Monday, February 27, 2012

Star Wars: Episode I (3D)

Took the boys to see their first Star Wars movie in the theatres on Saturday morning.  Some observations:

1) Star Wars rules.  Any time you can see a SW movie in the theatres, it's a win.

2) Episode I clearly has the best characters that only live for one movie, in Qui-Gon and Darth Maul.

3) The lightsaber battle between Maul, Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan is just tremendous, and kills anything from the original trilogy.  The only better lightsaber battle is the Obi-wan/Anakin duel in Ep III which is the best Jedi confrontation of the entire series.  The Episode I conflict has the benefit of what is, IMO, the best music of the entire double-trilogy playing in the background.  Which brings me to:

4) John Williams rules.

5) The 3D rules.  They didn't use it extensively, but where they did, it created a very cool visual experience.

6) The original trilogy is a much better place to start watching the series for kids, for several reasons (and excluding the idea that it's just better, b/c that's not how I feel and not what I'm getting at here):

     -Action out of the gate: Ep I has a murky story line about a dispute over the taxation of trade routes (most adults probably don't even know what that means).  Ep IV begins with Vader storming aboard Leia Organa's ship.  "You are part of the Rebel Alliance and a traitor."
     -Good guy vs. bad guy dynamic.  Much easier to grasp. Which gets to the main reason the original trilogy is a better place for kids to start viewing SW.  Even if they don't get most of the nuances, you can watch the original trilogy as a Western.  A bunch of good guys shooting it out with a bunch of bad guys.  My 5 year old gets that.  The second trilogy is, at its core, about the interior life of one guy, who descends into madness.  Kids cannot possibly understand beyond the most surface level, and what they do get of it (he used to be a good guy and now he's a bad guy) doesn't make for much dramatic impact.  It's only adults, who have some sense of that interior battle, that this can be impactful.
     -Not enough space battles.
     -The imposed filter of political correctness that ruled the prequels with an iron fist.  In the original trilogy, when you saw the aliens at the Mos Eisley cantina, the point was that it was a freak show.  The Rebels and the Imperial Officers were all essentially like us, culturally, with the exceptions being there to spice things up or emphasize the "otherness" of the other groups out there.  In the 22 yrs between IV and I, lots changed in the US, and even more in Hollywood.  Getting Billy Dee Williams into Empire was a victory for the forces of diversification in 30 yrs ago.  By the time of Episode 1, Anglicanized/Westernized characters were no more prevalent than the alien characters, making this less a story about "guys like us" in a diverse universe, and more about a "foreign universe" that happens to have a few guys like us in it.   The fact that the Viceroy and trade federation types, Jar Jar and the Gungans, Darth Maul with his tribal tatoos, and the tower of Babel in the Senate all bear characteristics of non-European cultures (in this galaxy) makes the "diversity" more noticeable and forced, and the story more foreign.  Of course this criticism could apply to everything that Hollywood does now as opposed to 30 years ago, but it's evident when comparing the two trilogies.

     With all this in mind (and with the caveat that I'm one of the few who loves the prequel trilogy), I think Lucas would've been better off to scrap the idea that the prequel trilogy would have the same viewer demographic as the original trilogy.  It should've focused more on the characters, and had more nuanced, complex dialogue.  Instead, they dressed it down to pre-teen levels, which worked for the more black-and-white world of the original trilogy, but not as well here.  They should have made the strategic decsion that the movies should be watched 4, 5, 6, 1, 2, 3, and that the original trilogy would always be for kids and adults, but that the prequel trilogy would have a teens-and-up target audience.  That is, IMO, why Ep III worked the best of the prequel trilogy.  It dealt the most with the dark elements of the story line, dispensed with the kid-friendly (and hence strained) courting dialogue of Ep 2 (I mean, can you really explain the Anakin-Padme dynamic while trying to sanitize the whole situation of lust?), and the aimed-at-kids dialogue of child Anakin and Jar Jar in Ep. 1.


dark commenteer said...

I have mixed feelings about the re-releases.

I'd like to see them in 3D--I think it's a cool tool when used in a non-gimmicky fasion--but I'm kinda sick of Lucas tinkering yet again.

Granted, they are his movies and he can do whatever the hell he wants to them--we really don't have any right to tell him what to do...

My brood are too young to introduce to the series yet so I'd be seeing them on my own.

But my big question is how to eventually show them to the kids--prequels first, or originals first?
The prequels are much more kid-oriented IMO and an easier entry but doing that ruins the greatest surprise in the history of movies (although I'm gonna have to work really hard to keep them from having the whole Vader/Anakin thing spoiled before they are ready for SW).

It's truly a quandry of epic proportions...

ManBeast said...

I can't believe you actually used the words "nuanced, complex dialogue" in a post about Star Wars.

Episode 1 was a steaming turd on a plate. The only things that made it at all watchable were the effects. Ep 2 was only slightly better. Ep 3 was tolerable.

Dare I say the original trilogy weren't even great movies in terms of characters and plot. The characters were all fairly flat and wooden.

Lucas has eroded much of my love for the Star Wars franchise with his ass-hattery. Gredo shot first?! You love Han because he's a good-hearted scoundrel, not because he's a principled good guy.

SheaHeyKid said...

I'm with MB about the new episodes. They had hideous acting and were barely watchable once, let alone repeat viewings. The special effects and surround sound are all that save them, as MB noted. In contrast I could watch the original three episodes (4-6) anytime they are on.

I haven't seen an acting job as annoying as the guy playing anakin since anything starring Shia le boeuf.

FWIW we had similar conversation at work recently. One of the guys has a son who just turned seven, which is the age he told him he could watch SW. They started with the classics, episode 4.

Fredo said...

I like all 6 movies. I feel like they tell one story. If you guys (Beasty and SHK) don't like Eps. 1-3, not much I can do about it. That said, I agree particularly with DC and MB on the "tinkering". It's one thing to improve special effects, another to change the story (Greedo, etc.)

But as to DC's question, I think that was one of the main reasons I decided to post this. I don't think there's a "right" or "wrong" way to do it, but I think Ep. 4 makes an easier starting point for a kid than Ep. 1.

Fredo said...

As for "complex, nuanced dialogue", what I believe I said is that it would have been nice to get some.


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