G@EIII


Guido at “Revenge of the Sith”

We just got back home after the 12:01 a.m. showing of “Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith.” Julie and I left J’ville for S’field at about 4:45 p.m., got to the theater at 5:15 or 5:30, got in line … somewhere around No. 12 or so. We ate some burgers and read our magazines and books until they started letting everyone into the theaters around 9 p.m., I think it was.They supposedly sold out 10 screens in Springfield. As we drove out of there, we saw the entire parking lot was full and people were parked in every spare edge of the road all the way out to the stoplight. That was pretty wild to see.

* * *

WARNING: Spoilers below — highlight to read.

It seems that some fans have convinced themselves — as have some critics — that “Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith” is a four-star movie, but it’s really a two-star clunker that doesn’t fully deliver. “Sith” is stiff. As with Episodes I and II, George Lucas has turned the actors into stone (e.g. Anakin and Padme discussing just about anything).

The movie’s nearly two and a half hours long, but until the last half-hour, when Lucas actually establishes an emotional connection, it’s one spectacularly designed letdown after another.

What’s the big problem? It’s gotta be the script. Even with some expert tweaking, the words are devoid of humor and feeling. For those who criticized the performances of Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford, watch Episodes I-III and weep. The pace of the movie is such that everything seems jammed in. It’s as though there’s enough stuff for a trilogy of movies packed into this one movie. And at the same time, it feels like there are things missing.

In the opening space scene with Anakin and Obi-Wan in a cluttered digital landscape, the effect is all rollercoaster, but without weight. The ensuing buzz droids are one of the first unnecessary diversions. The only thing we get from this sceen is Anakin’s unwillingness to listen.

Lucas packs “Sith” with so much computerized effects that it doesn’t fit with the low-tech original, taking place decades later, which shows the touch of human hands and plays all the better for it (three cheers for stop-motion animated taun tauns). He also clutters every other shot with innumerable clones, droids, ships, etc. I’m not sure why, but he seems to have the compulsion to clutter every frame, so that the simplest conversation is upstaged by its background.

Not only do the effects distract when they do what Lucas intends, but the burps of CG, pasted-on heads and redrawn lips (instead of a reshoot) and and CG body doubles distract in an unintended way.

Samuel L. Jackson doesn’t come across badly as Jedi Master Mace Windu, but the best performances come from Ewan McGregor as Obi-wan and Ian McDiarmid as Supreme Chancellor Palpatine. As Palpy draws Anakin away from the strict Jedi code, the film is briefly enlivened by the thrill of temptation. McDiarmid paints an awesome portrait of evil. He loses his way at times after his “transformation,” becoming a bit cartoonish.

As for the good stuff, little of it involves dialogue. There’s Obi-Wan taking on the droid general, Grievous and the massacre of the Jedi ordered by Palpatine. There’s Palpatine taking on Yoda.

Anakin’s nightmares (though there should have been more of them) about his wife dying, draws him to join the Sith, who claim power over death. If that means the killing of Jedi children, so be it? Initially, the concept of this plot line is sound, but his devolution into the hubris-filled monster happens too quickly. We’re forced to believe what we’re told about Anakin’s gradual decent instead of actually seeing it unfold.

Lucas ALMOST pulls the plot out of the fire in the film’s final section, showing Obi-Wan hacking away at Anakin with his light-saber on the lava planet of Mustafar. Lucas even drops a hint that Anakin thinks Padme and Obi-Wan may have been getting it on.

Things it would have been nice to see and other quibbles:

  1. >> Episode III split into two movies (this would mean
  2. >> More show, less tell
  3. >> More polish on the most troublesome CG
  4. >> Why does Yoda give up so quickly after his fight with Palpatine. It seems like a stalemate, perhaps, but not a win for Palpatine.
  5. >> Why do Yoda and Obi-Wan feel the best course of action was to run and hide? Did Yoda have a vision? Palpatine can hide in plain sight but Yoda has to go hide on Degobah?
  6. >> See how Yoda chose Dagobah and him actually going
  7. >> Let us see Qui-Gon’s ghost or at least hear him (instead of being merely told about him)
  8. >> Fewer digital background distractions
  9. >> Shorter side-story about Grievous if it means being able to add some more meaningful scenes elsewhere
  10. >> Less on Kashyyyk if it means being able to add some more meaningful scenes elsewhere
  11. >> Padme, Mon Mothma, Bail Organa establishing the beginnings of the Rebel Alliance
  12. >> More substantial reason for Anakin to embrace the dark side (possibly more dreams that send him over the edge
  13. >> EIII 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 (i.e. slaughter of the younglings)
  14. >> Chewbacca kicking some butt or why parade him out?
  15. >> Mon Monthma somewhere more prominent and some shots of the other notable Jedi that got left out (e.g. Shak-ti)
  16. >> It’s odd that it takes more than 18 years to build the first Death Star and only one to build most of the second Death Star
  17. >> A reason for Padme’s death — Vader’s attack would have been a pretty good one
  18. >> A little more sense of hope for the future at the end, perhaps?

UPDATE 6/15/2005: After second viewing and further consideration, it seems clear that the story arc of Episodes I-III would have been better if Episodes I and most of Episode II would have been combined into one film and a portion of Episode II and a portion of Episode III should have been combinded to become the second movie. Then the remaining story arc would have become Episode III. There’s just too little of consequence that happens in Episodes I and II and too much packed into Episode III.

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