Monday, June 06, 2005

A Long Time Ago In A Theatre Not Too Far Away...

OK, I think I've got enough of my mental notes together (gee, you think after having seen it three times now?) to make a cohesive, non-biased (yeah, right...) review of "Revenge of the Sith," the third, & unfortunately, last, of the Star Wars movies. Well, at least until Lucas decides he needs a new wing added to Skywalker Ranch.

But, before we get to the review itself, let's take a look at the trailers, in no particular order (hey, I had to sit through them three times).

First up - "War of the Worlds," the new Tom Cruise/Steven Speilberg collaboration. Lots of destruction & things going "BOOM." It looks a wee bit too much like "Independence Day," though. Most everyone already knows the plot of "War," which, now that I think about it, ID4 followed the exact same story - aliens coming to take over, defeated by a virus (granted, the one in ID4 was a computer virus, but, you get the idea), so the trailer focuses on explosions, people running, explosions, people screaming, explosions, explosions &, just for good measure - explosions. We might see it in the theatre, but it's more likely that we'll be waiting until this one "explodes" onto DVD.

Next is - groan...- "Stealth," or, as Kevin put it, "Top Gun 2: Electric Boogaloo." The short description of the movie is a robot plane gains self awareness & goes on a rampage. It looks like a mix of "Top Gun," "Firefox," "Flight of the Navigator" & "2001". Not a good combination. As I was momentarily distracted when the trailer showed scenes of Jessica Beil in a bikini, I really can't remember who else is in the movie. I think Jamie Foxx was in there somewhere. High cheeseball potential, only because the movie looks like it's trying to be too cool & "extreme" for its own good, much like "Wing Commander." Which is not a good thing. I think I'll wait for this one to come out on Sci-Fi or USA.

Third up - "The Fantastic Four." This one looks to have some potential. The FF were never one of my favorite comic book teams. I had (still do, as a matter of fact) a few issues, but either because they didn't grab my attention or just the fact that I was already following too many series, I just never got into them all that much. Top that off with the fact that I still am critical of superhero movies until I see a bit more of the trailers & read about them & whatnot. I've been burned just a few too many times by 'em. But, from what I've read, & now, have seen, this looks like it might be fun. The effects look good (although, the Thing looks like he's got a bad skin condition). It's got Dr. Doom, who was always a pretty cool bad guy. And the FF's powers look to be pretty well done. I just hope that the makers of the film took a hint from Spider-Man & stay faithful to the source material. I'll probably be seeing this one.

And, last (at least, it's the only other one I can recall) - "Mr. & Mrs. Smith," aka the movie that broke up Brad & Jen. Once again, things explode, Brad Pitt & Angelina Jolie exchange quips & more thing blow up (I'm sensing a trend in this summer's movies). As far as actors go, Pitt's alright (I was impressed with him in "12 Monkeys"), but Jolie...I'm sorry, she just don't do it for me. I hated - hated - "Tomb Raider" & I've never really seen the allure of Ms. Jolie (big, poofy lips & tattoos - no mi gusta). Vince Vaughn's character was the only one that made me laugh at all. If I don't see this one, I think I'll still die a happy man.

I think there actually may have been one more, but toward the end of the previews, I really didn't care anymore.

And now, on to the reason that I can now die a happy man - "Revenge of the Sith!"

From the moment the title shot onto the screen & the "Star Wars" theme started up, the hair on the back of my neck was on end & my jaw went slack. All three times that I saw it, I just sat in stunned silence as I watched the events unfold on the screen. I even, uh...felt something in my eye that caused it to tear up a bit (yeah, that's the ticket!).

I don't even know how to describe the movie without giving away too much to those of you who haven't seen it yet. I mean, everyone knows how it ultimately ends. It's the events leading up to it, though, that are hard to explain without going into too much detail. The events of the first two movies, which at times seemed a bit disjointed & confusing, all came together here. And while the first say, two thirds, of the movie lagged at times, the last third more than made up for it. In fact, the movie as a whole more than made up for any gripes I may have had (& there were very few, to be honest) with the first two.

The battles are enormous - ships everywhere. Laser cannons a'blazin'. Explosions (yes, plenty of those). It was almost as exhausting to watch as the Battle of Helm's Deep in "The Two Towers." And more lightsaber battles packed into one SW movie than in any other. And I'm not talking about the big battles with a bunch of nameless Jedi. I'm talking one-on-one or two-on-one duels. Those alone are absolutely amazing. And General Greivous rocks! He put up waaaay more of a fight than Darth Maul, & he's not even trained to use the Force.

One of the complaints that I've heard (among many) is that the second third of the movie sags a bit, & I do agree with that. The schmaltzy scenes between Anakin & Padme were just a wee bit stiff, as if they were written by someone with extremely limited social interaction skills who has never kissed a girl (which is not intended as a slam against Uncle George - I mean, he's got a couple kids, so I imagine he's kissed a least twice).

The zero-g water opera scene, where Palpatine continues to draw Anakin closer to the Dark Side, was a perfect example of how well written the other scenes could've been. Granted, Palpatine's not hitting on Anakin, but he is seducing him, nonetheless. The scene answers a few questions (who's sort of your daddy, Anakin?) & also sheds some light on who Palpatine really is. You see that his rise to power did not happen by chance, but was orchestrated by him, from his humble beginnings as a senator from Naboo to his ascension to ultimate power as the Emperor. He's been pulling the strings & playing everyone against each other for a long time.

Shortly after that, the action cranks up again. Anakin is swayed to the Dark Side & the slaughter of the Jedi begins. This all leads up to the final battle that every single rabid fan has been waiting for - Obi-Wan versus Anakin. And this fight delivers the goods, Loyal Readers. Even though you know how it's going to end, you still see so many times when it looks like Obi-Wan is going to buy the moisture farm. To see Anakin finally be consumed by Vader, though, is sad. To see him lash out the one person that he loved & wanted to protect more than anything & the other person who was more than just a mentor - he was like a brother...I dunno how to explain it. "Sad" doesn't even begin to describe it.

The scene that I was absolutely sure was going to be the ultimate, tippy top, pinnacle of all scenes in the series...disappointed me the most. You see, I had read bits & pieces of the script before I went to the movie &, being me, I read the end. More to the point, I read the scene where Vader is finally dressed in his black armor. There's fear in Anakin/Vader's eyes when the mask is fitted into place. The first time you see him in the complete getup, the scene is silent. And then -

he takes his first, artificially respirated breath.

And then, after what was possibly the most awesome scene in the entire saga - things got silly.

The rest of the scene can be summed up in one word: NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!

Having watched waaaay too many bad movies, the scene that followed, where Vader learns of Padme's death (c'mon, you all knew she died) felt strangely familiar. I'm telling ya, I've spent far more time than is probably healthy thinking of how much better I could've done that scene. Far, far, faaaaar better. It didn't ruin the rest of the movie for me, but it just could've been so much better.

After that, the rest of the film deals with tying up the loose ends that lead to Episode Four. All very nicely done. I think Lucas did a good job of making sure most all of the lingering questions were answered.

I did learn a few things from this movie, though:

Naboo women have an insanely short gestation period The course of the movie seems to have taken place over say, maybe, a month. Padme goes from telling Anakin she's preggers to poppin' the twins out in something like ten days. Perhaps Anakin had been away for the past eight months & she hadn't been able to tell him. If so, that's sloppy writing on the part of the screenwriter. I mean, transmissions can be sent across the galaxy in the SW universe in the blink of an eye. Are they trying to tell me that she couldn't get a call through to Anakin in that time?

And, on the same topic, Naboo women experience short labor & can pop out two seven plus pound babies with the greatest of ease. I imagine many women watching the birth scene were rolling their eyes & going "Oh, puh-leeeese!"

I hope this isn't some kind of blasphemy, but I also learned that Obi-Wan is a pretty sorry Jedi. In fact, pretty much all the Jedi do is sit around on their custom made La-Z-Boys. When they do go to battle, they're mowed down in short order (Kit Fisto, I'm looking at you). I mean, there's a scene where a Padawan kicks more baddie tail than any of the other Jedi "Masters." Well, OK - other than Yoda. Maybe the Jedi Order just got fat. I dunno.

Princess Leia's hairstyle choices are apparently genetic Just watch the first scene that Padme's in. Tell me that that 'do doesn't look a wee bit familiar. I dares ya.

All in all, this was an excellent movie. It made up for, & even improved, Episodes I & II. Things make a bit more sense in the series as a whole now.

Plus, Jar Jar Binks had no speaking parts. Always a good thing.

This is easily my third favorite movie in the series.

Revenge of the Sith: Four & A Half Lightsabers