Sunday, March 28, 2010

Star Wars marathon: Attack of the Rebuttal

Attack of the Rebuttal

As part of the ongoing Star Wars marathon, a rebuttal formulated by each co-host is presented each Sunday following the publication of our individual reviews. Naturally, in order to fully appreciate this article, a proper reading of Bill’s review over at Bill’s Movie Emporium is required.

Upon reading your sentiments about Episode II’s central love story, I was under the impression that the Dark Side had begun to cloud your judgement. Your assessment of the Anakin/Padmé love story and the comparison with your own dating experiences was...interesting, but ultimately insufficient in convincing me of their qualities, both the movie's theme and your dating skills. Saying that it differed from typical Hollywood romantic epics didn’t garner many points in my book either. Different doesn’t always equal better. The main problem I have with the crucial love scenes in Episode II is how there is an odd shift in tone whenever Anakin and Padmé ‘argue’ about their feelings for one another. The scenes before that feel more natural with both actors putting on a decent show. As I said in my own review last week, I can detect at least a little bit of chemistry working between the two. But moments like the bedroom fireplace scene will begin and everything turns so awkward. The manner in which both characters speak is wooden and the dialogue they’re provided by Lucas doesn’t help either. So there are people that use worse lines in real life? Alright, and then? So for that reason it’s alright to hear it a movie? It doesn’t make their love very inspiring if they’ll be talking like that the rest of the way (which they do in Episode III). There is a dreadful stiffness to the acting during those critical moments which kill whatever mood Lucas had succeeded in establishing beforehand. I’ve said it before but good acting and directing can make the worst lines and scenes fun and digestible for the audience. Somewhere in those scenes there was a way to make the awkwardness feel more natural, or cute, or funny. There being a certain awkwardness between the two is not a problem per say. They both understand the dangers of falling in love but cannot suppress these feelings they have for each other. I’m fine with that, I really am. But what’s delivered on screen is simply not fun to watch or listen to. The acting and exchanges in the few important love scenes feels out place and out of whack with the rest of the movie, as if we were suddenly watching a bad play. Poorly handled and I still have trouble getting your side on this debate.

Fighting Yoda is less of a problem. I didn’t spend much time dwelling on that element of Episode II, but I sensed that you felt the need to fully elaborate on a defence for Lucas’ decision to award the tiny Jedi master a proper battle. I think it was about high time fans and audiences see what Yoda was capable of. We had seen him in 3 films already, 2 during which he was essentially an old crusty fart practically on his death bed and another in which he merely sat around and blabbered. If he’s so powerful to be sitting on the Jedi Council, why doesn’t get off his butt and-oh, I see. The Force battle between Yoda and Count Dooku was very entertaining and did a wonderful job of showing what Yoda was made of. Just his entrance into that room was hilarious, what with that slow and difficult walk, crutching his walking stick as he advances, and then: Wham, here’s some Force for thought! My moderate complaint pertained more to the actual lightsaber duel with Christopher Lee (bit of a strange casting choice. He’s a great actor, but do you think he really added anything to the film?). I think using Yoda in a sword fight ends being somewhat of a lose-lose situation. He’s smaller than everybody else, therefore his particular advantage almost has to be quickness. That’s exactly what we get. Makes sense. But, a bit like what I wrote in my rebuttal regarding the love story, just because their is a logical reason for what’s happening doesn’t mean it looks good. I don’t want to leave you under the impression that it looks bad either, only that it was somewhat underwhelming to witness Yoda flying all around the hanger bay with Dooku swinging madly so many times you’d think he was trying to catch up with Pedro Martinez curve balls. I’ve never been under the impression that the fight looked terrible, it’s more in the nature of: ‘Huh, so that what it looks like when he fights? Okay...’

I didn’t even bother to tackle the issue of C-3PO in my review. I felt I had dispensed sufficient energy in relating to the readers my feelings towards Jar Jar Binks in the previous review, so there wasn’t a bloody chance in hell I was going to do the same again. I completely and 100% agree with you on this one. I was never the biggest C-3PO fan, even in the original trilogy, but his presence in Episode II is more than a little bit irritating. There is only one line he delivers which I found clever (the one about machines making machines being perverse), but that was it. It was such a bizarre decision by Lucas to have C-3PO be a comical sidekick. Nobody (except you) liked Jar Jar Binks, so he chooses to replace him with C-3PO? Why does a Star Wars movie require a comical sidekick?

Other than the first two points I elaborated on in this rebuttal, I think you and I are on the same page this time. The style and presentation are very good. We often criticise Lucas for his writing and directing, but I like how he let’s the camera rest on certain faces and places for longer than we typically expect. It’s a style I like and not enough directors do that anymore. The scale of Episode II, the witty banter between Anakin and Obi-Wan, the action, all of that worked well for me as well. The plot is convoluted at times, but I think that actually works more in the movie’s favour here than it did in the previous instalment. Like you said, this is pulp. There’s fun to be had, it’s a journey with some fun characters and kick-ass action scenes. That, and the story ties in very well with what is to come. I honestly don’t see why so many people loathed this instalment to such an intense degree. Judging by the way some people compare the prequel trilogy and the original trilogy, a newcomer to the franchise would come think the earlier films we’re absolutely perfect, no questions asked. Of course you can’t best perfection, but the problem is that none of the films in this franchise are perfect. That, however, is a debate that will have to wait for our future reviews.

P.S. What was your take on the scenes in which the Jedi revealed that their abilities to channel the Force had weakened? I thought it was an interesting concept that was sort of left on the table. An actual decline in their powers? Palpatine screwing with their minds and they just don’t know it?

Also, how about that title?


Anonymous said...

A few quick things,

1) I love the title this time, it's sort of misleading and incredibly pulpy.

2) I've always had issues with the Jedi's connection to the Force weakening. If you view the Force as a duality then it doesn't make much sense for the simple existence of the Sith to have weakened their ties to the Force. If, like me, you view the Force as one entity, then it sort of makes sense, they are already stunted in their view of the Force and the reappearance of that which they shun would only serve to convince them that once again their ties to the Force are withering away.

As far as interesting ideas go, it certainly is one, it gives plenty of food for thought. I'm very glad it was never answered, most of the fun can be found in the ambiguous nature of the problem and an answer would have taken all that fun away.

edgarchaput said...

I don't think I've ever fully comprehended the Force. It being one entity, it being a duality, why would the Jedi's connection to the Force be weakened anyhow?

I like to think it may be like how governments that stay too long in office tend to stagnate, have less inovation and lose public support. The Jedi have been the guardians of peace and justice for so long without the presence of the Sith that they've forgotten how to face genuine dangers. They haven't had any challenged to keep their Force powers grow or remain strong.