Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Star Wars

Over the past week, Spike TV was showing the new Star Wars movies - I date myself with that expression, but it's how I keep track of pop culture reincarnations. There was the REAL Twilight Zone, and there was the NEW Twilight Zone. Similarly there was the REAL Star Wars, that I saw in the movie theatre back in the 80s, then there was the NEW Star Wars. I liked the original movies fine, but by the time the second wave came along, I was less interested, and I never really wanted to pay money to see them, having read less-than-glowing reviews. However, this was on TV, and they said it was the premiere of the third movie, so I thought why not? I'd already seen parts of The Phantom Menace on TV (and found it boring), but I figured I'd give the other two movies a look.

I was actually...boulversée by how bad they were. I'm not going to write a detailed review, because these aren't new movies, and thousands of people have already written opinions. But...man! There was hardly anything I liked about them. The CGI was relentless, and while I was watching I was thinking, "Ah yes, this is what the boys would love, and they'd give this movie 10 stars just for all the zooms and crashes." I didn't like any of the performances, except Christopher Lee. Obi-Wan Kenobi didn't look otherworldly enough - he looked like a Vermont community college professor, with his neat beard and unbleached linen costume. Anakin Skywalker - oh, just hopeless. His idea of menacing evil was some sort of white-eyeball glower.

But the writing was absolutely the worst thing about the movies, particularly 'Revenge of the Sith', which is the one I watched most of. I'm sure a lot of the actors would have done better if they'd had something worthwhile to work with. Here's one example of why George Lucas has a tin ear for language: Obi-Wan goes to Padme to tell her that Anakin has turned evil, and chokes out the line, "I saw him kill...younglings." Lucas is so stupid, he doesn't even realize what language is FOR. He doesn't understand that any human being would respond emotionally to a statement like "I saw him kill children." But instead of using the language to produce emotion, as he should, he throws it away in order to show off some gimcrack invention. "Younglings" - see? They're from a galaxy far, far away, so they have a different word. Isn't that fascinating and novel? No, it's not - it just takes away the word that resonates and replaces it with a phony invented word that means nothing. He keeps the common words when he has Padme say "I'm going to have a baby," and the listener can supply an emotional content, based on our own experience of what babies are like, and what it means when a couple is going to have one (forget for the moment the petrified acting of Natalie Portman and Christian Whatsisname). Imagine if she'd said, "I'm going to have a nurslet" or "I'm going to have a babeling": the natural emotional reaction is short-circuited, because you've intruded on it with this artificial word. Invented words are fine for invented things: wookies, jedi, sith, ewok, whatever. But there's no point to inventing new words for things we already know. It's counterproductive.

I think the main problem was that Lucas was overcome by the same disease J.K. Rowling was - the urge to produce a SAGA. It wasn't enough to create 3 good, entertaining movies that continued to exert an influence ever 40 years after they were made. He wanted to construct some outer space retelling of The Fall, and he just didn't have the talent. Just as Rowling couldn't be satisfied with merely producing some entertaining books for children that also appealed to adults because of their creativity; no, no, she had to re-write the story of salvation. Neither of them had the ability to create an artificial mythos; very few can. Tolkien succeeded, but it took him decades, and he wasn't writing for the movies, either.

7 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

What was wrong with the "prequels"? Sheer hubris, that's what. Lucas was and always has been a terrible writer. For the first movies he hired a professional screenwriter to take care of that side of things while he focussed on the technical aspects of movie-making. But this time around he got a swelled head and thought he could do it all. So we got things like Anakin's instantaneous conversion to the Dark Side (which I refer to as his "Acme Instant Evil" moment) and the absolutely leaden love-talk between him and Padme (which induced belly laughs in the audience I saw it with).

Same problem with Rowling: she absolutely refused to let any editor touch her work, which in any author results in self-indulgent bloat.

Egotism never makes for good art. Tolkien, by contrast, remained quite critical of his own work despite the accolades he received.

Ellie M.

10:10 am  
Blogger Dr. Mabuse said...

Oh, that conversion to the Dark Side! I was still fuming about it hours later. Who on earth ditches everything he's ever learned or believed, and all his friends and mentors, because somebody he KNOWS is a Sith Lord (i.e., a crafty, lying sneak) spins his some yarn about being able to resurrect the dead? You'd think he'd have asked for a demonstration that this power really exists before staking all the marbles on it! A hero cannot also be an idiot - that's demanding too much from the viewer. But this is typical of the bogus modern-day "saga" - Anakin couldn't really be attracted to EVIL, he had to be just mistaken and acting with the best of motivations. It reminds me of Jason in "Galaxy Quest" trying to talk his way out of annihilation by Saris after having blown up his ship: "This was all just a big misunderstanding!"

1:36 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is why I don't read much modern fantasy/sci-fi anymore. I just got so irritated by the writers' apparent inability to understand the nature of good and evil. Tolkien and Lewis, both devout Christians, "got it" -- but their imitators, raised amid the values of secular society, don't.

So you get, for instance, imaginary societies where Good and Evil are viewed as equal but opposite powers, sort of like the positive and negative poles of a battery -- and yet if someone chooses the Dark Path that's somehow "wrong". If Evil were simply a part of the natural order, then why would choosing it be wrong?? One path would be just as valid as the other!

Having been raised on Christian fantasy -- and Christian philosophy -- I just can't stomach this New Age goofiness.

Ellie M.

8:32 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, you didn't mention anything about JarJar! The most polarizing figure of the entire series.

Although I think Anakin stank as Darth Vader. You'd expect Darth Vader to have a little gravitas or ... something, even as a young man.

8:03 pm  
Anonymous Fr JarJar Stops the World said...

When meesa ordained meesa become Rt Rev +JarJar!

8:04 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How wude!!

9:56 am  
Blogger Dr. Mabuse said...

Ohh, Jar-Jar Binks! There are some things I just can't think of anything new to say; something to do with what Dr. Johnson called the difficulty of criticizing 'unresisting imbecility'. On the bright side, though - I've discovered that RiffTrax has done commentaries on all 3 prequels. Thanks to Ellie, who put me onto the Rifftrax guys - I quite like their commentary, and it might be worth plodding through these Star Wars movies again to hear what THEY have to say.

7:38 pm  

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