Monday, December 05, 2005

Star Wars 3 - the force was kinda with this one.

Well, I realize that before I go off on a particular angle of a movie -- as I did with the previous topic -- perhaps I ought to let you know how I liked the movie in general. So here goes:

I actually quite liked this one. It was far better than episodes one and two. But there are still some areas lacking and some problematic areas for me.

The good:
The special effects are not so bad this time! They are a testament to the developments of CGI (computer-generated imagery) technology. Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) Lucus' gift to the industry and leaders in the area of CGI are clearly getting better at what they do. They are becoming more adept at creating more convincing and better-integrated CGI. As someone who has always been completely anti-CGI I consider myself to be difficult to convince in this area, and I have to say, I was nearly there. At least my eyes aren't always telling me directly anymore when something is real (not all the time anyway).

The acting was better. But this is not a difficult feat to accomplish, so maybe this shouldn't really be listed with the good.

With all my cynicism surrounding Lucas and the prequel trilogy, I must say that I felt like I was witnessing a real moment in movie history when they put the helmut on Darth Vader. It wasn't even the most remarkable of shots from a composition standpoint, but unh! The intense mood, the exquisite drama of that black on black image at the moment when that hard, shiny helmut was pushed on to his masked head, surrounded by whisps of fog, and Vader took his first breaths. And the sound of those breaths! Familiar to nearly every movie watcher around the globe. This was the moment of moments. The moment when the audience breaks out in full applause. This was the moment when Lucas breathed life into his monster and shouted "It's alive!" This was the magic of cinema.

The movie overall was much more emotionally engaging than the other two prequels. I have to admit that I even got a little misty during Padmé's funeral procession.

I also liked the allusions to the Bush administration. Lucas gave Darth Sidius and Annakin/Darth Vader some Bush-encoded language. Ah what fun.

Having said all that...
The bad:
The acting was still pretty bad. If I see Hayden Christiansen give his little evil glare for no reason again, ugh! Or the caricaturish Palpatine after his scarring encounter with Mace Windu - suddenly he is ridiculous instead of strong, quiet, and compelling.

The writing was worse. Padmé had little place in this movie. Once she had served her initial plot purpose, the movie only checked in on her every once in a while out of obligation to find that she was reduced to silent hand-wringing and staring through her enormous apartment window in complete despondency. Furthermore, Annakin's turn to the dark side was both ludicrous and pathetic. Here we are to see the moment that binds the trilogies together. The crucial turning point that made a good man go bad (so that he could later go sorta good again.) It is crucial enough to necessitate two previous movies as back story. Yet with all the pressure of 5 other films hanging in the balance, it fails miserably. His turn was unmotivated and sudden! It also made no sense whatsoever. 1. Annakin sees Windu & Sidius doing the saber dance, 2. Palpatine tells Anni that he is helpless and Windu is going to kill him, 3. Anni seems to see through this lie, 4. Windu and Palpatine both become the little angel and devil on Anni's shoulders informing him on both side of his decision as Palpatine tells Anni that only he can help him save his girl. 5. Anni looks frustrated and conflicted and like he might pop if he doesn't decide soon. 6. Windu prepares to kill Palpatine, though Anni thinks this is a bad way to go. 7. Anni succombs to weakness and tries to make Windu release Palpatine, 8. Palpatine rises from his ruse victorious and kills Windu. 9. Anni is distraught at his involvement in this heinous act and cries out from the soul "WHAT HAVE I DONE???" 10. Anni immediately pledges to do Sidius's bidding (yes, the man that obviously just tricked him into doing something that made him cry out in anguish.) 11. Anni is now suddenly fully evil and is dubbed Darth Vader. Hmmmm... he had me through what have I done but what the heck happened in the split second after that? Ah well, going to Jedi-hell now anyway, may as well just side with this jerk now. I mean I could have even bought that if there was a shot of his facial expression changing, indicating a change of heart. But nothing!

The CGI still registers as false. Better by a long shot, but still seems false even when my eyes can't easily spot the reason why. This thought was solidified in me (ha ha, no pun intended!) when my hubby popped in episode 4 and suddenly I sighed with relief. Doesn't this all look refreshingly solid, George? There are also still moments when the bad CG is plain as day. The wide shot of the mustafar duel for instance, when Annakin/Vader & Obi Wan are hanging from the big metal thing. You see their little blue sabers flailing and it all looks so fake. Or the lizardy-dragony thingy that Obi Wan rides when going after Gen. Grievous. That thing looks like it is from a bad cartoon . SO not an improvement on Jurassic Park, which is still one of the best, and most convincing, uses of CGI to date. Ugh, I am just waiting for the day when movies become these glorified cartoons altogether. What happened to the beauty of the photographic image? (A topic for another day.)

Then there are the plot-points that conflict with episodes 4-6. Leia knew her real mother, yet Padmé died in episode 3 in childbirth. Obi wan tells Luke that he hasn't been called obi wan since before Luke was born, yet he was called Obi wan in the birth scene! Annakin seems to be filled with much more ambition than Darth Vader later shows and talks all this jazz about overthrowing Sidius, which he apparently never does. There are so many inconsistencies I could discuss, but I will save them for another day.

I wanted so badly to see this one and respond to it independently from the other films, but I just couldn't. The movie overall is lacking the humor for me and ultimately still the magic of the the first three flicks. The optimism and irreverence. The charm, the naivete. Lucas! Stop taking yourself so seriously! Give us our magic back!

Other problems: Yoda is better as a puppet. Why did he give up fighting Palpatine? Why is his speech more consistently (and overly) backwards than it used to be? Also, the last two fight scenes were pointless because all four characters live on to be in the next episodes. Lucas should have involved someone or something else that could have upped the level of suspense for us a bit.

So when you add the goods and the bads, you get...
The verdict:
SW3 is a movie I somewhat enjoyed and gave me a magic moment, but ultimately had problems with. Phew! Any other questions


Andy said...


George pointed me to your review and since I've just recently seen the movie for the first time, I had to read your review. It was interesting because I agree with pretty much every single point you make, yet in the end, I totally disliked this movie. I mean, I wasn't even motivated to watch the special features on disk 2, and I usually really enjoy those.

I did want to comment on the "magic moment" of Vader's first helmet-on shot. We all knew it was coming, and the previews had it, and it was late enough in the movie that we were all primed for it. And then what? Lucas gives us ONE breath sound. Breathe in. Breathe out. Scene ends. What the heck was his rush? He builds up to this moment for literally *hours*! I expected to hear that cool, reverberating sound for at least 10-15 seconds. It was so jarring to have that end so abruptly that I mentally gave up the ghost at that point.

Anyway, nice review - you summed up my feelings about Anakin's abrupt transition to pure evil in less than a second very well. That was killer in my mind.

Elisabeth said...

Welcome to my blog! Make yourself at home... oh sorry about the mess. Can I get you something to drink?

I am glad you liked my review. I am sorry you didn't have a magic moment to redeem SW3 even a little for you. But I have to ask, and no matter what they say, it matters... what size was your screen? I watched it on our 84" movie screen with projector (George probably told you about it.) I am not saying that to brag. At least not only to brag. Ha! But because it really really has a big effect on the impact a movie has on a viewer. I have been thinking about writing a little something on it. I guess now the topic is out there, I either have to do it right away or not at all. Great!

Anyway, when we got the new screen, we watched several of our favorite movies over again on the semi-large (or medium-sized as I like to call it) screen for the first time. The movies sucked us in again as if we had never seen them. Emotions were new and magnified. I wept at scenes I have long been indifferent to.

Maybe this is why the moment was magic for me and not for you. Since you say you just saw it recently, I imagine it was on the small screen. I can imagine that shot having very little oomph (an industry term) on a small screen. If your screen wasn't small, then, hmmm... I don't know, maybe I was just emotional that day. Let me just check my calendar... Ah yes... ;)

And as for our ultimate disagreement on our impression of the movie, even if we shared the same reactions, I have to say, I am a little inclined to want to like it. After all, it's Star Wars! I am no fanatic, but I did drag George to the Star Wars convention when it was in town. If I were a little more normal I probably would have completely disliked it as well. Ah well, we all have our biases. I just can't figure out how I can hate Lucas with such a passion and still root for his movies. We are mysterious creatures!

Andy said...

Yeah, I watched it on a 27inch TV. No surround, letterboxed, so it was even smaller. I don't deny that the scene had some "magic", I just think Lucas should have held that scene longer. He seemed rushed.


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