Saturday, May 21, 2005

At the Movies - That Sith Film

Stealing a concept from Pops' Bucket (that's what we do on the internets; we steal), I'm going to review a movie I've not seen.

Of course, the big movie, the one everybody has to see and review this week, is “Star Wars, Episode III, Revenge of the Sith” (did I get all that right? I didn’t even look it up!). I didn’t see it. I don’t intend to see it. Not even by accident. But I know somebody who did see it. She spent 10 seconds reviewing it for me Thursday morning. It was funny. Continuously so, apparently, as she and her friend Gabby reportedly annoyed a theater full of adolescent geeks with their laughter through its duration. She assures me this had nothing to do with sleep deprivation and I believe her.

Allow me to digress, please, to attempt to put this whole indifference of mine into perspective. Many years ago, in a town far away (well, at the other end of San Francisco Bay), a much younger, more innocent, less jaded version of me (okay, fine, a much lighter and blonder version of me, too) heard about this nifty film all the kids were seeing. Feeling bold, I asked Sybil Trozollilo if she wanted to see "Star Wars" with me and she said she’d seen it, and my heart sank. She said she wouldn’t mind seeing it again, though, (my first exposure to this phenomenon – seeing a movie over and over again) and my heart leapt again (this sinking and leaping of the heart is a pretty good summary of my daily existence from ages 14 to 23). This conversation took place in a swimming pool, as it should have. Although I worked as a ticket taker at a theater in the same complex (this takes some explaining. Theater complexes in San Jose in the seventies were not as we know them now. You didn’t have 14 auditoria under a single roof playing a total of five movies. We had four dome-shaped theaters – ginormous things that each seated many hundreds of people – spread out over a mile or so of Winchester Boulevard. A fifth theater was miles away on the west end of town) that Star Wars was playing at, I couldn’t get us in for free – no passes (The theater I worked in had a children’s double bill in the afternoon – “Tale of Two Critters” (narrated by Mayf Nutter) and “The Rescuers” – and the R-rated Sydney Sheldon classic, “The Other Side of Midnight,” featuring a naked Susan Sarandon in one scene and some skinny naked French woman and a bucket of ice in another scene, playing in the evening). So we had to wait in line in the evening sun with the commoners. Which was fun. And the movie was fun. It was unlike any movie I’d seen. It had a cool old guy with mystical powers and a British accent, a cute young hero and a cute sassy princess and Han Solo, the guy who flipped his car in "American Graffiti". The music was great (another first – aside from musicals, what movie before this had a sound track that people would actually want to buy and listen to at home?), the crawl was great, and that dude Darth was a bad motha-fu… The special effects weren’t great, but they weren’t obvious, either. Plus, I had Sybil Trozolillo (yes, the “Ls” float in that name, as they should) sitting next to me. I have, you can see, fond memories of the whole “Star Wars” experience.

The second movie, the one that takes place in a swamp and on a frozen planet (didn’t you love the way Steven Soderbergh remade this movie, with Miami filling in for Dagobah and Detroit filling in for Hoth, with the prison at Lompoc taking the place of the planet Bespin? Ah, and an uncredited cameo by Samuel L. Jackson, no doubt inspiring Lucas to create a role for him. Mace Windu. That name alone tells you the state of the Lucas creativity well) was pretty good, too. You had Jabba the Hut, Gale Sayers, the “death” of Han Solo, “I know,” and those empire fighting machines that were inspired by the cranes at the Oakland shipyards. Not as exciting, not as fresh, perhaps, as Star Wars, but a little more complex, more sophisticated, and satisfying in its own way.

Then “The Return of the Jedi” came along. Let me just say, this isn’t a horrible movie. It had a cool poster. Its got some good moments. But there’s that unfortunate trip to the moon of Endor. The chase through the redwoods was pretty cool, but we know where that brought us, don’t we? You want a fateful turning point? My daughter thinks I summed up the whole Star Wars jumping the shark with two words. Can I hear a “damned Ewoks” from the congregation? It wasn’t a great leap from there to Jar-Jar Binks, now, was it? More of an inevitable regression, wasn’t it?

Jar-Jar. That’s the first thing you think of when “The Phantom Menace” comes up, isn’t it? Sure, there was the cool race in the airy sea-doo things, conjuring up memories of the chariot race in Ben-Hur, but without the homoerotic overtones (this is Lucas, after all. There are no erotic overtones of any kind allowed here, in the whole series. Those thoughts you’re having about Princess Leia and Jabba? That’s just wrong!), but Jar-Jar stole the show. Not in a good way.

“Parade of the Clowns?” Didn’t see it. Am told there was nothing in this movie that would have made it necessary for me to understand "Revenge of the Sith." Which I’m not going to see, anyway.

Anyway, for an actual review of "Revenge of the Sith", written by somebody who sounds like he may have actually seen it, check out Anthony Lane in The New Yorker.
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