May 17, 2005

RETURN OF THE STIFF:

Star Wars VI: Naboo, Dooku, and a mission to the Wookiees. (John Podhoretz, 05/23/2005, Weekly Standard)

THE FINAL Star Wars is, as writer-director George Lucas promised, a tragedy--but it's not the tragedy Lucas thinks it is.

Ever since he began making his second set of Star Wars movies a decade ago, Lucas said that Episode III: Revenge of the Sith would be the unvarnished story of the young knight Anakin Skywalker's degeneration and conversion into the black-helmeted, black-outfitted Darth Vader, the villain of the first three films. The tale of woe it really tells is that of George Lucas himself, the final chapter in the sad degeneration of a vital, vivid, and highly amusing moviemaker into a dull, solipsistic, and humorless incompetent.

Lucas had more than a quarter of a century to figure out why Anakin Skywalker went bad. And here's what he came up with: Anakin is afraid of losing his wife Padmé in childbirth. Padmé tries to reassure him: "I promise you I won't die in childbirth," she says, offering a touching expression of her faith in the range of health-care services that were available a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. That over-deliberate line of dialogue is typical of Revenge of the Sith, which joins its immediate predecessor Attack of the Clones on a very short list of films that deserve to compete for the Worst Script Ever Written.

"Hold me, Anakin!" Padmé tells her husband. "Hold me like you did by the lake on Naboo!"

No performer living or dead could pronounce the word "Naboo" without sounding like a moron, and Lucas matches that

authorial infelicity with dozens of others. One of the movie's villains is named "Dooku," and it's a pity that Lucas didn't arrange for Dooku to visit Naboo, because that could have generated a truly memorable piece of dialogue, like "You should never have come to Naboo, Dooku!"


Delightfully brutal--apparently it was too much to ask that this one not stink too.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 17, 2005 9:18 PM
Comments

She's not supposed to die in childbirth, #6 - Leia vaguely remembers her.

Lucas can't even get his own timeline correct.

Posted by: Sandy P. at May 17, 2005 9:34 PM

My husband thinks I want to go see this thing. I've said no a dozen times, but he thinks I'll get caught up in the hype. Not a chance. Lucas deserves to have people boycott his movies. They've become a crime against cinema.

Posted by: NKR at May 17, 2005 9:36 PM

Since both Lucas (obliquely) and now Hayden Christensen (overtly) have decided to come out and tell the press ans public that Episode III is an allegory against George W. Bush and the war on terror, and since the lines uttered by the emerging Vader in the movie are the same that Bush uttered in the wake of 9/11 -- and were noticeable to everyone attending an early screening -- it makes you wonder how much the generally favorable reviews in the press are due to the fact that the reviewers actually like the movie, or that they like the sentiments of the movie enough to give it a pass on all it's weak points.

More directly political filmmakers, as well as authors and musicians have been getting this kind of pass for years. If their politics are right, their latest work is praised to high heavens by revievers, only to see them come back a few years later and praise those same artists' next work as being so much better than their last disappointing effort that the public was suckered into paying good money for by those earlier glowing reviews.

That said, I'll probably end up seeing the film a couple of weeks from now, after the fanatics have gotten it out of their system. But I'll bet I com out feeling more like Podhoretz and less like the Times' A.O. Scott when it's all over.

Posted by: John at May 17, 2005 11:06 PM

The thing I don't get is doesn't Lucas equate the Rebels to al Qaeda?

Posted by: oj at May 17, 2005 11:26 PM

He said the original 1970s allegory was about the War in Vietnam and equated the rebels to the Viet Cong insurgents. So if you extrapolate that forward 30 years, that would be the end result of what he's been implying during his visit to the Cannes Film Festival for Ep. III's debut -- or at the very least, they're the Sunni insurgents.

Posted by: John at May 17, 2005 11:34 PM

George Lucas = Arthur Miller

(with slightly less talent as a witer?)

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at May 18, 2005 12:33 AM

Slightly less?

Posted by: Anthony Perez-Miller at May 18, 2005 12:40 AM

I was thinking that I'd see this one on DVD, but perhaps I'll simply give up on Star Wars.

Comparing George Bush to a tyrant with absolute authority is delusional, at best.
The worst that one can reasonably compare Bush to is Svengali, mesmerizing the public into acting against their own interest.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at May 18, 2005 12:54 AM

Uh, he hasn't been comparing Bush to the Emperor as far as I know. The political inspiration has come from the conversion of Rome from a republic to an empire and was somewhat prompted by Watergate.

Plus the story was written some time in 1997 when Clinton was in power. Heck if a similar fantasy story had been written decades earlier, it would have been attacked as a glorification of the Confederacy in the Civil War what with the separation over taxes and bureaucracy and depiction if the head of the Republic as a secretly bloodthirsty tyrant.

Anyway complaining about bad dialogue and wooden delivery in Star Wars is besides the point. All the movies suffer from the same problem and are redeemed by the magnificent visuals, breathtaking score and conventional mythological trappings.

Personally I see it as a broadside against the dangers of big government. Makes you wonder if Lucas read Road to Serfdom.

Besides what the f*** does Podohertz know about movies? He panned Spider-Man 2 for God's sake.

Can't wait till tomorrow. First showing!

Posted by: Ali Choudhury at May 18, 2005 3:34 AM

There are some similarities, Bush's abilities to choke hippies with the power of his mind and shoot lightning for example.

Posted by: Amos at May 18, 2005 4:30 AM

Oh, I'm going to go see it and I don't care about Lucas's stupid politics. I'll just roll my eyes and smirk during that part. I go for the spaceships and lightsabers and that kind of thing. Plus I loved Natalie Portman scampering around in that super tight white outfit in the last one. Rowr!

Posted by: Governor Breck at May 18, 2005 7:01 AM

Ali - read the recent interviews - Lucas clearly puts Bush in the Emperor role. I'll be like John - take the family and try to ignore the political overtones.

Posted by: AWW at May 18, 2005 7:43 AM

AWW - I wouldn't be surprised at all if he takes a dim view of Bush or recent US foreign policy.

I just don't see the story being a vehicle for anti-Bush propaganda given how long it's been in the making. You can read into it whatever you want.

Rick MacCullum seems very anti-Bush but he's just a hired hand, not a writer.

Posted by: Ali Choudhury at May 18, 2005 8:50 AM

Ali --

While the story arc may have been done during the Clinton administration, what Episode III would have to focus on was pretty much predetermined during the Ford Administration, when Episide IV was made.

It's not the plot arc of the new movie, it's the snarky injection of certain pieces of dialogue into the plot -- which were not written in 1997 -- in an attempt by Lucas to make the story reflect on contemporary world events that makes the actions annoying. Lucas was never a good writer of dialogue, but until now you never thought he had an idea in his head about trying to make obvious allegories to current political situations and leaders. Stuff like this seems to have been written 18 months ago, while he and some of his friends in the Bay Area were waiting for the new Michael Moore film to come out.

Posted by: John at May 18, 2005 9:23 AM

John:

Well, I guess I'll have to wait until tomorrow to see how bad it gets.

Posted by: Ali at May 18, 2005 10:05 AM

I'll go see it, just to keep in touch with popular culture. But I imagine it will be less pleasant than periodonture.

Lucas has gotten lazier and greedier over the years. One can play a pretty good drinking game identifying all the paraphenalia in a Star Wars movie which will be in your local Toys R Us within 30 days of the movie's opening.

Count me among those who hate Star Wars. It is a monarcho-fascist fantasy universe, with a self-appointed bunch of puritans 'maintaining order' in the galaxy. Lucas, I guess, never heard of Juvenal or Lord Acton. It's almost as bad as the Soviet fantasy universe of Star Trek.

Posted by: bart at May 18, 2005 11:13 AM

I won't even go into Lucas' predilection for cheap laughs at the expense of Blacks, Jews and Asians. Maybe he'll have a mustachioed, sombrero wearing muppet for comic relief in this one.

Posted by: bart at May 18, 2005 11:15 AM

Trying to parse the political philosophy of any Hollywood person is a waste of time. They simply do not engage in rational linear thought and trying to rationalize their poltical statements as if they were the product of rational, logical men is hopeless.

Beyond that, it was obvious to me after Part I -- The Persecution and Assassination of Jar-Jar Binks by the Inmates of the Beverly Hills Hilton -- that George had jumped the Shark. He wrote and directed one good Star Wars movie and should have stopped. He was less involved with Empire and Return and they were probably better movies for it. Phantom Menace should have been the end of George as a writer/director. If Sith is a stiff he has no one to blame but himself.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at May 18, 2005 11:54 AM

So a good liberal on Naboo should say "I don't support the Clone Wars but I do support the storm troopers."

http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/001/248ipzbt.asp

Posted by: Shelton at May 18, 2005 12:16 PM

bart:

How was Star Trek a SOVIET fantasy ?

The Trek universe was quite socialistic, but with unlimited energy and the replicator, they could afford to be. I don't remember any slave labor or gulags in the Federation, and their starships seemed to be top of the line, with abundant crew comforts, not shoddily slapped-together rustbuckets.

(Of course, that's just the type of thing that they wouldn't allow to be filmed, so maybe...).

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at May 18, 2005 12:21 PM

Once they introduced Ewoks, it was all over but the ringing on the cash registers.

Posted by: bart at May 18, 2005 12:23 PM

It all went to pot at the first mention of midichlorians in episode I. To take the power of faith in the force and reduce into a genetic accident shows that Lucas never really understood the power of his orignal story in the first place.

Posted by: Shelton at May 18, 2005 12:23 PM

Well, I can appreciate the beauty of a rainbow just as well knowing that it's simply visible light being split into its' constituent wavelengths.

Posted by: Ali Choudhury at May 18, 2005 4:00 PM

What are you talking about? Rainbows are solid magical emanations from leprechaunss pots of gold.

Posted by: Shelton at May 18, 2005 4:29 PM

The real reply to your statement Ali is that with midichlorians Lucas shows that it is genetics rather than faith that seals our fate (and the fate of the universe).

That said I will go see the new film - I can't wait to see Vadar finally get rid of the ridiculously ineffective and impotent monks of the galactic eugenic movement (the Jedis). What a bunch of wishy-washy weenies... and don't get me started on the galactic senate, like the UN with a hundred-thousand extra members. No wonder there is constant warfare in the galaxy. Maybe Vadar can put an end to it.

Posted by: Shelton at May 18, 2005 4:45 PM

Shelton:

Well it's not like you can waltz into the Jedi Order if your only attribute is a high midichlorian count. It requires a lot of hard work, discipline and the deication to live a life of service.

Posted by: Ali Choudhury at May 18, 2005 4:56 PM

A life of service to what? - the Jedi don't do anything. They are allowed to act as hired bodyguards and to run errands for the galactic senate. Meanwhile the galaxy decends into a state of total anarchy and they sit back and watch the mayhem because their religion forbids them to take any positive premptive action against the development of evil. The real bad guy in all this is Yoda, a person of great power, influence, and responsibilty who's Hamletesque inability to make decisions allows the galaxy to erupt into civil war.

Posted by: Shelton at May 18, 2005 5:43 PM

Michael,

People were regularly sent to 're-education camps', not prisons. They didn't use money. They 'no longer enslaved animals for food'(I wonder why Little Kim hasn't tried that as a publicity point with the Greenpeacers and PETA crowd). Everybody who was anybody wore a uniform, there was a real sense that if you were not a member of what was essentially 'the Party' you were nothing. Earth, at least, had no religions. Did they ever have an election?Babylon 5, my favorite, had elections. Look how the Ferengi, IMHO the only decent race in the Star Trek galaxy. Can't have people out there trying to make a profit can we?

Just think about Deep Space Nine. Had the Dominion won, what would have been the difference for the average Federation citizen?

Posted by: bart at May 18, 2005 7:50 PM

Sounds like it's time to resurrect the link to David Brin's Star Wars articles. Written in 1999, he's quite prescient with how Lucas has behaved recently. It really is too bad he didn't get hired as head writer for this latest episode and put some of his ideas to use. I never did like that mealy mouthed muppet Yoda.

(I'm going to watch Epsode II for the first time when they show it on Fox this Sunday. I can't wait to see the fight above an abyss on a platform without any handrails. Every one of these movies as at least one. I sure hope I'm not disappointed. Handrails in that "galaxy far, far away" must be something like how wheels were to Aztecs and Incas...)

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at May 18, 2005 8:12 PM

Peace in our time it is!

Posted by: Yoda at May 18, 2005 8:40 PM

Sandy P.

Leia's memory of her mother is a planted "false" memory.

Posted by: Anikin Solo at May 18, 2005 11:20 PM

bart:

Remember, ST and ST:TNG were series that followed the adventures of what is essentially the Federation's military.
Thus, the uniforms, everyone's been to the Starfleet Academy, there's no need for money onboard the ship, etc.
Criminals get sent to "re-education camps" to actually get re-educated, not brainwashed. Remember, they've got the ability to rewire the brain, to "cure" criminal behavior.
They don't enslave animals for food because there's no need to do so. Any kind of food they want, they can build from atoms with the replicator.
Also, how is not enslaving animals for food a Soviet idea ?
It's not even a futuristic idea, as you note.

I don't eat mammals for pretty much that reason, although I have a very low opinion of PETA overall.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at May 18, 2005 11:21 PM

The sad truth is that Star Trek, though I've loved it from childhood, is just bad science fiction. But it can be good fiction, and every once in a while DS9, the best of the series, actually had a good science fiction episode. I find, though, that I can't watch TNG.

Posted by: David Cohen at May 19, 2005 8:05 AM

Saw it today. You'd have to stretch very far to detect any anti-Bush bias.

Brin's a leftist, tradition-hating weenie.

http://www.stardestroyer.net/Empire/HateMail/Brin.html

Posted by: Ali Choudhury at May 19, 2005 6:27 PM

Ali:

The Postman was unmitigated rubbish.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at May 20, 2005 7:08 PM
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