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Friday, May 20, 2005

Movie Review: Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

Episode 3Well, Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, has finally been released and with one fell swoop, the last nail has been put in the coffin. Star Wars is now dead. So, let's upturn that grave, pop the top on that casket and autopsy this bad-boy!

First thing to come up, of course, is the all too comforting titles and music. You forget for a second what you're actually about to see. Then the title crawl begins. Hmm... this seems to be familiar... oh yes, it's a castrated summary of the incredible Clone Wars cartoon series! And it's only THREE paragraphs! Perfect because as we all know, reading SUCKS! Let's get to the lasers already!

The opening space battle proves (like anyone was questioning this) that ILM owns Hollywood. Seriously, they completely own everyone's ass from here to Perdition. WETA? Nice try fellas but come on. LOOK at this thing! This is the kind of movie I would watch again and again, this would be the sequence I would focus on, there's so much. There's too much! You can't ever hope to appreciate it! Luckily you don't get the chance; enter Obi-Wan and Anakin in their A-tie-pod-wing-Frankenstein’s-poop fighters. As they punt along in their Hyundai Pony sized ships, they are beset upon by little droids who begin to dismantle Obi-Wan's ship, summarily executing R4 in the process. Obi-Wan's reaction: "Oh dear". Ah, Lucas humour. And BTW, anyone who watched Clone Wars who finds it odd that R4 seems quite well despite being blown to shit on Yavin, well, you just keep your mouth shut! It was a different R4! The fact they LOOK identical is completely beside the point! Either that or Astromech droids are WAY tougher than we've been led to believe.

Despite their setbacks, Anakin and Obi-Wan manage to arrive on Grievous' ship, setbacks that include Obi-Wan's cockpit cracking and beginning to vent atmosphere which prompts him to essentially respond, "Oh well, I'm fucked". And why is it Jedi don't wear space suits again? Oh yes that's right, because they're RETARDS. R2 is left to look after the Pony-pods while his master searches for Palpatine. While they're gone, the hapless R2 is beset upon by Baron-class battle droids who evidently, despite being PROGRAMMED FOR WAR cannot handle one little upstart navigator with a leaky fuel pump. And what's with the increasingly large array of accessories R2 carries? Did he steal Felix the Cat's magic bag or something? Doesn’t anyone care that these little toys make most of the predicaments R2 got into in the original trilogy trivial and easily escapable?! It's strange because a minute ago, when R4 got decapitated (poor little guy) all he had under the hood was some old radiator cables.

For their part, Obi-Wan and Anakin eventually find Palpatine and summarily dispose of Count Dooku (apparently he sucks now, go figure). The success is short lived and all are brought before General Grievous, the asthmatic, cyborg, and ex-KGB agent. All the while surrounded by droid soldiers who have, inexplicably, become even MORE annoying and LESS competent than they were in Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones combined! A final and ultimate display of R2's full complement of gadgets and several improbable and unbelievable moments later, all are safely on the ground at Coruscant space port. This despite NO external communication in the middle of a war-zone, landing an ENEMY space craft! Makes sense to me...

Holy CRAP! Was that the Millennium Falcon?! Wait a minute, Han's gotta be like 10 years old here, who's flying the old (or I suppose at this point, new) girl? Actually, I don't care because I know it doesn't matter. It's just an Easter egg, a wink and a nod from the boys at ILM. I also know however, that chat rooms and basements all across the globe will be filled with speculating nerds gossiping endlessly about something that's occupies three seconds of screen time in a two hour and twenty minute film. Ah, nerds...

Anakin bumps into Padme on the ground that’s sporting three buns, two in her hair and one in the oven! Of course we know it's actually two in the oven but Padme has chosen to skip the ultrasound for some reason. Anakin takes the news with about as much enthusiasm as one would expect from someone who flies life and death space missions daily but apparently can't remember to use the love-glove when things get romantic. Still not to worry, it's not like he's going to have vague, shadowy nightmares about her dying in childbir... oh. Well, nevermind, he can always seek counsel with Yoda:

"Something more, there is?"

"No, Master."

What? Can someone explain to me how it is that the greatest Jedi master in the history of the Force can't sense when some one is LYING right to his face? I'd like to know, it would sure help out at tax time!

Apparently, Yoda's Zen isn't doing it for Anakin, so he goes to visit his buddy Palpatine. As they watch some stupid water dance show, Palpatine relates a Sith legend about Darth Plageus. Plageus?! Are you for real? Does George just log onto and type in "bad" and see what hits come up? At least Darth Vader had some thought to it, this shit's beyond any form of crippled logic. And how is it Palpatine knows a Sith legend anyway? I mean WE know why but Anakin doesn't even bother to ask, he just listens intently. I know he's supposed to be confused and conflicted and all that other implied-but-poorly-delivered crap but give him some credit, he CAN'T be this dumb! God, my head...

No time to dwell on that though! Obi-Wan's off to find Grievous and make him see the, uh grievous... error... of his ways. Fuck. Monkeys throwing switchblades at dartboards with random letters posted on them could devise better names! At one point, Obi-Wan stops to chat with his buddy Cody who's a clone commander. Wait, what? Clones have names? Clones have ranks? The hell!? They're CLONES. The only possible ranking system that makes sense is BATCH numbers for fuck sakes. And names?! Fuck off! Meantime, Yoda's off to see the Wookies (the Wonderful Wookies of Kashyyyk!). The only things worth a damn in this movie were the Wookies who SHOULD have been in ROTJ. Wookies ROCK. So naturally, they get the least amount of screen time in the whole film. Perfect.

Back on Coruscant, Palpatine reveals to Anakin that, yes, he IS the Sith Lord they've been looking for. Egad! Right under your nose all along Skywalker! Boy... you sure do suck at the whole precognition thing. But of course, the power of the Sith is not so much in their use of the dark side to cause harm but to deceive and to persuade. They're the ultimate con men and Anankin knows it. Good thing Sidious is being totally honest with him about helping Padme though, because it would suck if he was just snowing him to gain his confidence. Yeah, suck BIG TIME. After speaking to Palpatine, Anakin dutifully runs off to tell Mace "what's my name bitch" Windu and the rest of the Jedi the score. Right on, time for some sweet multi-lightsaber action! No, wait, apparently all the Jedi except Mace are incompetent gits who couldn’t sabre their ways out of holographic wet paper bags! Sidious ploughs through them like... well... a plough! Now it’s down to just him and Mace now. Swell. You know, I like Sam Jackson, I really do. Just not in Star Wars. I keep waiting for him to yell, "That it?! Huh?! Whatchoo got, nigga?!" or some such pseudo-stereotypical gibberish. Denzel, Laurence Fishburne, even Morgan Freeman I could see as a Jedi, NOT Sam Jackson. But I digress...

Evidently, Mace is SO good that he can deflect force lightning. You gotta wonder if it's THAT easy, why did Luke have such a hard time of it in ROTJ? Better not to ask I suppose. As a result of this deflection, Palpatine is hideously deformed into what we know as the Emperor. Ah, okay, so he was deformed, he didn't wind up looking that way because he was unnaturally old and corrupted by the dark side. Thank god, because this Jekyll and Hyde bullshit makes WAAAAY more sense. Apparently plastic surgeons are hard to come by in the laser-sword wielding, faster-than-light traveling galaxy far, far away. As too are good make-up artists, it would seem. I'm flabbergasted that a studio with Lucasfilm's budget would have the emperor make-up look so fake and plastic, it's like a cheap Halloween mask for fuck sakes! And what's up with Ian McDiarmid’s acting in this scene? The expression "over the top" hardly seems sufficient for this tortured, laboured, now-that-I'm-evil-my-voice-is-too gibberish. The only thing worse than Palpatine's "transformation" is Anakin’s. He's been Jedi training for what now? Ten, maybe fifteen years? Palpatine says, "Dude, join the dark side, its sweet" and Anakin's right on board! His betrayal is absolute and instantaneous and thoroughly laughable. It's sickening. This is supposed to be THE moment. Anakin Skywalker becomes Darth Vader in this scene! Had Anakin killed Mace himself, the scene would have been wrought with impact. Instead he watches Palpatine fling Mace out the window, has about 3 seconds of remorse and suddenly he's off to kill Jedi. I've seen people on diets express more remorse over eating a cookie! Even worse is how he acquires his new moniker, it's like a six-year old making up names for a fucking tea party: You'll be "Polly Prissy Pants" and you're "Princess Bunnykins" and you'll be "Darth Vader" I almost puked up my $4 coke.

No time to nauseate over that though because we're whisked off yet again to watch Obi-Wan track down and shoot General Grievous. That's right, SHOOT him with a GUN. "How uncivilized", remarks Obi-Wan as he tosses aside the blaster he just shot Grievous with REPEATEDLY. Apparently Jedi Masters, despite years of intense training can't shoot worth a tin-plated fuck. Or even GIVE a shit. I'm stunned at Obi-Wan's apparent disregard for life and death in this film. If life on the front lines of the Clone Wars has left him hardened, why is still cracking (totally humourless) jokes all the time? And what the hell happened to Grievous? In the Clone Wars cartoon he was the MAN. He took out an entire Republic battle force, personally took out several Jedi and "kidnapped" Palpatine with EASE. I guess when Mace force crushed his respirators he also damaged the Not-suckitron module as well.

However, things seem to be going well for our heroes. Too bad they don't know Palpatine just declared them all outlaws and formed the Empire. Yes, just like that. Literally, in the time it took to read that sentence. I'm not a history major but I can't recall a single republic EVER electively CHOOSING to submit to singular domination. In Episode 3 this not only happens but does so with a round of applause. God knows it's the ONLY applause this film will ever have, so I guess you gotta make do. His 20+ year goal of galactic dominion accomplished, Palpatine commands the clones to execute "Order 666". Oh I'm sorry, did I add an extra six in there? My bad. Don't want to make the fact that he's evil TOO obvious, eh Georgie boy? So the clones begin gunning down Jedi left and right. You remember them, right? The Jedi? All wise and powerful and gifted with things like heightened reflexes and precognition through the force and stuff? The guys who could take out entire platoons of droids single handed? Yeah, well, they drop like flies, most of them with this stupid "Whaaaaaaaaat?" expression on their faces.

Only Yoda even remotely picks up on this and only just in time to save his own ass. He's then casually escorted away by the Wookies, who clearly have a complete understanding of the situation TELEPATHICALLY; I mean they must since they just watched two of their allies try to gun down their allied General who in turn decapitates them in complete silence. Yep, clear as a bell. Luckily they happen to have a rocket pod exactly Yoda's size which he boards and flies away in... in the middle of a combat zone... without incident. I gotta tell you, suspension of disbelief only goes SO far.

Taking a step back for a moment, what in the bluest of the blue hells is this Order 66 shit anyway? Are you telling me fully trained Jedi Masters can't sense a dozen or so Clones are about to shoot them IN THE BACK?! Clones may be copies but they're still PEOPLE, still alive and therefore linked to the force. Yet somehow their actions come as a complete surprise. Are they all drunk or something? In New Hope, Luke works out the precognition thing blindfolded with a non-living seeker droid after about ten minutes, having only learned about the force a few hours before! These jackasses can't feel a sudden shift in the force right behind them despite decades of training. Jedi? More like Jed-duh! I just don't understand why they can't sense it. You know what I sense - bad writing.

Back on Coruscant, Anakin's butchering younglings at the Jedi temple, much the same as Lucas has butchered the franchise; quietly and off camera but with results that are horrific and self-evident. This would have been a good scene if we'd seen Anakin kill at least ONE kid. Or, even better, I would like to have seen the pinnacle tower at a distance, lit from inside by the flash of his lightsaber and the muffled screams of the children as he slaughtered them, not because I'm a sociopath or anything but simply because it would have had some IMPACT without resorting to actually showing the kids getting chopped up. But no, Lucas decides to rely on implication where clearly more is needed and give us more than we need where implication would suffice. Someone take away his directing license!

With the help of Bail "NYPD" Organa, Yoda and Obi-Wan meet up and realize the situation with remarkable clarity. Remarkable, considering how fucking clueless they've been up to this point. This leads to the completely ridiculous Yoda versus Sidious fight. Yoda can evidently school EVERYONE else in the galaxy (he certainly dispatches Palpatine's guards fast enough) but can't handle some scraggly deformed geezer one eighth his age. Think about this for a second. Yoda's OLD. That means he's been training with the force for centuries. Palpatine, even given his life extending regime from his master, can't be more than 100. He's a punk compared to Yoda. Yet he schools the master who has to crawl like a whipped dog though a tube to get away. Yoda, need we remember, handed Dooku his ass in the previous film and can toss X-wings around like play toys. He's also supposed to be a brilliant strategist and thoroughly wise but now can't seem to think on his feet though. All that Woo-ping acrobatic crap from Attack of the Clones has seemingly escaped our green friend for the moment as he FALLS OFF THE PLATFORM. This despite the fact he was hopping the senate seats mere seconds before hand like he was Super Mari-Yoda! Quick, someone get him a fire flower and a tanuki suit!

Meanwhile Obi-Wan has gone to Mustafar to track down Anakin. Mustafa(r), is no doubt the name of Lucas' gardener because a less interesting, less Star Wars-ian name there has never been. Anakin has of course been dispatched to kill off all the annoying characters from the previous two films. Alas, Jar-Jar is not amongst them. When she touches down, Padme breaks out the virtual mustard and begins to chew the digital scenery. In her defense, I know it's not Natalie Portman's fault the dialogue is so bad or that Lucas couldn't direct traffic on a one way street, all the same it's a damn good thing she's easy on the eyes. Oh Natalie, you're breaking my SOUL.

As it turns out, Anakin is not impressed with her drama school try-out dialogue either and promptly goes where Wayne Brady would not and chokes the bitch. Romantic shit out of the way? GOOD! On with what we all came to see, the climactic duel in which Obi-Wan loses Anakin forever except, of course, its crap. The visuals are both great and awful, almost alternately. Anakin looks 100% believable running along a gantry that's sinking into a river of lava but looks like a paper doll on a string as he floats along atop a mining droid seconds later. Did they fire the guys who did the space battle at the beginning? I know turnaround can be quick in the animation industry but FUCK! Obi-Wan makes it to the high ground however and therefore wins because... um... it's higher and stuff. Instead of doggedly fighting Obi-Wan and losing and arm here or a leg there yet coming back for more, Anakin loses all his remaining flesh and blood limbs in one shot. Where the hell was this skill earlier when Obi-Wan was fleeing the Clones or fighting Grievous? Right, don't ask. So, here we have Anakin, burnt, mutilated, screaming in agony. So what does Obi-Wan his friend and mentor of the past 10-15 years do? Nothing! Fuck him, he's evil now anyway. Besides, what's he going to do? Come back more powerful than before and kill him in another 20 years? Ha! Fat chance! Oh Obi-Wan, you're so smart!

With Obi-Wan leaving Anakin to die, Sidious shows up and save his mangled ass. Now you would think, given the amount of time Luke spends in a Bacta tank to recover from some simple hypothermia, frostbite and a few bruises (probably some cracked ribs too) that becoming Darth Vader would take more time than say, an oil change at Jiffy Lube. Well you'd be WRONG mister! Three droids in a badly-lit med-bay wrong! I think enough has been said about Vader's "Noooooooooooo", so I won't even go there except when Vader gets up off the table at the end of the film he already has his cape attached. Think about it.

This brings us to the other pivotal moment of the film, the birth of Luke and Leia. Its funny how on a ship where everyone speaks Aurabesh (Star Wars name for English) they employ a med-droid who DOESN'T speak it. Stranger still that while a man who is nearer death than life is being restored, an otherwise healthy woman who has just given birth to twins with NO complications isn't hooked up to life support of any kind when she inexplicably begins to die. That's not just bad writing folks, that's purposeful negligence designed to remove Padme in the most expedient manner possible. And it sucks. As for Luke and Leia, they're like three month-olds, not even close to newborns (ask your girlfriends, fellas, trust me on this) not to mention Padme wasn't nearly fat enough to be carrying ONE baby, let alone two. But by now she's dead anyway, so who cares, right?

And so we come to the end of the movie. Yep, it just ends. Luke gets dropped off with the Lars, Leia goes off to Alderaan (pretty place before it got blown up) and Vader and the Emperor arrive at the construction site for the Death Star (although uber nerds will quickly point out it's actually Death Star Zero, the prototype, consisting of the main reactor, stabilizing circumferences and mega laser only - but screw them). Yoda makes a half-assed attempt to explain why he and Obi-Wan are later able to manifest spiritually though the force that includes no POSSIBLE explanation as to why Anakin can do the same. "Commune" through the force? It's not a fucking séance, asshole! And since Obi-Wan appears to Luke though his own volition, the whole thing's invalid anyway. Of course, in this movie what's one more example of juvenile storytelling? Actually, there IS one more thing: in A New Hope, Obi-Wan claims to have been going by the moniker "Ben" Kenobi since before Luke was born, only now see quite clearly he's either a) lying or b) suffering from Alzheimer’s when he says that. Yep, another drop of urine in the ocean of piss that's been dumped over all that was Star Wars since the Phantom Movie. Oh well, there we go, the end.

So ends the autopsy. Post mortem? Well, I left the theatre and my only thought was "Meh". I was sort of numb. The idea that it was the last Star Wars EVER kinda made me feel cold and dead. Like I'd just watched a friend contract a wasting disease, get hooked up to life support and then slowly, ultimately, die anyway. I think my final reaction to this movie in particular can be summed up with "Close but no cigar". I mean, apart from jackass characters like Grievous, there were no real surprises in this film. I've known the gist of what happened to Anakin for the last 18 years, the HOW it happened on the other hand, well that's a different story. So much of this film seems to me to have been a good idea that was executed in the most ham-fisted, bottom level, irate-temp-late-back-from-lunch kind of way. The "Noooo" scene is the perfect example of what I mean. Not a bad IDEA, just horribly executed. Imagine instead if it had gone this way:

Vader gets up off the table and asks about Padme. The Emperor tells Vader he accidentally killed her. Vader is incredulous and swears she was alive. Palpatine implores him to search his feelings but appears (subtly) to be manipulating him. Vader says "no" quietly, almost to himself. Then yells "no!" angrily, simultaneously smashing the machinery around him both physically AND through the force. The Emperor attempts to calm him. He convinces Vader that it was Obi-Wan's fault she died. Vader vows to see Obi-Wan dead. END SCENE. See? Simple changes, keeps the flavour, MUCH better delivery. Unfortunately, I wasn't directing. And it doesn't matter anyway. It's done. It's dead. Ashes to ashes. Time to put this one six feet under.

Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith gets a rating of:




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