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And it starts... - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
And it starts...
Okay, so there was a good review of RotS in the Boston Herald this morning, but it's already making me want to scream. Reasons:

  1. Lucas back in form. After those two awful entries... aka, my favorites so far. Not inspiring confidence, plus, what's with the need to ritually insult Lucas even in a good review?

  2. Playstation friendly. Yeah, and?

  3. Lucas wussed out! No, I'm not kidding. According to the novel, the script takes Anakin considerably darker at this point in his career than I'd be willing to while trying to maintain sympathy (Lucas's stated goal)--there's just stuff that's way beyond what I would find sympathetic in real life--but the reviewer is just about spitting bullets because, "Oh, no, Lucas backed off! He couldn't have Anakin turn for evil reasons! No... it's all about excessive love of his wife! Apparently, Lucas figured he couldn't sell toys if Anakin turned for evil reasons..." Er, no, Mr. Reviewer. Lucas has an arc for Anakin. Anakin turns back in the end. He's the first Sith ever to do so. Reason? He didn't turn for evil reasons. He turned because he was a pretty good man who used really bad judgment. That's been exceedingly plain since 1983. What the hell movies have you been watching? Didja miss something? Like, oh, the FRICKING PLOT? At least it makes me more forgiving of the lapses into gratuitous "Anakin's doing bad stuff, see????" motions. If making a Faustian bargain with evil and going on a rampage and killing people in cold blood on Palpatine's orders isn't enough to convince people that he really has made an evil choice, maybe, as with the Greedo-shoots-first scene, Lucas decided that he had to be a bit more explicit, so hey, (spoiler of thing that annoys me) why not have him Force-choke his beloved wife? But according to this critic, even that's not enough. Apparently, people aren't going to buy that he's made an evil choice unless he starts off frothing at the mouth and moves on to torturing puppies and raping schoolboys. Because that would really set him up well for the redemption arc that we know he goes on. There are days I'm glad I'm not George Lucas.

    Exactly how hard to people expect to be hit over the head? Dumbledore gets called evil because he doesn't tell an eleven-year-old kid that his destiny will include a kill or be killed duel with a powerful dark wizard, but poor Anakin can't seem to do enough to be called evil!

    :headdesk:

    Morons. I guess I wouldn't be really evil if I Force-choked them, would I?

  4. (From another review.) The storytelling is incoherent! This was my favorite stupid criticism, from Podhoretz at the National Review's blog. He was shocked to discover that there was a pacifist theme. ("After twenty years, we're supposed to discover that Star Wars doesn't like war?"... again, with the "What movies were you watching?") And when people tried to explain that the entire plot of the prequels was about the galaxy having been manipulated into this war, he said, "Well, if the story was incoherent enough that people need to explain that, then that's just bad storytelling!" Er, Johnny-boy... that would have been the overt, unhidden, perfectly clear plot of the last two movies. Were you too busy looking down Natalie's leather dress to notice that wrinkly old guy behind the curtain?

I suppose I should thank this critic for reminding me that these choices are made for a reason, and that reason is that while I might prefer an icepick stab from darkness, critics and others apparently really like it to be pounded in with a sledgehammer.

I knew I was going to be resigned to arguing about this movie all summer. It ticks me off that I'm going to have to defend a choice I do disagree with because these people make me understand why that choice was made.

Annoyed!Fern out.
28 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
myf From: myf Date: May 17th, 2005 01:38 pm (UTC) (Link)
I know you're annoyed, Fern, but it made me laugh. I love indignant ranting sometimes. *g*
From: magnolia_mama Date: May 17th, 2005 02:20 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm curious to know if you've read A.O. Scott's review in the New York Times and, if so, your thoughts on that one.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 17th, 2005 02:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
Parts of it, not the whole thing. The whole anti-Bush thing seems to be an interpretation of the reviewer, who sees the administration that way. Which means he's seeing the administration through the same iconic paradigm that RotS uses. Shrug. Whatever.
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fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 17th, 2005 05:59 pm (UTC) (Link)
Exactly. If you happen to see the current administration in those terms, then the form paradigm fits it to a T. But it fits lots of regimes in history, some more closely, and what you see in it is what your own mind sees as emblematic of the paradigm. The Empire is just as easily seen as the Reign of Terror after the French Revolution, or as the Cultural Revolution in China, or of the Stalist age in Russia, or really any fresh new dictatorship trying to wipe out the ancien regime. I haven't seen the movie, but judging by the book, there's absolutely no way to tell what Palpatine's particular economic and political platforms are, just his tactics. Lucas is usually very careful about that--it's what keeps the stories from being mired in the present day, and what makes them more permanent than, say, Logan's Run. The Empire is BAD. Whatever is BAD to you, that's what the Empire is, and the good guys are against it. You could even make the argument that the Empire could represent anarchy--Palpatine certainly overthrew the reasonable rule of law. (Of course, the fact that I think the logical end of anarchy is dictatorship--the rule of the fist--probably contributes to this perception, but again... it's what I think is bad coming home to rest with the Empire, because the Empire is all things that are bad.) That some right wingers are interpreting it that way to me says something, erm, odd about how they see what they support. For myself, I don't see it that way.
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ladyaeryn From: ladyaeryn Date: May 17th, 2005 02:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
This is exactly why I decided on a blanket-boycott of all reviews/media coverage - these morons're just not worth the anger and arguing. Even if the review is good, chances are it's going to have "this is the one that redeems the last two" blather. And the wussing out in AotC and TPM - this was always going to be the darkest one, idiots. (They can suck it - I liked the others too.) And if what happens in this movie isn't dark enough - sheesh. I guess they think he should have just dismembered everyone in the movie? Chopped off Padme's head?

(As far as the spoiler that annoys us, I hear it's only a couple of seconds, and Hayden actually makes it come across more plausible on-screen [still don't care for it, of course]. And all the Othello vibes sprinkled through the film have been axed. So, I'm feeling slightly less apprehensive.)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 17th, 2005 02:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, thank G-d on the latter. That was a dumb-ass idea when Shakespeare did it.
rabidfangurl From: rabidfangurl Date: May 17th, 2005 03:26 pm (UTC) (Link)
Not if you are reading it through slash-colored glasses...

::liked Othello for that reason in high school, despite not hearing of slash until well after we did the play::

This fangirl does not endorse O/A slash. It doesn't make sense.
sophonax From: sophonax Date: May 17th, 2005 02:23 pm (UTC) (Link)
I understand the importance of redemption in the end, but is it really going out on such a limb to say that it's unrealistic for someone to be redeemed unless he wasn't all that bad in the first place? Vader did evil, evil stuff; at this point in his life, I don't *want* to have sympathy for him, whether that was Lucas' goal or not. I want to feel regret for the person he was, and might have been if he hadn't gone off on a bad life path, and I want to feel hope for his future redemption, but I don't want to "understand" his actions, much less sympathize with them. Writing an antihero is tricky business, and I feel like Lucas is just hedging his bets too much.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 17th, 2005 02:28 pm (UTC) (Link)
But he's not writing an anti-hero; he's writing a tragic hero. There's a difference, and that difference is sympathy. What happens to Anakin is meant to be something we believe could happen to us.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 17th, 2005 02:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
And the point of redemption is that the person has to be redeemable. Something good has to be there in order to be redeemed--Luke senses it throughout RotJ, and within the Classic trilogy, you can see that Vader is very different from the Imperial structure around him (I did an essay on the subject). It's the fact that he's a good man that matters, that makes him possible to redeem. Someone who is truly evil can't be redeemed, because he is not dissatisfied.
sophonax From: sophonax Date: May 17th, 2005 02:52 pm (UTC) (Link)
Interesting essay--I especially like your analysis of the appeal of the "I find your lack of faith disturbing" scene--but I think we disagree sharply on the necessary conditions for redemption. I don't think the "inner core of good" is necessary, because if it exists throughout, the return of good is less dramatic. If a person has evolved beyond a moral code that once bound him, it's not going to do any good to try to return to the person he *was,* to become that same person with that same moral code again. Redemption doesn't involve retrieving some previously-existing goodness but creating an almost entirely new person--any morality must be created anew, not simply restored.

I always interpreted Luke's "sensing" of Vader's goodness as more a product of Luke's naivete than accurate observation--which is not to say that Luke was *wrong,* only that redemption for Vader wouldn't have been possible if Luke hadn't believed it to be, regardless of the accuracy of that belief. I find the ending of RotJ to be richly more satisfying if Vader's redemption is seen as due to the strength of Luke's character and belief in goodness, rather than any pre-existing condition in Anakin.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 17th, 2005 03:16 pm (UTC) (Link)
I don't think the "inner core of good" is necessary, because if it exists throughout, the return of good is less dramatic.

That's definitely where the difference is, because if it doesn't exist throughout, I'd find the return of good behavior unbelievable and therefore less dramatic. It's the conflict that makes it worthwhile, and if there's no existing core of good, there's no conflict--the essence of evil is self-satisfaction.
sophonax From: sophonax Date: May 17th, 2005 02:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
I guess that's the simplest reason there is that you like the prequels and I don't, then--I've just never found it believable that Anakin's story was something that could happen to anybody.
czgoldedition From: czgoldedition Date: May 17th, 2005 07:37 pm (UTC) (Link)
Herehere. He's the perfect embodiment of tragic hero - Arisotle's model of a tragic hero even; tragic flaws, causes his own irreversable troubles/downfall and everything - that was always my favourite part about him. A completely MindlesslyEvil!Anakin would not be an appealing character to me whatsoever, but it's his complexities and the fact that he is pitable that makes him so intriguing. Because I've considering it, and I could see myself; under the same circumstances, presented with the same choices, and manipulated in the same way; doing not only the same but worse. It's fun to be able to relate to him. Poor, conflicted Vader = <3. The imperfect Sith apprentice, but perfect subject of a story line of galaxtic (no pun intended) portions such as Star Wars.

Silly reviewers. I must concur with the first response, though; reading it was rather entertaing. I laughed out loud no less than four times. Particularly the part about the critics looking down Padme's dress instead of paying attention. Niice. XD
czgoldedition From: czgoldedition Date: May 17th, 2005 07:38 pm (UTC) (Link)
galactic*

The typo demons strike again.
timesink From: timesink Date: May 17th, 2005 03:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
I read one columnist who felt that Lucas had undercut the entire original trilogy in order to tell the story of the first trilogy. Hello! 20 years have passed - Obi-Wan and Yoda haven't had time to meditate on their mistakes and possibly *change their minds* about some things? And the Jedi clearly *did* think in absolutes during the first trilogy -- their smugness was their downfall.

Gah. Must put fingers in ears and take eyes off blogs and just wait for damn movie.
From: greenwoodside Date: May 17th, 2005 04:50 pm (UTC) (Link)
If you find that annoying, you'd best avoid The Guardian's review like the plague.
katinka31 From: katinka31 Date: May 17th, 2005 06:20 pm (UTC) (Link)
Don't know if you've seen this review yet, but it had good things to say. :)
nomadicwriter From: nomadicwriter Date: May 17th, 2005 09:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
I would be less irritated by the Episode III reviews if I got the sense that the critics did actually think it was substantially different to the first two, and liked it better on that basis. But I can't help but get a sense of "Well, we've slagged the others off enough and this is the last one, so I guess we can shift up to 'grudging acceptance' without losing cool points." Because that's what it feels like to me. No actual evaluation, just a whole load of jumping on the "look cool and superior by dissing the popular thing" bandwagon, and picking at flaws that anyone who watched the original movies would have known to expect.

Personally, I went in to the prequels expecting to get what I got from the original trilogy, which was essentially entertainment, quality storytelling, an epic tale of good and evil, a few snickers and some "wow, that's so cool" moments. And on that basis, I was not at all disappointed.

The impression that I get from a lot of the criticism, though, is that I was supposed to have gone in expecting an arty high-concept film featuring master stage actors doing Shakespearean quality dialogue, and come out furious because I didn't get it. I've got no problem with the folks who just plain didn't enjoy the prequels for whatever reason, but what drives me nuts is how many people are slating them on the basis of expectations that don't seem to be remotely related to what the original movies were like, or for flaws that the first trilogy suffered just as much. It's like me writing reviews of romance novels that say "This book sucked because it was a romance novel, and I hate those." They're Star Wars movies. The original trilogy should give you a pretty good framework for what they're going to be like.

I admit that a lot of it would push my pet peeve button anyway, because it smacks of the same "Entertainment? Oh, how frightfully common," school of criticism as attacking Stephen King for being a storyteller instead of a "literary" writer. But it's the ridiculousness of attacking the prequels for things that are really not that different from the original movies that annoys me most. Like the movies; don't like the movies. But stop being mad at them for not being something that the original trilogy gave you no reason at all to expect.

Sorry. Went off into a bit of a rant there. But gah, I think I've been sitting on that since the first time I came out of The Phantom Menace wondering what I was supposed to have found so disappointing about it.
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nomadicwriter From: nomadicwriter Date: May 18th, 2005 09:04 am (UTC) (Link)
See, and I could agree with the change in focus as a reason for disliking the prequels, although, as you point out, it's in the service of the overall story rather than an actual flaw. But that's not the criticism I tend to hear; the usual keywords are "forced", "wooden acting", and "stilted dialogue". And you know, maybe I have different standards for those to other people - I heard them a lot of times about Babylon 5, too, and I rarely agreed with them there, either - but my feeling is that if acting isn't painful enough to jerk me out of the story and the dialogue doesn't make me snigger at the wrong moment, then it's doing a perfectly adequate job to tell the story, and that's what's important in a story-focused film like Star Wars. Whereas the criticism often seems to take the form of skewering the films because they're story-focused rather than hinging on subtle character studies and drawing amazing performances out of the actors. Which, you know, keeps bringing us back to the "Okay, and exactly what movie trilogy did you think you were watching the first time around?" question.

For my part, IMHO, I think Lucas tried to give too much story in too little time.

I, personally, would have no objection to Lucas taking a few extra movies to tell the tale if he wanted to - yay, more Star Wars! - but I'm not sure I could take all the whining that would ensue about him drawing the story out needlessly just to make more money out of fans. He really can't win any more than J.K. Rowling or any other creator with a big audience can; the fandom's going to find a way to abuse him for something.
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nomadicwriter From: nomadicwriter Date: May 18th, 2005 10:00 pm (UTC) (Link)
It was at the beginning of Deconstruction of Falling Stars, I think: there was a short section set in the present time where Delenn and Sheridan were returning to the station, and Londo was muttering about bad omens because the wedding celebrations resembled a Centauri funeral. Or something like that. It's been a while since I've seen that episode.
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lazypadawan From: lazypadawan Date: May 18th, 2005 04:02 am (UTC) (Link)
Someone posted an "Official ROTS Review Kit" on my LJ as a joke...and it's 100% accurate.

I'm glad it's not open season on ROTS; in fact some of the reviews have been downright ecstatic. But few seem to understand that it took TPM and AOTC, which I love unapologetically, to make ROTS mean something. Those movies set up this one.
28 comments or Leave a comment