Wednesday, August 31, 2011

It Should be Wookiees

Return of the Jedi: In this movie, Lucas starts pastiching himself. We get a return to Tattooine with shots of decadent aliens enjoying themselves, the return of the Death Star, the death of one of Luke's mentors, a confrontation with Darth Vader complete with revelations, and a really big battle with fancy Imperial technology (in a forest not a winter landscape this time). It's not a bad movie (at least not compared to things to come), but it's not as good as the first two, and suffers from the fact that a) Han Solo was originally supposed to die, and thus mostly spends this movie as a fifth wheel or someone for Princess Leia to rescue, b) it really should have been Wookiees as the primitive but friendly race in the climactic battle, not Ewoks-- they're less cute, and it would have given a nice bit of narrative closure to the presence of Chewbakka in the team. Oh, and c), they never seem to quite get the scenes of decadence in Jabba's Palace right-- I can understand why they'd want to give them the CGI treatment as the version done entirely with puppets and animatronics is a bit unsatisfying, but adding a kind of singing muppet plus Greedo with breasts just turns the whole thing into a Saturday morning cartoon. And both versions of Sy Snootles look equally ridiculous, but for different reasons.

The Phantom Menace: If I'm going make it through the franchise, unfortunately I have to do this one. To be fair to it, there are only two things really wrong with it on a story level and one on a directing level, but unfortunately they're all pretty major:

1) The Child. If this had been a movie where the focus had been on the political situation surrounding Naboo, concentrating on the two Jedi and Queen Amidala, oh, and somewhere briefly, almost as an afterthought, they acquire some little kid named Anakin who might be special but nobody realises just how special, it would have been a better movie. OK, it would have been basically The Hidden Fortress starring Jar Jar as both of the peasants, but Lucas is at his best when he's pastiching. As it is, the precocious wee lad gets way too much screen time, and it's just irritating at best and a drama-killer at worst.

2) Naboo's WTF Political System. Five minutes into this movie, I thought it made sense. A fourteen-year-old queen suggested to me that we had a Henry VI/last emperor of China situation, where you have a ruler dying suddenly leaving an underage monarch who is weak, inexperienced and thus prey to every unscrupulous vizier looking to be the power behind the throne. But no. Naboo is a democracy which apparently elects monarchs too young to drink to rule the planet during a crisis, and Lucas seems afraid to let any of the blame for what follows to fall onto Amidala, even through ignorance or inexperience.

3) And the directorial problem: Nobody's giving a performance, barring Ian McDiarmaid. Not even Samuel L. Jackson or Liam Neeson. When these two are being outacted by the Voice of Frank Oz as Yoda, the movie's in trouble.

Oh, and I'd also like to give a brief shout-out to the racism and anti-semitism in the film, but they've been commented on so often I don't feel I really need to bother.

Movie count for 2011: 103