Thursday, May 19, 2005

Enjoy It I Did. Go Back Again I Will.

The verdict is in, at least from here: Star Wars Episode 3 redeems the series and ties the first trilogy to the second one in fine fashion. Rather than trying to do a full-blown review here (mostly because I taught a full day today on three hours' sleep and still have places to go tonight), I'll just post some random thoughts about the movie and the experience of seeing it at its midnight opening (something I managed to do for all three installments in this first trilogy):

  • The movie really does a fine job of leading us up to the beginning of the original Star Wars (now known as Episode IV). No element of the storyline is left unresolved. It'll be interesting to watch those two back-to-back once the inevitable boxed set comes out on DVD.

  • Ewan McGregor is outstanding this time around; you can tell that he studied all the nuances that Alec Guinness put into Obi-Wan Kenobi in the original trilogy. The speech patterns and facial expressions are all there, and, with the close-cropped beard, he even looks like a young Guinness.

  • OK, the acting of other characters leaves something to be desired. We all know that George Lucas doesn't shine when writing love scenes, and Hayden Christensen once again comes up rather wooden as Anakin, especially in the scenes with Natalie Portman. This is no surprise, really, so I wasn't disappointed in something I was already expecting. (Incidentally, perhaps the best acting in the movie comes from Ian McDiarmid as Palpatine.)

  • The fight scenes are awesome. Yoda even outdoes himself from Episode II. It's still totally plausible that the Yoda encountered by Luke some twenty years later in the story isn't capable of such skills anymore, since he's much older by then...even if we all know that the real reason is that a computer-generated Yoda can do way more than a Muppet could ever dream of doing.

  • I was very impressed with how the theatre we visited handled things. The movie was shown in its four biggest auditoriums, and all previous movies showing in those theatres ended before 9 p.m. That allowed everyone to go in and get seats early, rather than having long lines wrap around the building (as had been the case when I saw Episode I). That also meant that people would buy their concessions inside, which I'm sure was part of the idea.

  • A girl in the row in front of us, who had her hair done up in the Princess Leia "bun" style, kept calling another kid "Luke." This was a cloak-wearing, light-saber-wielding kid who appeared to be her brother. At first, I wondered if she was just being in character, but enough adults also called the kid by that name that I figured it was real. Then I wondered if he was named after young Skywalker or if it was just a weird coincidence.

  • The expected light-saber fights were amusing, and there were way more of them than there were three years ago. The technology has also gotten much better: the new ones actually make the traditional light-saber sound when they're turned on and during "battle."
    (Incidentally, I heard from a student of mine, who was in a different auditorium in the same theatre, that someone in a Darth Vader costume got repeatedly whacked upside the head during the saber-battle over there and had to go back and sit with his mom. That just conjured up a funny mental picture...)

  • There weren't as many costumes as last time, but we did have someone in full stormtrooper gear, a Darth Vader and a Darth Maul. There were also a few truly odd ones: someone wielding a light-saber
    but wearing a Spider Man mask, and this person (of indeterminate gender) wearing a big white bunny costume. When it walked by with its friends, one of the friends said, "Don't you get it? It's an albino Wookiee!" OOOOOOOOk...
So overall, it was a great time. I hope that Lucas might change his mind about not doing a third trilogy, but at least this one wraps up the "prequels" on a good note.

1 comment:

Eric Grubbs said...

Great review. Let me know what you think of this theory I have (this is not an intended guilt trip):

I think the reason why the acting is "wooden" in the first two prequels (and half of Episode III) is that the time period is very prim and proper. All of these people have faith in long-standing ways and think nothing will ever go wrong with them. Everything is restrained and codes (like what the Jedi live by) are very strict. As Episode III progresses, people get angrier and hold less back. Eventually anger and jaded views take over the galaxy and that leads up to Episode IV, V and VI.

In the case of Hayden's supposed stitled line-readings, he's doing his best interpretation of James Earl Jones' voice. Jones suffered from stuttering at an early age and it had a permanent effect on his speaking voice. The kind of "behind the beat" talking is the way that Darth Vader talks in Episode IV, V and VI. If Anakin spoke fluidly and was always over the top with facial expressions, I wouldn't buy him as the person that becomes Darth Vader.

Anyway, as I put it on my blog, I also loved Episode III. I couldn't stop thinking about certain scenes and (no surprise here) thought about how the movie's themes apply to everyday life. I had a great time and I think I'll see the movie in the theater again.