Well, Episode III could have been worse…

I went and saw Revenge of the Sith tonight. I can say it definitely felt good to see a Star Wars story in the theaters one last time. (This is supposed to be the last time, after all.)

What else can I say? They weren’t the atrocities the first two movies were. Overall I still don’t think it was any better than the originals, but I do think there was a lot of room for improvement. (Don’t worry, there won’t be any spoilers here.)Let’s talk about the good first. First and foremost this is an action movie, which is good, because action is what George Lucas does best. This is a fast-paced movie that doesn’t get bogged down in committees, which is good. If you want committees, you can watch CSPAN and it won’t cost you $8 all the time.

There are plenty of special effects here, but it seemed like Lucas tried to rely on special effects to make up for the shortcomings in the first two movies. There’s less of that in this one. I can’t think of a point in the movie that looked like special effects just for the sake of special effects. In a time when Pixar and Dreamworks SKG each release a movie a year featuring entire computer-generated worlds, that trick doesn’t work anymore, and it’s good that Lucas realized it.

Oh, and what about Jar Jar Binks? He makes a brief appearance, but it’s just a few seconds at most and he doesn’t say anything.

So what’s wrong with it?

Dialogue still isn’t Lucas’ strong point. It’s better this time than sometimes (at least someone asks "What’s the matter with you?" in this one; I remember an earlier movie having a line "What’s troubling you?" which just isn’t the way anyone talks) but the things people say still seem contrived, and at times it seems like the actors and actresses might as well be reading cue cards.

Examples? The most blatant examples surround the character of Anakin Skywalker (played by Hayden Christensen), of course. The movie centers around Christensen’s struggles. And that’s the problem. We don’t get to see him struggle so much. We see him cry, but that seems out of place. I feel safe in saying this, since I think everyone knows what happens to Anakin Skywalker, so I’ll say it: Would Darth Vader cry? No? So why is Anakin Skywalker, the 20something hotshot Jedi, crying? It’s out of character. So what does someone who can’t let his guard down but really wants to cry do? Unfortunately, you won’t find out by watching this movie.

Similarly, Natalie Portman’s talents are wasted on the character of Padme. There is no actress alive better suited to play the prodigy Padme. Padme would have been a lot better with more Natalie Portman pontifications and fewer George Lucas pontifications coming out of her. The relentlessness of Portman’s character from Garden State is missing. And at at least one point in the movie, she breaks Anakin Skywalker’s heart. Portman proved in the movie Closer that she can break a heart like nobody’s business. Had she been allowed to truly break the heart of Hayden Christensen and every male in the audience, it would have been a better movie.

Both Mace Windu (Samuel L. Jackson) and Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) get very angry with Anakin Skywalker in this movie. At one point, Jackson says, "If you’re right, you’ve earned my trust." Inappropriate. Where’s the Samuel L. Jackson attitude? The cold stare? "You’ll earn my trust when you’re right!" is a good start. Of course in most movies, Jackson would include a couple of f-bombs and end the sentence with a word that starts with the letter "b." Especially if the person he’s talking to happens to be male. Lucas keeps that kind of language out of Star Wars, but Samuel L. Jackson can say those words with his tone of voice even without the actual words coming out. He should have been allowed to.

Ewan McGregor is similarly handcuffed. At the movie’s darkest hour, McGregor’s words don’t match his actions. McGregor sorely needed to drag back out some of the attitude he showed in Trainspotting.

The writing suffers also. Some of the characters are inconsistent. There are minor characters in the movie who seemed larger than life earlier in the movie, yet they died without a struggle. I understand needing to get on with the story, but had they died fighting, it would have been all the more tragic. And besides, had those stories been told, maybe then there would have been 30 seconds spent on the love story rather than 10 minutes.

Gatermann tells me there were some lame attempts at humor in the movie. I didn’t catch anything that even sounded like an attempt at humor. It’s not like this movie had bad actors in it, so this movie should have had its moments.

Kevin Smith compares the movie to Othello or Hamlet. Well, for some in my generation, I’m sure it is. But this movie isn’t going to be remembered much past my generation. My generation’s children will like it for a while because we dragged them along to go see it. But will it capture their imaginations the way it did ours nearly 30 years ago? No. Will it take a seat next to The Wizard of Oz, or Gone With the Wind? No.

And that’s what’s frustrating. George Lucas came up with a good story. He did his homework. All the elements are there. He studied his mythology and mimicked it well. His psychology seems pretty sound. And his characters, especially the key characters, are all very compelling.

This movie had all of the potential for greatness. Probably not Shakespearean greatness, but it had the potential to be the movie of the decade, and, like Anakin Skywalker, it just didn’t live up to it. It won’t even be the best movie to come out this year.

That observation does more to help me understand how Obi-Wan Kenobi felt than Ewan McGregor’s acting did. And that’s really a shame.

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One thought on “Well, Episode III could have been worse…

  • June 12, 2005 at 12:31 am

    I had some press passes to see Batman Begins a few days ago. Since you’re on movie reviews, I figure I’d give you the run-down.

    It’s not the best Batman movie ever, but it does rank highly with me. Liam Neeson is by far the best actor in the film, and his character is rather brilliantly portrayed. Even when his defeat is inevitable, his lines stay true. That’s probably saying more about the writing than the actor, but he delivers the lines in a very meaningful way. I can’t say too much without giving away plot lines and stuff.

    This is the first time I’ve seen Gotham City depicted as gothic without having it look like a 1930s New York. That scored a major plus with me.

    Katie Holmes plays a nearly useless character. The one time her role is made important (beyond the generic "someone has to have a soul around here" good guy type) it actually causes an out-of-character extravaganza for the bat. I’ll give two words as clues: "car" and "chase".

    There were no twists in the film that a third grader couldn’t figure out. The few things that should have been left to subtlety were stated by characters. Captain Obvious should have been the bad guy in this film. I know I wanted to shoot him.

    I think Gary Oldman was a very poor fit for Office Gordon. I have seen him play so many roles as the bad guy that it’s hard for me to see him as the only good guy. That’s not so much a complaint toward him as it is to the casting director – who put the perfect person in for Alfred, by the way.

    And while I’m on the subject… Bale? What were they thinking? In the suit, he’s okay (though his Batman voice is atrocious), but when he’s Wayne it’s just not believable.

    There were a few attempts at humor with some succeeding to various degrees. And even those have a nice mix of visual and spoken elements. Most were mere giggles, but at least one had me laughing out loud (lol?).

    The best part of the film (excluding the little vacation Batman takes in the scene mentioned earlier) is the way our hero uses fear. This takes me back to how I always remembered him from the comics. Batman uses fear against those who cause fear in others. It’s his primary weapon.

    I honestly don’t remember any cussing in there, but I wasn’t paying attention for it. I just know that no one dropped any f-bombs. There is no love scene (which is very refreshing – I’m tired of movie-makers thinking every film has to have one). The best we get is a kiss that’s not entirely "meant" (you’ll see).

    Use of the same few one-liners over and over got tiring after a few minutes, but I lived – you will, too.

    Overall, I give this movie a B. It’s definitely worth seeing in a theater, and you’ll come out of it knowing you had fun. Just don’t go looking for anything more than a good action flick.

    Dustin D. Cook, A+

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