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Tuesday, May 24, 2005

 

Revenge of the Dark Lord of the Chimp? My take on the final Star Wars movie

I saw the movie last Thursday, in a theater that was about half-full (this was at 9 in the morning) with a mixed audience that had a fair range of age groups.

I'd gotten a free ticket from a co-worker (he bought the tickets weeks ago, thinking he was getting a ticket for the 9 am show and the 9 pm show when he was actually getting two tickets to the 9 am show) and got to essentially take the day off to see the movie.

I got to the theater about an hour early. Within a few minutes, a couple guys had already shown up. More and more people started showing up as the time neared for the theater to open. When it did, we formed a rough line to get in. My co-worker had given me my ticket about a week ago, so when I walked up to the ticket-taker, all I had to do was give it to her. Most everybody else were in line to buy tickets for the show.

We all got settled in, and then had to sit through almost a half-hour of promos, ads, more promos, more ads, etc. before the previews got going. The previews lasted twenty-odd minutes. Finally, the movie got going.

I liked it. It was good, fun, and worth it (especially when you're getting in free!) and I'll probably go see it again in about a week, after the lines die down, to get a feel for the things I might have missed in the first viewing, things that have been mentioned online in other fora.

What most about the movie I liked was the general sense of continuity between it and the second three movies and how Lucas ties everything together. This is why I think the movies now need to be seen in chronological story order. I thought the whole business of Anakin and Padme(sp?) was overdrawn in that you never got a sense of real passion from them, almost like they were acting out a character play rather than that they were lovers. However, we do get the feel that Anakin does care about her. I think part of the reason they are so restrained toward each other is that they can't truly be openly together. There seems to be an "illicit" angle to their relationship that suggests to me that the Jedi are supposed to be celibate and chaste and Anakin didn't want his fellow Jedi to frown upon his relationship with her.

This movie is really about Anakin's final transformation from caring, decent human being to "Darth Vader" and I think Lucas pulls it off well considering. He isn't so much "seduced" by the Dark Side as much as he's forced into it. The choices he makes throughout the first three movies paint him into a corner from which he can see only one way out: surrender to the Dark Side and follow Palpatine to the end.

The most effective scene was when the mask drops down on his face, from his point of view. It's as if we're seeing the last vestige of his humanity disappear, subsumed under his Vader persona. But that vestige is still there, buried within him somewhere, to emerge at the end of the last movie, when he decides he cannot kill his own son and turns against evil and the Emperor. This is why I thought the "Nooooooo!" scene actually worked pretty well. What we saw then and in the brief bit of dialog between him and Palpatine was that shred of humanity still within his soul, biding its time.

In the end, Luke was right. There was still some shred of decency left in there somewhere and it came out, right at the extremity of Vader's life when he is confronted with a stark choice: kill his own son or turn against evil.

There was an obvious (whether Lucas intended it to be so is another matter entirely) political allegory between the manner in which Palpatine becomes Supreme Chancellor and then Emperor and current events. However, I suspect that allegory will go over the heads of quite a few people watching the film, which is unfortunate because I think the film rightly makes the point that Power Corrupts, and Absolute Power Corrupts, Absolutely.

Samuel L. Jackson is one of my favorite actors and I liked his on-screen presence in these three movies of the first trilogy. The only thing that didn't work quite right for me was his edgy, quirky humor. He might have worked out better as a "Han Solo" kind of character, but he does manage to pull this role off pretty well.

The battle scenes were long, complicated, and overly packed with action, in my opinion. Lucas could have toned them down a bit.

Lastly, in the birthing scene toward the end, there was a real-life touch provided by a couple babies in the audience. When the babies onscreen are born and begin to cry, so too did the young 'uns in the theater, right on cue. It was distracting at first but provided a moment of comic relief for me when I heard it.
All in all, I liked it. It was good theater and I think Star Wars aficionados will get a kick out of it.

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