Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

22 May 2005

I Have Joined the Dark Side

I have seen Star Wars - Episode III: the Revenge of the Sith. It was really bad. I know we've all been told that Episode III is better than Episodes I & II, and that is certainly true, but being better than laugh-out-loud stupid is not very difficult. In this case, "better" means that while watching Episode III, the audience only laughed at the movie about half a dozen times.

It's like someone took a book you love and made it into a shitty movie... that's the only way I can think to compare the Star Wars prequels to anything. I already like and care about the characters, I have a pretty good sense of the plot, and I want the movie to be good--all when I walk into the theatre, but like Alexander or A Home at the End of the World, I leave the theatre going "I can't believe I sat through that piece of trash."

Lucas has no subtlety whatsoever. He neither has any ability to develop character. He has a kind of visual style, if you can call it that. He crams a billion little completely useless bits of information into each frame so that the picture is so busy you don't know what to look at. But strangely, his frames are very rarely beautiful, if ever. (To be fair, Attack of the Clones and Phantom Menace both had really cool costumes: Revenge doesn't have any.) And instead of writing a screenplay, he just choreographs fight scene after fight scene--I couldn't tell you who was fighting whom and why. And the fight scenes are the best part.

I know many have complained that the dialogue was bad in Attack of the Clones, myself included. But watching Revenge of the Sith, I was more aware that what didn't work wasn't the dialogue, it was the moments in the story when Lucas tried to use no dialogue at all to tell the story. There were several quiet moments when something very serious would happen and no dialogue was necessary: Anakin stares out a window at the Republic he loves and makes a decision while the woman he loves stares out a different window worrying about him. These scenes were much, much worse than scenes with dialogue. This is where Lucas's weaknesses as a filmmaker really reveal themselves. He can't create character, so he can't ever be serious, so when he tries to get us to feel something, he falls flat on his face. The audience at the screening I attended, I am sorry to report, laughed out loud at these scenes.

They're showing the trailer for The Chronicles of Narnia: the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe with Episode III. Very cool.