Where my rich friends could empty their five buckets of Legos on the ground and get to work building a hideous castle-spaceship-dinosaur thing, I had to make do with a much smaller assortment of bricks. My creations, although not as large or flashy, had a lot more class to them.
When George Lucas was a wee lass, he had some money. Unlike his rich little friends, though, he didn’t have a lot, and he had to be very careful about only implementing his stronger ideas.
Where his rich friends could pour bajillions of dollars into a project, George had to make do with a much smaller pile of cash. His creations wound up being a combination of innovative special effects and some halfway-decent stories.
Years later, I have enough money to buy myself huge assloads of Legos, and George has enough money to create whatever movies he’d like.
The difference is that, years later, I still have some taste.
A long time ago…
Copies of George Lucas’s original Star Wars script have been floating around the internet for years. Even before the web, you could find it out on USENET. It was even sitting in the file repositories of a few BBS’s.
I downloaded the thing back when I was in college.
It was terrible. Worse than terrible, actually. It was stream of consciousness sci-fi fantasy, and it made almost no sense. Some elements of it were entertaining and showed promise, but taken as a whole, it was a steaming pile of tauntaun poop.
There were too many ideas; too many things happening all at once, and which could never, ever, ever, ever be created on screen.
At least not back in 1973 when the script was written.
A few years ago…
George Lucas has too much money. He also has too much power, too much influence, and too much access to Hollywood. He could get up any day of the week, phone somebody down at 20th Century Fox, and say “I think I’m going to write, direct, and produce a movie about Nazi child porn,” and they’d let him do it. They’d give him funding. There would be Burger King tie-ins. And so on.
So, they gave him the green light on the new Star Wars series. And why not? He had a good track record with the first series, the work he did on Indiana Jones, and the Ewok Adventures. Plus, he was going to be pulling the dough out of his own pocket. All they had to do was get out of his way and let him work his magic.
Can’t blame them, of course. There was no way for them to know what would happen.
I took Aydika and my friend Felix to see this celluloid disaster last night. Felix and I had gone to see the first two films when they were released. We were a good team because we had similar expectations, and we were able to act as a small, isolated support group for each other after the credits ran.
Last night, though, we were prepared. Having absolutely no faith in the new franchise, our expectations were low. Instead of working overtime to erect real-time mental scaffolding to support the crappy ideas in the movie, we both let ourselves go to simply experience the movie as it was.
Things got off to a bad start. The opening crawl was, unfortunately, hilarious. Seeing the name “Count Dooku” presented in the context of describing some major galactic threat is comedy gold. That name is totally inoffensive. George might as well have named him “Count Poopypants.”
And things didn’t improve much.
There’s a light at the end of the tunnel, but it’s pretty dim, as though the tunnel-flashlight battery needed some recharging.
The first hour and a half: lame story and pointless dialogue…
Don’t expect much excitement. The first ninety minutes or so are meant to do two (2) things:
1. Set us up for the end of the trilogy
2. Make ninety minutes go by
The majority of the movie could have been squeezed down to about forty minutes without losing anything. Many scenes were redundant, echoing something that might have happened fifteen minutes prior, while others simply didn’t make any sense in relation to the story (the pointless trip to the wookie home-world, for example).
There’s a lot of “dialogue” between Anakin and Padme that goes like this:
Anakin: I think you’re so beautiful.
Padme: No – you are.
Anakin: No, seriously, baby. You’re hot.
Padme: Oh, Annie.
Anakin: I love you.
Padme: No, I love you.
Anakin: For reals, though, I think you’re so awesome.
Padme: You’re so nice.
Anakin: Obi-Wan is a dickhead.
Padme: No way!
Padme: Wow. I love you.
Anakin: I totally love you more.
[lather, rinse, repeat]
You’ve probably heard about the dialogue, and it’s every bit as bad as people are making it out to be. It feels like there are really only two characters in the movie: the good guy, and the bad guy. Different actors have been assigned to one of these sides and then given random bits of dialogue to support it. However, the style of the dialogue is the same for both sides in that it’s stiff, choppy, and confusing. The result is that most of the movie feels like a schizophrenic argument between two personalities from the same brain.
The special effects
If the first trilogy was Audrey Hepburn (elegant, charming, and endearing), then this second one is Tammy-Faye Baker (bloated, overdone, and gaudy).
The special effects in the first trilogy were very well done, and I would argue that they hold up well even today.
The new CGI stuff is impressive, but the problem is that there’s just way too much of it. The human brain has short-term memory registers for 7 +/- 2 items. In the old trilogy, we were able to follow the excitement as three or four tie fighters chased after an x-wing. In the new trilogy, we’re lucky if we can focus our attention on one bloody pixel. Every scene has been made up to look like a cheap hooker after an all-night drinking and lipstick-smearing jag.
Rather than creating a thrill through all that’s happening on screen, attention is so divided that you wind up not being able to focus on anything, and so don’t care.
Another issue is that, in the old trilogy, the special effects stopped when we cut close to people who were actually acting. In the new series, the effects never stop, and they make the already confusing dialogue that much harder to follow. The actors are definitely playing second fiddle to the rendering engines.
I don’t know what George was thinking, but I imagine that it went something like this…