Monday, June 06, 2005

Darth Lucas and the Revenge of the Sixth

I just went to see Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. Yeah, it's been out a couple of weeks, but I wasn't in any much hurry. I stood in line on the very first day for both Star Wars (that which would later become Episode IV) and again for Episode VI (Revenge of the Ewoks). I watched in dismay as Episode I unfolded, and thought little better of Episode II. About all I can say for Episode III is, it's not quite as bad as I or II.

It is a tribute to the magnitude of George Lucas's genius in creating the Star Wars story that it has survived his utter ineptitude in telling it.

During the long pause between Episode VI and Episode I, George Lucas surrounded himself with a cadre of sycophantic yes-men without the wherewithal to tell him that he had truly lost his touch, most especially as a director. The performance of Jake Lloyd as the young boy Anakin Skywanker was dismal, but I don't fault the actor. What 10yo boy could possibly fathom the complexity of playing the little boy who grows up to be Darth Vader? He needed a director to guide him, to give him footholds, to connect Darth Vader to enough of Jake Lloyd's own experience to build the character of Anakin. But Lucas didn't even phone it in, he was completely AWOL. He told a 10yo boy to just play it the way he thought it should be played. Apparently Lucas started believing that not just Anakin Skywanker, but even Jake Lloyd could simply "use the force."

Much has been made of the political overtones to Episode III. Anakin Skywanker says to Obi Wank-a-newbie, "If you're not with me, then you're my enemy." (This review will not contain any spoilers that aren't completely obvious from watching the other 5 films; unfortunately, the film itself doesn't contain very many, either.) Seems we've heard something like that before. Also, the chancellor is so seduced by his lust for power that he will do anything to secure it, including turning the Senate into his own personal puppet playhouse. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. The people cheerfully hand over their liberty in the face of (apparently) external threats, not understanding that it is the very surrender of liberty that is the greatest danger, and the Senators go along for fear of appearing unpatriotic.

However, I would add that the tale of the Star Wars saga is also a morality play about George Lucas himself. He was seduced by the dark side of the Ego. He was very powerful, and was able to produce the last three movies just exactly the way he wanted to, no matter how many times he shot himself in the foot. (That's the Earth equivalent of the Jedi rite of passage of having one or both hands sliced off.) But ultimately he sacrificed the good side of the Ego and became a slave to Jar-Jar Binks and the Toy Consortium. I'd rather have the Reno 911 action figures than any new Star Wars toy short of a real light saber.

Create a wonderful story, you have.
Write a screenplay, you should not.
Direct a movie, you must never again.
What the frack have we come to when the new Prattlestar Galaxative Battlestar Galactica is really good, but Star Trek and Star Wars both collapse under their own weight?

At least John Williams hasn't lost his touch; the music is still great.