Saturday, May 28, 2005

Chrome Edifices

And with the darkening of the lights in that great hall it begins and ends. I have just watched the Big One. Yes, the one where red sabers ignite to the chilling reveberations of the Imperial March, where black helmet descends upon a scarred face to signal the birth of one of the most famous villians of our century.

How do I rate it? It certainly lives up to the hype. Revenge of the Sith, or ROTS as I shall refer to hence, is very much Lucas's magnum opus of the prequel trilogy, of which the first two were bombasted scathingly by legions of rabid fans. It is every bit as good as I would have hoped it would be, but with two matters that I will elaborate on later.

Unless you've been living on squirrels in the middle of the Phillipine jungle for the past four to five decades the cultural phenomenon that is Star Wars will be familiar to you. Love it, snob it, or merely affect indifference to it, it cannot be denied that it is the largest, most complex, most culturally influential sf franchise in history. Combined with books, games and comics the Star Wars Universe is so completely realized that it seems to be real. Every aspect of the 25000 year history of this galaxy has been touched on, and better still, the chronology still continues. Go to this site to experience the sheer scale of the Star Wars Universe. Disparate though it may be, it is nonetheless crafted into a single continuity, unlike the independent stories of different captains in different ships like in Star Trek.

Revenge of the Sith is the last (or maybe not?)major Lucas-made contribution to the SW franchise. There will be comics. Books. Animated and live action series that will come after. Even a rumour that Lucas is thinking of more movies. But ROTS is for now a signal that a chapter in Star Wars history is over. The Skywalker saga is complete on the silver screen. (but not, as we shall see, in novels and comics.) ROTS chronicles Anakin's fall and fulfills the juicy sense of dramatic irony.

For the movie itself, I would group it with the originals in terms of quality. Dialogue was far better than I had feared. The romance scenes were more honest and well-directed. The cheese factor of Anakin's and Padme's lines was minimized, and their deliveries are far smoother than in Episode II. Action and battle scenes were complex, exciting and well chereographed. The opening space battle was impressive and provided a good introduction. Anakin's struggle and the insinuating quality of Palpatine's machinations was absolutely brilliant, and the emotional climaxes were for the most part well-placed. The movie wraps up all loose ends expertly, demonstrating Lucas's ability as a storyteller.

Coruscant was brilliantly realized. It was by far the most spectacular setting of all six films, with Bespin running a close second. The light reflecting off the chrome exteriors of the buildings, huge futuristic spires soaring out into the clear sky, the utter majesty of the Jedi Temple as the cameras pan toward it, as lines of tiny ships stream their way through the tall skyscrapers. Coruscant is everything I could have wished for to be a setting for a future Earth.

ROTS does have some failings, however. Firstly, while Anakin's struggle is brilliantly handled his final fall to the dark side is a little anticlimatic. It is abrupt and not entirely believable. While the basis for this fall is plausible, the execution of that scene does not reveal enough about this impetus. If Anakin had a greater cause for his fall that is more emotionally scarring it would have been better. As it is, the transition is a bit abrupt.

Second, Padme seems only to be pregnant for a few weeks. The movie moves so fast that the impression of the passing of a few months is not adequately indicated. The events feel like they all occured in the space of a few weeks, and Padme's pregancy thus seems strangely short.

The above are my only two major gripes. Everything else met or exceeded my hopes for the movie. There are actually some very minor technicalities, however, that only a hardcore like me would quibble on. Firstly, the use of the Force as a telekinetic weapon. It seems to me that the heroes could have used this many times when they did not. Second, is the selective insights the Force gives to different Jedi. For example why does Anakin only know of Luke and not Leia? How can Yoda not sense Palpatine as a Sith Lord? Why were the Jedi so effectively hoodwinked in this way? Additionally, Coruscant has planetary shields. How is it possible that Grevious's flagship could have crashed onto the surface if there was a protective shield?

These questions are minor but highly explainable if one wishes to think about it. For example in Labyrinth of Evil it is specifically indicated that the Separatists managed to sabotage the planetary shields. The Star Wars Databank also has an entry on this one. Others can be attributed to the convinient "Will of the Force" which is not so out of place in Lucas's overarching vision.

So it comes to this. An era closes on Star Wars, another arises. Whatever it is, I believe that SW will remain popular and relevant for many years to come. Lucas has created something that has changed the world, and it shall never fade so long as the magic remains. SW has escaped being a controlled franchise. It is self sustaining, forcing ever more of itself to emerge, propagating its own legacy, in accordance to the laws of money. While there are still fans SW will never fade.
Right now, I feel a strong impetus to watch the original trilogy on DVD.

1 comment:

BS said...

Hmm I personally have no problems with the graphics of the film, but i thought Hayden Christensen's acting still a little lacking with regard to the non-hateful areas, and Natalie Portman's acting on this occasion was certainly far removed from her performances in episode 1 and 2. Other than that, I felt the conclusion of the 15-20 min long battle between Anakin and Obi-Wan was perhaps a little anti-climax? For them to fight for so long and for it to end in a simple highground advantage-based strike...
Can't complain about the visuals though. Most certainly the best in terms of dramatic action.