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Miscellaneous meanderings and philosophical ramblings. The title from a spiral notebook I used to jot down my thoughts on religion and other matters some years ago. I like to write, think and express my views on various issues. Robust discussion is welcome.

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"Lan astaslem."
I will not submit. I will not surrender.
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Thursday, May 19, 2005

Star Wars III - Revenge of The Sith

Star Wars III - Revenge of The Sith

Well I saw it Thursday night. Let me start my review by pointing out the difficulty Lucas was faced with. We all knew the ending. The emotional impact of that is gone except as a sigh of final relief. We have come full circle and it could have been worse. I guess my overall reaction is like that of the Anakin, Obi-wan Jedi buddy team. No matter what danger or collapse of well-laid plans is swirling about them, they shrug it off with a whimsical joke as if to say - eh, whatever.

To overcome this lack of surprise in the final ending Lucas would need to draw us in with the how and that takes great writing and acting. A good example would be the Lord of The Rings. Many of us knew the outcome and every step along the way but great acting and directing and of course dialogue easily overcame that. Unfortunately, we know Lucas falls short in writing dialogue and for some reason good actors become wooden stand-ins to CG effects under his direction. In some cases I have seen smiley emoticons deliver more dramatic expression. I really do not understand how some critics can be comparing this to Shakespeare. It most certainly could have been, but much that could have been explored is left out or only barely implied.

Now, of course there is praise that is well deserved. Lucas has a great visual imagination. The first visions of the capital of Naboo or Coruscant were indeed sights to behold. He has made good use of technology. But as others have commented before, he is so interested in the technology that the movies tend to lack soul. While he produces epic space battles and indeed they are wonderful to see, the overall heart of the movie is lacking.

So the good, a space battle that very much surpasses that of Starship Troopers. Palpatine being played extremely well, stealing the show in my opinion. The environment of Obi-wan and Anakin's last battle was impressive as was Anakin's physical destruction and of course there is the music, the themes we all remember and love arising once again. The bad that I especially noticed would be silly philosophy, which I had covered here, before seeing the film but now I notice a contradiction in the movie regarding that. Due to my martial arts training, I also am very particular about fight scenes, especially those involving swords or in this case lightsabers.

First the philosophy, as I noted previously Obi-wan said "only a Sith deals in absolutes". As silly as that was, it now flies in the face of Darth Sidius preaching relative morality and his new apprentice repeating the same. So which is it - absolutes are bad or relative morality is bad? I suppose a Sith will do or say anything is the way out. Eh - whatever.

Now for the lightsaber fight. The best in the Star Wars movies were Luke and Darth Vader in The Empire Strikes Back and also Return of The Jedi and of course the fight with Darth Maul in Phantom Menace, especially when Obi-wan reacts to Qui-Gon Jinn being killed. In contrast we now have Lucas making lightsaber fights resemble a rave with neon lights or a video game with all the jumping around. Its not that the actors portraying Obi-wan or Anakin/Darth Vader were not good or the techniques bad. It’s that you can hardly see them for all the neon lights twirling and flashing around.

I think Lucas would do well to take some lessons from recent Chinese movies. If he would like an example of stoic characters that can still display emotion, he should view Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. He could also learn from Ken Watanabe in The Last Samurai and again the Lord of The Rings saga. For a fight between former friends, he could learn a great deal from the final battle in House of Flying Daggers. A fight for love and hate between former allies that surpasses what Lucas has been able to achieve here. All of these films also have superior sword fights and most likely because they do not have the overabundance and/or reliance on CG effects.

Considering the scope of the film there is enough so that some will hate the film and others will love it. Much like the opening to A Tale of Two Cities, “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times”. But for me it is simply - eh, whatever.

Previous post:

George Lucas - highschool philosopher

Other views:

From Professor Bainbridge: Betraying Story Continuity to Score Political Points

From a coworker who read an early draft of my review:

Well-written review, you’re right about the sub-par dialog from otherwise good character actors. I think these current installments of the 'star wars saga' suck compared to the original trilogy b/c of the lack of good direction from a Spielberg; or the Oscar caliber acting of an Alec Guinness.

feel free to use this phrase in your review when you tweak it later:

Trifecta of Suckness

From Libertas: Star Wars Episode III: Review + Extended Commentary
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