Sunday, May 22, 2005

Pop Culture Overload! - Star Wars Episode III

Too much pop culture this week, and I don't know what to talk about. I actually spent most of the weekend working on my homework and research, but sitting here Sunday night it feels like all I've done is fun stuff this weekend.

Friday night my lovely wife and I went to see the final Star Wars movie. My expectations were low for this one despite the good reviews I had read. I didn't think that "Episode I" was as bad as many folks did - I wasn't bothered by the kid or by Jar-Jar and I thought that the story was passable (if a little slow). I also thought both Ewan McGregor and Liam Neeson put in performances that were good enough to keep the movie watchable.

No, my expectations were low for this movie purely because of "Episode II" - a movie so bad that it reached back in time and actually made Episode I seem like a worse movie to me. The only redeeming thing about Episode II is Ewan McGregor's performance, and that's not enough to raise the movie to even being watchable.

So, I didn't expect much out of Episode III, but I was pleasantly suprised. The movie actually is pretty good. It definitely has more action in it, and Hayden Christensen puts in a decent performance as Anakin this time (when Natalie Portman isn't on the screen with him, at least). Ewan McGregor's take on Obi-Wan Kenobi still manages to be one of the best things about the movie, but Ian McDermott's performance as Chancellor Palpatine/Darth Sidious comes a close second. The scenes where Anakin finally becomes Vader (both when he takes the name and when he gains his armor) are chillingly done, and though I don't want to get into too many spoilers, the final battle between Obi-Wan and Anakin is fantastic. McGregor's performance is incredibly emotional and you can actually feel the betrayal he feels from his former apprentice.

That's not to say that the movie is perfect by any stretch of the imagination. Lucas's decision to cast two actors who have NO CHEMISTRY AT ALL together in a love story bites him here again, as anytime Natalie Portman and Hayden Christensen are on screen together feels so wooden and slow that its miserable. Portman's Padme comes across as a frankly pathetic character by the end of the story - a continuation of her descent from feisty Princess to one-dimensional love interest that occurred in Episode II. This makes Anakin's descent to the Dark Side a little less believable, as I never get the feeling that he loves her OR that he's obsessed with her (either of which would work). It's telling that the animated versions of these characters in the Clone Wars cartoons show more emotion with each other than these two are able to manage.

That's probably my largest complaint overall. The movie still suffers from Lucas's poor dialogue, but since the movie moves at such a frantic pace Lucas never really gives you time to notice how bad it is. The most overwrought dialogue gets delivered by Ian McDermott and Ewan McGregor, who manage to sell the lines far better than they probably deserve. Lucas also should have talked to Peter Jackson about how to get actors to deliver lines to characters that will be added to the film later and make it work. Any time Ewan McGregor or Samuel Jackson are talking to Yoda, the pacing of the dialogue just falls apart.

Overall, though, the movie succeeds. I want to see it again (something that I never really wanted to do with either Episode I or II), and its the first of the prequels that has me thinking "I'd like to play that in a game." A Star Wars tabletop RPG game set right after the events of Episode III would be a lot of fun, as this is obviously a time that needs heroes. The two previous Episodes were in a time when heroic politicians might have been able to make a difference, but that doesn't make a good game.

Wow - I actually made an entire post about Episode III. I really hadn't intended to do that. I've still got this week's comics and last night's Justice League Unlimited episode that I wanted to talk about. I didn't actually think I'd have enough to talk about with the movie to fill a post, but I guess I was wrong. Anyone else see the movie this weekend and want to give their opinions?

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