It’s finally over. The saga is complete, George Lucas will hopefully move on to other projects, FOX studios will start looking for a new franchise to milk (while they’re squeezing off the last drops from SW movies), and all of us fans will have to deal with this finale, and move on to other sci-fi worlds. Luckily for us, there are plenty of good sci-fi series and movies around. Unfortunately for Lucas, his last project is exceptional only when it’s not compared to its peers.
Before I start getting hate mail for bashing the wonderful world of Yoda, let me say this: the third film is truly magnificent. Darker, more mature, with breathtaking sequences, and compelling heroes. The problem is that this is the comparison I get when putting it next to Phantom Menace or Attack of the Clones. It may even be more engaging than Return of Jedi. But it does not beat parts 4 and 5. Now that Lucas managed to pull the story lines together between the first and second trilogies, these “entertainment” factors stand out even more. I liked the film, but I wasn’t entertained by it.
It wasn’t the plot that did it for me. Obviously, some things we already know, and expect. “This is the film where the helmet goes on”. OK, so now what? We’re not going to sit for two hours waiting for that helmet to make an appearance. and, unfortunately, that’s how I felt when some bright, colourful action sequence was thrown in my face. I don’t mind explosions, spaceships, aliens and machinery. They’re imaginative, and have always been. In fact, Lucas has consistently provided us with many visuals that nobody could invent. His creatures are “borrowed” all over the place by other movies, other franchises. But isn’t it all very 1975? Isn’t it all a matter of a fast computer with a rich texture/model software program? Don’t you at some point say “enough of the eye candy, let’s see something happen”. I did.
Something was happening on the screen, but it wasn’t in the spirit of Star Wars. The latest movie had two villains, great ones; a lot of questionable, shady characters – to build the suspense; a damsel in distress; a few loyalists; and Yoda – don’t quite know where this guy fits. He managed to be a comic relief, an ass-kicker and a sensitive, wise sage, all in the space of 30 minutes. What this movie needed was Han Solo. A character who means good, but can step on toes to get it done. Plus, he’s got bad timing, no manners and lousy people skills – but he means good. In the world of role-playing games, this character would have a chaotic-good alignment. And as much as Ewan Macgregor’s Obi Wan tried to be irreverent and humorous, he couldn’t shake that “Jedi master” persona, and his comic relief was just not enough.
Same goes for the damsel in distress character. Padme does cry and sigh a lot (and so did Leia back in the day), but the difference is that Leia would occasionally stop looking lustfully at Han or Luke, pick up a blaster and start shooting left and right. The old SW movies had the same familiar archetypes, but they were trying to break out of the formula, and that’s when the film was more than the sum of its parts.
With the latest trilogy (although it has improved tremendously), the characters are forced to act within their archetypal lines, and that’s annoying. Yoda somehow escaped that fate, and this little CGI object managed to provide a few unexpected turns. Samuel L. Jackson was just glaring his eyes at Hayden, who, in turn was hatefully glaring at everyone, and eventually submitting to Palpatine. What does it say about a franchise when the bad guys (who are easily outnumbered) are more engaging to watch.
Some reviews say that people don’t go to sci-fi movies to see character development. They want action sequences. Maybe for some movies this is the case. But for Lucas, and his saga, this is not excusable. SW was breathtaking and entertaining since the mid-70s. He knows how to do it, he’s got it on the resume. Nowadays, it’s only breathtaking. I have nothing against the amazing sequences – I was speechless through most of them. But when time came to show some real people interact, emote, react – with a few exceptions, it was a letdown.
I’ll probably watch it again, get it on DVD and show it to kids. But just as likely I’m tempted to show my friends and family the best of TNG, Firefly, Battlestar Galactica or even Babylon 5. Not the same special effects, but a true, entertaining, sci-fi stories, with developed characters, real conflicts and amazing interaction among the cast.
Star Wars 3 – definitely worth watching. Not worth thinking or sympathizing.