A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 67 – Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith

Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith – May 6th, 2010

Aside from R2’s comic relief oil slick, this starts out fairly well. The first 20+ minutes is full of action and space fights and lightsaber battles and a Wilhelm scream and Palpatine fostering a bad attitude in Anakin and it seems promising. By the third movie, the war that’s been building up in the others has come to a head and the movie shows you that right off the bat. Of course, I do have some issues with R2 and Obi Wan and, oh, continuity. I appreciate that the droids were well-liked in the originals – I like them too – and that they were put in as an attempt at fan service, but does Obi Wan go senile during his time on Tatooine? They wiped the droids at the end of this movie, but Obi Wan has no excuse and this movie sets up Alec Guinness’s Obi Wan for looking mighty clueless given how much contact he has with both C-3PO and R2D2 in the prequels. Anyhow, right up until 25 minutes in, it seems really not bad. And it’s sad that “really not bad” is as high a compliment as I can manage at the moment, but consider it in the context of yesterday’s movie and it’s not to be sneered at.

The thing is, at about 25 minutes in, we see Padme, and she’s pregnant – and of course she has to be. This story is, as I mentioned, very much about Anakin and how he becomes Darth Vader. And since we know he fathered kids, and they grew up not knowing who he became, well, either it was going to get glossed over in this movie or they were going to have to handle it somehow. Fine. But I’m so not into the romantic plot. I think it might just have been an issue of lack of chemistry between the actors, if they hadn’t set them up to have met when Anakin was a small child. And then made a point of having Padme say she’d always see him that way. Early in this movie Anakin points out the little carving he gave Padme in the first movie. I’m sure it’s all supposed to make me think about how they have all this history together and what they’ve been through, but it just reinforces how very young Anakin was when Padme met him. If the dialogue was better written, if they hadn’t gone out of their way to remind us of child-Anakin, if Portman and Christensen had better chemistry, maybe it could have worked. It sucks that it didn’t.

Now, on the other hand, I think the whole thread of Palpatine and Anakin was handled rather well. Over the course of the prequel trilogy Palpatine has done a rather good shift in his public persona. And while Christensen’s acting is still somewhat wooden in every scene he’s in, he does better with his turn-to-the-dark-side scenes than his romance scenes. It happens a little fast for my taste, but I can see it. It works, for the most part, and it’s rather terrifying to watch at times. Likewise, the betrayal of the Jedi all over the galaxy has true emotional impact – though dude, only Obi Wan and Yoda made it? Seriously? But yeah, destroying them all, coupled with Anakin and what you know happened with the young Jedi students? That is dark and bleak and the movie does a relatively good job with only pulling the punches that should be pulled and no more. If you’ve seen the original trilogy you know that the Jedi are all gone by the time we meet Luke on Tatooine. The inevitability of it makes it worse, I think.

Unfortunately, the turn-to-the-dark-side plot and the romantic plot eventually meet up, with Anakin’s change into Vader prompting Padme to turn away from him, which is the impetus for the climactic fight between Anakin/Vader and Obi Wan at the end of the movie. It’s a pity that it’s necessary for the plot, because without the romance, the majority of this movie is fairly watchable. It’s certainly better than its immediate predecessor, and it’s a lot more fun to watch than the first in the trilogy (thanks, in part, to a lack of Jar Jar, thank goodness). It’s darker, which is fine by me, and it sets the scene for the original trilogy. So it’s too bad it’s marred by the Anakin and Padme plot and Padme’s continuity-killing “death from a broken heart” that makes me wince. I’ll just try to focus on Vader in his shiny new helmet and look forward to watching the originals.

May 6, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , | Leave a comment

Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

May 6, 2010

Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

This movie is the Empire Strikes Back of the Star Wars prequel series. By which I do not mean that it is the best of the prequels (although it is) but rather I mean that it suffers from the dreaded middle movie syndrome. Yesterday’s movie, although it is the second movie, ended on a mostly positive note for the good guys. The clone army soundly trounced the droids and drove them out of Geonosis. Part of this is the disjointed and poorly put together nature of the prequel series – the movies don’t flow into each other very well – what with there being no common foe throughout the films and with two different actors playing Anakin. This is the movie where everything falls apart and the Sith basically win. But it’s an odd sort of middle movie because any Star Wars fan watching it already knows what’s going to happen and how things are going to turn out.

A word on foes: it’s all well and good that we have Palpatine/Darth Sideus plotting throughout all three movies, but he really doesn’t appear threatening until this third movie. Instead we have a parade of disposable “monster of the week” type bad guys, each of whom is cool in their own way but who are all short lived. You really need a counter-balance. You need a focus for the audience’s attention, and one of the problems these movies have (one of many, many problems) is that you have all new bad guys in every movie. So a brief moment of silence for the all to quickly disposed of scions of Darth Sideus. Maul, Dooku and Grevious. We barely knew ye.

Another fatal flaw in this movie is that the romance from Episode II simply is not sufficient to work as the driving force in this movie. Revenge of the Sith is all about how Anakin morphs from the hero of the first two prequels into the dreaded Darth Vader from the original series. And that transformation hinges on him being obsessed to such a degree with his love for Padme that he would give up his very soul to save her. It’s an interesting notion, but it doesn’t hold water because of the complete lack of chemistry between Padme and Anakin. So there’s not really any motivating force for him to kill Windu and go all baby-killer here. It should have a lot more emotional impact than it does. Instead you’re just left with the impression that Anakin grew up to be somewhat of a prick and it’s only a small step from there to baby-killing. Or at least that’s what you’re led to believe.

I will say that there is some emotional impact to the execution of “order 66” and the clone troopers slaughtering all the Jedi. “Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!” But it’s a sadness in a sort of vague end-of-an-era way. You never really knew any of the Jedi who are slaughtered (except Windu and some of the Jedi from the Clone Wars animated series. I was saddened by Fisto’s ignoble defeat at Sideous’ hands.)

By far this is the most engaging and least convoluted of the prequel Star Wars movies. But there is still much that is flawed with it. You never buy Anakin’s transformation and have zero sympathy for him. The whole movie is overblown and full of its own significance. And perhaps most fatally it doesn’t work as a prequel for the original Star Wars series because it eliminates all the surprises and tension from the Empire Strikes Back. If you’ve watched this movie then you already know that Anakin is Luke and Leia’s father. I wish that this movie, that all the prequels, didn’t exist. It saddens me that an entire generation of children will be seeing these movies before seeing proper Star Wars. They lessen the original work. They twist and belittle my childhood. And, hell, they don’t even fit in with the original series (but we’ll be discussing that on Saturday when we review A New Hope.)

George Lucas’ journey towards the dark side is complete.

May 6, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , | Leave a comment