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Ain't Sithbehavin' - my impressions

The short version: I liked Revenge of the Sith, but it definitely could've been better.

Pros
  • The visuals were impressive. Mordor, erm, the volcanic planet's lava effects were particularly good. Complete suspension of disbelief on Yoda. Loved Obi-Wan's vault out of his ship into fighting on the landing deck.

  • The homages to other moments in other portions of the saga were nice without being too over-the-top in most instances. I particularly enjoyed catching the Millenium Falcon on Coruscant, the paralleling of the master-apprentice mission in Ep I to the master-apprentice mission in Ep III, the little R2-D2 periscope reference, the corridor in Bail Organa's ship looking like the one where we first see Darth Vader (presumably it's the same ship, or same ship model, anyway), etc.

  • I appreciated the closing of certain circles: Threepio's mind wipe as an explanation of why he didn't recognize R2-D2, Obi-Wan picking up Anakin's lightsaber for later to give to Luke, etc.

  • I thought Hayden Christensen did a decent job, particularly at the beginning of the movie, and Ewan MacGregor was as solid and consistent as he's been as Obi-Wan throughout the first three. And, Frank Oz, what would we do without you?

  • I loved Yoda's "Bitch, please," moment as he knocks the Imperial Guard down without batting an eyelash.

  • Jar-Jar almost entirely absent. No wonder the movie was better.

  • Never underestimate the power of a John Williams soundtrack.


Ambivalent Points and Unanswered Questions
  • For those who are saying there are too many lightsaber battles, hello? It's Star Wars! Furthermore, this is the movie where weesa at war, okie-day? Besides, the sheer barely-stifled (sometimes unstifled) glee on Ewan MacGregor's face during his lightsaber scenes is just plain fun.

  • I've seen it twice now, and the one point where I get a little misty is when Yoda climbs on Chewie's shoulder as they retreat. It's just so sweet, two friends helping one another escape the storm, comrades in arms . . . I just get a lump in my throat. "Good relationships with the Wookiees I have!" Yoda exclaims, and we're just so glad - happy to actually see that connection.

    This sense of joy over such a tiny bit of screen time is indicative, unfortunately, of a key weakness in Eps I-III: there's too little friendship too late. We just don't care about these characters very much, perhaps because they don't seem to care very much about one another. This is a sharp contrast to the warmth of the relationships shown in Ep IV, V, and VI.

    I'd like to give Lucas the benefit of the doubt. I'd like to pretend this was deliberate: that we're meant to feel Anakin's sense of isolation. Unfortunately, it doesn't hold up under analysis: if Padme is meant to be his love and his anchor, a relationship he cares about and, from that, a relationship the audience should care about, then why don't we give a flip? The answer, of course, is the dreadful writing of the romantic plot and dialogue.

  • In the What Are They Getting At? category, the paralleling of Emperor Palpatine's dialogue with Mace Windu's dialogue. I'm talking about where Palpatine tells Anakin that Dooku was too dangerous to live as a rationalization for slaying him. Mace Windu uses almost the exact same line when he tries to kill Palpatine. That seems very deliberate scripting, but to what end? The only thing I can think is that before Anakin arrived, Windu seemed to have no intent to kill Palpatine, only to arrest him. In fact, he says "You're under arrest!" while holding him at the point of his lightsaber. It's after Palpatine starts his little "don't kill me" spiel that Mace Windu says this, and I have to wonder if Palpatine is using a Dark Side technique similar to the Jedi suggestion power. Essentially, where his whole "don't kill me" speech is a means of manipulating Windu to try to go down exactly that road.

    This would also partially confirm/explain why Palpatine is so successful as a persuader, both in politics and with Anakin. As long as he isn't in completely unfertile soil, he can grow poisonous seeds with ease.

  • mumpish raised a truly fascinating theory. I have no reason to think it's true, but I do think it's intriguing. Essentially, he suggested that the Sith lord mentioned in the legend told by Palpatine conducted an experiment on creating life . . . and Shmi Skywalker was the test subject. Would explain the virgin birth nicely.

    Again, I can't give Lucas quite that much credit, I think he just didn't want to deal with all the begats (X begat Anakin, Anakin begat Luke and Leia, etc. - there has to be an end to it), but it's an interesting thing to toy with. I also think it's quite possible that Palpatine made up the whole story to manipulate Anakin further.

  • Does Anakin ever realize that he's been totally and completely manipulated by Palpatine? If so, I don't think we ever see that moment. I think his redemption in Jedi comes from love for his son, and desire to preserve a little bit of Padme through him. (Also, perhaps, that his son could walk the path that he never could.)


Cons
  • Who is Grievous? It's a bad idea to introduce a completely new and unfamiliar villain to the audience in the last movie (of I, II, and III). What's even worse about General Grievous is that we never find out what his story is: he's clearly partially organic, but how? What's his background and motivation for this scene, as the saying goes? Without that, he seems to exist soley as a special effect for Obi-Wan to fight. Now, granted, it's an extra-cool special effect, but it would've been better to have a little more depth for the otherwise-disposable droid.

  • Speaking of effects, one of the few that really didn't work for me was the lizard Obi-Wan was riding. Skeleton just didn't move plausibly.

  • In Hollywood, there are people whose sole job it is to maintain consistency of appearance for sets and costuming. Apparently, Lucas couldn't get any of them for Episode III, or at least not on the days that Natalie Portman was filming. I refer here to the incredible Expando/Shrinko pregnancy, where she actually appears larger earlier in the film than later.

  • Back when I used to act, a key piece of advice from my coach was not to be so cerebral. She meant that it was all well and good for me to be in-character, but it didn't do the audience any good if they couldn't see it.

    I was reminded of this during the Mace Windu/Emperor Palpatine/Anakin Skywalker scene where Anakin is all of a sudden "Meesa Dark Side now, Okie-day?" I just believe that the script failed a little here: for such an exceedingly huge and important moment, where Anakin actually says yes, he consents, that there should've been more of a visible and verbal progression, more of a struggle, more emotion, something. It was far too quick, especially in light of the poise and confidence we see in Anakin at the beginning of the film. We see the character more grounded by his marriage with Padme, more sure of himself and less impetuous. We see that he has Obi-Wan's respect and friendship. All of this buildup just sort of seems to go poof. Yes, yes, there's that sequence with him in tears in the Jedi temple, and later after slaying Gunray & co., but at the actual moment, the very point of concession, it's kind of "Huh?"

    As a side note, we had a wonderful time with mumpish and T. on Saturday, where we discussed this at length.

  • Another scene that felt rushed: Darth Vader, complete. That whole sequence where he learns that Padme is dead deserved more time -- more time for the anger, the grief, and the realization that he is completely and utterly lost.

  • Speaking of rushed, ambush or no, it felt like the Jedi went down way too darned fast, especially that old Jedi Master.


Bottom Line
In the end, I think what pains me, as well as many other Star Wars fans, is that we see the potential, but not the realization of that potential. We see the sketch of what could have been. Lucas has some wonderful concepts, but in crucial areas, his execution leaves something to be desired. That's why I made my smarmy remark earlier about being grateful for Peter Jackson: his execution is so good that in certain areas (Boromir), I think he actually improves the material he's given. (We won't talk about Philippa and Faramir, right now.)

I still think Empire Strikes Back is the best of the six, but I'd put this one ahead of Return of the Jedi. It's certainly better than Ep I or Ep II.

Ultimately, I liked it, but I didn't love it. It wasn't the best it could've been. Like many, I just wish Star Wars had lived up to its potential.

Comments

( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
cryptonaut
May. 23rd, 2005 07:25 pm (UTC)
A few comments on your comments
-I think Bail Organa's ship is supposed to be the same one from the beginning of a new hope because the captain of both ships is Captain Antilles.

-General Greivous was introduced in Cartoon Network's awesome Clone Wars series. It takes place between Episode's II and III, and we are introduced to Grievous, see Anikin go from Padowan to Jedi Knight, see the abduction of Palpatine, and get lots and lots of amazing combat sequences that portray the Jedi as the elite fighters they are supposed to be.

-I really like your theory that Palpatine manipulated Windu to try to kill him as a way of manipulating Anikin to step in!
pointedview
May. 23rd, 2005 09:01 pm (UTC)
Re: A few comments on your comments
Nifty on the ship; I thought so.

As for Grievous, my friends Jim and T. mentioned the cartoon series on Saturday, but they agreed with me when I raised the point that the movies have to have continuity that makes sense whether or not you've seen Clone Wars, because there's a big set of casual fans (indeed, I'd bet more than not) who have only ever seen the movies. They might have a SW figurine here and there, maybe even one or two of the books lying around, but they don't really follow it except when the movies roll around. Given that, it's unreasonable to expect them to have context for Grievous.

That being said, it does sound like it'd be well worth watching. :)

I like my theory, too, except for the fact that Mace is a Jedi Master and shouldn't be so easily manipulated. On the other hand, he had let his guard down a little in the battle at that point because he had him before Anakin walked in, and it is the emperor we're talking about.
cryptonaut
May. 24th, 2005 03:15 pm (UTC)
Re: A few comments on your comments
One thing I wish the movies (or the cartoon, for that matter) had done is give us more information on Count Dooku. He's a fascinating character, and I wish that they'd revealed more of his story.
pointedview
May. 24th, 2005 05:36 pm (UTC)
Re: A few comments on your comments
Me, too. Frankly, I wish they'd given his character more screen time in the actual movies. Another instance of a character too quickly introduced and dispatched.
cryptonaut
May. 24th, 2005 06:05 pm (UTC)
Re: A few comments on your comments
Considering that there are only supposed to be two Sith at any given time (a master and an apprentice) I wonder what Dooku was doing while Darth Maul was around. In the cartoon, Dooku recruits a female alien (I forget her name) who fights with lightsabers and uses the force. She has a big fight scene with Anikin where she proclaims that she is Sith. An apprentice to the apprentice? The cartoon also shows Dooku training Greivous in lightsaber technique. Maybe Dooku was looking ahead to a time when he replace Palpatine?
twr
May. 25th, 2005 09:25 pm (UTC)
Re: A few comments on your comments
I didn't get the impression that Greivous used the force, though--just lightsabers. His advantages over the jedi came from his cybernetic reconstruction and ability to weild 4 lightsabers at once. He never showed use of any of the other force abilities, so it seemed to me that he wasn't a force user, just a weird cyborg who was highly trained in the use of lightsabers.
twr
May. 24th, 2005 04:31 pm (UTC)
Well, of course Star Wars didn't live up to its potential--it's a Generation X Slacker. ;)

I'd been avoiding the internet entierly since opening night (I finally went to see it on Friday or Saturday night), and now I've had some time to think about it.

First impresion--I liked it. A lot. Better than Episodes I & II, though Empire remains my favorite. Between Episode III, IV and VI I don't know though . . . I'd put it behind IV, on a par with VI, I think. Not entierly certain, though.

Perhaps my favorite part was the look on Dooku's face when Palpatine tells Anakin to kill him. That and when Anakin goes in to kill the younglings--I'm not surprised they didn't show him cutting them down, but I certainly would've enjoyed it (I cheered when he went in to kill them, but then I'm a bad, bad man).

I also didn't like the movement of the lizard--truth be told, that was what bothered me the most about Jar-Jar, he didn't move like a living creature, he moved like a cartoon. Sure, his voice and personality were annoying, but his animation was even more annoying.

Some other small nitpicks . . .

R2 has rocket boosters? Ok, sure . . . he had them in Episode II, but why does he not have them in Episodes IV through VI? Why did he even have them in the first place? In related R2 questions, I don't mind Obi-Wan not remembering R2 (after all, Obi-wan had very little interaction with him over the course of the entire clone wars), but why doesn't R2 remember Yoda in Episode IV?

I saw the Clone Wars series (very good, though I didn't love the style of animation) and I STILL had questions about General Grevious--where did he come from (the series doesn't explain that), and why does he sound like he has emphysema? Does it have something to do with him being mostly droid (like did he have some wasting disease, and that's why most of his organic body was replaced)?

Why is it when the Jedi are ambushed by clone troopers, the male Jedi all go down fighting, but the female Jedi doesn't even ignight her lightsaber? (I thought for sure you'd've picked up on that one, Banshee ;) )

Since when does force lightning melt your face? Or was it part of Palpatine's plot to make Mace Windu look bad? Whatver it was, I didn't like the sudden change in appearance from Senator Palpatine to the Emporer.

I could probably think of more if I tried, but for the most part I enjoyed the movie and can forgive the little questions of continuity.
pointedview
May. 24th, 2005 05:33 pm (UTC)
Like I said in my post, I thought all the Jedi went down way too fast. The depiction of the female Jedi was definitely bad, I agree, but the one that bothered me most was the tall, pointy-headed Jedi Master who'd clearly been a respected member of the council for quite some time.

I wondered about the deforming of the emperor as well. Was it a completely unsubtle attempt at showing that the Dark Side corrupts physically as well as mentally?

I'd like to know more about both Grievous and Dooku.
cryptonaut
May. 24th, 2005 05:53 pm (UTC)
I'm pretty sure that in the second series of Clone Wars, Grevious gets his chest crushed by a Jedi force blast, so I think that is the reason for all the coughing. I think the the character was invented to set a precedent for the cybernetic reconstruction of Vader, and it has been suggested that he was actually the top half of Darth Maul!
twr
May. 25th, 2005 09:28 pm (UTC)
Eh, I don't buy him as a cyborged out Darth Maul, and I certainly don't buy his cough as coming from a crushed chest--did he even HAVE a diaphram and lungs? I saw what appeared to be his heart, but that's about it.

I mean, it's as good an explanation as any, but even so--it feels kind of lacking to me.

And as far as a precedent to Vader--why would you need one? Anakin already had one cyborg limb, why not another 2 or 3?
lexmaniac
May. 25th, 2005 05:11 am (UTC)
Was anyone else reminded, during the Mace-Windu-arrests-Palpatine scene, of... Gollum? Specifically, when the Chancellor suddenly screams "NOOOOO!" in a raspy voice, unlike his normal voice. I expected him to say, "my precious!"

Also, during that same scene Anakin swears his loyalty to the Sith - to the Chancellor/Emperor. Now I may have got this wrong, but it seemed to me that while he was on his knees, Anakin exhaled loudly... in a raspy wheeze, just exactly as he breathes in the mask. A bit of foreshadowing, I thought, but it seemed an awfully subtle touch to come from Lucas. Of course, it may have been the Chancellor's breath, but someone is wheezing. (Or maybe we're just hearing the expiring soul of General Three-Packs-A-Day Grevious....)
spring_1970
May. 27th, 2005 01:21 am (UTC)
Read the fanfic. ;)
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )

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