Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith
My favorite scene: Senator Palpatine talks with Anakin Skywalker and encourages Anakin to consider turning against the rest of the Jedi. Few other scenes match the drama and treachery here; this scene puts a very human face on the entire Anakin-Becoming-Darth-Vader arc.
Problem is, there aren’t any other scenes like this where emotion and drama actually surface. Granted, the special effects and action scenes are spectacular. But characters are wooden, dialog is amateurish, and plot holes abound (what, they have warp speed but not ultrasound pregnancy testing?)
Lucas has to tie up all the loose ends in this episode and he succeeds. But exposed are weaknesses of story and plot that just can’t sustain the turn this movie takes to heavy violence and tragedy. For all their vaunted power, for example, we see the Jedi bumped off in a series of assassinations. Perhaps Lucas is presenting a homage here to The Godfather where we saw inter cutting of assassinations, baptism, and the renunciation of evil by the Godfather. But the emotional depth is just not here and we feel curiously unaffected as we watch theJedi assassinations.
Don’t get me wrong; I enjoyed the movie. But when all is said and done, in these past three Star Wars films technique has won out over drama and intelligence, and Lucas’ grasping in final episode for cinematic greatness falls flat. If there is one thing I have learned from the Star Wars films, it is that special effects do not a successful movie make, and that if you set out to create and sustain a legend, you had better have the story, dialog, and acting to go along with it.
But it’s not likely we’ll see many more like Star Wars; this has been a hugely successful series, and justifiably so. I just don’t think it deserves the social and cultural importance it has sustained. I miss the sense of wonder, play, and derring-do of the first three films. Many of us were much younger then, of course, and the spirit of youth suffuses episodes 4-6. It’s too bad but episodes 1-3 just have not been as much fun.
The two-DVD set is just chock full of production goodies. While the commentary track is a bit boring — Lucas sometimes seems to be explaining what we’re seeing on the screen a bit too much — it offers good insight on the technical side of the production.
The documentaries are extensive and present in highly organized fashion what the different teams did during the production of the film. What is definitely refreshing is the explicit naming of participants on the different teams; this is something that more credit sequences and DVD documentaries should emulate. These people work very hard and deserve more recognition.
But therein lies one of the reasons that this movie was not more dramatically satisfying for me. I get the feeling that Lucas and his management team are so intent on organizing and balancing all the major elements of this film that they sometimes lose sight of some of the most important ingredients. Two examples:
The first is the encrustation of the opening sequence, a massive upper atmosphere space battle. It is gargantuan by any stretch of the imagination and puts to shame the justly-famous Starship Troopers sequences. But there is so much detail we almost lose sight of our two heroes as they careen towards a rendezvous to rescue Palpatine. Did we really need that much detail? I don’t think so. I realize that’s purely judgement call, but this was one case where, in my opinion, “less could have been more ” — and just as exciting, given the film’s superb musical score and sound effects.
The second is more critical: Yoda. I realize that no one has ever seen a real Jedi warrior of Yoda’s caliber and stature, so it is difficult to imagine how he really acts. But facial-expression-wise, Yoda just does not work for me. His face and facial expressions just do not look real. My comparison point is Gollum’s facial expressions. There are close-up scenes in Return of the King where Gollum’s facial expressions are astonishingly realistic, chillingly so.
How did the Jackson team succeed while the Lucas team did less well?
My opinion is, after seeing the documentaries on this DVD, that Lucas delegated too much, given the vast scope of the armies he managed. And, perhaps, Jackson is just more monomaniacally intense than Lucas. (Lucas, too, has never directed anything as insanely weird as Dead Alive, which has to count for something.)
Still, I was emotionally involved in the story on seeing this movie the second time around, once I had seen all the eye candy. The turn of Anakin to the dark side, and the weaving together of all the disparate plot points, is very well crafted.