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Thursday, May 26, 2005

R.I.P. SW:ROTS


I deliberately delayed writing about Star Wars: Revenge of The Sith  because, well, frankly, there have been enough tragedies to deal with over the past twelve months. As a rabid fan (some might say "geek") of the original who lined up to see Phantom Menace , I feel as if I've watched a dear friend die an agonizing death of a long, wasting disease.

My reluctance also stemmed from having actually been a movie critic during the 80's and 90's (yes, I got paid), making it difficult to see any movie without breaking it down into its component parts. When I first saw Phantom Menace , I was appalled--hated it on the spot. But everyone around me was raving, so I decided perhaps the wee hours viewing plus a very bad cold was affecting my opinion. Two viewings later I decided neither had influenced my original opinion which generally boiled down to something like suffering through the longest video game in history.

I was wrong. In a video game you would have had the option to take out Jar Jar Binks on Level One.

The Star Wars  saga is an example of how technological advancement is not always a good thing. The original dazzled because, after a decade of being inundated by naval-gazing films lecturing on the gray area of morality, or the gory glorification of murderous mafioso, we were suddenly being treated to a movie that said there was, after all, an absolute right and wrong. Whatever Lucas' religious beliefs, with the Force he tapped into the simple fact there is a supernatural element in every religion that we had all discarded and forgotten. Whether I agreed with the idea of accessing the Universal Consciousness certainly didn't matter. Lucas seemed to grasp the duality of the human spirit--the simple truth that we will fall into the Dark Side without the influence of a Greater Power of Good.

And he did it within the flimsiest of frameworks.

Lucas claims now it was all in response to Vietnam and the Cold War. Well, fine--he can rewrite his own history if he wants. But the original Star Wars  owed much more to the adventures of the late 30's and 40's, when the world was battling the Nazi juggernaut. Sure, the characters were central casting stereotypes. Fortunately they were fleshed out by actors who actually managed to act --and who rioted through the film with a gleam in their eyes that said "we know this is a totally unbelievable space fantasy, but what the hell--we're having fun!"

When The Empire Strikes Back  was released, I was writing reviews. I recall taking heat for insisting Vader was lying when he told Luke he was his father (not to mention being royally pissed off at Han Solo being left frozen in cryptonite). To this day I wonder about Lucas' claims that he had the entire story outlined from the beginning. I firmly believed Vader was merely being a manipulative bastard to serve his own--and the Emperor's--ends.

By Return of the Jedi , I decided Lucas was making it up as he went along. He had painted himself into a corner with the "father" line and was in the process of desperately trying to work his way out. The whole story arc felt less like it had been designed from the get-go and more like a jigsaw puzzle Lucas was assembling by pounding round pieces into square slots. As for the Ewoks, their appearance firmly cemented my opinion Lucas had sold out to the Dark Side of Making Millions With Market Tie-Ins.

I was disappointed, yet it didn't stop me from enjoying the film. How could you not  enjoy the opening hour at Jabba's palace and the subsequent battle? Yes, at the end Vader's "conversion" was hackneyed, and Luke was a bit too sappy, but it was acceptable within the happily-ever-after framework.

There is no way one can compare the current crop of "Star Wars" films--pandering, preachy, and ponderous in spite of the brilliantly beautiful special effects--with the original trilogy. If Vader's reversion to the Light Side in ROTJ was formulaic, Anakin's descent into the Dark Side is shallow and selfish.

Every artist knows there is a point during creation that you have to stop, step away, and let everything alone. One more word, one more note, one more brushstroke--one more computer-generated light saber battle--and the masterpiece is ruined.

Sadly George Lucas never learned that lesson.


Comments:
I agree wholeheartedly. Do you think we could sue Lucas for refusing to let someone competent write the screenplays for Eps I-III?

I was able to look past Jarjar and enjoy the action in I. While the "love story" of II was not the least believable, the action was still some fun. The release of III should at least put the series out of its misery.

Check out Nehring's take on the series at Nehring the Edge. You'll enjoy it.

Abe
 
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