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Roger Ebert and the PREQUELS

Discussion in 'Star Wars Saga In-Depth' started by anakinsrightarm, Apr 7, 2003.

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  1. anakinsrightarm

    anakinsrightarm Jedi Youngling star 3

    Nov 21, 2002
    The following are just a couple excerpts from Roger Ebert's reviews of both The Phantom Menace and Attack Of The Clones, one of which is complimentary (Ep. I) and the other being very critical (Ep. II). For the record he gave Menace a very positive, ambitious 3-and-a-half stars (of 4)?.and what seemed to be an almost gratuitous 2 stars for Clones?.that?s a drop of 38% on a 0-100% scale.

    It's not that Rog is some movie critic GOD ALMIGHTY worthy of hours of discussion. Plenty of online critics, scores of fans and a gob of general movie goers (to the tune of $310 million worth) enjoyed the second Star Wars installment?but at the very least, as a Star Wars fan, I've noticed he's been gracious when it comes to the series. He really enjoyed the first trilogy and cut against the grain by endorsing, as few mainstream critics did, Episode I. All the more to my surprise when he leveled me with his unexpectedly disheartening review of Attack Of The Clones.

    After seeing the movie, almost everyone I know that are hardcore fans of the prequels thus far felt that Clones was an improvement over what, to me, was the quite satisfying and highly enjoyable Phantom Menace. What surprised me was that Ebert?s reviews are so starkly contrasting. I can understand those who say that ?they both suck??.because, to me, the consistency between the two is generally unwavering and so styllistically consistent from one-to-the-next that to have disliked both seems quite natural. But to have absolutely hated one and loved the other seems almost unforgivingly contradictory and silly. And while Ebert?s views are not quite that polar in either case, he manages to make himself, in this fan?s eyes, seem a bit ridiculous.

    His praise for Menace, while not so complimentary that it ignores the nitpicky faults of the movie, still embraces the charm and general feel and therefore is quite forgiving of those little pesky annoyances which I agree, don?t hinder the movie even though they are there. With Clones it seems every little thing that Ebert forgave in Episode I became an issue of PARAMOUNT IMPORTANCE with the second film.

    (Ebert on Menace) - "Star Wars: Episode I--The Phantom Menace," to cite its full title, is an astonishing achievement in imaginative filmmaking. If some of the characters are less than compelling, perhaps that's inevitable?.. At the risk of offending devotees of the Force, I will say that the stories of the "Star Wars" movies have always been space operas, and that the importance of the movies comes from their energy, their sense of fun, their colorful inventions and their state-of-the-art special effects. I do not attend with the hope of gaining insights into human behavior. Unlike many movies, these are made to be looked at more than listened to?. The dialogue is pretty flat and straightforward, although seasoned with a little quasi-classical formality, as if the characters had read but not retained "Julius Caesar?.but dialogue isn't the point, anyway: These movies are about new things to look at.

    (Ebert on Clones) ? But most of that first hour consists of dialogue, as the characters establish plot points, update viewers on what has happened since "Episode I," and debate the political crisis facing the Republic. They talk and talk and talk. And their talk is in a flat utilitarian style: They seem more like lawyers than the heroes of a romantic fantasy. In the classic movie adventures that inspired "Star Wars," dialogue was often colorful, energetic, witty and memorable. The dialogue in "Episode II" exists primarily to advance the plot, provide necessary information? characters Obi-Wan Kenobi, Padme Amidala, Anakin Skywalker--seem so strangely stiff and formal in their speech that an unwary viewer might be excused for thinking they were the clones.

    While these two aren?t saying the same EXACT thing, Ebert is implying that so long as the sense of wonderment, fun and derring-do is in place, the exposition is acceptable as it is customary?.a bit flat, uninspiring and melodramatic. That?s Star Wars, afterall. But in his Clone
  2. Zombie_Monkey

    Zombie_Monkey Jedi Youngling star 1

    Feb 28, 2003
    Great post.

    I've always felt that Roger didn't review the movie, he reviewed the way in which the images were captured, and it colored his analysis in a disturbing way.

    It was like an art critic who reviewed the canvas, and not the arrangement of paints lying on top of it.

  3. SLR

    SLR Jedi Knight star 5

    Oct 20, 2002
    I agree w/ Ebert's analysis, nor do I think he is being inconsistent. Yes, I know SW isn't Shakespeare (thank God) and even Ebert stated so. However, even for a SW movie the dialogue was bad. It didn't sound like dialogue for the most part. The dialogue was almost entirely speechy. It sounded in most parts like the characters were giving a speech or lecture rather than having conversations. This was not the case in any of the other movies, including TPM.
  4. bobasho

    bobasho Jedi Master star 1

    Nov 19, 2002
    Great post A's R A

    I really agree with you and think that Ebert may have been influenced by the "Lucas bashing" that has been so common since the PT came out. IT is no longer cool to like star wars, it is now cool not to like it and everyone is such a movie expert they want to find all the faults in any movie. I really respect and love Roger Ebert too, and really enjoy reading all of his reviews for movies i am interested in.

    I recommend that you email his "Movie Answer Man" site and make your argument. He is good at sometimes defending his reviews when he is inconsistent. Having always been a huge Star Wars fan, I have wanted to hear why he felt that AOTC was only a two star movie. He really does read all of the mail, although he obviously doesnt respond to it all. Maybe shorten it up and give it a shot!
  5. SLR

    SLR Jedi Knight star 5

    Oct 20, 2002
    Bobashu, I don't think that proves anything. I don't think Ebert's being inconsistent because of the trendy "bash SW". Ebert just didn't like AoTC. His criticism is not inconsistent w/ TPM. I actually wholeheartedly agree w/ him. I liked TPM but didn't like AoTC. I am not a trendy "SW basher" (if that even exists). I have been a SW fan since as long as I can remember. AoTC is the only one I have not liked. That doesn't make me any less of a fan, nor does it make Ebert one either.

    I think these threads are pointless. Reasonable people can disagree about a movie. If you like a movie fine, but you should respect that others don't always agree w/ you. I don't think there is some hidden media agenda to derail SW.
  6. OutlawYoda

    OutlawYoda Jedi Padawan star 4

    Jun 1, 2002
    Great.. no.. AWESOME post!
    I'm actually going to send him the link right now.. lets hope he reads it! :D
  7. anakinsrightarm

    anakinsrightarm Jedi Youngling star 3

    Nov 21, 2002
    "His criticism is not inconsistent w/ TPM"

    This may be true to a degree, but what his AOTC review IS is dismissive of all the attention he gave TPM....meaning that all of those things he picks on in TPM but forgives en lieu of the visuals, the fun, etc. are NOT forgiven in Clones. That he can't simply get PAST the dialogue to acknowledge the WEALTH of great things happening.

    I don't see the dialogue as DERAILING the entire movie.....not when the dialogue is consistently cheesy. Maybe it was a bit MORE wooden in Clones than any other SW film...but even so, not SO MUCH MORESO than Menace to warrant slamming the flick.

    I don't see a compelling reason for a full star and a half difference. If the visuals were disappointing, etc. you'd have more of a case. But we never know what he thinks of them because he never talks about them. In no other SW review has he not taken the time to point out the incredible sights he sees...and naturally so. And whatever else Clones is or isn't, it's nothing less than spectacular looking.
  8. DarthAttorney

    DarthAttorney Manager Emeritus star 6 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Nov 8, 2000
    I'm very sorry to do this (because that was a fantastic opening post) but we need to get this thread related to the OT as well as the PT.

    The rules for thread topics here in Saga clearly state that they need to cover aspects of the entire Saga, not just the OT or the PT as half of the whole body of work.

    So if someone has some clever way relate this to the OT as well (maybe dig up some of Eberts reviews for the OT and compare/contrast? ?[face_plain] ) in the next couple of days, I'm going to have to lock this.

  9. anakinsrightarm

    anakinsrightarm Jedi Youngling star 3

    Nov 21, 2002
    Can we move this to the AOTC forum? The point of the initial post is Ebert's disregard for Clones (over that of Menace)...even change the title to "Roger Ebert and AOTC"?!
  10. rpeugh

    rpeugh Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Apr 10, 2002
    Well, he gave 4 stars to each of the OT movies. He really didnt talk much about specific things such as dialogue. One interesting thing to note however, is that in his review of ANH, he said it is as "corny as the fields of Kansas, as shallow as a Saturday serial, and as silly as a childeren's tale-and it is a masterpiece". (Funny, you can say the exact same thing about the prequels. But for some reason, people just cant give this same allowance to the prequels.) Another interesting thing is that he does not like Chewie's character. He hates the fact that all he does is growl and moan. Also, in the prequels, he likes Jar Jar.
  11. Leroy_The_Hutt

    Leroy_The_Hutt Jedi Youngling star 1

    Jan 23, 2003
    I completely agree with Ebert. Watching Menace lastweek I was astonished at how fluid the dialogue was comparative with clones. My only complaint with clones is the poor dialogue.
  12. Pfft

    Pfft Jedi Youngling star 1

    Mar 6, 2003
    To bring it on-topic...

    Well, I think Ebert is close to the truth. With TPM, there is very little allowance for personal character; and what time there is, its devoted to two actors who lacked any creditible acting abilities to pull it off.

    Padme the handmaiden and Anakin were the two characters that should have broken through the formality of Qui-Gon, Amidala and Obi-Wan.

    AotC was much more open to letting personal characters to beam through - like in the OT. Leia, Han and Luke were all informal characters during their screen presence. Leia was formal when needed (Bespin, Blockade Runner Vs. Vader).

    However, I think GL butchered the AotC script enough to get rid of all character - especially in regards to Padme.(You can read my report on Padme in the All About Padme thread).

    You also have to remember that most of the classic lines in SW do not come from GL's brain. Nearly three people wrote the ANH script.
  13. anakinsrightarm

    anakinsrightarm Jedi Youngling star 3

    Nov 21, 2002
    Leroy...if the only complaint was less-than-stellar dialogue (and I'm one that thinks the dialogue was better than it's given credit for being), then don't you agree that Ebert is HARSH to focus in primarily on that? Afterall, where do you rank Clones amongst the others? Did the dialogue ruin the SW experience for you? That's the question I ask of Ebert too.

    I agree also that maybe the "letdown" was that in the OT the characters more richly developed in Empire vs. ANH....and yes, the omission of some of Padme's scenes in Clones hurt rather than helped her character (and the movie)....I think the problem with this lies a bit in the fact that Lucas KNOWS he has to get from "here-to-there" ultimately in the three films. In the OT he could omit, abridge, etc. as needed to end up where he wanted to be...and no one was the wiser. NOW he's under the world's all-knowing microscope to deliver this, this, and that.....

    That's NOT an excuse to leave characters shallow and underdeveloped....I'm disappointed that the "meet the parents" scene wasn't in the movie and even more disappointed that it wasn't inserted in the DVD as an added-back scene...(where running time isn't as critical). In fact, I rather enjoyed MOST of the deleted scenes...all of which were meatier and more substantial than the deleted scenes in Menace. However, I am also inclined to cut Lucas a bit of slack here, given the daunting task of having to cleanly hit every bag square on as he rounds all the bases. That was an obligation and challenge he didn't have in the OT.
  14. Sebulba-X

    Sebulba-X •X C2 C3 MW RSA• star 6 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Mar 11, 2000
    One thing to note (and I don't have any quotes, just going on memory, which is relatively true, but fuzzy at best ;) ), Ebert's good friend and co-critc Gene Siskel died just before they could watch Ep1 of cancer. Ebert mentioned that it was doubly sad that Siskel had been looking forward to seeing Ep1 with his kids, and I got the impression that Siskel was a big fan of the series. So when I heard his review of Ep1 on tv, I got the feeling that it was almost a memorial of sorts to his friend and the movie going experience, making it more positive, imho, than a normal run of the mill review. I'm not saying Ebert wasn't true to his feelings in his review, but the mood and setting in which his friend's death put him in when he saw it would almost certainly have affected his perception of it.
  15. SLR

    SLR Jedi Knight star 5

    Oct 20, 2002
    Anakinsrightarm, the problem w/ the dialogue is not that it is too formal but that it is too speechy. It sounds like the characters are reading speaches rather than interacting w/ one another. This really takes me out of the movie because it ruins the illusion of make believe for me. That is my problem w/ AoTC. Either the dialogue should have been modified to make it easier for the actors to deliver. Or Lucas needed to get out of his "2 take mentality" so the actors could get the dialogue out more naturally.

    ANH, ESB, ROTJ, and TPM, while their dialogue is not the high mark of the film, the lines seemed to be delivered more naturally and it sounded like the characters were interacting w/ one another.
  16. anakinsrightarm

    anakinsrightarm Jedi Youngling star 3

    Nov 21, 2002
    I see what you're saying...and this is where we obviously see/hear things differently, but the "speak" in TPM comes across much the same way to me.

    Liam Neeson, while sincere (and I loved his performace), often sounds rather boorish to me. Amidala, too, is much the same....very matter-of-fact but not terribly warm. This exists in Clones too, no doubt...but I question how much more extreme it is here versus TPM. I think it's safe to say that the dialogue/deliveries in the OT were clearly more fluid...less formal...less "emotionless"...more colorful...more animated...all of those things.

    HOWEVER, I must make an argument as to why the tone of the prequels is more "wooden".... (and forgive me if this has been beaten to death already)....I think the very nature of the two halves of the story (meaning before the Empire...the prequels...and after the Empire...the OT). And what I mean is that BEFORE the Emprire it was a more regal society....and we're exposed to a very political side of the galaxy here versus in the OT; queens, senators, a Jedi Council, a Trade Federation, a banking clan, etc. On the other hand, the OT is comprised of a rogue princess, a smack-talking smuggler, a cocky know-it-all farmboy eager for adventure, and a wise former Jedi Master. It's a different time and a different band of characters in each go-'round. By the shear nature of the setting, the time and the characters (and their respective positions in the society of the old Republic) mark that difference in dialogue. I wouldn't expect Liam Neeson and Ewan McGreggor to trade Han & Luke comebacks. It wouldn't be appropriate.

    I guess I get a bit tired (and I'm not saying this about you in partiuclar) of people *picking* on the dialogue...and how fun and jocular it USED to be compared to the way it is now....that Lucas has dumbed down, gotten way too insurance-seminar in tone and turned a series known for its memorable dialogue into a borefest because he's lost his touch. I don't buy that. I do buy that the nature of the trilogy sets makes them DIFFERENT...and if that makes the dialogue a bit more wooden, then it's because it wouldn't sound right if it weren't formal.

    I know what you said in the first part of your last post....that it isn't the nature of the dialogue you are having trouble with...but the stiffness of the deliveries. But to a lot of people it goes well beyond the words themselves and how awkward it all is. I think that in both cases Lucas has succeeded, even in Clones.

    In fact, I get much more of a jocular tone in Clones than Menace. It gets a bit heavy-handed when Obi Wan and Anakin exchange their "try not to lose this"..."yes master" bits, which tend to be redundant. But there are plenty of exchanges throughout the film I find engaging and sincere. Here are a few (in no order except as they come to mind):

    - Jango and Kenobi on Kamino: GREAT exchange here....heated....the tension is thick and convincingly conveyed

    - Anakin's confession: One of the best dramatic moments in the entire series. Hatred is seeping from him....also regret.

    - Anakin/Padme meadow scene: The most convincing portion of their shared conversations.

    - MOST of Kenobi's solo jaunt: His conversation with Dex, which is light, warm and convincing. His exhanges with Dooku. His conveying of concern to Yoda & Mace in his holographic conversation....(let's face it, Ewan was good almost EVERYWHERE in this movie)

    - Anakin & Palpatine: Very genuine exchange of mutual respect...admiration.

    - Yoda & the Younglings: The most charming Yoda scene since ESB, complimented nicely by McGreggor.

    I could go on and on and on....

    Yes there are some awkward moments as well...wooden, poorly delivered, etc...but there are SCORES of very convincing scenes too that are as good, and in some cases better, than some of the scenes delivered in TPM. A comparable amount, at least. I could name scores of great/poor deliveries in both.

    I think Hayden had a tendency to overact here and wasn't enough for me to dis
  17. bobasho

    bobasho Jedi Master star 1

    Nov 19, 2002
    Well said...

    Getting back to Ebert, I was reading some of his other reviews of movies out around the same time, and i would like to make some comparisons. Ebert gave "The Fast and The Furious" three stars. He really liked the action sequences and felt like the movies was simply a lot of fun. He recognizes that the story isnt shakespeare but rather a cult lifestyle that was portrayed interestingly and exciting. The movie works within what it sets out to do so: 3 stars.

    I found "F&tF" to be a rediculous movie with horrible dialogue, cliche and contrived characters, and a ludicrous plot. The movie was purely eye and ear candy, but still not very inventive. That said, I can understand why many enjoyed the film (sorry if anyone loved F&tF!), but beyond its pulse pounding action, there is not much there.

    If F&tF received 3 stars, so should star wars. Ebert did not like the dialogue but admits he loved the inventive effects, the introduction of the dark side in anakin and the grandness of the film. He concedes that the film is alot of fun. Was F&tF really move fun and inventive than AOTC? The dialogue and plot of F&tF had me winching in pain far more than any dialogue in SW.

    That said, I think Roger hosed AOTC a little and still defend my theory that many are subconsciously influenced by the Business's hatred towards GL. Lets face it, GL is an arrogant man that has never needed Hollywood and he is now trying to strong-arm how movies will be made (digital). This really ticks off cinema purests. If you know that you do not like the director of a movie as you sit down to watch it, I guarantee it will have an affect on whether you like the movie. Consciously or not.
  18. anakinsrightarm

    anakinsrightarm Jedi Youngling star 3

    Nov 21, 2002
    Good post....and good point-of-comparison. His review of "Daredevil" is much the fact, it's a pretty benign review....almost devoid of compliments yet still he gives it a 3-star rating.

    I've also read where Ebert is absoultely a "film" purist and is really anti-digital. More of his criticism of Clones comes from his "muddy" viewing of the film as it does from the contents of the film itself.

    I love Menace...don't get me wrong...but I have a hard time seeing just how Clones can be considered so deplorable by someone who actually really enjoyed TPM. Again, if he'd really disliked Menace, like many of his ilk did, then to see him not upgrade AOTC much if at all wouldn't have surprised me. But being one of TPM's few mainstream supporters and then one of Clones' most vocal detractors really confuses me.
  19. rpeugh

    rpeugh Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Apr 10, 2002
    The thing that irritated me about FandF, is the whole hijacking the truck thing. That is incredibally stupid. A truck is like, 10 times the weight of a car. My dad started watching it on t.v. when they got to the scene near the end where they hijack the truck, My dad looked perplexed and asked, "What are they trying to do?" I said, "Hijacking the truck." He said, "That's a VERY stupid thing to do." Well, he would know about that. When he was a teenager, he and some friends were driving around in a car, and one of his friends flicked off a truck driver. Apparently the driver started chasing after them in his truck. Now I know why my dad likes the movie DUEL so much.
  20. bobasho

    bobasho Jedi Master star 1

    Nov 19, 2002
    That was one of the many ludicrous parts of that movie. I wish that we could move this topic to the AOTC forum because I think this is great stuff and it deserves a little more attention.
  21. SLR

    SLR Jedi Knight star 5

    Oct 20, 2002
    I see your points Anakinsrightarm. I think one of the main difference b/w TPM and AoTC was that there was much less dialogue in TPM, which maybe made it not stick out as much to me. There were some really great scenes in AOTC. Thats why I think the main problem w/ the dialogue in the PT is Lucas' directorial style. He tries to get the scene done as quickly as possible w/ maybe 2-3 takes, instead of getting the scene done right. THe great scenes seem to involve Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan, Yoda, and Palpatine. The reason is that these actors haven't had any trouble w/ their delivery. Portman and Jackson are probably two of the worst in PT in delivering their lines.

    It is this sloppiness is what bothers me about AoTC. I think AOTC could have been a great film (it had a great storyline, IMHO). Its execution was just lacking. More emphasis should have been placed on getting the scene done right on filming. Post production can never improve a scene in which the lines are poorly delivered.

    DINVADER_RETURNS Jedi Youngling star 3

    Mar 10, 2003
    Many of the cynical people seem to never see things from Lucas's
    point of view, so I compiled some of his quotes about the prequels.
    I never said Lucas is perfect & can do no wrong, but I love & highly
    enjoy the fantasy universe he's given us. I picked these quotes and
    articles that address a lot of the criticisms. Lucas originally wanted to remake Flash Gordon but could not get the rights, thus loving the old serials, he made these movies to
    be like those old (considered B-movies) Saturday matinee serials of the
    30s and 40s with much better effects & some mythical elements.
    They're not art-house films that win Oscars for acting and never were. It's b-movie saturday morning movie serial acting dilogue as meant to be. Hayden Christensen has said in several interviews he intentially spoke in a more monotone voice to reflect the more formal Jedi culture.
    Those who have said Lucas has ran out of ideas, the
    prequels are not about all new ideas, they lay the foundation for EP
    4-6. The prequels have been written in rough form for over 25 years.

    "I wrote the rough backstory 30 years ago. It was designed to be a
    Saturday afternoon cliffhanger. I started [production] in the middle,
    because I don't like to start in the beginning."
    (On wooden acting criticism)
    "The acting is a throwback to the 1930s because of the digital
    process. The actor is often acting to a blue or green screen, just as
    in the 1930s actors acted in the artificial environment of stages. In
    the 1950s, realistic method acting became popular. This is a
    different form of acting, not better or worse. Americans don't know
    how to do this type of acting, but the British still do."
    (On shooting digitally)
    "Film has become too expensive. Film has to be transferred to digital
    to edit, so just eliminate the middle step. Also, digital allows you
    to do more, it gets rid of the gatekeeper inherent in the high cost
    of film. Digital opens the way for low budget filmmaking."
    (On re-using themes)
    "I purposely used a couple of shots (In AOTC) reminiscent of Ray
    Harryhausen [Clash Of The Titans and Mysterious Island], such as the
    monster attacking the Jedi with the spear. In each story, I re-visit
    the same themes. For instance, there is the loss of a parent and the
    issue of giving up."
    (On independence)
    "I am independent. I do not need to listen to the studios. I made
    this for myself, not money. I don't care about the commercial side of
    things. Therefore, Star Wars will open in less theaters than Spider-
    Man. I picked the theaters. I care about the quality of the
    projection, not just the box office return."
    (The future)
    "When I have completed all six movies as part of the Star Wars
    series. There will be no more Star Wars. Now, I am writing some new
    scripts which are experimental, non-narrative and non-linear." -
    GEORGE LUCAS to June 2002

    (On merchandising) "A lot of people were offended by Ewoks & say the
    films are just an excuse for merchandising, they say 'Lucas just
    decided to cash in on the Teddy Bear.' Well it's not a great thing to
    cash in on because there are lots of Teddy Bears marketed, so you
    don't have anything that is unique. If I were designing something
    original as a marketable item, I could probably do a lot better. We
    market everything in the movie, that's what keeps funding the other
    things we do-the computer research and all other things. Again,
    people tend to look at merchandising as an evil thing. But
    ultimately, a lot of fun things come out of it, and at the same time,
    it pays the overhead of the company and everybody's salary".-George
    Lucas "CLOSE UP" Book

    "It's not deliberately camp. I made the film in a 1930s style. It's
    based on a Saturday matinee serial from the 1930s, so the acting
    style is very 30s, very theatrical, very old-fashioned. Method acting
    came in in the 1950s and is very predominant today. I prefer to use
    the old style. People take it different ways, depending on their

    "I've always been a fo
  23. Pfft

    Pfft Jedi Youngling star 1

    Mar 6, 2003
    You have to remember that most of the 'speechy' dialogue used in AotC related to one or more of the cut scenes. It was horrible how the final product turned out.
  24. Bravo 5

    Bravo 5 Jedi Master star 1

    Jul 13, 1998
    DINVADER, I've seen you post that same message in multiple threads. Those quotes have nothing to do with the topics of any of them.
  25. SLR

    SLR Jedi Knight star 5

    Oct 20, 2002
    Well Said, Bravo. Dinvader's post is spam that contributes nothing to the debate.
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