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May 19, 2005

SAW THE NEW STAR WARS MOVIE this afternoon with some colleagues (including one who, beneath her cool professional exterior, is such a stone geek that she and her friends in college tried to manufacture Dune-style stillsuits). My take: (1) The political angle is way overblown. In fact, the Kenobi "Only a Sith thinks in absolutes" line is deeply ironic, since immediately afterward Anakin/Vader plays the moral relativism card, responding that while Obi-Wan may think Palpatine is evil, that's all a matter of opinion: From his point of view the Jedi are evil. The NYT editorial board couldn't have done it better! (2) Unfortunately, the movie nonetheless stinks. My dean's comment was that it would have played better as a silent movie, and he's right -- you might as well be reading the dialogue off of cards, because the actors sure sound like they're reading the dialogue off of cards. Exacerbating this problem, the audio stunk. Actors' words didn't always sync perfectly with their lips, nobody even tried to capture room ambience to match the settings, and the lines often sounded dubbed -- delivered as if into a microphone while reading hurriedly from a script, as they probably were. 90210 had more convincing acting.

The effects were great, but I couldn't bring myself to care all that much. Really, nothing special, and, of course, drastically inferior to the original movies.

UPDATE: I like this from Chris Suellentrop:

What's great about Star Wars—and one of the reasons I think it has greater appeal—is its acknowledgement, even celebration, of the irrational, the mystical, the religious. More than one friend of mine—OK, me and one friend of mine—sat in our separate backyards as children trying to move rocks with our minds. Star Wars isn't political, but liberals are now trying to adopt it as their own, by claiming that Revenge of the Sith is an allegory for the Bush administration. Um, does that mean that Osama Bin Laden is a Jedi?

The whole thing is amusing.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Will Collier calls it "story-rich and emotionally engaging." Boy, he saw it differently than I did.

MORE: Hmm. I should have taken Ann Althouse's position. But who would pay me $500 for this review? Not even via tipjar . . .

MORE STILL: Speaking of economics (sort of), Tyler Cowen offers a Public Choice analysis of the Jedi Council, which explains why the Galaxy was doomed to go to pot.

Meanwhile, reader Aaron Azlant emails:

You're right about the unintentional irony in the fact that Anakin/Vader plays the relativist card soon after the "only a Sith thinks in absolutes" line. I'd argue that the irony is further deepened by the fact that Obi-Wan's line is itself also an absolute statement.

Indeed.

STILL MORE: Complexities abound: "The movie's only voice of tolerance and relativism was Palpatine, advising Anakin that the only way to be truly great is to understand all aspects of the Force!"

I also agree with this bit:

Star Wars revolutionised special effects in 1977 because it used giant, highly detailed models of ships that looked real because they were. It's why the opening shot of Star Wars was recently voted the #1 special effect of all time. Unfortunately Industrial Light and Magic has abandoned its roots and the opening of Episode III looks more like the dodgy Babylon 5 television show. There is no physicality to the proto-Star Destroyers in this movie, so no matter how many there are in the battle above Coruscant, there is no sense of awe because it just feels like a video game.

I think that when you work with CGI stuff too much, you lose sight of what looks real. On the other hand, Tai Vokins takes a more positive view:

The new Star Wars (Revenge of the Sith) rocked my socks off last night. I can't wait to see it again. And I also can't wait to hear the loosers complain about it. I'm already reading reviews that critcize the acting, and the writing. But what the hell did you expect?

And I like this bit: "What really pisses me off is a lot of these people who complain about star wars are going to see it again! Its like the movie will somehow change and get better."

Malaysian blogger Sandalsilver liked it, too: "The final episode of the saga, Revenge of the Sith was worth the wait." He thinks the acting was bad, though. But this Malaysian blogger wasn't impressed: "Revenge of the Sith tanked and stank to high heaven."

Kevin Dangoor calls it "Excellent," but is disappointed that Jar-Jar Binks didn't meet a gruesome end.

Scott Rushing writes: "Revenge of the Sith was much better than I had hoped for. The CGI has improved tremendously, even in just the last three years. The acting was not as stiff as I had feared."

And Lovelain calls it "The Passion of the Christ for Star Wars fans," which is weirdly appropriate, in a way.

SyntheticLife, meanwhile, gives the guy who sat next to him a pretty harsh review: "I would've said something but then I got scared when he started talking to the characters in the movie."