PART OF A MARATHON, ONE AFTERNOON VIEWING OF EPISODES 1 – 3
Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999)
The starting 20 minutes of this is so dense in its provision of information and background, coupled with explosions and action, that it could easily be provided in a movie of its own. I had to re-start the film in order to catch material not understood (although I was stuffing envelopes at the time).
The characters could have used more humanity, and the creatures could have used it as well. There’s so much on display for the sake of “lookey and see what we can do digitally!”
A fair start, with promise.
Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones (2002)
The whole “I’ve gotta find my mother” sequence is a direct lift from John Ford’s The Searchers, including (but probably not limited to) an exact duplication of the shot where the young hero drops off a flat rock to the valley floor below. By “exact”, I mean just that: the identical rock and valley are used, he’s the head-strong male seeking a relative, the kidnappers are encamped in tents and are described as “animals”, the relative dies, and the young male goes on a killing spree. This might be called “honouring the earlier work”, but it’s too much of a lift from the western for that really.
Again, we have oodles of plot points and story detail with equal amounts of action; all of which leaves you tired. “Something for everyone” does make for a bit of a muddle for all.
The all-digital film making is on show at a few places quite badly: when Aniken zooms off to the horizon on his bike to locate the Tuskan Raiders’ camp, he remains sharp no matter how far he is from us, when he would become fuzzy from the dust in the air and the heat from the ground; when zooming around in an asteroid field after Jango Fett and his son Boba, Qi-Jon (or however it’s spelled) narrowly misses perfectly detailed rocks right in front of us that are matched in perfection to the ones far away. This all sounds needlessly picky, but no matter what your photo experience, something at least subconsciously ‘feels wrong’. Bah!
Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith (2005)
Until this viewing, I had never seen this instalment
Aniken can act now, and thankfully there’s no ‘newbie’ in the cast this time. Thank God.
In a frantic effort to shove the final threads into place so as to dove-tail perfectly with “A New Hope”, Lucas crams everything into the 145-minute experience filling every nook and cranny with explosions, colour, story points, dialogue, display panels, and anything else he can lay his hands on. Michael Bay would look on it as being a rough edit which required more post-production work, probably, but the need for all this wasn’t something for which the undertaking was altogether wise.
Surely the audience doesn’t need everything explained or perfectly linked on to the second trilogy? Is there no mystery permitted in life any more?
Yes, the creation of Darth Vader in both spiritual and physically recognizable form is accomplished — and should be, probably — but do we need to have another homage to John Ford with a brilliant sunset behind a silhouetted rancher family as an end-shot? Do we need to see our now-separated twins with their loving protectors? Did we even need to see the twins named at birth? Surely we knew who they were when Padmi was pregnant! If we follow the line of the story logically, we find out who Luke and Leia are in the later episodes! Behold! A spoiler created to spoil the spoilers we might have had!
While this may be the best of the three prequals, if the first two episodes had been stretched over three instalments and this one was not used at all, more character and story development might have been accomplished without the WHAM!! BAMM! getting in the way so much.
This year, I’ve been watching DVDs from the library for a number of reasons, mostly to do with a combination of “filling in the gaps in my ‘pop culture’ knowledge”, as well as a concerted effort to better understand story editing by both watching a film and then re-watching listening to people who have studied that particular movie for years in order to better appreciate the themes, plot construction, symbolism, and so on.
The process would be nothing without the secondary audio tracks. Sometimes it’s like having actually been through the film-making process with the people involved.