It was Thursday, May 19th in the wee hours of the morning and I was driving home from the Regal 24, sleep already burning its way into my eyes when I sensed it.
“What’s wrong Drewprops?” I spoke into the rushing wind from an open window.
I paused, sighed contentedly and the answer slipped into the world… “A great disturbance on the Internet. It was like a million petulant geeks crying out in unison, then suddenly being silenced. George Lucas finally made another decent movie.”
And honestly, it’s a fine movie. You should’ve seen it with us – we had stormtroopers in OUR line. In fact, one of the troopers (a short one at that) tried to get us to switch lines so his sister could sit in the theater with him. Like I’m going to trust a stormtrooper. Everybody knows that stormtroopers only have brothers. Millions of them.
The movie. I’m giving it four and a half dead Jedi out of five.
Okay, if you haven’t seen the final Star Wars movie yet go ahead and click over to somewhere else on the site because I’m about to start talking about the movie and I’d hate to ruin the film for you. Go listen to the podcast that I did while waiting in line at the theater, there are no spoilers in that one.
Right, the movie.
Before the movie even began there was a hellish lightsaber battle halfway up the auditorium, you know, on the landing before the second tier of seating? It was a bunch of sugar-crazed eight year olds against an entirely different gang of cornsyrup-enriched eight and a half year olds. Remember near the end of Return of the Jedi how Luke Skywalker is hammering away at Darth Vader? Blam! Blam! Blam! Blam! That’s how it was with these kids. I could almost swear that I saw five or six little eyes poked out in that melee. They fought like lions, but really, stood they no chance against the frontal assault by one of the more level-headed mothers. Lightsaber battles. What else would you expect from a theater filled with people waving lightsabers in the air? I’m not just talking about kids here either, I’m talking about forty year old guys who dressed up like Jedi. I tried snapping a picture of one of them leaning up in front of the XXX movie poster smoking a cigarette but he quickly hid it from view, not wanting to expose the little ones to any bad habits I suppose.
As if dressing up like a Jedi when you’re forty years old isn’t going to stick in their minds dude.
Okay, okay, the movie.
I don’t know about YOU but seeing the words “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…..” still makes shivers run up and down my neck. Knowing that I was more than likely seeing the last new Star Wars movie beginning with those opening words for the last time in my life was a sobering reflection on my own mortality, an oddly satisfying counterpoint to the lingering mouth-pucker I had from some off-brand SweetTarts consumed before the lights went down.
Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah…..
After seeing the opening shot from “Star Wars : A New Hope” repeated in “Star Wars : The Empire Strikes Back” (camera racks down from a field of stars toward a planet and into some crazy spaceship action) every fan in the world looked forward to subsequent opening sequences of Star Wars movies with great anticipation. The opening sequence to “Revenge of the Sith” is one of the absolute best of the lot, slowly ramping up the action until things are boiling like a volcano. Even mildly observant fans will note how the Jedi starfighters are actually proto TIE fighters and the Republican star cruisers early Imperial Star Destroyers. All the pieces are coming together, we’re closing in on the time period of the first three films.
For those of you still reading who haven’t seen the movie, sorry if I spoil anything for you but you’ve been warned.
Hayden Christensen, as Anakin Skywalker, is much improved in his performance. Unfortunately, the antiquated, formal high-speech of the Old Republic doesn’t lend itself to what we early 21st Centurians consider to be “normal dialogue” (yo, dog), leaving key scenes emotionally crippled and logically unconvincing. The character of Anakin Skywalker should be the very definition of uncontrollable
Forever after this weekend you’ll hear Star Wars fans discussing the poorly-built (strongly-hissed) case made by Supreme Chancellor Palpatine (aka Darth Sidious) to convince Anakin that his only chance of keeping Padme Amidala alive was to become his apprentice in the ways of the Sith. Couldn’t we have carved out five more stinking minutes to work in a way to imperil Padme physically, to make Anakin’s distress manifest and present instead of perceived and visionary? It would have been a much better TWIST for the audience to feel that Padme was endangered by one plot point, only to discover that the perceived danger was but an illusion dealt by fate. The burning fever of Anakin’s evil was a fire poorly constructed by Mr. Lucas and company. We should have been given something, anything, to explain why Anakin so quickly took a knee and pledged everlasting service to Palpatine.
Yet, take a knee he must – simply to move us down the line to “A New Hope”.
And the searing evil of Anakin’s act of butchery against the Tusken Raider village in the previous chapter of the series is echoed in yet finer horror within the nursery of the Jedi younglings. I never expected to feel that level of revulsion again for the character of Darth Vader.
Boy was I ever wrong.
By this point in the film Lucas is invoking larger than life motifs and the scale of the tragedy of the fall of the Jedi is revealed at long last. It is the fall of one man, precipitating the fall of an ancient Order. The magnitude of the treachery is fantastic and reaches back through the prior two movies to unite fragments of ideas into obvious and unavoidable realities.
Palpatine orchestrated the construction of the clones with the full knowledge that one day he would use them to wipe out the Jedi.
Anakin was there to bring balance to the force, just not in the way that the Jedi expected. What was it Yoda said about misreading prophecies?
As the Jedi die ignobly on dozens of worlds at the hands of a multitude of strangely CG-looking judas troopers, our middle-aged Obi Wan follows the darkened Anakin to an INCREDIBLY rendered volcanic world to do terrible battle. Back on Coruscant, home of the NEW Galactic Empire (shock! horror! yaaayyy! (who said that?)), our once-spry little green muppet (no, not Kermit) wages a war of sheer force with the leader of the new Empire.
The final battle between Anakin and Obi-Wan is epic, spectacular and worthy of a pile of awards heaped at the feet of the graphics team responsible for the action. While I knew that Vader/Skywalker would be damaged by the volcano I had forgotten to expect such grievous damage being done to the frame of the man soon to occupy the famous suit. Without a leg to stand on it was simultaneously exciting and alarming to watch the husk of the man covered in flames and to see the immense pain Obi-Wan experienced as he turned away from the smoldering heap of his former pupil and brother in the Force. Now and ever after I will truly understand why Ben lied to Luke about his father.
A bit of the power of that scene was diminished shortly afterward when Darth Vader, in full helmet/cape regalia, snapped his chains (okay, “restraints”) in true Frankenstein style, did a Herman Munster style stumble/dance (briefly dipping into a ZZ-Top boogie move) before wiggling his hands by his side (jazz hands?) and shouting. It was supposed to be moving and terrible and… and I just wanted to bust out laughing when I saw that little sequence. It was just so completely comical that it will be mocked from here until the last Star Wars fan draws breath.
JD Taylor compared it to the “STELLLAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA” scene from “On The Waterfront”. How long will it be until somebody makes an animated icon using that footage of Vader? Hey, somebody do one and use it on my messageboard! It’s probably already out there and the weekend hasn’t even started.
Speaking of which, they’re saying that the movie has already outpaced “Lord of the Rings” opening night, so expect for this weekend’s haul to be massively massive.
The final wrap up of the plot lines, meant to connect this film to the 1977 movie were a bit forced, but the power and resonance and my love for that first film were enough to put a lump in my throat and a hurt in my heart. Finally knowing what happened to force Luke and Leia to be separated was far more important to me than I realized and I walked out of the theater determined to see that first film all over again, just like a bazillion other Star Wars fans.
That’s all I have to say about the Star Wars tonight.
May the Force be with you.