The Revenge of the Stood Still

So I was talked into seeing Revenge of the Sith on Wednesday at midnight, which, coupled with the drive, made for a short night. Had the crowd been more participatory and less full of showoffy jocks making a show of their popcorn-buying ability for their eye-rolling would-be breeding partners, it might have been more enjoyable at the opening.

Nonetheless, I didn’t completely hate the movie. However, I’ve recently seen a movie that makes me hate it in retrospect.

Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith

I expected to hate Revenge of the Sith, so not hating it immediately is a plus. It’s easily better than the last two, though the dialog needed a script editor. Apparently it had one, a Pulitzer-prize-winning one, but he failed. Miserably. The lines needed complete rewrites and a director who gave a shit about actors. I swear, George, give it to the second-unit or even third- or fourth-unit guy. Hell, give it to that weird guy on Project Greenlight who wants to cast his family in everything. He would have done a better job with the people.

Still, there was at least a plausible motivation for Anakin’s turn to evil, and McDiarmid’s mincing, over-the-top, campy attempts to seduce the young homo, I mean, uh, Jedi, were the best acting in the movie, with possibly one exception. Everyone else, even the fucking CGI muppet, phoned it in, again except for one time.

However the actual transition is handled badly, and Anakin switches sides too completely and with too little psychic stress. However, that would take more screen time than George Lucas felt he could get away with people talking. Given the dialog, this was probably a wise decision.

The exception in the acting is Ewan McGregor’s impassioned plea/curse to Anakin as he prepares to leave Anakin to his fate. That was decent, and I wish the rest of the movie had risen to that level of appropriateness or even emotion, or even a good bit of camp so the bite marks on the scenery wouldn’t be all McDermit’s. Natalie Portman didn’t suck as hard as Gwynneth Paltrow in Sky Captain, but she put in at least a soft porn performance.

Anakin’s final moments as Vader, after assuming the trademark cape, suit, and headgear feel rushed, a clumsy homage to Frankenstein, and look silly. Couldn’t they have just gotten a stand-in with the same dimensions as David Prowse? He looks like a geek in a Vader outfit.

The Day the Earth Stood Still

Again, I didn’t hate Sith, but I just watched a movie that kinda makes me hate it in retrospect. I just watched The Day the Earth Stood Still. Seriously, go fucking see this movie.

The special effects are 1951-vintage. They suck eggs by today’s standards. The robot is laughable, with his space diaper. But the movie makes you not care, because the dialog is good, the acting consistent to excellent, and it doesn’t assume you’re a drooling moron who needs to see more swirly colored swashbuckling to be entertained.

The movie is perhaps not as effective for those who didn’t live through the Cold War, but it still displays a compassion that doesn’t dissolve into mindless, ANSWER-style pacifism while at the same time abhorring violence as a means to political ends. My only criticism is that it doesn’t acknowledge the irony of using force to achieve that end, even in extreme cases.

Side note: loved the scenes of vintage Washington, with even WMAL, the still-extant talk station, being represented. However, when the Army talks about a cab moving west on 15th street (numbered streets go north-south), I had to laugh. Hollywood is ever Hollywood.

So here’s a big budget feature from 54 years ago–i.e., seven years or so less than Lucas has been alive–which is still powerful despite the aging of its special effects. Why? Because. It. Has. A. Good. Story.

It has characters you care about, with real motivations. It has dialog that is appropriate to the setting, and doesn’t sound like it comes from a high-school playwright. Yes, it’s hard work, but then again Lucas has recently said he has the freedom to do whatever he wants artistically. Well, George, maybe you should get Kershner back to take care of the art and let somebody else do the writing while you sketch out the broad outlines of the story (or maybe not…Trade Federation? WTF?) and take care of the special effects company management.

Why, George?

I recently re-read some stuff I wrote a decade ago: science fiction short stories, done to avoid working on my thesis. They kinda suck. No, wait. They really suck. Not as bad as the Star Trek story I wrote at age eight, because I know how to spell “button” and I didn’t get bored after a page and quit, but holy shit, they suck. Therefore, I don’t inflict them on people.

It’s not an easy thing to admit you suck at doing something you’d love to do. But perhaps George Lucas should go back and watch a few classic films–not just Science Fiction–and reflect on what he’s really trying to do, and whether he doesn’t have a different calling. I did, and I don’t feel ashamed of it.

“A man has to know his limitations.”

One thought on “The Revenge of the Stood Still


    Having watched the “Serenity” episode of “Firefly” and “The Pirate Planet” of 4th Doctor fame last night, I really have to say that by comparison, RotS sucked. To have screwed up a story which should have so much gravitas so thoroughly that I don’t react when the main character slaughters a bunch of heavily armed toddlers is truly a feat. AotC was better simply by virtue of achieving a similar level of impact while remaining solidly in the pre-climax rising action of the Old Republic story arc.

    Example: When I saw the Jedi embracing the clone army which is so clearly going to be the pre-cursor to the Imperial Goon Squad, I could immediately grasp the implications and felt some wave of dread for the future of the Jedi. By contrast, when they are actually all killed off, it is telegraphed so far in advance that I don’t feel any tension.

    The Emperor is clearly the only actor that really feels his lines, although he was better before he got all corpsified and gross.

    The vader-in-the-suit scene felt more reminiscent of Peter Boyle than David Prowse.

    Christopher Lee’s Count Dookoo was also reasonably charismatic. The man knows how to play a villain.


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