Over at the Kulture Klub, we all had to endure a recent nerd-filled chatterfest about pointless Star Wars trivia. (Seriously, look at those geeks in the comments section. Sure glad I’m not them). That may have been a fun thread, but trust me, folks — this one is sure to be much more cathartic. Indeed, consider it long overdue therapy at no charge.
As you all know, Star Wars, Episode III: Revenge of the Sith is opening exactly one month from today, and I think it’s time we all release our collective, pent-up angst at George Lucas for how he’s ruined the Star Wars experience; might as well get it out now, so that when you head for the theatre, you’ll have already processed your rage and you’ll have lower expectations, ensuring a consequently less-torturous cinematic experience overall.
(Some might say that this thread would be more appropriate elsewhere, but since Boy George Evans and the other powers-that-be over there didn’t see fit to invite me to participate in their little cinematic & musical love-in, I see no reason to respect their monopoly on all ‘Nacle discussions of geeky films.)
For those wondering what possible “Mormon” connection there is to any of this, I would kindly point out that: (1) George Lucas is Mormon; (2) the “Force” is the Priesthood; and (3) Yoda is President Kimball. Enough said. Or if not, perhaps those of a more philosophical bent can discuss whether and to what extent George’s apparent church inactivity relates in some way to why his movies suck so hard.
Just to give you a little context on my relationship with Star Wars: When Episode I came out, I went to see a 6:00 pm showing the day after it was released. Less than two minutes into the film, something went wrong in the projector room, and although the picture kept rolling, the sound was lost and replaced by tunes from a local radio station. Since Liam Neeson’s and Ewan McGregor’s lightsaber choreography didn’t seem to mesh too well with that country twang blaring in the background, the audience went into an understandable uproar. This culminated in a lynch mob of movie-goers streaming out of the theatre and angrily confronting the poor manager, who said he couldn’t rewind the tape, so we would have to just keep watching as he restored the sound. This was met, naturally, with palpable threats of violence, which prompted the manager to invite us to come back to a later showing (which most of us did). And who exactly was it leading the lynch mob, you ask? … … … Do you really need to ask?
Anyway, I think it’s time we all air our many grievances with George. I’ll start. I’ll also try to include some of the less-frequently-observed problems with the Star Wars films. I make no claim to be exhaustive here — that’s your job.
I. The Amidala-ville Horror
As best I can tell, Princess (or is she a Senator?) Amidala was directed so that her character would give off a regal, stoic air of understated dignity. It’s as if George is saying “Look at this young, hot chick. She could be so vivacious and immature, but instead she is wise and dignified beyond her years. Ooooooh! Isn’t that oh-so-sexy and/or mysterious!” Alas, the answer is an unqualified “no.” Instead, what Lucas manages to achieve is a character that comes off so deadpan, amateur and lifeless that she seems to be under heavy sedation, or at least played by an actress who doesn’t know her elbow from her @%#^#! In every scene in Episode I where Amidala opened her mouth, I literally wanted to crawl under my chair and weep. There was absolutely nothing digestible about her performance at all.
People tell me she’s actually a decent actress, and for all I know, maybe she is. I was at Harvard with Natalie Portman, and I saw her every now and then. Honestly, it was all I could do to keep myself from sneaking up behind her with a defibrillator and shocking that girl out of her monotone stupor. But, of course, I’m really not that kind of person. In any event, I blame not Amidala, but George.
II. George Thinks You’re an Idiot
Did George really need to remind us of how Episode II relates to Episode IV? Admittedly, lots of movies assume the audience is stupid, and so decide to explain things to them with the subtlety of a gunshot to the head. (Think Zoolander literally spelling out who David Bowie is, or Jay and Silent Bob writing Mark Hammil’s name on the screen). But the ubiquitous cultural presence of Star Wars makes this even more irritating coming from Lucas.
Put differently…Gee, I sure am glad that George reminds the audience not once, but twice at the end of Episode II, what the “Death Star” is! Thank goodness, since all three people on Earth who hadn’t seen Episode IV before might not have known what was being talked about! Of course, perhaps George just figured we were in danger of forgetting about that big explosion at the end of Episode IV? Yeah, that’s about as likely as me forgetting that Frodo and Sam are gay (i.e., it’s not going to happen).
III. Lines that Make you go “Bleccccccch!”
In his review of Episode I, Roger Ebert complained that “there isn’t a single line of memorable dialogue in the entire film.” Roger was wrong. I remember at least one line quite vividly. Remember the pod-racing scene? At one point, just as a pod-racer crashes, one of the race “MCs” actually blurts out this little gem: “I don’t care what Universe you’re from … that’s GOTTA hurt!” Good grief, George, was that supposed to be funny? You’ve conjured up this amazing universe of diverse creatures, technologies and special effects, and you figure what this movie really needs is some slapstick dialogue? Somebody hand me a blaster, cause George needs to be taken out behind the Mos Eisley cantina and shot.
Only marginally less grimace-inducing was the scene in Episode II when young Anakin jumps out of the speeder, leaving young Obi-Wan to actually turn to the audience and proclaim: “I hate it when he does that!” Um… George, what is this, Alfie? Malcolm in the Middle? I honestly cannot imagine what made Lucas think having a main character make cute comments to the theatre-goers was a good idea in a Star Wars film.
Then there’s the fact that all of Yoda’s words of wisdom in the last two films have been about as profound as that belch emanating from the Mighty Sarlaac in the Pit of Karkoon. At least in Episode V we got “Do or do not. There is no try,” and other assorted nuggets. Now Yoda just spews out forgettable pablum, and I think we’re entitled to expect more from someone who’s supposedly been collecting useful one-liners for at least 900 years. (An aside: If Yoda is 900 years old in Episodes IV & V, shouldn’t he be like 870 in Episodes I & II? So why does he seem more like a youthful 500? Very disconcerting, I must say.) One more dismal example of Lucas’ sheer inability to write.
IV. The Linguistic Trainwreck
One of the few problems I have with the Star Wars films generally (i.e., that applies to all the films across the board) is the rather thoughtless way that Lucas handles the execution of alien dialogue. No, I’m not complaining about the way Chewbacca grunts incomprehensibly, yet everyone seems to understand him; I actually think that’s kind of cute. (Besides, I grew up arguing with my mother about whether cats and dogs really do have their own complex languages — just like in cartoons — that humans just can’t understand). I also don’t expect to be able to identify the complex grammatical features of Jawa-speak.
However, I do expect at least a tiny bit of effort to make the alien dialogue and accents seem authentic or believable. So, for example, why is that when the various alien races are jabbering onscreen, I find myself engaged in the politically incorrect game of “Name that Ethnicity,” rather than immersed in the action? As best as I can remember, those Neimoidian trade viceroys in Episode I were played by Chinese mobsters, who occasionally spoke with a slight French accent. Jar-Jar’s Caribbean-pidgin is a bit more exotic, but not exotic enough to prevent me from wondering whether he’s going to break into a rendition of Bobbie McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” at any moment. The fact that I’m even remembering this stuff is a really bad sign.
On a different note, remember the scene at Jabba’s Palace when Princess Leia shows up, disguised as a bounty hunter with Chewbacca in tow, to collect the ransom? Remember the conversation that ensues? I admit I’m no intergalactic linguist, but I simply will not believe that there is any language in the Universe in which the phrase “Yo-to. Yo-to,” when properly translated, means “I’m holding a thermal detonator.” Puh-leeez. There are other examples of this kind of thing. But why even analyze all this, really? The bottom line is that Lucas probably told the actors “Just mumble something here, guys, and we’re cool.” The man was not even trying. This is simply inexcusable. The dedicated and observant fan is left to console himself with useful linguistic trivia gleaned from paying close attention to certain scenes. Thus, one can at least recall the Jabba–Han Solo interchange in Episode III and note that the phrase “Bantha fodder,” translated into Huttese, is pronounced “Bantha poodoo.” That’s a useful piece of knowledge to drop at cocktail parties, to be sure, or perhaps at the next Bloggernacle get-together.
Suffice it to say there is much more to say, but I don’t want to focus on the incredibly obvious. Thus, I will refrain from complaining any further about Jar-Jar Binks, except to say that of the countless complaints lodged against him, I pretty much agree with ALL of them (x100). I swear if Jar-Jar annoys me one more time in Episode III, I may have to sever relations with all my Jamaican friends.I really loved the Star Wars films as a kid. Really I did. 95% of my daydreaming (which is to say, 90% of my total awake time) revolved around them, along with Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.
It is thus inevitable that, on or about May 19, 2005, I will become really excited to see Episode III, regardless of how much I know it’s going to blow. I will enter the theatre, my heart will race as the opening sequence begins, and I will remain transfixed most of the time. I will wince at the lousy dialogue, and I will periodically want to hide under my chair — most probably when Amidala says something retarded in her monotone schtick. Then I’ll go home pissed, and the endless bitching will begin. And to be honest, I guess I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Why do you hate George Lucas?