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|Though flawed, Sith saved an ailing series (con't)...
First off, lets be honest here: Lucas lost the ability to craft effective dialogue years ago. He is still an effective
(even visionary) technical director, but his skill with dialogue (and coaching the actors who speak it) is woefully
inadequate. I don’t know which director could have pulled off some of the verbal howlers Lucas gives us in this
trilogy, but it sure wasn’t Lucas himself.
Even more detrimental to the prequels, however, is the fact that many of the actors must perform in the shadow
of icons like Harrison Ford and James Earl Jones (even the frequently-lampooned Mark Hamill held his own).
This is a tricky situation to begin with, but with Lucas so consumed by digital wizardry, he obviously had little time
to spend with his actors, and it shows. They all seem afraid to take chances, afraid to spoil the Star Wars legacy
with a really bad performance, so they all resign themselves to mediocrity. It’s a shame.
That’s why Ian McDiarmid adds such juice to the movie – he GETS it. He was, after all, in the ORIGINAL series,
and thus has nothing but himself to live up to. It makes all the difference. Whenever McDiarmid is on screen, I felt
like I was watching something truly special.
Then, near the end of the film, I saw “him”: the hated Jar Jar Binks. He didn’t say a word. At that moment, I got a
crazy idea (one that I dearly wished Lucas had gotten) that might have been a great way to rekindle the “magic” of
the original series in the first two films. All Lucas needed to do was correctly identify almost everyone’s favorite
heroic character from the first trilogy. Any guesses?
Han Solo is almost unquestionably the most popular human character (aside from Vader) in the trilogy. His
absence left a huge rift in the prequels. I feel that the reason Solo added such heart to the originals was that he
was essentially a skeptic of the Force, someone who learns its value indirectly, while never completely
understanding it. Nevertheless, he serves a purpose and becomes in many ways the most pivotal character in
Sound like someone we know?
You got it. Lucas should have had the good sense to shape Jar Jar (keeping him CGI mind you) in the Han Solo
vein rather than the “retarded Jamaican” vein, turning him into the “heroic nonbeliever” of the prequels, who
realizes the power of the Force just as its defenders are being eradicated from the Galaxy. He would have failed
with the others, of course, but wouldn’t his struggle have been an interesting, poignant re-examination of the
Han Solo perspective? Alas, Lucas could not be persuaded – it was his way or the highway.
So, Jar Jar becomes nothing but scenery by the third film – and well he should be. He was a horrible, poorly
conveyed character who brought nothing of value to the Star Wars legacy. But his sidelining still smacks of failure
and represents a cowardly act of abandonment by Lucas. He should have gotten more help. He should have
talked less and LISTENED more. Misanthropic arrogance is for critics, not filmmakers.
But maybe, in the grander scheme of things (despite my deep reservations about saying this) he was right. Or at
least right enough. Based on Attack of the Clones, I now realize how much more terribly the entire series could
have gone astray if someone other than Lucas had scripted the entire trilogy. At least we got one good one,
right? I would, after all, rather have a “bad” Star Wars film than a “good” Chronicles of Riddick. And Revenge of
the Sith is no Chronicles of Riddick.
What it is, is the third best film in the series, right behind the original Star Wars (The Empire Strikes Back is still
No. 1 in my book). I challenge anyone to be unmoved by the “birth” of the cyborg Vader. Lucas handles the
scenes leading up to his construction masterfully. The duel between Anakin and Obi-Wan accomplished
everything it needed to do, and with a surprising amount of flair. Anakin’s fate is absolutely chilling, I’ll spoil
nothing about it. Hayden Christiansen still lacks the necessary gravitas as Anakin, but he gets the job done
adequately and he’s WORLDS better than he was in AotC.
Whatever you think of Christensen (and the whole cast, and Lucas for that matter), please do yourself a favor and
see this movie. You might chuckle at the clunky dialogue and rue the day Lucas decided to wait 15 years before
picking up a camera, but you’ll be glad to know that the sense of adventure, mystery, CONSTANT surprise and
(yes) emotion that made the original trilogy such a heady concoction has not died with the Republic. Don’t let
cynicism about the first two films keep you from seeing the reason those hackneyed exercises were even
shuffled up onto the screen in the first place. Don’t let DVD have the last laugh. See it in the theater.
In fact, after seeing Revenge of the Sith, you’ll want nothing more than to re-watch that original trilogy to
remember just how fun blockbusters can be. After seeing them, you might be surprised at just how close to
greatness Lucas came with this movie. He didn’t quite get there, but he re-energized a wilting fan base and re-
convinced me (who wanted him crucified after Episode II) that he will always be the true Lord and Master of this
galaxy far, far away.
He may have been too ambitious in wanting to “go it alone”, but how many mega-budget films aspire to the
things Lucas has attempted here? Not many. And perhaps I speak only for myself, but in these days of sagging
box office receipts and franchises like Bad Boys and The Fast and the Furious, I think it’s something we need a
lot more of if movies hope to survive an increasingly niche-unfriendly, download-based system of commerce.
I wish every independent filmmaker had the finances George Lucas has, and I wish every money-swollen studio
embraced his auteur spirit. Revenge of the Sith is officially critic-proof.
And remember, The Trouble with Tribbles is that they’re 30-year-old hairballs.
Sorry, I couldn’t resist.