It’s been my experience that when bloggers (myself included) promise to post something later, there’s about a 90% chance that they don’t actually do it. Despite this trend, I present my comments on Star Wars Episode III—the spoiler-free part first, and the spoilers below the fold.
As I said in the earlier post, it’s only incrementally better than episodes I and II. The improvements mainly arise from the darker subject matter (which give Lucas fewer opportunities to indulge in Jar Jar style silliness) and the more battle-heavy plot (which gives the characters fewer opportunities to speak at any length). The writing is still terrible; Tom Stoppard was supposedly consulted on the script but his influence is nowhere in evidence. The acting is still wooden—Natalie Portman is the worst offender, and the fact that she is reportedly a good actress in other contexts (e.g. Garden State, which I still haven’t seen) leads me to believe that Lucas has replaced her with a robot in the style of noted Star Wars geek Warren.
All these flaws were really pretty fatal; since I didn’t find the characters believable, I didn’t care much what happened to them, and so the numerous fight scenes didn’t create much suspense. Sure, they looked good, but I might as well have been watching a well-crafted screensaver. Oh well. At least I’ve got my DVDs of the original trilogy. How long until Serenity comes out?
Something that annoyed me in the opening space battle was that the camera was always focused on Obi-Wan’s squadron, and there was no hint of what was going on at a larger scale (except that it was obviously a big battle). Maybe this was meant to be immersive, but I just found it confusing. A large-scale shot of the battlefield showing the forces involved would have been nice.
Every time they showed Anakin’s mechanical hand, I couldn’t help thinking that maybe the real problem is that it’s evil. Then he could make a speech to the Jedi Council when he turns, saying “I’ve got what it takes to be a Sith Lord: an evil hand. You do know you gave me an evil hand, right?” But Joss Whedon doesn’t write for Star Wars.
Did anyone else find the scene transitions really distracting? It seemed like each one used a different, conspicuous wipe effect: venetian blinds, then checkerboard, etc. Like somebody who just figured out how to use the slide transitions in Powerpoint, and puts all the flashiest ones in his presentation. Knock it off, Lucas! (I know there’s some of this in the earlier films, but it was somehow more noticable here.)
A little thing I liked was when Palpatine tells Anakin the story of Darth Plagueis, Ian McDiarmid plays it in a subtle way to indicate that Palpatine himself is the apprentice who killed him without ever saying anything directly. (Apparently this is backed up elsewhere in the Star Wars universe.)
I thought the best scene, in terms of emotional impact, was after Obi-Wan defeats Anakin (well, the Black Knight might disagree with that assessment), and just starts shouting at him in anger and sorrow. “You were supposed to be the chosen one!”, etc. I thought that was effective.
Unfortunately, the fight preceding that scene seems to devolve into a platform game. Hey Anakin, get the mushroom and then stomp on his head! I seem to recall Anakin played a platform game in Episode II as well, there were conveyor belts involved.
I guess over the 18 years between this and episode IV, Darth Vader learns a certain amount of dignity. Because he certainly didn’t have it when he first put on the suit. This made it difficult to feel any resonance with the original trilogy: he may look like Vader, but he doesn’t really act like him.
Apparently there was a lot of stuff taken out of the original script, including a whole plot thread about the formation of the Rebellion. Gary Farber has lots of the deleted dialogue on his blog here, and in the three posts following that one.
So what did you guys think?