Saga Beginning the Saga: The wonderful benefits of TPM....

Discussion in 'Star Wars Saga In-Depth' started by obi-rob-kenobi4, Sep 19, 2012.

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  1. natureboy76 Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Dec 11, 2009
    star 1
    I believe there are many good things about TPM as well. I only have a few problems with it. (midicloreans and a 10 year old Annie) Of course the build up of excitement and anticipation put unrealistic expectations on the film and dulled it a bit the first time I saw it. Watching it years later is very satisfying. Having a bunch of scenes on Tatooine also brings back a lot of nostalgia for the original SW: ANH
  2. Han Burgundy Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jan 28, 2013
    star 3
    "Make a great film, thematic depth does not."
    - Yoda, were he real and commenting on this thread.

    I sit somewhere in the middle on TPM. Like many of you, I love the film for its gorgeous, ambitious visuals, for the breadth and daring of GL's vision at work, and for the brilliance of the story of the film. There is a lot of depth to be admired here if one only takes the time to admire it, that much is true.

    But there is absolutely a reason why so many people despise this film, or otherwise consider it lesser than the rest of the saga. There's a reason why films with similar depth and ambition, like The Godfather and the Lord of the Rings trilogy, become masterpieces in the eyes of the public, and the Star Wars prequels do not. And it all comes down to execution.

    There are so many things that hurt TPM and keep it from being the masterwork that it is capable of being. There are so many things that, when watching, TPM, I just can't help but hate.

    I hate that "The taxation of trade routes to outlying star systems is in dispute" is one of the most immediately boring opening lines in film history. Call it ignorance if you want, but people read that line and immediately check out of the film.

    I hate the corny, eye rolling accents and line delivery of the Neimoidians, "Surely, they must be dead by now." "That will hold them!"

    I hate the way that, for all the ambition and technological breakthrough that happened to make Jar Jar come alive, he was ultimately depicted as a living, breathing Tex Avery cartoon. That's not an assault on his character. Just things like when he dives into the lake on Naboo, he does an exaggerated jump (with an impossible 2-3 second hang time) and double flip. Or when his eyes widen and jump outward when scared.

    I hate that Obi Wan and Qui-Gon are never given the full characterization they deserve. Obi Wan coasts by on the mere fact that we already know who he is, and Qui-Gon benefits from Liam Neeson's natural charisma, but neither of them have any defining character traits that are brought to the forefront in any of their scenes in the film. We are told by others that Qui-Gon is a rebellious, passionate Jedi who doesn't always play by the rules, but we don't really see that in his words or actions.

    I hate that Jake Loyd was forced into such an awful preformance (I don't really think its his fault, I just think that GL pushed the childlike innocence angle way too hard.) Yes, he's a "cherub", but he's a cherub who will eventually become the most feared being in the galaxy. Not to mention he's a young boy struggling with his own enslavement. There's a darkness there, at the very least a thirst for empowerment that is briefly expressed but never capitalized on.

    I hate the fact that the films pace comes to an utter halt once they reach Tatooine. I realize that important things happen there, but once again the execution could have been so much better to keep the audience invested.

    I hate the way that the lightsaber combat is so horrifically over-choreographed, focused more on looking cool than on having any real intensity.

    But those are all, admittedly, little things. Mind you, they still matter, and they still have a memorable effect on ones displeasure with the film (I still remember watching TPM right after ESB with my dad [big mistake, by the way, never do that] and my dad saying "God, this is stupid" when Jar Jar is freaking out about the giant fish in the core). But these nitpicky points are mostly just the highly tangible scapegoats, such as Jar Jar, that people use to vent frustrations with the film that they otherwise can't quite place. I've thought on this for a long time, and I now realize what my biggest issue with TPM is.

    I hate that the underlying emotions throughout the story are so tragically understated. The film casually mentions several times that "people are dying" and that the Trade Federations blockade is causing anguish for the population of an entire planet. Yet we never see the droid army take over, we never see people getting arrested and oppressed, we never see the starvation and suffering that comes with a society being placed under marital law. Film is a primarily visual medium (George Lucas, of all people, knows this), so without seeing a tangible example of suffering and loss, the audience is given little reason to care when Padme pleads her case before an unfeeling senate.

    Imagine how poignant and powerful it would have been if we had seen droids lining up shackled civilians, putting them in lines to receive their food rations, and we get to see the look of fear and depression on the faces of a people who were raised to love beauty and freedom. Imagine if the film then cut directly to images of the senate on Coruscant, schmoozing amongst eachother, pompous and without sympathy for the suffering that we had just witness firsthand.

    We should have been brought to tears as Padme desperately fought for her people, been infuriated by the corruption and indecision of the senate. We should have been invested in the individual fighters in the cockpits of the Naboo fighters in the final battle, the same way we felt about the rebels in A new Hope, because they too are desperate everymen fighting for a chance at freedom and peace.

    I hate to utilize referencing LOTR too much, as there has been so much vitriol between the two fanbases in the past, but as a fan of both series I can't help but compare the oppression of Naboo in Phantom Menace with the attack on Rohan in Two Towers. Though there are numerous differences, some thematic and some superficial, they both come from the same place emotionally. Both are about a sympathetic society being oppressed by an outside force. But notice how much more emotionally invested we are in the plight of Rohan than the plight of Naboo. We see the people of Rohan suffering, we feel their desperation as they hide in helms deep, we see weeping mothers, and tired old men not prepared for a battle they are about to be thrust into. We see the legitimate, terrifying threat that is posed by the orc hordes, and we fear for the good people of Rohan.

    Sure, The Two Towers is a much darker film than TPM, but still.... George Lucas gives us none of that. There is a tremendous opportunity to examine humanity in the story of TPM that is utterly wasted. In a weird way, we are almost half-heartedly presented the story of TPM the way that Palpatine himself views it; pieces of a puzzle, coming together to reveal the story of how a society falls. The human emotion, unfortunately, and as Palpatine would prefer it, is mostly left out or skipped over, like extraneous accounts of personal tragedy excised from a history book.

    If there's one other modern film that I think TPM shares the most with, besides the other two prequels of course, its 2009's Watchmen. Both are works of stunning ambition, tell a story that challenges the brain and subverts expectations, and contain a significant use of visual and thematic poetry. Yet both films are largely dismissed by most audiences because they lack humanity. Not a complete lack, mind you, but enough that the storytelling feels inept, and a sentiment of unfulfilled promise lingers in the brain.

    End rant.

    I should also mention that despite all that, I agree with most things said in this thread. And I will rematch TPM any day. It's still Star Wars, after all.

    EDIT: eesh, I wrote a lot. Now I know how Cyrogenic feels...
    Last edited by starmin76, Apr 19, 2013
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  3. Cryogenic Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Jul 20, 2005
    star 5
    I liked your post because, while you may not like TPM a whole lot, you at least took a second to recognize my pain. :p

    This is an excellent way to regard the film, IMO.

    It's a bit more of a mosaic than the films of the OT. The Palpy eye-view thing fits.

    I sort of like the emotionally-blunted effect, too. I say "sort of" because I still see a lot of heart and hurt there. But it's definitely a different way to tell a story, as I see it.

    And as Qui-Gon says, your focus determines your reality. In the case of the suffering of the Naboo, for example, I think GL brings us into the sadness of the moment with Padme and the Queen (Padme *as* Queen), (1) on the ship, when she takes another look at the Sio Bibble recording on her way to Coruscant, and (2) when she's staring out of Palpatine's apartment window on Coruscant, lost in despair, while Jar Jar offers quiet counsel.

    The plight of Naboo is thus personalized through Amidala; and through Jar Jar's concomitant worry for his own people. The suffering of the two sets of people themselves, whatever they're being put through (or NOT put through -- the film deliberately creates a veiling ambiguity around the matter) is surplus to requirements, which is a fact Peter Jackson, in my view, doesn't quite understand (if you're using his LOTR films as an example). I simply don't find his LOTR films very effective -- for me, personally -- at immersing me in the plight of fictional others. On the contrary, I find them sentimental, ham-handed, and distastefully manipulative, attempting to mawkishly wrest from me certain emotions and concerns that I am unable (or perhaps, simply, unwilling) to give. By contrast, I don't have a problem being drawn into the world of Star Wars and believing in a base reality. I think this reflects the radically different approaches of the two filmmakers and the shaping of their material; even their understanding and intellectual interpretation of human history.

    One could go on from there and craft more of an aesthetic argument that the two sets of films -- the LOTR movies and TPM alone, never mind TPM in conjunction with the other Star Wars entries -- are making two very different sets of tonal statements. LOTR, particularly its middle chapter, TTT, is far more demonstrative of a fallen world: a world that is both wretched, on the brink of war, and approaching something tantamout to a final (mythical) reckoning. The extremely dull (locked down) colour palette and colour grading of TTT reflects this, IMO. Then you have TPM: a film clearly designed to evoke a more open, optimistic, playful, naive feel. A world that has a sort of Dickensian darkness mercifully alleviated with a healthy dose of dappled light. It's very lush and beautiful, almost primal in its exultation of the child-like and the agrarian. Scenes of graphic suffering and pitiless strife would crash loudly into that glade, defacing the sacred and making it almost vulgar or profane. This, of course, is a very simplistic and coying view of life, the universe, and everything, but it's one that TPM encourages, to an extent (yet with layers and layers of cutting irony). It's simply a different film doing different things. I can see value in both, but I infinitely prefer the art and magic of Star Wars.

    Different courses for different horses, really.
    Last edited by Cryogenic, Apr 19, 2013
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  4. Han Burgundy Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jan 28, 2013
    star 3

    In that sense I'm actually a bit jealous of you! I think my own inclination, and by and large the general movie watching public, is for films to wear their emotions on their sleeves. I know my favorite moments in the SW saga are the most cathartic ones, like when Luke rage-fights Vader in ROTJ and the score swells, or the Mustafar conversation in ROTS between Anakin, Padme, and Obi-Wan that more or less boils down to each of them saying "I'M SAD AND ANGRY" in different ways. That's probably why I love the LOTR films so much- Peter Jackson plays just about every moment in those films for maximum emotional catharsis (though I will concede that only some of it is warranted, and some of it is created in a vacuum, which does make the films a bit overbearing as they go on).

    But the fact that you are able to really appreciate GL's understated approach in TPM is admirable. It is interesting to think of George outlining the prequels with the manipulative mind of Palpatine, moving around his myriad of chess pieces in favor of the more traditional "in the foxhole" emotional storytelling of the OT.

    At the end of the day you just gotta sit back and say "Hey! It's art!"
    Last edited by starmin76, Apr 19, 2013
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  5. Cryogenic Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Jul 20, 2005
    star 5
    I added a paragraph. And to be a pedant to myself, I mistyped "cloying" as "coying". Oddly, "coying" works almost as well. :p

    I think those moments you've cited are inherently more affective. That is to say, they are more rousing and emotional. Their climactic quality is brought out to the full. They are gripping and, yes, cathartic.

    But such catharsis is rare. George Lucas, in my view, knows when to offer those moments, and when to withhold, or develop a little bit, then retain a fuller expression of for later on. Ever mindful of the operatic nature of Star Wars, he segments. He rewards your curiosity and your patience.

    The problem with Peter Jackson -- as you've just said -- is that he makes an emotional fudge sundae out of every moment. It's like this inescapable cloud of beatific sadness goes up and over the proceedings whenever something "big" happens; and an audience member is meant to buy the dramatic import of the moment based purely on how Jackson is selling it to them -- which is with histrionic faces, a glut of close-ups, slow-mo, dramatic (and often very LOUD) music, etc. To me, it's garish, stifling, and completely overdone.

    Chess is actually a good analogy, since TPM features pawn and bishop forms, castles, queens, knights, et al. And the queen, appropriately enough, is the most powerful character in the drama, even outwitting the chess master himself. Tellingly, this is a chess game without a king, though Palpatine, if he's *in* the game itself, is clearly the would-be imperial majesty, and like that piece, can only move one square at a time, needing to manipulate the other pieces in a salient fashion to achieve victory.

    I enjoy what Lucas does in TPM because I generally prefer understated displays of emotion and kindness, affection, humour, dread, etc. Yes, even when it comes to humour, the film, IMO, is a lot more underplayed than people give it credit for (it depends how you watch). Lucas is such a visual master that he's able to imbue lone shots with humongous detail, then play them all off against each other in an epic fugue. In TPM, his use of colour alone is extraordinary. You would think all his previous movies -- even, perhaps, the luminous "American Graffiti" -- had been in black-and-white.

    For me, the visuals are incredible; and the characters ring true. What else can I say? Put TPM up against almost any big-budget film made in the last ten years and it blows them away, IMO. Blockbuster art has spiraled in on itself, in my view, and has become an echo chamber of jerky camera motions, dull palettes, WETA physics, leaden character dynamics, and angst-ridden excess. In modern blockbuster art, the delicate brio of Star Wars -- an affection blend of light and dark, sound and silence -- is nowhere to be seen (or heard). We've been blessed to live through a fascinating epoch in cinematic history; one that we likely won't ever experience again.
    Last edited by Cryogenic, Apr 19, 2013
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  6. FRAGWAGON Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Nov 3, 2012
    star 4
    I agree but it's even better if he did not know all that. Qui-Gon recognized the outcast as having inherent dignity. Jar Jar's expression after he says that is really beautiful....Qui-Gon had that true Jedi way of ennobling people around him. Real humility. Exaltivit humiles
  7. obi-rob-kenobi4 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Apr 17, 2007
    star 4
    Its also important to remember TPM as being "The Jedi movie" with ROTS being "The Sith movie" and AOTC being the ambiguous grey one in the middle.

    In many ways it also makes AOTC even more like TESB of the PT.

    =D=
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  8. SlashMan Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Feb 5, 2012
    star 3
    Another symbiosis factor is the mutualistic benefits between the Jedi and the Republic. To contrast, the Sith were shown to have established a parasitic relationship through fear and might in the OT.
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  9. I Are The Internets Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Nov 20, 2012
    star 7
    I always start the saga with IV rather than I. I think that's the intention.
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  10. Jarren_Lee-Saber Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Apr 16, 2008
    star 4
    Man, @Cryogenic -- still absolutely loving your insight into TPM, the Prequels, and the Star Wars Saga as a whole!

    Less loving your views on LOTR, which I actually prefer to Star Wars [face_blush]. But still, you manage to express your opinions clearly & consistently with no disrespect. Bravo!

    (Now.....when's that book coming? :D )
  11. bstnsx704 Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Mar 11, 2013
    star 3
    Interesting.

    Similarly, A New Hope is the most innocent (two accounts of planetary-scale genocide aside) of the Original Trilogy, whereas Return of the Jedi is thematically the darkest and, following up on the ambiguous middle chapter, centers around the hero character having to choose either good or evil.
  12. Cryogenic Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Jul 20, 2005
    star 5
    Hmm. That's interesting!

    Of course, if you take another look at the title, "Revenge Of The Sith", the point is ... the Jedi are the Sith. ;)

    You could also say that TPM is "The Jar Jar Movie", with ROTS being "The Anti-Jar Jar Movie", and AOTC being the ambiguous grey (super-colourful!) one in the middle. [face_dancing]


    Oh... thank you, JLS!

    That book isn't coming. It has already arrived. Use the Force and realize that time is a delusion. :p

    I could never prefer LOTR over SW (which, to me, as a work of cinema, is far more "epic", layered, beautiful, and profound), but thank you again. :)
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  13. jc1138 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Nov 16, 2004
    star 1
    I think TPM is terrific. I recognize it has flaws, but every film has flaws (the scatological parts are my least aspects of TPM). It comes down to what a viewer chooses to like or dislike, and I'm wary of assertions that people can't help but dislike/hate something, as if they had no control of the matter and films are judged by an objective standard that only THEY have access to or can interpret.

    In addition to the mythic depth of TPM, which would take more space than I have to go into here, there are many details that jump out to me about TPM that I think are cool, or that resonate with me:
    -The galaxy was expanded beyond the Empire/Alliance.
    -We see a more refined age, with sleeker ships and higher fashion (some find this to be a problem, but I like it as it serves a storytelling function in it's contrast with the rough and rugged CT, which has been at constant war for decades. Also, the more variety in design the better, IMO, as it's a big galaxy after all).
    -Destroyer droids. I love their look and function. Plus, they are a credible threat to the Jedi, ending a confrontation in retreat, stalemate or capture.
    -The unstated message of relative technological stasis in the GFFA. The only place you really hear of rapid technological advances is the EU. Interest groups may assign more resources to solve a particular problem (as in, building a better battle droid as we see w/ AotC's super battle droids) but, from watching the films, there don't appear to be massive leaps in technological capability (ie, I get the sense that Naboo N1 starfighters could still compete with TIE fighters). Advances in military technology (AT-TE--->AT-AT) still happen in response to enemy forces and changing battlefield roles. Also, the longer a war goes on, the more variety in materiel (see how many different types of ships/droids the separatists have at the end of the CWs, in RotS, than at the beginning in AotC). This is mainly set up in TPM. I like this because it makes SW feel more like akin to a fairy tale than SF.
    -While JJB's certainly isn't my fav. character, I'm no hater and recognize he serves the "fool" role. There was an interesting article on JJB's on TF.N a while back.

    -many more, just don't have time to write them all!
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