Thursday, May 19, 2005

REVENGE OF THE SITH review

There's millions of these floating about the internet just now, and I sat on this for a while, trying to get my thoughts straight. Did I really enjoy it as much as I thought I did? Could I have? I certainly wasn't expecting to, I admit. Was my enthusiasm some form of residual, Pavlovian reaction of my childhood affection for this series, that would fade with time leaving more bitterness and disappointment? So far, no. I loved it.


The opening sequence: all the kineticism that was so painfully missing from the last two films was all present and correct, sir. I was sitting in exactly the same seat I'd seen RETURN OF THE KING in. Just a little bit too close to the screen. For the opening of Peter Jackson's movie, it felt like I was hiding in the hedgerows snooping on the secret origin of Gollum. For REVENGE OF THE SITH it felt like I'd been booted out of an airlock and was falling, dizzy and gasping for breath.


The relationships between characters I'd previously found unconvincing, had suddenly gelled (which says a hell of a lot for the cast, 'cause the script was still erring on the leaden side). Skywalker and Kenobi, Skywalker and Amidala, and especially Skywalker and Palpatine. In his scenes, Sam Jackson was ten times better with something meaningful to do, than making those wasted cameos in THE PHANTOM MENACE and ATTACK OF THE CLONES. I'd loved Mace Windu's showcases in the CLONE WARS cartoons, and was glad to see this original iteration of the character finally living up to the charm of it's 2D counterpart (plus it put an end to a question haunting me since the very start of this whole prequel malarkey: if Sam is cool as fuck, how come Mace was such a drag?).


Like many who've seen this film, I found myself hoping against all my higher reasoning, that things would turn out differently for these characters, that they could shrug off the weight of their destiny. Now, that speaks volumes about the degrees of success that George Lucas has achieved with this movie. That Obi Wan would just give Anakin a big hug and the kid would come round to his senses. That Mace would just lop off Palpatine's head while he had the chance. That Yoda would drop a podium on the wrinkly old bugger while he had the chance. That Padme would be the mother on Aldaraan that Leia remembers in RETURN OF THE JEDI. That if Obi Wan had been a real friend to Anakin at all, he'd have put him out of his misery after lopping off three of his limbs and leaving him in a backwash of lava. But oh no. The level of darkness present for a franchise movie, a pop culture staple, was brave, and strangely quite liberating. I'd love to see the X-MEN movies go this dark, for a Phoenix or DAYS OF FUTURE PAST storyline, but I doubt if they'd have the balls.


Of course, my inner STAR WARS geek had lots of little ecstatic rushes. Seeing Chewbacca was curiously emotional. The amazing visuals throughout. Artoo's scene stealing during the rescue mission. Threepio's genius double-take as he learns his fate aboard the Tantive IV right at the end. Hell, even seeing the interiors of the Tantive IV again was quite a thrill.

Okay, the script could have done with a polish by a real writer. Sure, forcing some actors to intone rather than act their dialogue meant that Ewan McGregor and Natalie Portman in particular always seemed handcuffed somewhat. To me, the one major bummer was the closing up of the plot thread about how Ben and Yoda merrily march on in death throughout the original trilogy. If I'd been Lucas, I'd have locked Liam Neeson in for that scene, because without his actual presence, it was empty exposition. An actual, rather than promised, reunion between Ben and his mentor would have carried so much more emotional weight.


Now, let the backlash begin! I'll hate it by Christmas!

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