Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Star Wars: Am I Getting Too Old?

With friends like mine, I count myself truly fortunate. One works at a movie theater. Occasionally, he gets me into movies before they open... the folks at theaters watch the films early to spot any flaws with their print just in case they need a substitute print shipped out ASAP. I saw re-edited version of "The Exorcist", "Spider-Man", "Spider-Man 2", the first Harry Potter film, "Fellowship of the Ring" this way... to name a few. I always try to show a little extra gratitude considering these are typically big-deal films that any number of his friends would want to go see.

This is also how I saw "Attack of the Clones" three years ago... which I disliked. Somehow, I had a bad feeling about it during the opening titles. Last night, I also had a bad feeling... from the very first word of the scroll:
What? How lame is that? Was George Lucas trying to write bad? I understand his Star Wars films consist of many cliches and archetypes... but they used to be fun, they had flair, they had panache, a twinkle in the eye. You know. "War!" Why not continue with, "Huh! What is it good for? Absolutely nothing. Say it again!" Perhaps in Yoda-speak, "War! Hmmm? What good for is it? Again, say it!"
  • R2-D2 doesn't just fly (like in Clones), but he jumps, hops, and gets into a droid brawl.
  • As cool as General Grevious is, he's a cyborg... and while the concept of a half-droid provides great potential, none of it is used. He might as well have been an alien monster with four arms. In fact, the character hardly makes any impact, other than a mildly interesting design, in the film at all.
  • The story potential for the droids was wasted. In "A New Hope" (that's "Star Wars" to non-geeks), droids appear to be second-class citizens... slaves even. They have no status, they are mere property, and are treated with suspicion. We can now see this is obviously from the wars with the droids, but why not do something with it?
  • Anakin sees the Jedi Council as evil... but the clumsy dialogue points out that this is merely his point of view. Obi-Wan also stresses his point of view, but it leads him to believe that the Chancellor is evil. Aw, shucks kids... if this is all a simple misunderstanding then what's all the fighting about? Everyone's okay... no one is wrong, every opinion counts. Utter crap.
  • The political ax that Lucas desperately wants to grind against the current Bush administration is also clumsy and annoying. Other blogs mention this gripe, and it's worth noting, but it's merely a minor point for me considering the lack of passion in the entire last half of the film.
  • Using the Wookiees was pure pandering merely to satisfy all the geek's who hate the Ewoks and wanted a Wookiee battle in the "Return of the Jedi". If they had been used for more than a short battle scene, I might have been impressed. Instead, I was merely distracted for a minute or two. Gee... thanks, George.
  • Obi-Wan's duel with Anakin/Darth Vader... it couldn't live up to the expectations. That's fine, but perhaps there should have been some adjustments to the lightsabre colors. Some of the duel action was so quick it was hard to determine what was going on... and a separate color for each lightsabre might have helped. A small point, I admit. However, the duel's finale was anticlimactic in the extreme... Obi-Wan vents at his evil former pupil, but lets him go. He doesn't just let Anakin die... a Jedi would kill an evil opponent, and at the very least end a former friend's suffering. However, Obi-Wan watches for a little while and then turns away. What an ass. Perhaps Obi-Wan couldn't bring himself to slay the young apprentice who he loved as a brother... but then why could he let him sink back into the lava and get consumed by flame? It didn't even look cool. As I remember, Obi-Wan showed little regret or remorse or guilt in the scenes that follow.
  • The terrible homage to Frankenstein and his Creature at the end of the film. I love the Brooks/Wilder film "Young Frankenstein", but Star Wars doesn't need more Peter Boyle... unless the Peter Boyle element involved George Lucas getting an ass-whooping.
  • More Crouching Jedi-Hidden Sith acrobatics from Yoda... again George, just because it looks cool and because you can do it doesn't mean it should be done. It doesn't feel like Star Wars. I'm not even sure it's cool to see Yoda fight like this. Less is more. Lucas should have given the cool fight sequences to Mace Windu before he snuffs it.
  • Speaking of which, how can you have Samuel Jackson in three of your films and only give him one real fight sequence... and not a particularly great fight sequence? It was not bad... but he never really seemed to get action that was worthy of Sam Jackson. Damn, Lucas... you spell "cool" with the letters S-A-M J-A-C-K-S-O-N. Everyone knows that. Give him the cool stuff!
Perhaps someone should take all three of the prequel films and edit them down to a nice 2 hour 30 minute movie. PLEASE!!!

(Updates to follow... as I remember more.)

12:10 PM, Friday June 10, 2005

Since my initial viewing I've returned twice... once on opening weekend with a friend (we agreed to see it at least a week before) and last Saturday with my nephew (hard to pass up a movie with that kid).

Since that time I've also put James Lileks on The List for his Bleat on Revenge of the Sith. He makes enough comments that seem fair enough... however, he also seemed to like it too much. (Keep in mind, I like it well enough... I just can't love this movie.)

The use of "War!" and the comment that there are "heroes on both sides" in the scroll still jars me. How is that even possible? The Republic fights with the Jedi and a vast clone army... so to say they have heroes doesn't bother me. (The use of clones as disposable soldiers is questionable, but I can easily accept that the Republic has heroes.) In the other corner we have the Seperatists backed by various bankers, trade groups, and apparently some evil CEOs. They also have Count Dooku... and we know he's evil. They also have General Grevious... a half-droid. He must be evil... he wears a cape and coughs. (That's in the rules... those are signs of evil folks.) The Separatists use a vast droid army... no real free-will, they just follow orders. Darth Sideous instructs everyone from Dooku, the banking clan, the strange aliens (who don't fight), and the droids by the chain-of-command. Where are the heroes? They have no people fighting the war... only machines. Point out the heroes, George.

Probably a glib comment to suggest that there are no absolutes, no good and evil, no right and wrong... unless it's George Bush.

Now, the seisure-inducing space battle sequence at the beginning. George, just because you can render all of that movement... doesn't make it helpful to your film. It is too much to look at and watch. Occasionally, he tries to focus your attention... which helps a lot. It should serve to actually tell the audience where the heroes are, and it doesn't really do that enough. George did it well in Star Wars... we saw it very well done in Empire... even Jedi and Phantom Menace has well crafted battle sequences. This was better than the horrible, confusing, and boring battle sequences in Clones... but that's damning with faint praise. ;)

Lileks likes it and even he uses the word "overkill". Of course, I can live with this radical space roller coaster sequence.

The first time I saw the film I really enjoyed the beginning. However, each viewing since has left me less entertained. The spaces between the fun scenes (action sequences and the Chancellor/Anakin scenes) seem longer and longer.

The final battle really doesn't have enough -wow- in it. The choreography might have been great, but you couldn't see it. Earlier, I mentioned it was due to the darkened look (could be the red, too) and the similar lightsabre colors... actually, that might not be as big a factor as I originally thought. Like the lightsabre duels in Attack of the Clones, Lucas uses too many tight shots and close-ups. In Phantom Menace he wasn't afraid to use a long shot, or even a couple of extreme long shots... and you really got a nice look at the graceful sword fighting. The duel in Revenge of the Sith felt more gritty, but we should have seen more of that with more medium and long shots.

Lileks claims this new duel is without peer. He is high. The Qui Gon/Obi Wan/Darth Maul duel is without peer. Anyone who disagrees cannot be taken seriously. My good friend (who I saw Sith with my second time) is quick to remind me that the intensity in the duels from Empire and Jedi still packs an emotional punch... and he is right. They both trump the Phantom Menace and Revenge of the Sith duels since they provide a great climax for Empire and Jedi... neither Phantom or Clones or Sith have that kind of climax with the duels... but at least Phantom looks good, is exciting, and finally makes you think that the Jedi are the musketeers of sci-fi/fantasy.

Lileks, of course, is right on point when it comes to Anakin's abrupt transition to evil. (Whoops, I don't mean evil... I should say a different point of view. Whatever, George.)

More later. ;)


Monday, May 16, 2005

Religion & Star Trek

MH from Our Word directed me to an interesting post at Jimmy Akin's blog on the role of religion in Star Trek. Anyone who watches the various Star Trek shows and movies knows religion holds a special place in Gene Roddenberry's series... often a place for scorn and derision.
...Multiple episodes (and the first Star Trek movie) are all based on the
idea of going into space and symbolically finding God and finding out that he's
a fraud, or an alien, or a child, or a computer, or insane, or some combination
of these. The two twin themes Roddenberry felt drawn to were "God is unworthy of
worship" (for one reason or another) and "There ain't no paradise except the
Federation" (all other paradaisical societies having some horrible hidden

A while back, MH and I talkd about this very subject and how Deep Space 9 actually takes a bold and fresh direction where religion is concerned... namely, that it isn't just a subject for ridicule. In fact, the more interesting characters on DS9 are those who practice a specific faith.

Before reaching this conclusion, I considered the Deep Space 9 series one of the best among the various Star Trek series. I tend to go back to rewatch more DS9 episodes than the original series and Next Gen... and don't even start mentioning Voyager. ;)

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Friday, May 06, 2005

New Star Wars Score

So far, the new Star Wars score "Revenge of the Sith" hits far more than the immediate predecessor "Attack of the Clones" missed... not that difficult to do, but still I enjoy the new score.

More later. ;)

Later: Tuesday May 10th, 10:15 AM

Okay, when you talk about Star Wars I suspect some folks will immediately think the person is a bit of a geek. I suppose that is true to a certain extent, however as everyone knows the film series (at least in part) is regarded quite good to the point that it isn't just a sci-fi adventure... it helped define a time in our culture, our childhood, and so on. They entertain on various levels... not least of which includes the wonderful and memorable scores from composer John Williams.

Williams work is know by many ears throughout the world. If you didn't know his name you'd probably catch certain phrases of his music and suddenly think of a scene from a film. There are easily dozens of films with his music that are recognizable... Jaws, ET, Jurasic Park, Harry Potter, Catch Me if You Can, Superman (absolutely classic), and of course Indiana Jones. In fact, if you didn't see a movie he scored but somehow heard the music you'd probably recognize the style.

A harsh critic might say you might even recognize the same tune. ;) Listen to Leia's Theme in Empire Strikes Back and then listen to Marion's Theme in Raiders of the Lost Ark... at least a little similar. However, he's very enjoyable.

Other critics, like a friend of mine, say Williams enjoys Holzt and Bethoven so much that he borrows ideas from them... my friend also freely admits that even if Williams writing original music, it's damn fun!

Now, I said all that so I could say this.

I was underwhelmed by Williams' score for Attack of the Clones. Actually, I was quite unimpressed with the whole movie... but the music, for the most part, didn't match the quality of Williams' other work for Star Wars. The love theme for Attack of the Clones ("Across the Stars") is good, in fact it's the best music from the film, however there is precious little new music in the movie that was fun to hear. I waited for a two-disk release (much like the special release of The Phantom Menace score), but it doesn't appear to be in the works... perhaps there isn't enough music to cover two disks, or it isn't worth it.

That seems to have changed with Revenge of the Sith... there is more original music on the soundtrack. The opening theme eventually gets right into the swing of things... the music seems to substantiate rumors that the film kicks of with a big battle scene. General Grevious has a nice track. Several tracks were apparently written for more action and battle scenes. I loved the use of the old themes in the new score... the Imperial March, Qui-Gon's Funeral, and others fit well.

The lack of enthusiasm in the score of Attack of the Clones heralded my dislike of the film... hopefully the excitement of the score of Revenge of the Sith will mean that I'll grove on the film. Will George Lucas drop the ball? We'll find out soon enough. ;)

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Learning to Speak... and Other Useful Skills

My boy has a few words under his belt. Well, perhaps not full words, but basic sounds that seem to be used for specific concepts.

Bah = Ball
Bah = Bottle
Bah = Drink of water
Ffff = Food
Ffff = Frog
Ssss = Socks
Ssss = Shoes
Wah = Water

He recently repeated the word "eggs" after my wife asked if he wanted more eggs for breakfast. That stunned us on the spot. ;) He also knows that his mother is to be refered to as "Mama" and "Mamama" or even "Mamamamamama".

Now, not that long ago he started pointing to me and saying "Da-iee". I would hide behind a door or a couch, my wife would ask "Where's Dad?", he would point to where he thought I was, say "Da-iee", and I would pop out (with a huge smile).

That's not the only little thing he's learned. He's learned how to be a smartass. While feeding him the other day I asked "Where's Dad?", to which he pointed at me and said, "Mama". My wife loves that. "No!" I laughed. "Where's your dad? Where's Daddy?"

With wide open eyes, hands clasped, and a small voice he said, "Mama." Very insistent though.

"No, no, no!" I couldn't cointain either my laughter or my frustration. "I'm Dad! Where's Dad?"

"Mamama," he growled with a grin. He even looked back at his mother to get her approval... approval for sticking it to Dad.

He knows who Dad is, he knows who Mom is, and he knows how to be funny. That's my boy!