Monday, May 23, 2005

In a word, "Terrible"

Perhaps, in welcoming new talent to Ahab's Whale, I am unconsciously devoted to ripping apart the comments of Mr. Mike McNair. Please, dear readers, rest assured it is not deliberate on mine own part. But the latest Star Wars instalment calls for the critic in me to slam his thoughts as solidly as they deserve.

Instinctively, I would call Episode III the absolute worst of the six films.

Frankly, I heard more interesting dialogue at Hussein's Chipwagon on the way home from the Purple Turtle tonight - "Don't do it, you're a good person," says Padme, whose entire role in the final movie seems to be to convince the audience that Anakin is suffering from "stress" that might explain his subsequent turn to the dark side.

I thought Lucas had a vision for the true origin of our ultimate villain, Darth Vader. For that reason, I was willing to give him the benefit of any doubt through the first two new attempts. How wrong I was to trust him.

Instead, as we were painstakingly walked through another Hayden Christensen wooden performance, Jedi Council rank stupidity as the overarching theme [explain the purposeful alienation of their self-defined "chosen one"], and right through to the Emperor's annoying "I told you so" routine - just couldn't help but think that we were really witnessing the setup for a "Black Star Wars" routine that screams for Dave Chappelle's return from the wilderness: "What the fuck, Annie!? You crying!??! You're supposed to be the Sith Lord, smoke that shit!"

And I purposely throw the words "dark side" out there in small caps, of course, because anyone remotely caught up in this epic must be foolhardy, or else desperate to actually claim to enjoy Lucas' final installment. I could forgive Ep. I (particularly for Jake Lloyd, Darth Maul, and Liam Neeson) and even the weaker Ep. II (because the battles that emerged were epic and Boba Fett's father actually played a significant role in the plot).

Yet here... Maybe if I were Aunt Anita and accompanied young children in such a full circle... but no.

I am sick of manufacturing further apologies for what has ended up amounting to a colossal waste of time. Everything about this effort was weak and lazy, maybe best encapsulated by the call to execute "Order 66" [as if there were 65 previous ones?]. The plot here is just so terribly monotonous and one-dimensional, General Grievous is an absolutely terrible droid "hunchback of Notre-Dame" villain who inexiplicably suffers from the whooping cough, from the outset...

And I just LOVE how, after we see Obi-Wan get thrown aside and demolished for fun by Count Dooku [who of course future Darth procedes to make mincemeat of...] but then HE gets charged with the solo job of hunting down the one person who the "wise" Jedi Council claim is solely responsible for the continuing "war" while Hayden broods alone in the Jedi room. Would you like a sledgehammer with those fries, Sir?

Oh right, they just don't "trust" young Skywalker, I forgot. Makes perfect sense, they are Jedi after all, and have premonitions of the future. They have only identified Anakin as the "chosen one" since he was 8. Smart, boys. At least the Emperor sees it... although his make-up after getting roughed up by the old stoicly stupid Mace Windu is painfully pathetic for a director who prides himself on such effects.

And speaking of Mace: has there ever been a worse character in the Star Wars galaxy? I know the sentimental in the crowd want to pick Jar Jar, but give Samuel L. his fair chance at such glory. Why does he exist except to utter the dumbest lines in the Universe? And why give an actor who is known best for his outrage [see Jules Winnfield's portrayal, for example: "Was Bowman my favorite coach? Oh ho, I don't think so!", says Chelios] the most passive and serene role of all time. Every single sentence the man utters gets proven to be wrong.

Yet, here is the only one who can defeat the Emperor - not even Yoda could do so, and why he and Kenobi take off into a 20 year exile doing nothing is never explained and proves utterly ridiculous. And it appears that Laia ends up with the Organas because Jimmy Smits' wife has "always wanted to adopt a daughter". Potent. Good to see the Jedi are formulating a plan. I almost expected a green wife of Yoda's to walk on and say: "Let's go to Degobah, big boy." At least it might have explained the reason for his flight into the swamp.

You could colour in this plot by numbers, replete as it is with no surprises. Yes, it is Star Wars, and this long rant is probably overblown and unjustified. But it has been enjoyable to write, as have been the arguments with the boys. I can honestly say that I could have left during the "lava" scene (again, could Lucas please stop the wholly computer-looking somersaults!) and been happier. That's not what this movie [or any of the prequels] should have allowed to happen.

Yes, I know what happens in the end. But I also know what happens in Hamlet and King Lear and Romeo and Juliet, but I continue to glory in those performances time and again. It would be shocking if anyone could ever convince me to sit and watch this lame two hour mundane journey from A to its inevitable B ever again.

What else to say except Lucas just lost it. He got so caught up in his graphics that he forgot to bring the funny. Imagine what a Sorkin could have done with such a story and weep. Conflict, drama, galactic politics, maybe a Kenobi-Amidala love interest... instead we get Vader showing up for 2 minutes at the Opera to learn that the Emperor knows how badly he has been dissed by the infinitely perceptive council who are charged with protecting the galaxy. Alas.

For my part, I pulled out the notebook half-way through to copy down the cheesy dialogue after the opening hour. I did love the Yoda line: "Good relations with the Wookies, I have", and yet did anyone else feel this incorporation wholly coincidental, or further - even possibly understand the appropriateness of Kashyk as the planet to represent the "larger universe" McNair delighted in, except as a cheap way to give Peter Mayhew a few more gurgles in his obviously ridiculously lacklustre career. And are we meant to believe Obi-wan is so dumb as not to recognize R2 in "A New Hope"?

There is a reason that Empire is the most dominant of the films: neither the screenplay (Brackett and Kasdan) nor the direction (Kershner) was done by George. If Tom Stoppard had any hand at all in this debacle, he should be ashamed.

All of this rambling - set to the tune of Dan Bern - are only [amazingly] partial criticisms of this miserable excuse for the culmination of the Star Wars movies. It convinces me that our old carpenter friend, Harrison Ford, is really the one responsible for the popularity and durability and magic of the original movies. None of the prequels ever attempted to incorporate the sceptic, the outcast, the cynic who quietly pokes fun at the whole elaborate idea. Instead we get unconvincing angst, never more so than in this movie. And it never works [except maybe for that one moment when Yoda walks into the Emperor's room and throws the Red guards aside with a shrug]. Our galaxy a long time ago needs such heroes.

How anyone could find this effort even remotely rewarding is beyond me... and all I can do is scream along with Vader himself: "NOOOOOOOOOOOO!" I too look forward to watching the old movies again.... but only in order to restore my faith in those "hokey religions and ancient weapons" - not because these new ones have offered any new insights.

Maybe capitalism has finally corrupted even the Force.


Blogger Mike McNair said...

MacDuff you seem awfully angry these days?

Everything okay?

Are YOU a Sith Lord too?

I knew it.

3:50 AM  
Blogger Mike McNair said...

Oh and if you thought General Grievous is a droid I get to tune you out completely.

...'new' talent...humph...

4:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice rant MacDuff, but as soon as you compare Star Wars to Shakespeare, you know you are wrong. Yes, there were some great lines in the original three ("who's the more foolish, the fool or the fool who follows him" is a personal favorite), and yes Han said most of them ("Never give me the odds!", "we're all fine here, how are you(context is key on this one)" and "Your worshipfulness" are personal favorites), but watch them again and recall how many were terrible and weak, and remember the moments associated with them. Get over it. Star Wars is about dreams, blowing things up, and laser swords. The last one is GL giving GW the finger, "You're either with us..."


5:13 PM  

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