June 30, 2005

The Electronic Glow Fades

If you haven't seen Star Wars Episode III by now, you probably don't really want to, and various plot points have already been unwittingly disclosed by enough Helpdesk staff that you get the general idea.

I fall into the masses that think Episode 3 makes up for the previous two. It's a dubious honor, however, akin to being named valedictorian of your home-school class. But I will stop far short of calling it a good movie.

Yes, the dialogue was high-school-drama-club bad. Word on the set was that George Lucas had to cut the million monkeys on a million typewriters down to 1,000 to make room in the budget for more special effects.

While we're on the topic, can we still call them "special" effects if they make up 90% of the movie? I don't think we should. Since Lucas made the decision to have the actors perform on blue-screen sets and make the entire world in post-production, it's just effects. Metaphorically, Lucas has moved the film from pseudo-Hollywood, where Roger Rabbit is the special effect in the real world, to ToonTown, where Eddie Valliant is the real person in the fake world.

If this series has proven anything, it is what I call "The Matrix Principle": If you make a good enough first movie, the masses will keep coming to see future installments in the series NO MATTER HOW MUCH THEY SUCK, coasting on the hope that you will redeem the franchise and make the next one better. (In this case, it was two good movies at the start, but the principle holds.) George Lucas made the mistake of confusing this for the fans approval of the prequel trilogy, and continued taking every redeemable quality of his films out until only warm bodies remained, pretending against blue screens.

We all knew what had to happen in this last one: Anakin had to become Vader, Luke and Leia had to be born and separated, The Jedi had to be outcast and the Emperor rise to power. That's Quite a lot to cover in one film. Honestly, it's too much to pack into one film, and Episode 2 should have taken more on itself. In this last one, Anakin had to be turned to the dark side. But how do you turn an angsty teen into a genocidal lunatic in such a short span?

In order to accomplish this leap, George Lucas fell back on the stereotype of today's youth, now being called "The Entitlement Generation." Anakin is powerful (or so we hear), but he's being held back by "Da Man" from being a full Jedi Master at such a young age. He's on track to be the youngest Jedi Master in history, but he wants it NOW, dammit! Even when he is placed on the High Council (again, unheard of at his age), that's not enough for him. He's powerful and capable, and if they can't recognize that, then he'll seek power elsewhere.

While this line of thought might make sense to any parent of a 13 year-old, you'd expect an adult to be slightly more rational. But once Lucas get us to swallow Anakin's pubescent delusions of grandeur, he immediately bends that thin truth to its breaking point.

Let me get this straight: Anakin thinks he is so powerful that his recurring bad dreams HAVE to be true and everything he believed in to this point is false? So these dreams and a sly senator convince him to Go Postal at Jedi HQ, to the point of murdering the Junior Jedi. Eventually, he even turns on his old master and does the old "Force Trachea-Crush" move on the person he was trying to save by committing these murders. Tragic, Ironic, Dramatic? It should have been, but I just laughed at how weak it was.

And the ultimate duel at the end? Lucas just ran out of ideas. "Hmm, we've done everything possible with lightsaber dueling itself (a two-sided lightsaber, four lightsabers, etc.) so F-it, let's just cover it up with a CG environment." As if our suspension of disbelief wasn't challenged already. The drawback of CG effects is that the actors can't react properly to them. "Look! I'm so consumed by rage that I don't even blink when the platform I'm standing on falls into a river of molten lava! It's okay, we won't get burned, even though we're standing one foot from the lava's surface." Then at the end, reality catches up to them and contradicts this by having the guy burst into flames from just being near the liquid hot magma.

Then comes the meeting.

Meeting Notes -- 6:00 PM April 41st, Year of the WompRat.
--------------
Yoda: Obi-Wan, Senator Organa, thanks for coming to this meeting.
Obi-Wan: No Problem.
Organa: Happy to be here.
Yoda: Good to hear it. Okay, down to business. We've spent 98% of this movie trying to sell this "teen angst" rationale, and it's met with... acceptable results.
Obi-Wan: Well, *I* Liked it.
Organa: Hey, I'm just happy to have more than one line in this one!
Yoda: Right, but we have a problem, folks. We've followed through with the meat of the storyline, but there's still so much to tie up in order to ensure continuity!
Obi-Wan: Sheesh, I guess you're right. Sorry, I guess I lost sight of the overall project plan when I was "In the Trenches" fighting for my life seven inches above that river of lava.
Organa: Now don't play the martyr here, Kenobi. We've ALL been working here. Yoda's been busy trashing the senate building and I've... I had to pick him up when he was done. You know, he can't reach the pedals.
Yoda: Organa, this is not the time or place for that! Both of you, cut it out, we are all on the same team here.
Obi-Wan: Fine.
Organa: Okay, okay. So what do we do about it?
Yoda: I'm opening the floor to ideas. Shoot.
Obi-Wan: Should we cut out some of the pointless, drawn-out, emotionally sterile scenes? Like the one where Padme brushes her hair and laughs on the balcony?
Organa: I don't think we should look backwards, we can't help what's already filmed. We paid good money to get this far and I, for one, don't want to just flush that money down the toilet.
Obi-Wan: Well, we're already past the 2-hour mark now, we can't go on much longer.
Yoda: Let's just to a cliff-notes quick montage to patch 80% of the plot holes. The two biggest ones we'll have to take on as Action Items. You'll each take on one of Padme & Anakin's kids.
Organa: Hmm, Actually, the wife and I WERE looking into adoption...
Obi-Wan: No WAY! I didn't sign on for this! I don't work well with kids! Look how Anakin turned out!
Yoda: Now, settle down, Obi-Wan. You don't have to raise the kid yourself, you can delegate responsibility if you want. Just take it as an Action Item.
Organa: I got dibs on the girl!
Obi-Wan: Dammit, You bastard. You know boys are harder to place with families these days.
Yoda: Settle, you two. All right. The kids issue is closed. Moving down the list, Obi-Wan, we're going to need you to take that Relocation Package.
Obi-Wan: Fine. My contract was for "up to 50% travel," but what the hell. Beats being dead like all the others.
Yoda: It'll have to be far out, as to hide him from the Emperor. Preferably to Tatooine.
Obi-Wan: GREAT. Back to that hell-hole. What, all the satellite offices on poisonous gas planets already taken?
Yoda: That's enough, Kenobi. Organa, I'm not going to uproot you and your family, so you stay here on Coruscant.
Organa: Here? You want me to hide Leia in the capital of the empire? That doesn’t make any sense. No, the Emperor will NEVER look for her here, in the custody of a senator that is a known Jedi sympathizer.
Yoda: Cut the sarcasm, Organa, it's not productive. Just for that, you get another action item. Let's see. Yeah, according to the script, the Droids have to be the property of a Captain Antilles before the start of the next movie. And the tall one has to have a memory reformat.
Obi-Wan: Hold on, according to this script, I don't remember the droids in episode four either!
Yoda: Fine. Organa, have Obi-Wan's memory modified as well.
Organa: Okay by me. So what about the final shot?
Obi-Wan: So long as it's not a musical number, I'm happy with anything. We all remember the Lessons Learned meeting after "Return of the Jedi," don't we?
Yoda: Of course. *shudder* Thoughts, Organa?
Organa: Just as long as we end with a shot of Vader, the Emperor and the Death Star, and we're golden.

No comments:

Post a Comment