Wednesday, June 08, 2005
I watched Episode III.
Here's what I thought about various different aspects of the film.
The dialogue, thank Jesus, has improved. Some of the jokes actually made me giggle. Ian McDiarmid gets some great lines to chew on, and everyone else does their best with what they're given. Unfortunately, there's been no improvement in the writing when it comes to Anakin and Padme's conversations. At one point Anakin utters this clunker: "You look so beautiful because of how much I love you."
Retch. That line is so awful wouldn't even make it onto a poorly-translated Japanese Valentine's Day card.
Yoda's forced backwards-speak is similarly annoying. In his original appearances, Yoda only did this occasionally - when he really had something important to say to Luke, he'd drop the speech impediment and talk properly. Now, however, it has grown from a funny linguistic eccentricity into the defining point of Yoda's entire frigging character. He does it ALL THE BLOODY TIME, including when he's ordering clone troopers around. Would you like it if you were in a huge chaotic battle and your sergeant was barking orders at you in incomprehensible reverse-English?
"Around the survivors, a perimiter create!"
Oh, and he doesn't do that crazy little squeaky chuckle anymore. Boo.
The plot has to be the best of the prequel trilogy. I thought Anakin's perversion to the Dark Side was written quite well, especially the way it stems from love rather than pure malice. It actually makes you feel sorry for Vader, casting his character in a new light.
The spectacularly nasty way Palpatine manipulates Anakin's feelings is well-played - he lures Anakin into the dark by exploiting his fear about his wife dying, and also by quite simply being nicer to the chap than his own fellow Jedi are. The one weak point I can think of is Anakin's strangling of Padme towards the end of the film. This girl is the reason he switches sides and turns into a bastard.
He does it all out of love for her, and so it makes no sense for him to do this, unless he's just disciplining her, trailer-trash style: "Why you always gotta make me Force Choke you, baby?"
It could have simply been that by this point he was so far gone and drunk on his own power that he no longer gave a shit about her, but after he's been encased in his trademark black armour, the first thing he asks the Emperor is if she's okay, which sort of blows that line of reasoning. All in all though, the events in this film are suitably epic, and a definite improvement on that whole “bunch of evil Japanese capitalist aliens blockades some stupid planet nobody cares about” affair.
I will not dispute that a lot of the computer effects in the new films are jaw-droppingly good - it's just that they're everywhere, all the time, when they really don't need to be. Even dialogue scenes which ought to focus on character interaction are jammed full of eye-boggling computer-generated bollocks going on everywhere and distracting you from what's going on in the foreground. To convey the sheer size of the kind of titanic battles the new films have played host to, CGI is essential - but Lucas uses it for practically everything else as well, including sets and costumes. Part of the attraction of watching the old films is that most of the stuff on screen actually physically exists - real sets, backdrops, model spaceships and iconic props and costumes which became the cinematic equivalent of holy relics. If you look at production stills from this film, it's almost exclusively a bunch of people hanging around in front of a completely bare greenscreen backdrop. Would it really be more expensive to create costumes for the clone troopers instead of rendering them on a computer? The technology to do Stormtrooper suits existed in 1977, and dedicated Star Wars fans knock up convincing outfits in their sheds, so why can't ILM? It just looks better. You don't have to use CGI for everything.
I'd say the two most grating incidences of superfluous CGI in this film are...
A) The head Clone Trooper taking his helmet off during his last conversation with Obi-Wan, which was so unconvincing it reminded me of the FMV cutscenes from the original Command & Conquer.
B) Obi-Wan cradling baby Luke at the end of the film. The kid appears to have been superimposed into Ewan McGreggor's hands using a 1980s Quantel Paintbox. Could they not just have him ACTUALLY HOLD A FRIGGING BABY? They're not so hard to find, afterall. You can buy them at competetive prices from any disreputable orphanage.
Yay, Chewbacca's back! For about three minutes. With the amount of assorted Chewie-oriented merchandise on the shelves out there, I was expecting these scenes to be a pivotal part of the film, but they didn't seem to serve any function other than an excuse to churn out Wookiee toys. Oh, and Lucas yet again blatantly contradicts his own backstory by setting the fight on Kashyykk's actual surface - it's meant to be incredibly dangerous and uninhabitable down there, this being the reason the Wookiees live up in the trees to begin with. It's annoying how Lucas tries to cater to to the fans by finally putting the Wookiee homeworld up on the big screen, but then drastically alters its topography in order for it to serve as the stage for yet another of those wide open battles with so many rubbish CGI robots clogging up the screen that it's impossible to tell what's going on. I thought a vertigo-inducing fight far up in the treetops would've been a lot more exciting.
Oh, and I wanted to see Chewie ripping arms out of their sockets. Wookiees are known to do that.
What is it with the villains' names in these new films? Their surnames suggest that George Lucas just looked up synonyms for "nasty" or "evil" or "not at all a nice sort of person to spend an afternoon with" in his thesaurus. Darth Tyranus? Darth Sidious? Darth Plagueus? General Greivous? They're all so unsubtle. It's a shame evil politicians in the real world aren't so obvious, because then we'd just know not to vote for the one who wears a black cape and cackles insanely to himself when callously executing incompetant henchmen.
It's a good job they didn't make the original trilogy now, otherwise we'd have had villains like Grand Moff Asshole, Jabba The Right Fat Evil Bastard, or Darth Never-Says-Thank-You-When-Someone-Holds-Open-A-Door-For-Him.
Still, Greivous looks pretty cool and it's a nicely bizarre motif to give a robot some sort of respiratory disorder. He's obviously been at the "deathsticks" again.
SAMUEL L JACKSON
Though the man himself seems ecstatic at getting to be in Star Wars at all, I thought it was a shame he didn't get many great Jackson-worthy lines to utter. Still, actions speak louder than words, and the guy with "Bad Motherfucker" engraved on his lightsaber gets an adequate send-off when he becomes a victim of the Emperor's order to kill every Jedi in the galaxy. Being mutilated, electrocuted, and thrown out of a mile-high skyscraper sounds like just about enough punishment to see off our Samuel.
I like to think that he squashed Jar Jar when he finally cratered.
Besides the fact that they're not blokes in costumes like they ought to be, I still have problems with clone troopers. Namely, are these Jedi-butchering supersoldiers the same guys as my dearly beloved rubbish Stormtroopers in the classic trilogy? From the marked decline in their fighting prowess between episodes 3 and 4, I'd say no. My theory is that the anorexic aliens who were cloning them in Episode 2 went out of business and so the Empire, faced with a manpower shortage, was forced to throw open the doors to any old bugger who can fire a blaster, and a fair few who can't. Either that or they accidentally cloned someone really stupid.