trilogy will seem as empty when I watch them again-- and I will, very soon. I've still got the original, unspoiled versions on laserdisc, where Han shoots first and not every character is a digitized cartoon.)

For more detailed and geekier nitpicking than I can muster, visit Glen Oliver at IGN FilmForce, who rants thusly:
Revenge of the Sith is not the "masterpiece" some make it out to be. It is, simply, a far more worthy installment than we've recently been fed. Its currently lofty status is a mirage, induced and perpetuated by the shameless hokum which preceded it. This being said, it should be noted that Sith, perhaps more than any other film in the sextilogy, tries valiantly to be a "real" movie – and often succeeds. But, in doing so, it also forgoes the most fundamental tenets of storytelling...

Just because we're in "a galaxy far, far away," for example, does not mean that the "laws" of that galaxy...or the intricacies driving stories told in that galaxy...can be ignored. This factor can be applied to any kid of broad-canvassed storytelling: mythology, science fiction, historical romance, etc. For example: on Earth, Superman can fly. But, what if someone came along and told audiences, "Superman can only fly on Tuesdays, even though he flew in last month's comic installment"? It would not make sense, because such rules and limitations had not been previously established or upheld in the Superman mythology. This is the kind arbitrary, sloppy thinking that ultimately dilutes Star Wars: Episode III, and prevents it from becoming all that it could have been.

Finally, my wife DeeAnn sums up her Episode III experience: "I went in expecting it to suck, and I was still disappointed. What does that say about the level of suckage involved?"

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