PT The Blockbuster Double Standard

Discussion in 'Prequel Trilogy' started by Jedi_Ford_Prefect, Jul 5, 2011.

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  1. drg4 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 30, 2005
    star 4

    I don't follow you. Is there an alternate universe in which women aren't the founts of creation and nurturing?
  2. Jedi_Ford_Prefect Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 9, 2003
    star 4
    Let's not get into a PC debate, people. Unless we decide to connect it with double standards, vis a vis other blockbusters.

    On that note. I again find it odd how people championed stuff like LOTR for defying gender-stereotypes with Eowyn-- defiant to the standards of 40's/50's Britain, maybe but beyond that, no. Again, it's a matter of context-- a proactive, warrior woman sticks out in fairy-tale medievalist Middle Earth, but just kinda blends in anything more contemporary. Leia, Padme, even Ashoka get taken for granted, because we kinda expect them to be kick-ass & take names girls (Leia was different, maybe, but her forthright American spirit made her easy to get used to).

    The only audience that I feel there's more and more reception for the novelty of a "girl hero" at times is kids, because even with younger generations that got into the PT, it's still very much a boy's thing, or at least that's how children are geared. Amidala was a nice way to attract a new audience of girls who walked into the theater and realized that sometimes blasters are more fun than make-up, and Ashoka's presence in TCW really cements that by giving little girls a Jedi they can look up to and emulate on their own (and a great idea making her an alien, also-- that way, even race doesn't get in the way of identifying with her).

    There's still a ways to go to get way from the "women as nurturing caregivers" thing as a defacto status-quo thing, but characters like them contribute. In the older ranges, stuff like The Matrix had great strong female characters, but they did tend to fall a little too easily into the love-interest or spooky mumbo-jumbo lady paradigm. This may be wrong headed, but I wonder-- are there any female Agents in that world? Would the presence of a strong female villain, who isn't just vamping it up for sex appeal, be a step in the right or wrong direction in these fantasy/sci-fi things? Lucas had a chance with Asajj Ventress (or whatever name he would've settled on for the "Sith Witch" idea she sprang from), but decided to go with the safer route of Dooku. Just having Zam Wessel was a nice touch, I thought-- women can be just as brave and daring as men, but they can also be just as evil, given the chance. There's two sides to empowerment.

    One of the best movies I saw that managed to blend most of what I'm talking about here was the Angelina Jolie vehicle Salt. She got to be good, bad, kick-ass and anti-hero all at once in that movie, the female equivalent of a Bond villain and Jason Bourne all rolled into one, with plenty of attractiveness but no purely smut-appeal pimping. After I saw the film, I saw a couple of girls walking out of the theater with their mom talking about how they wanted to see it again, and play-fighting on the way to the parking lot. I'd like to think we can call that progress.
  3. PiettsHat Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jan 1, 2011
    star 4
    Actually, we do see the corpses of Gungan soldiers. Check out this video:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L9gAIBDjbyA

    From 8:41 to 8:46, you can see several dead Gungans in the background. If you can point to a similar scene of the children in Lord of the Rings, I'll concede to you argument though, I honestly would have expected better from Jackson. He does a fairly good job with the elves -- showing Haldir staring at their crumpled corpses before he himself dies, but the children are never seen again. It feels cheap and manipulative to me, to show kids getting geared up to haunting music and garner audience sympathy and then never acknowledge that they might have died.

    And it's not clear that the children died. Aragorn later mentions to "send word to the women and children to make for the mountain pass," so the child soldiers could easily have been sent back to the caves to defend their families.

    Yes, but Theoden also didn't want war -- "I will not risk open war." Yet he seems perfectly happy at the end of the battle even though, as Gandalf points out, it's only beginning -- "The battle of Helm's Deep is over. The battle for Middle-Earth is about to begin." There's no sadness to the fact that this signals the beginning of a war, compared to the Jedi who are much more somber upon the initiation of the Clone Wars.

    To be fair, though, few of the weapons in Star Wars cause much blood flow. Lightsabers and blasters both cauterize wounds. Nevertheless, we do see:

    [image=http://www.jeditemplearchives.com/galleries/2011/Review_PadmeAmidalaTSC/Review_PadmeAmidalaTSC_stillA.JPG]

    and

    [image= http://mythinspace.files.wordpress.com/2009/06/shmi.jpg?w=405&h=171]

    Shmi has cuts on her face and her wrists are bloody.

    There's also the fact that the heroes in Star Wars do get taken out by their injuries -- Obi-Wan falls to Dooku and can barely stand, Anakin is rendered unconscious with the loss of his arms, Luke can't go on after losing his hand. In LOTR, by contrast, Aragorn is never brought down by an injury and even Boromir took three arrows to the chest before dying.

    So this is "less than human", huh?

    [image=http://501legion.tripod.com/sitebuildercontent/sitebuilderpictures/commandercody.jpg]

    You know, I find that deeply ironic, given how often you defend the Tuskens as being equal to humans.

  4. Cryogenic Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 20, 2005
    star 4
    Much agreed. However, let me just say: I should probably have written that women are ostensibly predominantly the mothers, nurses and teachers of young children. Arguably, men end up teaching more than women -- through dogma, through the media, through various kinds of societal conditioning -- sapping, and rarely instilling, kids the milk of human kindness.

    Great post, PiettsHat. Just wanted to point out, here, that Gandalf's line is actually lifted from a statement by Churchill: "What General Weygand called the Battle of France is over. The Battle of Britain is about to begin." Here is stark evidence that Peter Jackson and his screenwriters turned Gandalf into a pro-war tyrant, modeled after one of the most rabid war leaders of the 20th Century.
  5. Jedi_Ford_Prefect Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 9, 2003
    star 4
    Another thing that hasn't been brought up is that the Gungan to child-soldier equation doesn't really hold water for any number of reasons, not the least of which being that the Gungans aren't kids, and their deaths obviously aren't going to be as shocking to the senses (Jackson showing the usage of child-soldiers without moralizing the issue-- disgusting, by the way. Yeah, I know they're depicting a "long time ago" war and whatnot, but considering that child soldiers are a real phenomenon today, it strikes me as cheap and insensitive-- hell, Hideo Kojima does a better job of showing it in the Metal Gear Solid games). But the big thing is this-- Helm's Deep is played for grand, epic sensibilities, as the biggest, gnarliest military event in the history of Middle Earth thus far. The Gungan/Droid battle is played for laughs, and not just because it's got Jar Jar and nobody likes him-- key moments of the battle with him are modeled after Buster Keaton/Harold Lloyd style silent comedies. It's basically keystone cops with lasers at that point. Therefore, the fact that you don't see bodies featured prominently isn't a big deal-- it's meant to be a light counterpart to the other battles going on. Helm's Deep has more going in, and more of a responsibility.

    Yeah, it's especially odd coming from a guy who didn't actually fight in the battle of Helm's Deep, and just showed up at the last second as a Deus Ex Machina. Yoda's sad delivery of his line in AOTC contrasts great with this, and shows you that at the end of the day, even though it shows war as a strangely exciting and fun thing to watch, it's not really a good thing. Star Wars is about as anti-war as a blockbuster can get. LOTR? Not so much.

    There's also that cloud of blood thinly visible in the air after Obi-Wan cuts down Maul. And there's the grisly third-degree burns that sover Anakin hea
  6. drg4 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 30, 2005
    star 4
    The PT is certainly the most intriguing of the recent spate of subversive blockbusters. While Avatar and the underrated Quantum of Solace are resolutely anti-imperialist, only Lucas has dared to pursue the "fog of war" analogy to its chilling end. Every conflict resolution demands to be reassessed; every "hero" called into question.

    If critics are to ever show interest in the Prequels, the impetus may be Lucas's distinctly thoughtful anti-war stance.
  7. Arawn_Fenn Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Jul 2, 2004
    star 7
    That there is poetic flourish contained in the pages of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings? Right. [face_laugh]

    In other words, if I identify a problem, I'm really the one with the problem, so I should hesitate to identify problems due to the inevitable "I'm rubber and you're glue" effect. A typical and convenient knee-jerk response to criticism, already identified earlier in its other form: if the PT's faults are made evident, then popular films must necessarily have equal faults.

    According to you, perhaps, but Lucas and his films disagree. Remember the wash of popular indignation at Anakin's actions at the end of ROTJ, or when Maul was killed? The enraged throngs screaming "the Jedi had no right"? I don't either. Once again you seem to have a telling moral problem with the destruction of evil. But wait, there's more:

    Because that's what Saruman was doing - "communicating" and "reaching agreements"? So, in your moral outlook, it seems that invasion and murder are completely justified if there's land to be had. Priceless.

    You're forgetting - or, more properly, deliberately ignoring - that LOTR does not take place in the real world. The orcs are evil by nature, as is Sauron - essentially an evil spirit or archfiend, and not remotely human. There would be no negotiating with the orcs, whether Saruman's forces ( given explicit orders to wipe out Rohan ) or Sauron's. If unchecked and uncontested, Sauron will "cover all the lands with a second darkness". This is part of the fictional setting of the story and cannot be casually denied, certainly not by making a poorly conceived comparison to real-world conflicts, something Tolkien himself explicitly said not to do.

    So, in fact, you were just making a side point about the susceptibility of viewers to imagined provocation, without implying that it reflects in any way upon the work of either Tolkien or Jackson, making the point irrelevant to any case against Jackson? Got it.

    Yes, we've already covered Theoden's apparent "hypocrisy" on the issue of corpse desecration, which from his dialogue alone ( if common sense does not serve ) is clearly far from the only thing that concerns him. That you focus solely on the desecration of already dead bodies, while ignoring the actual invasion and genocide which led to these bodies being dead in the first place, speaks volumes.

    So his crime is that he was true to the source material? Guilty as charged. Well, at least that admission should mean the end of your quest to accuse Jackson's films independently of Tolkien... right?

  8. Jedi_Ford_Prefect Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 9, 2003
    star 4
    If LOTR does not take place in the real world, then that takes me back to the race issue and casting, which rests solely on the "Middle Earth is Medieval Europe" argument. If it's really a fictional setting and shouldn't be compared with the real-world, then why not have a racially diverse assembly of heroes? It'd be a hell of a lot easier to take the idea of the evil on display here being something that's genuinely inhuman if we had protagonists of more than just Nordic white fighting off monstrous races, dark-skinned turban wearers and elephant riders who all look as though they stepped from the pages of "The Song of Roland". Tolkien may not have wanted comparison to contemporary real-world conflicts, but his fantasy world draws so heavily from the propaganda of Crusader mythology, so it's natural to draw things out in our direction, too.

    The newer Bond movies (Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, which I agree is better than people say) are part of a spate of anti-corporate action-thrillers from the past decade, which includes the Prequels, Speed Racer and the superb but sadly overlooked Clive Owen slowburn The International. I'm not sure they really draw imperialism into question-- the Bond films especially, as he's still very much a shoot-first-and-ask-diplomatic-permission-later kind of guy-- even when the film is calling his activity into question, we're still meant to enjoy watching it, having your cake and eating it too. But maybe corporate politics are just turning into the new imperialism. They're at least a hell of a lot more nuanced and self-knowing than the 21st century "white telephone" movies that are the Iron Man films, which make a good show of highlighting the gaudy faults of Tony Stark's excess as a weapons-manufacturing billionaire and vigilante who "privatizes world peace", but never without also portraying it as wish-fulfilment playboy superhero porn. The message at the end of those movies is essentially "it's good to be the king"-- same message as LOTR, incidentally.

    Anyway, I think that next year, it won't be the "anti-war" stance that helps TPM's rerelease, if anything like that would. Instead, I think it'll be the anti-corporate sentiment. Back in '99, people were scratching their heads over how the plot of a Star Wars movie was centered around taxes, trade-routes and votes in the senate. Today, that's basically all you see in the news. Don't be surprised if you see people drawing comparisons between the Trade Federation and the Tea Party. This may be even more heightened by the fact that the film is coming out
  9. Cryogenic Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 20, 2005
    star 4
    No. For your reactionary "I can't take you seriously" one-line bash to JFP's remarks. JFP did not say he found no poetry in LOTR. He just indicated it doesn't appeal to him and cited works/authors that do.

    Actually, your antics seem far more "knee-jerk" than mine*. My criticisms of LOTR are not "knee-jerk" and have actually been swimming in my head for years. I tried airing some of them on this very forum about one year ago; the moderator of the time rudely deleted them and told everyone to stop discussing LOTR, period. My own father -- who has laughed when I've cited Star Wars as a great film/film series (and rolled his eyes when I was watching TESB on TV some a couple of years ago) -- called the LOTR films "very black and white", despite earlier in his life being a fan of the books (and buying them for me *after* the films came out). So, maybe he was trashing the films to rescue the PT from criticism? Oh, wait. Oops!

    Personally, I think you making accusations like this is an example of what they call poisoning the well. Please look it up -- in addition to the strawman fallacy -- and stop doing it. LOTR is LOTR and the PT is the PT. If one existed without the other, it would still be fair and decent for people to both praise and criticize. As I see it, my remarks, and JFP's, are a necessary passage of discord, if nothing more than that, in a fugue of gushing and unbridled admiration. Yes, there must be reasons that people, on the whole, seem to like LOTR and other blockbuster entertainments more. So what? There are reasons for everything. We're not so much examining those as expounding on issues *we* have with films that others seem to unconditionally love.

    Indeed, I actually think you could make a case that the PT is actively scapegoated in some areas for the sins and excesses of *other* blockbuster films. But even that would probably only cut so far into the spongy cake of subjectivity and popular taste. Some of the disdain almost certainly *is* to do with the way Lucas made the PT, for good or ill. In fact, I can't see how it isn't or couldn't be. We're touching on that aspect peripherally, but it isn't the main focus. There are clearly pluses and minuses to all artistic endeavours. JFP and I just happen to think the pluses of the PT outweigh the negatives. I wouldn't, personally, even cite the inverse for the LOTR. I probably do at least *like* those films more than not. In some ways, I actually see them as a sort of cinematic corrective for some of the chilly abstraction and whatever else lurks as part and parcel of the PT; while the PT reigns in the bathos of the films and the cultural insularity (as I see it) of the books. I think it's supremely cool that both exist and came out at more or less the same time. And if you took your hand off the axe, you'd see I did at least hint at some personal recognition of quality in the LOTR movies earlier. Not a lot, but some. They're handsomely-crafted and they have a thing or two to say about human nature. They touch and uplift. Doesn't make them immune to criticism, even severe rebuke (but again, of course, these matters are largely subjective -- so, in the words of The Joker, why so serious?).

    *Back to "knee jerk": you clearly ignored my request in my last response to you, which was to ask you to stop editing your posts so aggressively. Your last post -- the one I'm responding to at the moment -- had 11 edits done to it, according to the tag. So who is really being "knee jerk" here? In general, one either hashes out what one w
  10. -NaTaLie- Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Nov 5, 2001
    star 4
    Speaking of performances - does anyone else think that most of the extras are just god-awful? I don't if it's overacting or Lucas going for old-school cinema, but sometimes I can't take Imperial officers or even Rebels seriously because of that. I actually prefer the calm formality of the Jedi and Senators in the PT, or at least I can pretend it's part of the plan (admittedly, Panaka and some others aren't great either).
  11. Cryogenic Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 20, 2005
    star 4
    There's some really stodgy stuff in the OT from these side actors, I'd say -- "Our first catch of the day!" comes to mind. On the other hand, you have great American stars like Harrison Ford, plus quirky talents like Frank Oz and Anthony Daniels, and the classically-trained, other-worldly grace of fellows like Alec Guinness, Peter Cushing and Sebastian Shaw. Some of the deliveries, especially in the OT, from those bit officers, Rebel and Imperial, are just plain goofy, I think. But it adds unique appeal when you look at what else is in the mix. BTW: I've always liked Hugh Quarshie, but I see what you mean.
  12. Jedi_Ford_Prefect Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 9, 2003
    star 4
    The one thing I'll say about acting in the PT-- it could've been hammier, because that kind of acting kinda works for Star Wars. It's fun, it pokes some holes in the self-serious nature. It also works very well for the flavor that Lucas is aiming for in the PT, which is high speech. Occasionally I try to think of directors who could've been good colaborators for him on these films, and I always think of Branagh, a guy who seems to encourage absolute scenery chewing on his Shakespeare films, but makes it work (and has a great visual sense, too-- but then again he also did Thor, which is fun, but kinda a clusterfrak). Granted, some of the actors are going for a different mix of approaches-- Hayden's delivering more of a method style, which works at certain moments but is read as hoarse by some at others. Portman seemed to take herself a bit too seriously, and could've been encouraged to loosen up. Jackson-- well, just give him one F-Bomb, for god's sake (again, I think you're allowed one or two per picture, right?).

    But anyway. I like Quarshie. I like all the Naboo actors, actually. Especially the guy who played Sio Bibble-- I wish we had more of him. Such a great delivery of diplomatic urgency!

    Anyway. Let's get things back to the double standard. Does anybody think it's odd that with Transformers: Dark of the Moon coming out, people have given up criticizing Michael Bay, and have even started saying stuff like "It's actually pretty good", or just shrugging and saying "Hey, it's a Michael Bay movie"? Look, I can understand giving fun, if pretentious fare from guys like Christopher Nolan a pass, but Michael Bay? Seriously?
  13. -NaTaLie- Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Nov 5, 2001
    star 4
    I've never had a problem with the main cast of OT. They're certainly to be lauded for creating such iconic characters, especially at the time when no one except George Lucas knew what Star Wars was about. One exception is ROTJ, Ford and Fischer seem to be sleepwalking through most of it. The extras I don't mind if I'm in the "campy adventure viewing mode". However, if I'm in "GFFA is real and I take it seriously" mode, it's more along the lines of "OMG, and this is supposed to be the Imperial elite???"
  14. DarthPoppy Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 31, 2005
    star 4
    I don't think one can easily talk about Star Wars simply as a blockbuster. It is certainly that, and one might argue even that it is one of the grandfathers of the modern blockbuster, along with Jaws and a few other films from the mid-70s. But Star Wars fandom is far larger than blockbuster fandom or even film fandom. I loved Star Wars as a kid in the 1970s and am still a fan. But other than Star Wars, I pretty much hate franchise blockbuster films. I have zero interest in superhero films, Harry Potter or the rest. I typically see two or three first-run films in a year and they are usually straight dramas. I have never seen a Michael Bay film and have no interest in ever seeing one. The last blockbuster films I bothered to watch were the Lord of the Rings films (as I love Tolkien, but can't stand the rest of the fantasy genre, much as I love Star Wars but can't stand most science fiction/fantasy/space opera). So my point is simply that many Star Wars fans don't have a double standard as they don't participate in the whole franchise film thing except for Star Wars. Opinions and double standards among those who do watch all the blockbusters represents just one faction of Star Wars fans. If I criticize or praise something about Star Wars, in is not relative to anything but Star Wars. I think I represent many, many Star Wars fans who grew up with Star Wars, love it, but have little interest in pop-culture and cinema generally. I think it is important to keep this in mind when understanding many fans opinions about Star Wars: they are relative to Star Wars alone and not to other blockbuster films. The demographics of Star Wars fandom is far larger than the demographics of Batman fans or even Lord of the Rings fans; this is where number of tickets sold tells you the real popularity of a film, not gross revenues; many more people saw Star Wars than any of these other franchises--this means that Star Wars was perceived as being better than the others; and this is not just because fewer people go to the movies these days--more people saw the OT than the Jaws movies from the same era, for instance. So this alone is evidence that Star Wars is just better than other franchises in the mind of many, who love Star Wars and could give a damn about blockbuster movies. Star Wars was a blockbuster, but it was also a great series of films. One of its many merits is that it transcends genre and category and appeals to people with little to no interest in Hollywood or pop-culture or anything else. It transcends that.
  15. StampidHD280pro Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 28, 2005
    star 4
  16. drg4 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 30, 2005
    star 4
    That hasn't been my experience, DarthPoppy. Most of the adult SW fans I've come across are the most avid of genre film aficionados, to such an extent that the fixtures of Lucas, Spielberg, Scott, Cameron, Burton, Donner, Dante and Zemekis could be said to inhabit the same universe. (A macrocosm most clearly exhibited on the painfully unfunny, crass Family Guy, each and every episode a flimsy framework for incessant nerd digressions.)

    Star Wars does not exist in a vacuum; comparisons are constantly made.
  17. Jedi_Ford_Prefect Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 9, 2003
    star 4
    Poppy, I understand your POV, and see it as a valid proof of the mainstream accesibility of Star Wars. Really, I think that at a certain point Lucas' space-opera made the jump from box-office hit, from even cinema history to pure univeral Americana. You don't have to be American to dig it, just like you don't have to be American to dig John Ford's westerns (indeed, if it weren't for foreign lovers of that genre, we'd never have the work of Akira Kurosawa or Sergio Leone, probably the best Western director who ever lived). But it's so embedded in our culture, it's possible for you to love it and love it deeply without being a genre nut, or a film nut. But it can also easily be a gateway to either path, or both-- which is my experience.

    Does SW go beyond being a mere "blockbuster"? Absolutely. But it's also part in parcel with the definition, and it's largely been ignored in the recent cinematic critical movement in the past ten years or so of the elevation of the blockbuster to greater artistic acceptance. Nolan, Jackson, Cameron and others have all been celebrated by critics and awards circles for making not just great works of entertainment, but great art as well. In some cases I'm inclined to agree (for all the faults I have with their work, Nolan and Cameron do command respect) and in others, not (Jackson's treatment of LOTR, King Kong and The Lovely Bones all bore and offend to equal measure, at least for my sensibilities). But what bothers me the most is how Lucas is written off, when I and plenty others here would argue that he's been responsible for some of the best blockbuster work of the past decade or more, certainly on par with the younger generation (all of whose work would've been impossible without his, for technical and aesthetic reasons so legion it makes the head spin). I'm reminded of how Kurosawa was appreciated abroad for many years, but not in his own country-- is there something of a similar phenomenon going on, with Lucas?

    Furthermore, all of the faults that are offered to disprove his validity as an artist, or entertainer even, are prevalent in all the films that people hold up as counterpoint to his so-called "failures", which is the whole point of this thread. There's a big double standard out there when it comes to how blockbusters are percieved, both as box-office commodities and art-house favorites.
  18. Cryogenic Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 20, 2005
    star 4
    Heh. I think it's actually fun to have a set of mainstream movies where SLJ isn't swearing his buttocks off. Branagh... good choice. His name is sometimes forwarded as a possible Obi-Wan candidate: the more oh-so-serious-yet-hammy alternative to Ewan, you could say. I like Hayden's "method" intensity: it's like Anakin's the "human being" trying to keep it together amidst a cavalcade of fake or idealized characters.

    Oliver Ford Davies! Another RSC actor. Just listen to the way Sio Bibble says, "I fear the Senate is powerless to resolve this crisis..." That weariness in his voice... magical.

    Michael Bay is Michael Bay. People just accept it, I think. They sort of know his movies are big and dumb, but they go along for the ride. They expect roller-coaster extravagance and as long as they get that... hey, they're happy customers. And why not? But there's still an irony here: Lucas and Spielberg give them thrills a-plenty with, say, the PT and the last Indy flick, but they've been bashed to high heaven. Then comes the retort: "We expect more of Star Wars and Indiana Jones." Alright, but they even grumble about the action sequences. Then again, same retort, I guess: "We expect more of..." Still, it *is* interesting.

    Okay, how about another double standard? I almost cringe to do this one, since I think I've now said more on LOTR in one thread than I want to say in a decade, and it is your thread, JFP, but... What's up with people complaining about the alleged silliness of Anakin and Obi-Wan surfing down lava in one fantastical setting, yet tolerating it just fine when Sam and Frodo run out of an ERUPTING -- nay, *EXPLODING* VOLCANO -- narrowly dodging a molten lava stream as they go in ROTK? I mean, even if we accept that a "higher power" is helping them out there, that notion seems somewhat clunky given the arrival of Gandalf on magical eagles later on, which is basically two other forms of supernatural cheating rolled into one. How much is *too* much? Anakin and Obi-Wan at least have the personal excuse of the Force, plus some ambiguous Sci-Fi clauses/loopholes for good measure. But the grace by which Sam and Frodo survive -- again, if we're accepting that notion -- must also extend to the other people (Aragorn and Co., in battle at the time), since they're almost certainly way too close to survive such a cataclysmic
  19. Jedi_Ford_Prefect Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 9, 2003
    star 4
    I suppose it represents a different mentality for what one looks for in a director. If I enjoy a director's work in the past, I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt with elements that might not fit at first glance. Lucas wants to make a Star Wars movie about politicians, taxes and digital fencing instead of dog-fighting? Okay. Kubrick wants to take the sexiest man and woman alive and make the unsexiest movie possible? Fine. Lynch wants to give up celluloid and make a three-hour movie about Laura Dern going crazy with the most bargain basement video camera known to man? Whatever. I don't really "expect" anything of Lucas, so much as I say "he's earned the right to play around with expectations". Granted, that's more how people treat guys like, say, Terrence Malick than big blockbuster filmmakers, but what annoys me is how in the past decade you've seen so many blockbuster directors given that same artistic entitlement, but without extending it to certain others.

    Lucas is really between a rock and a hard place here-- he was never liked by the art-house establishment (not even when he made an art-house movie), so he was never going to get their votes, but by taking some truly daring choices he managed to alienate some of the hard-core contingency in his fans who only wanted more of the same. Yeah, he gained appreciation in mainstream audiences who don't think that much about what they like, and he garnered a new generation of fans (who now had to put up with bullying both from critics and older fans alike), but he missed that sweet spot at the nexus of institutional and devotional opinions that would've elevated his work to being recognized as high cinematic art, like the rest of the blockbuster auteurs of this past 15 years or so. And appropriately, he managed to do this because he actually made art.

    The whole volcano aspect of LOTR bothered me from the start-- doesn't Gollum's floating into the lava and the Ring's melting away
  20. JohnWesleyDowney Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jan 27, 2004
    star 5
    I'm a little confused here by your terminology. Extras don't really give performances, they're background filler. They are generally not directed, unless by an assistant who gives them general direction, not detailed instructions. Do you mean the actors with some of the smaller speaking roles? If that's the case, then you need to know they are all very experienced, well-trained actors, many with Shakespearean and theatre backgrounds as well as plenty of TV and film experience. I looked up on IMDB background on some of the smaller roles in ESB and ROTJ such as Admiral Ozzel and none of these guys are inexperienced or "off the street."

    I always liked their performances by the way. "Our first catch of the day" is a line which clearly is both written and performed to be pulpy.
  21. Jedi_Ford_Prefect Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 9, 2003
    star 4
    John, I agree for the most part. The acting in the OT ain't grand, but it is pulpy fun. That might be the component that's missing from the PT acting in a lot of cases-- pulp. It's there somewhat in an old-fashioned derring-do style with the Jedi (especially Ewan's Obi-Wan and Liam as Qui-Gon) and definitely in baddies like Palpatine, Dooku and Jango ("He doesn't take a hint, this guy!"). You could argue that there's a pulpy quality to the way Hayden mines James Dean/Sal Mineo style overwrought method acting (I like calling AOTC by the subtitle I Was a Teenage Jedi). As I've said before, though, a little scenery chewing never hurts sci-fi.

    You mentioned this back in another thread, Cryo, but it's a perfect double-standard example. I actually just watched the whole of the RLM review today for the hell of it, after watching ROTS and having a mixed reaction to it (as usual-- I like it, but it's not my favorite). I'd viewed a bit of the "Anakin always stands by the window" complaint before, and actually found it rather interesting (as I've mentioned elsewhere, it reminds me of Godard's tendency to frame things in windows, or have people looking out them, especially in his early stuff), so I was hoping that I might find some kind of critical common ground here, or something.

    The result-- not really, it's just
  22. PiettsHat Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jan 1, 2011
    star 4
    In terms of the gripes of "shot, reverse shot," I will say that I appreciated this aspect of the film since it allowed the audience (or at least, me) to absorb what was actually happening instead of getting swept up in the mindless inertia. It's one of the issues I have with the new Star Trek: everything is always "go, go, go, go!" and has to be done at breakneck intensity, almost like a Micheal Bay film. I especially love the scene where Palpatine finally reveals his identity to Anakin -- there's not a great deal of flare to the scene, some wide shots of them walking, shot/reverse-shot, the circling, but it's effective at conveying a somber atmosphere, a more serious tone. And then we immediately cut to Obi-Wan chasing a cyborg on a wheel while riding a giant lizard. And I absolutely (and somewhat indescribably) love this. I imagine it would be rather difficult to lend the Anakin/Palpatine conversation any weight if Lucas insisted on dramatic camera work, with zooms and slow-motion, considering what immediately follows. Both scenes are insane, but for their own reasons, I think.
  23. Jedi_Ford_Prefect Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 9, 2003
    star 4
    That's a good point, the implicit realism of the shot/reverse-shot versus the Abrams/Bay intertia of non-stop inertia. My complaint is that sometimes Lucas isn't bothering to find the more interesting static angles or compositions with which he's shot more formulaic conversations in the past, but even so, the S/RS pattern is preferrable to what so many other directors do, using camera movement to artificially generate forward momentum in a scene. You see it happen on shows like CSI all the time (all of the scenes where lab people test evidence have cameras circling around them and jump-cutting to make it seem flashier than it really is), but I'm mostly annoyed by it in a director like Peter Jackson. Look at the scene where Sarumon reveals himself as a servant of Sauron in Fellowship-- the camera almost never stops whirling, circling, steadicaming and framing itself in weird cock-eyed dutch angles, all that unmotivated movement disguising the fact that we're just getting a huge amount of expository monologuing from a talking head.
  24. PiettsHat Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jan 1, 2011
    star 4
    True, Lucas could use a little more flavor in his shots. I'm not exactly a film connoisseur, so the most advantageous angle isn't always apparent to me. :p Most of the time when I pick apart films, it comes down to "I like/dislike something...now why is that?" or "why did he include/not include this or that?" I enjoy reading your posts and Cryo's since it gives a bit more professional insight into the film-making. I agree that Lucas's direction can be a bit "formulaic" at times, but I think this comes down to one of his traits -- his desire to have films rhyme and create patterns. The window shots are a good example of this (which I think culminates at the bridge on Mustafar) since we visually see Anakin drift further and further away from those he loves until he's left literally alone, out of their reach, and can only weep at the result.

    Jackson does have a tendency to exaggerate his action and drama, in my opinion. The slow-motion, the heart-thumping sound effects, the eulogizing and pontificating, and the long loving close-ups all get to be a bit much at some point. Especially at the end of Return of the King. I shudder whenever I imagine how Jackson would have handled Anakin's immolation scene. As it is, I love the way Lucas handled it -- short, but shocking, like a quick jab to the gut. I think it leaves you reeling much more effectively. LOTR risks becoming boring and stale when it lingers on a scene for too long.

    On a side note: I love the fact that there's no music to the Anakin and Palpatine conversation until Palpatine reveals he knows the ways of the Dark Side. It adds a great deal of underlying tension to the scene since music is almost ubiquitous in Star Wars. Here, I think, Lucas uses absence and restraint to great effect.
  25. Jedi_Ford_Prefect Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 9, 2003
    star 4
    Like I said, most of the time his masters are brilliant and understated, they don't assert themselves too artificially. I'd be happy if we had more of those in some of the conversation scenes, but you can see him being more generous with the actors, giving them their close-ups.

    I'll also say that simple set-ups are by no means a bad way to go about things, artistically speaking. I've been getting back into Kubrick after reading some of the Mstrmnd stuff that Cryo linked a while back, and it's easy to forget just how seemingly conventional his compositions and camerawork are. Lucas is very much in the school of guys like Lang and Kubrick, keeping his camera still more often than not, employing symmetry and shooting in ways that don't call attention to themselves when they don't have to. His use of primary colors is another thing, though that also reminds me of Godard in his films shot by Raoul Coutard.

    The visual strategy I saw in ROTS this time was primarily how often Anakin is alone in the frame, and the best scenes in the film are the ones where there's a physical, miniature or well designed digital location that shapes the emptiness he's surrounded by. The ruminations scene at the temple is the best example of this-- Anakin is alone in a place that is usually filled with other Jedi, whom in the PT are very often framed in group shots (most especially in AOTC, like those "Cabinet Meeting" scenes in Palpatine's office). It reminds me of Soderbergh's choice to have Benecio Del Toro almost always shot in groups in Che-- a hero (or villain, depending on your point of view) of the people always seen as one of the people, and not just an individual. Lucas accentuates Anakin's isolation by painting him as an individual first and foremost, making AOTC and ROTS articulations of an urban malaise not unlike Nick Ray's movies. He's literally In a Lonely Place.

    Everything you're mentioning there, especially in FOTR, are there more to provide padding and filler that disguises just how long the film is, I think. It condences and telescopes all the exposition and information we're given in the film, providing action and energy to sequences that really don't have any on their own. I remember Jackson talking about how he watched Oliver Stone's JFK while he was making the films, and there's exactly the same kind of approach in that film, so it can cram as much history and conspiracy-theroy speculating into a three hour running time as possible. You can also see it in Branagh's Hamlet, which u
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