Sunday, May 22, 2005

Episode III

I've seen it twice now, and my official verdict would be: eh.

The good: It looks amazing. The detail and richness of the various environments is unlike anything i've seen on film, although one wonders if maybe somewhere in the Star Wars galaxy there aren't one or two ranch-style single family homes. I think Lucas also did a pretty good job on the overall 3-movie plot arc, giving both Palpatine's rise to power and Anakin's turn to the dark side a fair degree of plausibility. The battle scenes in this final movie are decent. All of the loose ends are wrapped up, and a few inconsistencies between this trilogy and the original are covered up (e.g., C-3P0's memory is wiped at the end).

The bad: Bad dialog. Wow. I mean really embarassingly bad. The dialog in the original trilogy wasn't all the clever either, but i don't recall so frequently cringing during the earlier movies. I can only assume that George Lucas has not actually had a conversation with anyone for the last 20 years beyond ILM uber-nerds and sycophants. The only actor who really pulls it off is Ian McDiarmid, who takes the approach of just letting it rip without any pretense of trying to simulate reality (is it just me, or does he remind you of the cartoon version of the Grinch as voiced by Boris Karloff?). The relationship between Anakin and Padme never worked, but in this movie it's painful to watch. I was also disappointed in the General Grievous character. My kids have been talking about this guy for a year now, and i really imagined him to be more substantial and menacing. Instead he's a cyborg buffoon, with asthma and some really useless armor.

After the first prequel movie came out, my reaction was that Lucas had decided to take a more hard-core science fiction approach and that much of the critical backlash was a result of the fact that non sci-fi fans couldn't really relate. The first trilogy, especially the first movie, had that mythic quality that allowed a viewer to step outside of the specifics of the sci-fi milieu and just focus on the characters, or the love interests, or the philosophy, or the very basic good vs. evil story. The prequels never gave you that opportunity. If you weren't interested in the political intrigues, or the galactic droid/clone war, or all of the minutiae of the surroundings, there wasn't much left. I think history will be kinder to the prequels than we now envision, because eventually people will be able to forget that they lacked the magical allure of the originals and they'll judge these movies on their individual merit. By objective standards the prequels were all incredible productions; gorgeous, even monumental creations. They just weren't especially good movies.

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