Sunday, May 29, 2005


Saw the latest Star Wars flick with my wife and kids yesterday. A few thoughts and reactions (warning: possible spoilers).

1) The special effects, scenes, and sets were, as expected, exotic and exquisite. I want to go see the movie again on the big screen simply to enjoy the visual aspects of the film.

2) The dialogue was not quite as painful as the last two films. This does not mean that it was by any means well-written but it just wasn't quite as a bad as before (with the additional plus of having Jar-Jar nearly non-existent and completely silent).

3) The story was, for anyone who has followed the previous five films, predictable. Most of the Jedis get wiped out. The Emperor comes out of the closet to assert overt control over his new galactic empire. Anakin Skywalker becomes Darth Vader. Yoda and Obi Wan Kenobi go into hiding/exile waiting around for Luke and Leia to grow up. Etc. Etc. None of this is surprising. The hard-core fans watched as much to see how Lucas would handle impending continuity problems as for any real plot development.

4) Anakin's motivations for turning to the dark side were not terribly convincing. More compelling and believable (to me) would be the simple lust for power and the slightly more subtle and complex desire for absolute power in order to impose order on chaos (and ignoring the dictum that absolute power corrupts absolutely). But trusting in a Sith Lord's empty promise of immortality seemed rather stupid and terribly tragic.

5) Just like Arwen in The Return of the King, the once powerful and dynamic Amadala/Padme is reduced to a whining weakling who has no control over her own life, let alone events at large. This really bothered my wife, with good reason.

6) Why the shock at the news that Anakin killed "the younglings"? After all, he had already massacred men, women, and children before (in Episode II). Apparently it never occurred to Padme that this might be indicative of a character flaw. Nor did it ever occur to her to mention this fact to the Jedi or any other potential law enforcement. Young love trumps all I suppose.

7) The force, in the end, didn't seem to be all that useful. It didn't give Yoda and other members of the council any insight into the nature of the cancer in their midst. It didn't give any of the Jedi any inkling of warning about the clone storm troopers who would eventually kill them all. It apparently didn't occur to any of the Jedi to wonder about the efficacy and desirability of employing a clone army whose creation was commissioned by unknown hands.

8) Obi Wan violates the number one rule of dealing with bad guys (or good guys for that matter): don't ever assume they're dead. Make sure of it. All he had to do was give Anakin's burning corpse a little kick into the lava and the course of future history would have probably been a bit brighter.

9) Lucas's attempts to relate this movie to contemporary power politics were crude and not terribly convincing. If Bush is the Emperor, taking control (to great applause) of the Republic, this must mean that Bin Laden and Al Zarqawi are the righteous rebellion? Have I got that right?

UPDATE: I forgot to mention two responses to the film by my fellow viewers.

In response to Anakin's statement "I will not betray the Republic," my intense six-year-old son (who had been sitting on my lap for some time because he was a bit anxious and nervous about all the fighting and killing) screamed back at the screen: "YOU ALREADY HAVE!"

After Darth Vader's agonized but horribly cliched "NOOOOOOOOOO!" my increasingly worldly-wise ten-year-old daughter leaned over to me and whispered, "OK, that was stupid."

That, in a nutshell, captures Lucas's appeal to key demographics and his inability to transcend them.

UPDATE II: Good (spoiler filled) plot summary here. A snippet:
Obi-Wan - "The Jedi in the temple have been murdered with a lightsaber! And all the Jedi are dead, except...I'd better look at the security video."
Yoda - "You need to look at the video to figure out who did this? Oy. Stupid you are."


What also bothered me was the fact that the light side doesn't really seem to be stronger then the dark side, i.e. Yoda was defeated by the bad emperor.
Nice post, Dr. Larsen.

In response to Anonymous:

I've been frequenting the spoiler site for months now, and Lucas himself writes to fans there. I don't know how much of a Star Wars geek you are, but it may interest you to know that Lucas has claimed that the dark side is indeed more powerful than the light side of the force. However, the dark side's fatal flaw is the tendency toward self-destruction.

Given that Lucas, when he introduced the midi-chlorian idea, pretty much trashed what used to be an appealingly mysterious cosmology/theology, I'm beyond caring.

It seems that Episodes 7, 8, and 9 are waiting in the wings. Lucas has written that he'll start making the films if "Sith" earns enough money at the box office. If it doesn't, he'll stick to the TV show.


Thanks for the post. Well so much for continuity. Yoda specifically says that the dark side is NOT stronger but is easier and more seductive. If Lucas changes his mind on how it all works when it suits his movies I guess I'm beyond caring as well.
Gotta agree with you there. The Force cosmology was better when it was vaguer.

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