Monday 30 November 2015

BlogalongaStarWars: Episode 6:
Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge Of The Sith

WAR! HEURGH! What is it good for? Opening a Star Wars title crawl, that's what. As further atonement for Episode I's sins, George Lucas launches Episode III with a rocket-fuelled declaration of intent that promises the polar opposite of trade route taxation and guardians of peace, and it's the beginning of a bravura 24-minute sequence that finally signals the return of the franchise after over four hours of false starts. That long, unbroken opening shot, accompanied by John Williams' drums of war; the ships that look a little bit like X-Wings and TIE fighters; Anakin and Obi Wan as pals finally having made peace with their hair; Count Dooku's death (spoiled only by Hayden Christensen frowning like he's stuck on a complex equation) and a skipful of other fun moments in that first half-hour are almost enough to forgive everything that's happened since 1999.
It's really quite straightforward, my young padawan. If a quadratic equation with real-number coefficients has a negative discriminant, then the two solutions to the equation are complex conjugates of each other.

Of course it doesn't last: the reunion of Anakin and Padme sadly requires them to talk to each other, and the sound of their romance is still the thud and clunk of cinema's worst dialogue ever. But almost as if he's become self-aware, Lucas limits the yakking as much as he can here to focus instead on a visually delicious adventure, cramming script and screen with mad set-pieces and kaleidoscopic eye candy (all those establishing wide shots are sexier than ever). When he does slow things down it's to detail Anakin's fall to the dark side, and as with the previous prequels this is by far Revenge Of The Sith's most interesting and successful aspect.

It's hard to tell if George Lucas intended Anakin's radicalisation as a comment on modern-day international politics - "From my point of view, the Jedi are evil!" is as ham-fisted a way of putting it as you'd expect - but the grooming of a young, impressionable man by a charismatic leader to an extreme, misguided cause certainly strikes a chord watching the film now. Whatever, it's chillingly good fun to watch, not least during the 'Tragedy Of Darth Plagueis' scene. Palpatine sells Anakin a promise so tempting that he chooses to ignore the story's loose ends and disclaimers (was Palpatine Plagueis' apprentice? Did Plagueis - or Palpatine - create Anakin? WE NEED MORE PREQUELS!), and Ian McDiarmid sells it just as well. This is what Star Wars does best: half-told myths and legends, the fight for the soul, the temptation of power; it's no exaggeration to claim this as the highlight of the entire prequel trilogy.
There's so much other good stuff in Episode III that it's actually annoying Lucas couldn't have found space for any of it in I or II, but perhaps those films needed to be as bad as they were to give him the kick up his hairy bum that he needed. Order 66 is a terrific, shocking sequence (though it's hard not to sympathise with Anakin when he slaughters those fucking younglings), General Grievous is a largely extraneous but undeniably fun second-tier villain realised with wit and incredible CG wizardry, and the final duel on Mustafar between Anakin and Obi Wan satisfies years of fanboy curiosity. And the dismemberment! I'm sure more arms and legs are lost in this film than the rest of the series put together; I dread to think what that says about George Lucas, but I'd be surprised if his analyst doesn't remove all sharp objects from the toilet each time he makes an appointment.

And then it's all over, but not before one final, atrociously ill-judged "NNOOOOOO!!" to remind us just how bad this series can be when it tries. It's hard to love the prequel trilogy for exactly this kind of thing: every time it reaches for greatness, Lucas makes a forehead-slappingly bad decision that nobody dared to challenge him on, and we're back to square one. But Revenge Of The Sith is far and away the best of the three, and it might even be better than Return Of The Jedi. If everything from Episodes I and II could have been described in the opening crawl of this film rather than played out over two disappointing episodes, the world would probably be a better place. Still, if The Force Awakens is the new hope we've been waiting for, it'll be in no small part because the prequels were the lesson from history we all had to endure.

The Clone Wars
As a prequel to this prequel that follows the previous prequel, I highly recommend Genndy Tartakovsky's animated Clone Wars series over Dave Filoni's CG series and film. It's slick, gorgeously animated, dovetails neatly into the opening of Revenge Of The Sith and doesn't feature anyone saying "Artooie" or "Skyguy" every half a second.

Yawn yawn John Williams is amazing again
So bored of repeating myself, but Jesus Christ how does he do it? 'Battle Of The Heroes' is the music I play in my head whenever I'm in a meeting with my boss and I cut his arms and legs off and set him on fire.

The ending (one of them)
Remembering how good all that crosscutting was in Return Of The Jedi, Lucas throws in some lovely juxtaposition between Anakin's death / Vader's birth and Padme's death / Luke and Leia's birth. Robot doctors were shit a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away though, right? They seemed to spend more time touching up Padme's makeup than trying to keep her alive.

Wookiee bollocks
Chewbacca getting shoehorned in for no good reason is one thing, but to have a Wookiee actually give a Tarzan cry as he swings through Kashyyyk is unforgiveable. I'm willing to bet most Wookiees haven't even heard of Johnny Weissmüller. Also, why the fuck are there three Ys in Kashyyyk? Why, why, why?

The subtitles on this Chinese bootleg

Do not want.

What is the point of all this? I'll tell you. (short answer: no point)
Header pic by dark lord of the Sith Olly Moss

1 comment :

  1. nice reviews.

    regarding the whole PT in hindsight Lucas shouldve:

    - made Anakin an adult in Ep 1 (In ANH you get the impression Anakin is about the similar age as Obi Wan 'when i met your father he was already a great pilot..' yet in Ep 1 Obi Wan meets 'Annie' and hes like all of 5 years old.) ‘Annies’ downfall wouldve been all the more tragic seeing the same actor in all 3 movies (by Ep 3 ‘Annie’ shouldve been a war hardened badass. like a cross between Maximus and Sgt Barnes. not still a whiney teenager) and it needed a better actor than 'Mannequin' Skywalker Hayden - e.g. Christian Bale (would've made more sense to have had a brit anyway as Sebastian Shaw was british)

    (or alternatively have had AOTC as Ep I and had Ep II as The Clone Wars..with Phantom Menace integrated as backstory/flashbacks etc but obviously keeping Neeson as Qui Gonn somewhere)

    - Kenneth Branagh as Obi Wan (Ewan was too young, too hip, with not enough gravitas)

    - a love triangle between Anakin/Obi Wan/Padme (Anakin suspecting Obi is having it off with his woman would've helped his decent to the dark side.. plus would've given Obi more dimension/conflict)

    - more T-Stamp (you don't hire an actor like Tel and then fob him off with a few lines spouted at a green screen and some golf balls and then pay him with a SW colouring book crayon set - he should've had a major role throughout the trilogy)

    - no jar jar...C3PO and R2 were enough comic relief (guess Jar Jar could have been there in Ep 1 but in a very minor role, not one of the lead characters)

    - less CG (obviously)

    - had someone else polish up the scripts like he did with Empire/Jedi

    - again like the OT, after the first movie get different directors (so for Ep 2 and 3 had the likes of Spielberg, Howard, Zemekics, Cameron, Scott, Fincher, Jackson) Spielberg was supposed to direct Return of the Jedi but couldnt due to some problem with the directors guild...but maybe he could've done a prequel (i believe Lucas intended him to direct Ep II or III b4 he decided to direct them all)