Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Revenge of the Sith

Yesterday I finally saw Revenge of the Sith, and I've decided to chime in with my thoughts. For those that really don't care for me to get into all of the details, here's the bottom line: it isn't as bad as the haters say, but it isn't nearly as good as all of the gushing would lead you to believe. Onwards and upwards.

First of all, I can say that after this movie, there's really no reason to ever watch The Phantom Menace or Attack of the Clones ever again, unless you're demoing your home theatre or are doing a paper on how to not tell a story. This movie has so much in it, especially in comparison to the other two prequels, that it makes them irrelevant. Sure, there are some things in this movie that tie into the other two, and as such, you may be confused had you never seen them, but confusion is a small price to pay compared to 5 hours of plastic-y special effects and piss poor dialog. In the future, should I get the need to watch Star Wars, I'll star with the Clone Wars animated series, watch Sith and then episodes 4, 5 and 6, but that's just me.

I felt that the story in this one was the best of the prequels, but not nearly as tight as in the original three. What struck me about this story was how much superfluous junk there was. General Grievous, for example, was pretty much there because someone had a really cool idea for a villain that fights with 4 lightsabers. Other than that, there's not a lot to him, and his fight with Obi-Wan was too much of the usual "hero gets his ass kicked but pulls off a victory in the last second". When watching Obi-Wan get pummeled, I did sympathize. All of my time playing Star Wars video games have shown me that relying solely on Light side powers will leave you at a significant loss when the need for offensive powers rears its ugly head. Those damned Sith get all of the good powers.

Kashyykk and its Wookie inhabitants was similarly unnecessary. The battle on that planet did nothing to move the plot forward and absolutely nothing of interest happened, other than the appearance of Chewbacca. It's pretty obvious why they threw it in though. Those that haven't read the New Jedi Order series of books, or at least the first book in the series, may want to skip this next part. Simply put, this was a bone thrown to the fans who are still pissed that Chewbacca is dead. Normally, I'm not one to frown on such little touches for the fans, but in a series that has been terminally devoid of story, adding extra bits that don't add to the story can't be tolerated, even if it's little bits for the fans.

As usual some of the dialog was insultingly bad. The love scenes especially. I mean, my Lord. How many bad reviews in regards to your horrible love scene dialog do you have to be subjected to before you ask someone to write the dialog for you, or at least ask the actors if they have any ideas better than "Hold me like you did by the lake on Naboo." I say it again, my Lord. I am happy that with this movie, I had to qualify my sentence with "some of the dialog" unlike the previous two prequels where pretty much all of the dialog was insultingly bad.

Per the other prequels, Natalie Portman was wasted. I should clarify that. If, as a result of the money she makes off of these movies, she can pick roles based on the movie, and not based on the money, and ends up making good movies that don't require her to wear outlandish wigs, then it wasn't a waste. That sentence needed some more commas in it, but I'll be damned if I know where to put them. I know that her purpose in this movie was to have the twins and die, but good Lord, use the woman!

Speaking of the twins, one of the bigger problems I had with the movie had to do with Anakin and Padme's actions regarding children. At the risk of generalizing, once you have kids, or find out you're going to have a child, your view of them, and not just your own, changes. Many parents I know, including my wife and myself have a much harder time seeing the death of a child portrayed in movies or on TV, now that we have kids of our own. It seemed odd to me that Anakin could kill all the Jedi younlings, knowing that he was going to have a child himself. Also, from a practical standpoint, wouldn't it make more sense to spirit the younglings away and raise them as little Sithlets? I'm sure that the Emperor wants all of the power for himself but he's one banana peel on a Star Destroyer deck away from a trip down the reactor shaft, and then it's bye-bye Sith. On a similar note, Padme losing "the will to live" as she's giving birth to her kids also seemed false. I mean, I know it's tough, what with your sweet buppie going all evil and putting the Chokie Roberts on you, but at the same time, shouldn't your will to live come from your kids. Everything she worked for as a senator had just been torn down, so wouldn't her will to live come from making sure that her kids have a better life than the Emperor, or for that matter, their Sith Lord father would give them?

And while we're on the subject of the twins, that was some seriously dumb-ass shit. One kid they give to a senator, a senator who had been vocal against the Emperor, and who's wife wasn't even remotely pregnant. They better hope that a) the Emperor doesn't have spies keeping tabs on all of the senators and b) if he does he won't put together the fact that at the same time that his apprentice's wife has a kid, a kid mysteriously shows up with a senator who had been an ally of his apprentice's secret bride. Good one guys. Of course, that pales in comparison to the plan to give the other kid to the family of VADER'S DEAD MOTHER. The only saving grace to that boneheaded plot point was that they explained why Obi-Wan was also on Tatooine. I always thought it was way too coincidental that hey, I need to become a Jedi and hey, you're one of the last Jedi, how convenient for me.

I know this sounds like I didn't like anything about the movie, but that's not the case. I thought that Ewan McGregor was very good, as he was in the other movies. McGregor always looked like he was having a lot of fun when making these movies, and in this case, his spirit and enthusiasm were turned up to 11. You can see the transition to Alec Guinness's portrayal of Obi-Wan perfectly.

The lightsaber battles in this movie were fantastic, much better than the other movies. The original three movies weren't exactly hallmarks of amazing swordplay, but this is the age of modern movie making, where Ernest Borgnine can be made to look like a fucking samurai master, so I expected a bit more from the last two prequels. The final battle between Obi-Wan and Anakin was pretty damned good, although I expected Obi-Wan to be a little more active in Anakin's fate. Somehow I got the idea of Obi-Wan hacking Anakin's limbs off in a fit of rage, not him standing there holding a lightsaber while Anakin comes leaping at him, limbs all a' flyin'. The "I'm on higher ground" line was also stupid. Subtle, George. The scene where they put Vader together was badass, even with the godawful "Noooooo!" cry of rage. We've been making movies for almost a hundred years now. Isn't it time to rid ourself of this cliche. Had he raised his fists to the heavens and yelled "Kahn!!!!!!!", it would have been OK. After all, Klingon bastards did kill his son.

The space battles were also similarly improved from the previous prequels. Lots of action, lots of ships, and special effects that seemed much more real and less plastic like. I can't wait for this to come on DVD, as I could swear that there was a lot the theatre wasn't letting me hear. Besides, my theatre is so kick ass, I defy you to watch a movie there and not have a better experience than in the movie theater.

Yoda was a badass and Mace Windu didn't go out like a bitch, which was a big concern given that we knew that Mace wasn't making it out of this one alive.

I felt that Anakin was much better this time around. Notice that I said Anakin and not Hayden Christiansen, as I've never had a problem with him. He did the best with what he was given. Anakin seemed a lot better realized as a character, and you could see he was struggling with the choices being presented to him. Except for that "I shouldn't have done that" line after killing Dooku. That's something you say after polishing off an Ultimate Whopper, not after relieving someone of their head. While we're on the subject of Anakin, I'd like to address a perceived flaw of this movie that I think is bullshit. People have said that they didn't feel Anakin's descent was realistic, mostly because there wasn't one big moment that caused it all. Here you have a young kid with a ton of insecurities manipulated by a charismatic older man who played said insecurities like a fiddle. Throw in some Force Persuasion (particularly the "Do it" line when urging Anakin to kill Dooku) and a touch of "they don't understand you like I do" and it's not hard to see how Anakin could be manipulated. Sadly, this kind of thing happens all of the time, particularly in cases of child molestation, albeit without the Force Persuasion.

So, as you can see, I did like the movie, just not as much as most of the Star Wars faithful, some of whom have been saying it's as good as Empire. As good as Empire? That way lies madness. I'd say it's much, much better than the first two prequels and possibly as good as Return of the Jedi. Personally, I liked Jedi. Those that didn't like that movie because they felt that the Ewoks were there just to sell toys, need only walk to their nearest grocery store and see their beloved Darth Vader on the Cheezit box to have that argument shot to shit. I don't remember reading anything about Dark Lords of the Sith having a penchant for tasty snack crackers, but clearly I was just uninformed. Phyxie told me yesterday that he hadn't been this entertained in a long time. Personally, I thought Constantine was more entertaining, but perhaps it was because I had neither high expectations nor preconceived notions. Perhaps it was because of Rachel Weisz.

So, to summarize, I'd say that those that are big Star Wars fanatics will find that this movie finishes, er, begins, the story they wanted to see finished. Or maybe started. Those that are just casual fans, or aren't fans but just want to see a good movie may not be as entertained as the rest of us. However, after 30 years, 6 movies, countless hours and dollars in action figures, playsets and Lego sets, concerned not for these people am I. For us, this one was.

Friday, May 20, 2005

The Thing Is

So last night I watched the John Carpenter version of "The Thing". While technically, it's a remake of "The Thing From Another World" (another fantastic film), it plays more like the short story "Who Goes There" than the aforementioned film. I had it in my head that I wanted to watch it, and just like when you have a craving for a particular kind of food, when I get a craving for a certain movie, it pretty much doesn't go away until I watch it.

But first, a little background. When I was a kid, I wanted, more than anything else, to be a hollywood makeup artist. I'm not talking cosmetics, I'm talking monsters. As a young lad, I distinctly remember two things. One, was the movie "The Howling". The debate rages eternal as to which movie had the best werewolf transformation, "The Howling" or "An American Werewolf in London" (The Howling gets it in my book) but whichever you prefer, you can't deny that an amazing amount of makeup and special effects work went into both movies, at a time when computers weren't used at all. I saw "The Howling" on cable one night (back when cable would show pretty much anything past a certain hour) and the werewolf transformation scene blew me away. The other thing I remember was having a copy of Fangoria magazine that showed scenes from the upcoming John Carpenter movie "The Thing". Rob Bottin did the monster make-up for "The Howling", and for "The Thing", so you can see why I would be drawn to both movies.

Aside from being a really well acted and well paced movie, "The Thing" had the same level of fantastic make-up and special effects as 'The Howling". I watched the documentary on the DVD about the making of the movie, and the things that these guys did to come up with these effects was absolutely amazing, and not from a technical standpoint, but from a creative standpoint. Even after knowing how they did certain scenes, when you watch them again, you still can't believe that it's special effects.

I used to go to the library and get out all of the books on monster makeup (2, I think) that they had and read and reread them over and over and over. I learned how to make squibs and fake knife wounds and more serious things like burns and bullet wounds. I never had the stones to actually try and make myself look like I had been stabbed or shot or burned as I knew that my mom would absolutely kill me, so there ended my career as the next Tom Savini.

I mention this now, this particular weekend, as I prepare myself to watch the last Star Wars movie to ever be released. George and co (including Rob Bottin, who worked on the cantina scene from "Star Wars") have come a long way from Star Wars in terms of make-up and special effect, but at the same time, things haven't necessarily gotten better. I mean, yes, the space battle scenes in the original Star Wars looked pretty crappy, and can't hold a candle to the battles in the prequels, but the best thing about the original three movies was the fact that when Luke jumped out of his X-Wing, he was jumping out of a big model of an X-Wing. Yoda wasn't some mark on a green screen, he was a character that the actors could react to. I can appreciate that some of my favorite movies couldn't have been made without special effects being what they are now (Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2 and Lord of the Rings for example) however what makes these movies so good, is that the usage of special effects is judicious. Doc Ock's tentacles in Spidey 2, are mostly puppets, only replaced by CGI for the big fight scenes. Yes, Gollum is a completely digital creation, but he's modeled after a person, a person that the actors could work with and react to. As impressive as the effects in the new Star Wars movies are, they seem so lifeless and sterile.

If you were to go and try to redo the transformation scene from "The Howling" or some of the many alien effects in "The Thing" with computer effects now, you may get something that looks slightly more impressive, but it wouldn't feel, or look, nearly as realistic. Computers have allowed us to do a lot in movies, but there's somehing only several pails of K-Y Jelly can accomplish.

You have to be kidding me

http://suburbanjoe.blogspot.com/ has been blocked per XXX's Internet Usage Policy. If you feel you reached this page in error please contact your System Administrator.

What is that all about? You have any dodgy keywords hidden anywhere, B? Are you pontificating about your vast acres of special herb or your secret stash of AK's?

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Back Again


Well, I'm back. Well, sort of. I mean, I'm here, but I can't say it'll be in the same form as before. As usual, I'm getting ahead of myself. It's me, SuburbanJoe, he of the lawn mowing and the disdain for Japanese beetles. Hi. How are you? It's been a long time. Sure, I've been here and there, message boards, Catspit, etc, but nothing of substance. Actually, speaking of Catpsit, thanks much to Andy for letting me post on his site as it got me back into posting. Sure, I haven't been doing it much lately, but it's only because I'm incredibly, incredibly lazy. Some things never change.

So, what has changed? Well, last we left it, I wasn't posting because the infertility business that me and the missus were going through had sapped my will to communicate about things as stupid as lawns and portable, pre-cooked meat products. The missus and I decided to stop undergoing infertility treatment (the insurance money ran out) and instead pooled our massive resources to adopting a child from Russia. Said adoption went relatively smoothly and we were blessed with a son. You'll be hearing about him from time to time as he takes up a considerable amount of my time. Damn him. Anyway, now that I have a child, I'm back to feeling as if the world cares about what I listen to when I mow the lawn. And, to be honest, I don't have a lot else to do. Kidding.

I don't know if this will take the same form as the last time, but at the same time, I would imagine that the few people reading this that actually remember the last time are so small they could be counted on the hand of someone who has significantly fewer fingers than you or I. Granted I don't know how many fingers you have, but the previous sentence only works if you have 5 (or more) so if you don't, just keep that to yourself.

I do hope to post on something that vaguely resembles a schedule, even if it means it's just a quick sentence to tell you how cool say, Virtua Tennis on the PSP will be. Way fucking cool, for those of you keeping score at home.

So, in summary, SuburbanJoe is back, he has a kid, he's still married (yay for him), he still writes incredibly long sentences, he has no idea how many fingers you have and he'll try to post on something that resembles a schedule. Even if it only vaguely resembles a schedule. You know, like if you were looking at it while squinting, and the lights were dim and you're all like "that's a schedule" and then you turn the lights on and it's like a cactus, and you're all like "dang, I feel stupid." Good times, good times.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Once More, Into the Abyss

Guess who's back, back again. Joe is back, tell a friend. More later.