Well, here I am inagurating my media section with a review of one of the most important films of my adult life -- for why, check out my Rants page. And read the companion piece to this review, written a week ago, before I'd seen the movie, for compare & contrast purposes.
In short -- I will be seeing it again. Several times. But first, let's discuss my problems with it -- and then discuss why those problems didn't matter.
First off, I had a hard time losing myself in the moment. There were only a few times -- the pod race scene, the final lightsabre battle -- that I totally forgot where I was and what I was doing, that I was taken into the screen completely. The rest of the time, I felt sort of outside. I realized afterwards that part of the reason was that I didn't know what to expect! The original trilogy is an old, well-worn suit of pants and a comfy sweatshirt -- so molded to your body that you're barely aware you're wearing them. The new film is just that -- new. I didn't know every line, I wasn't ready for each plot beat. I had to be outside, to pay attention to what was going on -- I couldn't just let the movie cue the replay burned into my brain. I suspect a lot of the dissatisfaction some people feel with the film is due to this phenomenon.
Second, some of the pacing and directing felt...odd. There was one scene, in particular, that could have been incredibly kick-ass, but fell flat, due to directing. At one point, Qui-Gon is fighting Darth Maul on Tatooine. The rest of the cast has just run for the ship, which is taking off. They swoop low, Qui Gon leaps to the open hatch, and they zoom off, leaving the bad guy in their dust. Buuuutttt...it was filmed from such a distant angle that you couldn't really tell what was going on, and the impact of this classic action sequence was lost. This was the sort of scene that called for the Indiana Jones 'cool escape' music fanfare, and it just got lost in the background.
Third, the midi-chlorians. If they ever do an 'enhanced edition' of TPM, they should drop them completely.
Fourth:More Maul! More Maul! How could they give such an incredibly bad-ass dude only two god-damned lines? It's not fair! And we'll never see him again! Waaaah!
So much for the whine & cheese party. There is no getting around one solid fact:The movie rocked. Totally. It came to chew bubblegum and kick ass, and it was all out of bubblegum. The spectacle, the vision, the endless new vistas, things never seen before...wow. And the two 'money shot' action sequences -- the pod race and the final duel -- double wow. Obi Wan slicing Darth Maul's lightsabre in half -- and then slicing DARTH MAUL in half -- was just too cool for words.
And you know what? I didn't hate Jar-Jar one tenth as much as I expected to. And while I'll probably be kicked out of Embittered Cynics Anonymous for saying this, I actually laughed at a lot of his antics. Ahmed Best gave the CGI character a personality and a soul. Some people will no doubt hate him, but I'll take a hundred Jar-Jars over any damn Ewoks.
(Speaking of Ewoks, one thing which came up in our discussions while standing on-line was:Where did they get that human-sized gown for Leia to wear in the final scenes? Did it occur to anyone that the Ewoks were established as cannibals? And that maybe that gown belonged to last weeks meal? Think of that long enough, and those little furry bastards become a lot less cute!)
A lot of the other complaints people have raised need to be addressed. I'll address some of them.
In short -- go see this movie.
Addendum -- perhaps the funniest scene in the movie is the:"Why are you waving your hand like that? Do you think you're a Jedi or something?" That scene also mirrored, very closely, a scene in the old Mad parody of Star Wars. So closely, it had to be a tribute.
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