Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Star Wars II: "Ahmm, a Jedi, eh? Whaddya know?"


Original Thoughts

I'd mellowed considerably on Star Wars by the time AOTC was announced and Trailered. I kept my geek on "simmer" and avoided any preconceptions other than

a) the title was kinda clumsy
b) there appeared to be a few Jedi fighting in it

I hadn't completely absorbed George Lucas' "it's like a cheesy Saturday morning movie serial, see?" for his title choices yet, and, busy with work and life, I simply missed the trailers that showed glimpses of dozens of Jedi hacking at crap.

But when me and some friends hit the theater, I was, more than anything, psyched to see a new Star Wars film - what, was it NOT going to have flashy lightsabers and whizzy starships? What I didn't realize was that it was also going to give me some pain mixed in with its delight.

Things I liked:

1) Different flow. The "big chase" scene being in the first act, and the last action act being relatively continuous was something not seen since the original movie, really. (Star Wars/A New Hope, - all a single space battle at the end; Empire - escape scene mixed with duel, followed by pursuit scene; Jedi - trio of space/land/saber battle, all at end; Phantom Menace - repeat of Jedi; AOTC - land
fight then land battle followed by duel then duel; Sith - double saber duels.)

2) Big Clone battle on Geonosis. This just looked spectacular and I loved every second of it.

3) Again, Ewan McGregor's Kenobi. It's just fun to watch.

4) Natalie Portman's hinder. This just looked spectacular and I loved every second of it. It's just fun to watch.

Things I liked less:

1) The "romance". Yep, pretty painful, and unforgivingly-so. Clunky dialogue, bad giggles, super-powered angst coming from nowhere, and absolutely zero subtlety. George definitely should have had someone tag in here - a better director could have at least softened the cheeseball factors with better performances out of his leads.

And come on - I've known a few manipulative and downright mean chicks in my life, and yeah, they'd cook me a meal and invite me to a cozy firelit room to give me the Big Surprise Stop Sign, but even they'd never've donned a black bondage outfit to do so. I mean, they had standards.

2) Dooku's fighting style. You go out of your way to design a different saber that hints at and, in the geeky backstory, harkens to a one-handed classical fencer pose and style, and you even FX Christpher Lee's head onto a stunt guy anyway; but in the end it's still all big sweeps and swings instead of cuts and lunges.

Blu-Ray Hubbub

Same as TPM from last week; if there are any changes in the BluRay version compared to the DVD version, I'm the wrong guy to spot them. Sound still great, the picture is perfect (maybe they cleaned up some of the digital stuff in Palpatine's office? The reds seemed a little less fuzzy than I'd recalled). A nice feature in this BluRay release is that they've cobbled together an additional commentary track for each film. It says it's "archival", and is clearly snippets of interviews and quickie comments, and I suspect even pieces of commentaries they recorded but didn't use all of. Nice to hear a few comments from some actors who aren't an embittered Carrie Fisher, for instance.

(Maybe they should have CGId in a shawl for Amidala's "I dump you hotly" scene?)

If there's a down side to the BluRay it's the gorrammed time it takes to load each new section of menu - reminds me of booting up my dad's old 8086 PC. I know part of that can be my player, but man, it's annoying, and it's not even George Lucas's fault!


I like it. I know I'm supposed to hate the whole thing because of the flubbed romance thing, but c'mon - Obi-wan Kenobi fights a Harryhausen monster! With a spear, even! Does it feel cheesy to end up spending a buttload of time on "I'm never coming back to this planet again" (oh, but we are, Luke - in 5 out of 6 movies) sandy Tatooine? Sure. Is Lucas showcasing his ability to drag mediocre performances from capable actors? Sure. Does mommy-loss, adolescent angst, and stolen love seem like a solid base on which to build a black-armored badass who chokes his way through less-than-perfect friendlies like Pee Wee Herman in a chicken factory?

No. And that's the movie's biggest failing to me. I'm simply not convinced that Anakin Skywalker can become Darth Vader - not a bit. And since this whole overarching thing is the story OF Anakin's evolution into Vader, I'd say that's a pretty big problem.

Still and all, I think it works better than The Phantom Menace, and is ultimately visually more rewarding, hence...

My rating of its place in the pack, best-to-worst:

1 - XXXX
2 - XXXX
3 - XXXX
4 - Attack of the Clones
5 - The Phantom Menace
6 - XXXX

Next up, for the non-geeks: Revenge of the Sith.


Jake (formerly Riposte3) said...

I was disappointed with Dooku's saber style, too. But, in defense of the choreographers, the classical fencing style it hints at does involve extensive use of the handguard, which wouldn't work with lightsabers (barring, of course, a cortosis based alloy). But you would still expect an emphasis on smaller, quicker movements over the ridiculously large sweeping cuts he was using. It was almost more flourishing than fighting.

Of course, if such things were real, 90% of a jedi-sith lightsaber duel would be invisible - using the force to predict and counter the enemy's attacks while preventing him from doing the same, little force-pulls/pushes to knock them off balance or their weapon out of line while blocking the same, etc., etc. It just wouldn't film well.

Smasher said...

Sure, but they could have tried. And I disagree a little about the necessity of the handguard -simple beat-attacks and parry-ripostes could have worked. And heck - they could have given Dooku's saber a little "light guard" crossbar at the emitter, right? :)

Jake (formerly Riposte3) said...

True, they could have come a lot closer than they did. But, having fenced epee myself, I can tell you that the handguard is a surprisingly critical part of most parries and ripostes - though maybe a more sabre-centric style would work, or, like I said, a cortosis alloy guard (since cortosis is already part of the 'universe' of Lucas-approved publications).

OTOH, considering how much they seemed to like the whole "cut his lightsaber apart without touching him" meme, allowing lightsaber-proof materials would raise the question of "why not build everything but the emitter out of it?"

Atom Smasher said...

Epee huh? I played at epee a few times, but I mainly stuck with foil.

Maybe the cartosis stuff is too heavy? I can't remember - I've not read all of the EU stuff.

Jake (formerly Riposte3) said...

Rarity and expense is the main in-universe explanation.

Smasher said...

I still think a little "light crossguard" could have worked well-enough to make it believable. It just has to be non-faky enough to seem plausible, after all, and what's a few more red pixels to ILM?

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