Monday, June 20, 2005

That does not make sense

Took my Father’s Day afternoon off and finally saw Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith.

There isn’t too much to say about it that hasn’t been exhaustively commented upon elsewhere. Suffice it to say I agree with most critics: The opening action sequence is cool. The middle (approximately ½ of the film) – most of which takes place in meeting rooms, apartments, and a theater balcony overlooking a performance by giant pulsating bubbles playing new-age music – is quite tedious. The final half hour really rocks, though. Even though you know what is going to happen, actually seeing it unfold packs genuine emotional power. All the odd and disparate Lucasian elements – striking imagery, bad script, clunkily earnest acting – somehow all merge together into a brutal, tragic whole. I don’t know if it was worth sitting through 7.5 hours of this and the previous two films to get to, but it does recall and even surpass some of the feelings stirred up by the first trilogy.

Purely in visual terms, this movie is of course a sumptuous feast, an almost overwhelming sensory experience. Later that night I tried to watch a DVD of “House of Flying Daggers” – which of course is an entirely different kind of sumptuous visual feast – but I was done.

Aside from the standard complaints, two things bothered me. Apropos of Neal Stephenson’s critique, some basic plot elements simply don’t make sense – and not just because only geeks can understand them. At the start, Obi-Wan and Anakin rescue the Chancellor from the clutches of Count Dooku. This is all a charade set up by the Chancellor. But he and our heroes are nearly killed about six times during the rescue, as ships break apart, explode and crash into one another, etc. etc. I know the Chancellor is a Sith Lord with rare esoteric powers, but as I understand it, if a Sith Lord is on a ship that blows up in space, there’s not much even he could do about it. So why would he place himself in extreme danger? He can’t find some safer way to manipulate his way to the top?

The other thing was the Sith Lord’s latex makeup. At some point his face melts (some of those bolts of lightning he shoots from his fingers backfire). Ian McDiarmid is then equipped with latex prosthetics that look ridiculous and fake, worse than they did in "Return of the Jedi" -- like something out of the 1950s or a Star Trek episode. He’s standing there, badly lit, eyes bulging, lecturing Anakin. People around me were suppressing giggles. How is it that Lucas can weave everything else in the movie – the digital effects, the space ships, the action - into a seamless whole, but he slaps this cheesy makeup on his bad guy and wrecks everything?

More fodder for the Chewbacca Defense.