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There aren't many movies that generate the hype that the latest and supposed last of the Star Wars films has, despite the fact that this film doesn't really merit such hype. After two previous installments that are generally considered inferior to the original trilogy, you'd think that Lucasites would be a bit jaded on the franchise. Still, sometimes months in advance, the hardliners began lining up at their local multiplex to swallow the latest load that George had to offer.
I'll admit that I was one of the ones who made it to the first possible showing, at 12:01 EST Wednesday night. After all, despite my vocal disappointment in Episodes One and Two (Especially Episode One,) I had made it to the first available shows for those two as well. Well, sorta. I was in the Florida panhandle when Episode Two came out, so I was an hour behind the East coast. But that's beside the point. I still had to be there, if only to be able to churn out a review within my self-defined timeframe.
Today, I'm not going to babble on in my usual organized fashion. I'm going to break it down for you, piece by piece, And then give you a final verdict. It'll be kind of like watching The People's Court, but without the awesomeness that is Rusty the Bailiff.
Spoilers are bound to ensue, but if you don't know that little whiny Jedi bitch is gonna turn in to James Earl Jones by now, then you probably don't care anyway.
Anakin Skywalker. So Hayden Christensen is a little better than he was in Episode Two. Of course, that's like saying that Carrot Top is a little more reserved today than he was yesterday. I should really not start my list with Anakin, because the entire story is based on him, but I kind of have to for the exact same reason I shouldn't. Anakin is a much stronger and more powerful Jedi than he was in the previous film, or so we're told. Nothing he does really illustrates that, though, other than that sweet backflip he lands on Obi-Wan, and he just seems like he's more of a naive little kid than ever before here. Anakin finally gets to turn to the dark side, but does so in a rushed fashion. He goes from being ready to turn in Palpatine to being willing to slash off Mace Windu's arm in a split second, and then somehow can be talked in to murdering a room full of innocent little Jedi younglings directly afterward. I realize that the dark side of the Force is a powerful thing, but the dude still has all this love for Padme, so it seems pretty odd that he would just slay some toddlers without so much as batting an eye. And of course, there's the romantic stuff. It was really bad when Anakin says that line about how "I don't like sand" in Episode Two, but that pales in comparison to the "You look beautiful tonight because of how much I love you" exchange he has with Padme in this one. My stomach just churned typing that line.
Padme Amidala. Natalie Portman is not usually a bad actress. She just happens to be that way whenever George Lucas is around. I guess a lot of it has to do with the crappy material she's having to regurgitate, because 99% of her material in this film is either her trading cheesy lines with Anakin or standing around worrying about him. Oh, and of course, she gives birth to the twins who will eventually make out with each other like the ones in Euro Trip. Fortunately, before she dies (of a broken goddamn heart, no less,) she is able to muster up names for them. This is seriously like the worst scene in the movie. Padme's lines have to read something like this: Grunt. Scream. "Luke". Grunt. Flail. Pant. Scream. "Leia". Die. Can't you at least let her live long enough to make a well-thought decision on the names, or if that's too much to ask, have her die before they're named and let Obi-Wan name them? For all we know, "Luke" and "Leia" may be Padme trying to mutter up a Galactic swear word in her dying moments.
Obi-Wan Kenobi. Lord knows that Ewan McGregor has been the best thing about this trilogy. Despite his public statements ripping the material, he still does an amazing job of making Obi-Wan the character we care most about. The final scene in the big battle between him and Anakin is absolutely made by McGregor. I can't say enough about how much he rocks. However, some of the biggest points of contention in regards to continuity fall on Obi's shoulders. If Obi-Wan delivered Luke and Leia to the folks that raised him, then why does he seem to think Luke is the galaxy's last hope? Did he forget about Leia being the other child of Vader? Is he just a misogynist who thinks women make inferior Jedis? He also seems to forget R2-D2 and C-3PO pretty quickly, but then again, he's probably just lying to Luke the way he does when he tells Luke that his father wanted him to have his light saber.
Yoda. The little green dude is one of the better things about this movie, and despite how much I diliked his fight scene with Dooku in Episode Two, I thought his battle with Palpatine was pretty kickass. I'm still annoyed at the fact that Yoda can go from feeble old man to asskicker in a heartbeat, but I guess I'm getting used to it. The coolest thing Yoda does, however, is walk in to rooms and drop guards with a wave of his hands. That's the awesomeness that I expect in a little green Jedi dude.
Emperor Palpatine. Formerly Senator Palpatine, Chancellor Palpatine, and probably Fred Palpatine back in the day; but also does double duty as the Sith Lord Darth Sidious. Of course, Ian McDiarmid is likely the best actor in this whole movie, so he is able to make this character more interesting than the script probably makes it deserve. Every line muttered by Palpatine, even in the over-the-top post-Anakin's-turn scenes, is pure gold. Unfortunately, he has to play off Anakin quite a bit, and the contrast between the two is staggering.
R2-D2 and C-3PO. Artoo plays a major role here, as usual, but I'm starting to grow tired of the new gimmicks he pulls out every movie. This time, not only does he have a little electro-shock scope on his dome that disrupts other droids' circuitry, but he also can apparently shoot flammable oil all over the place and then launch fire out of his boots. And Artoo's distressed scream is pretty cool in previous movies, but it's the only sound he makes for the first half of the movie. Threepio doesn't even get a line until about half of the way through the film. No big argument here. Overall, he's pretty inconsequential in the movie. Continuity apologists are happy because they feel that C-3PO's memory being wiped at the end of this film (and Artoo's subsequent laugh, which is almost worth the price of admission alone) explains why he doesn't remember anything, but I don't seem to recall any wipes of the memory to Owen and Beru Lars or Obi-Wan Kenobi that explain the fact that they know far less than they should by the time A New Hope rolls around.
Count Dooku. A.K.A. The Artist formerly Known as Darth Tyrannus. Which is sad, really, because "Darth Tyrannus" actually sounds pretty menacing. Far more, at least, than "Dooku". Say it out loud. "Doo-ku. Doooo-ku". Doesn't exactly roll off the tongue. Yet, they never refer to him as Tyrannus here, only as Dooku. But regardless, Christopher Lee is Count Dooku, which should be a pretty cool thing. Yet, somehow, despite all those cool horror movies and James Bond villainy and Lord of the Rings goodness, Lee just doesn't come off as a bad ass here. Whenever I see him, it's like "Hey, who's the old dude with the lightsaber?"
General Grievous. The newest big villain in the series, Grievous is a cyborg thing that slumps over and coughs a lot. Despite the Darth Maul-esque hype surrounding Grievous, he's a pretty uninspiring character. Then again, much like I am with Yoda, I don't care so much for the characters that have trouble just walking but then can go all badass with the flip of a switch. Call me crazy.
Bail Organa. Hey, this time, Jimmy Smits has lines! Finally, Bail plays a major role here, and there are no complaints. I could talk about why it was good, but it's more fun to expound upon the stuff that annoys me, which Bail Organa did not.
Jar Jar Binks. Meesa be havin' no lines in this movie, that'sa not so bombad! Still, wasn't the only reason Jar Jar even hung out with the Jedis and Senate in the first place because he owed Qui-Gon a life debt? Why the fuck does anyone still tolerate him?
Mace Windu. Well, we finally get to see Mace really be a Bad Mother Fucker (I wonder if that's engraved on his lightsaber, but I'm guessing the purple would cancel it out) in his saber battle with Palpatine, but Sam Jackson still phones in his performance like he did in the last two films. As far as demises go, his was a bit disappointing too, but such is the case with all the Jedi. See below.
Plo Koon, Kit Fisto, Ki-Adi Mundi, and the rest of the Jedi who die like little bitches. Sorry your roles were reduced to cannon fodder, guys. And I still want to know what happened to Yaddle.
Nute Gunray and the Trade Federation. You mean Darth Maul got 5 minutes of screen time and Jango Fett was afforded about twice that, but these douchebags take three movies to be gotten rid of?
Random Droid Variations. If you thought the corny lines being said by the battle droids in Episodes One and Two are painful, then wait'll you get a load of this movie.
Chewbacca and Hot Wookiee Action. With the amount of Wookiee merchandise and the big Wookiee feature article in Entertainment Weekly last month you'd expect the Wookiee intervention in this film to be at least equal to the level of involvement the Ewoks had in Return of the Jedi, right? I mean, after all, supposedly the Ewoks were supposed to be Wookiees anyway, right? Well, that ain't what we got here. The Kashyyyk battle is an afterthought, with only Chewbacca and Tarfull being the named characters, and really seems like it was put in just to appease the Wookiee lovers out there. At least they didn't fuck up by having Obi-Wan get all friendly with Chewy which would add just one more continuity flaw between the trilogies. Oh, and we heard the Tarzan yell from Chewy in Jedi already. We don't need to hear it again.
Qui-gon Jinn. Oh, you missed it? Yeah, apparently they cut all his scenes. Again. What we do get, however, tacked on like an afterthought, is Yoda explaining to Obi-Wan that he's figured out a way to talk to him. I guess this is supposed to explain all of the 'Jedis from beyond' stuff in the original trilogy, but I never for a second had any questions about that.
The beginning. The film starts strong, with a huge battle reminiscent of the first trilogy. At least, that's the way it looks at first. While technology has enabled Lucas to make a battle scene that's more visually stunning than anything you've ever seen before in a Star Wars film, there's something missing. All of the suspense from the space battles over Yavin and Endor are gone. It's almost like a slapstick battle with Obi-Wan and Anakin fighting off yet another unnecessary droid variation. Then it gets sappy. And a little political. And you remember what you hated about Episodes One and Two.
The end. Vader gets all burnt up and winds up in a suit. A thin but fun homage to Frankenstein ensues. Obi-Wan takes the babies off to their new homes, and we get our first shots of Alderaan and a familiar shot of Tattooine's twin suns. Captain Antilles, aboard what is most likely the same Blockade Runner that starts off the original trilogy, gets custody of the droids. Blink and you'll miss a pre-Grand Moff Tarkin and the skeleton of the Death Star. Everything, as it should, makes you want to go home and shove in your copy of A New Hope. In other words, this film ends better than it begins.
Final verdict. Better. Not perfect, but better. I can't really say yet if it was better than any of the films in the original trilogy, but I doubt I'll eventually come to that conclusion. The first hour of Sith is kind of bad. There's too much of the romance crap with Anakin and Padme, the battle scenes are a bit underwhelming, and there's just a lot of drag in general. The movie improves quickly, though, and fires on all cylinders by the time the big battle scenes occur. As much as I like shooting all the flaws in my little reviews, I still liked it, and will see it a few more times so it can really sink in. Now I just have to start the betting pool on how long it takes for Lucas to change his mind on the whole "No more movies" thing.
I'm in for 20 that says he's lying worse than Obi-Wan. Not that that's a bad thing. You in?
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