Discussion in 'Star Wars Saga In-Depth' started by Jango10, May 20, 2005.
Do you like them in decreasing order, or all the same?
I had appropriated my own Holy Trilogy--ROTS, ANH, and TESB--but TPM has really grown on me. I figure that for every one detail Lucas got wrong, he got five right. (And don't grouse about bad acting: Liam Neeson, Pernilla August and Ian McDiarmid bloody nailed their roles.)
Now, I've gotta resort to demarcation.
drg4, although I don't have the same visceral reaction to ROTJ as you do, I must agree that it is clearly the worst of the saga.
However, I wouldn't dare put AOTC down with it so low--I think it has a lot of potential to "grow on you" like TPM, but in different ways. The parts that are aesthetically broken to many people are still almost always justified in some way or another.
That said, TPM reveals more and more to me after each viewing. It's the only one of the six that I think is a complete and utter success, which is something I would have never said a few years ago. Nearly everything in that film has excellent motivation. The various themes back each other up and intermingle better in TPM that in any other film I've seen (and taken the time to examine closely). It's mind-boggling when you are able to get an idea in your head and apply it to that film: It has an uncanny ability to riff on details that MEAN something.
For example, the next time you watch it, pay attention to how often the notion of "going back" or "coming back" is used, and then think about how TPM relates to the OT in real-life. The characters don't always agree, and it makes it all more complex and rewarding.
My demarcation exists to separate the SW films in which I can emotionally invest, and those that keep me at arm?s length. AOTC, for all its virtues, fails to tease out the desolation within Padme, a prevailing impotence integral to understand her union with broken Anakin; ROTJ, committing the far graver storytelling sin, completely discards the patricidal and even incestuous predispositions that, in light of the Greek character of TESB, would have made for a more honest and compelling story.
Please understand that in my ranking, ROTJ in no way nips at the heels of AOTC; the gulf I see between the two is as vast as the one between TESB?in my view, among the 50 greatest American films?and ROTS (a pop masterpiece, but excluded from the pantheon boasting the likes of City Lights and Vertigo). To sum it up, AOTC is a noble failure; ROTJ is an abject one. For all my misgivings, I can still watch Episode II, eagerly deconstructing it?for as you said, it?s a marvelously textured film (albeit chilly). But not ROTJ. I refuse to sit through 110 minutes of mediocrity and missed opportunities just for 15 minutes of admittedly inventive (the Speeder Bike chase; the Death Star escape) and provocative material (Luke?s near-conversion; the death of Palpatine).
My friends still don?t believe my admission that my SW marathons end with TESB credit roll.
Agreed, only I?d say Lucas (and Kershner) gave us four triumphs. Why the majority of critics and fans consider Episode I the nadir of the series is beyond my comprehension.
Funny you mention that. The moment I first heard Shmi?s faretheewarned (?Don?t look back?don?t look back.?), I harkened back to Luke?s ill-advised journey to Cloud City, chronicling a descent so stark that only damnation and self-annihilation served as escapes.
I think I can almost agree with you here. PadmÃ© is an odd character in AOTC. The "romance" is still widely criticized (a recent poll placed it as the #1 worst screen romance ever), but that's missing the point. This is no romance. Look at the couple's facial expressions after that awkward kiss at the lake. PadmÃ© is "kind, but sad" in the most extreme sense throughout. That's the chilliness. She has essentially zero life or spark in her throughout the film. Considering Portman's capably warmer performances in TPM and ROTS, it seems like no mistake. However, I think there's still a lot of textual evidence to support her desolation, but it rests in the dialogue, which is often ignored as having no meaning whatsoever in a SW prequel film. In any case, what PadmÃ© and Anakin share is not love. I think it was Cryogenic who described the chilliness as "clinical," which I think is more apt. This is a film about the death of human connection--women die left and right, humans are manufactured, etc. The heroes are forced into a "romance" that is necessitated by the OT, but because of this dry, unnatural process, there is no warmth to be found. Their "love" fails just as humanity fails itself on a larger scale. In a world where kids are being grown from everywhere but human sexual relations, how can two people who MUST create the heroes of the OT fulfill their duty in any comforting way?
But I understand your emotional detachment with AOTC. The way I see it, it has to be that way.
Understood. ROTJ still has some merits (the parallels between the situation on Tatooine and the conflict with the Empire), but it is, as you said, full of missed opportunities. Formally, it's still as much of a triumph as all the other films (motifs, symbols, etc.), but sloppiness is unfortunately king. I'd like to see your pantheon, but just as you would only include TESB, I would only include TPM. Go figure.
Nice. Not including the more singular instances in TPM, we get these:
"I've decided to go back to Naboo."
"Anakin turn the ship around and go back home right away." (R2's text on the computer screen)
What does it all mean?
Agreed. The film works better once this is realized. And you?ll notice I don?t criticize Christensen who, when considering the Oedipal underpinnings of his character, gave an all-around adequate performance. (Still, I do wish the gentleness Anakin exhibited during that transport exchange was replicated in subsequent scenes. It would have amplified the schizophrenic nature of the boy, so that we could practically hear Jake Lloyd and David Prowse/James Earl Jones playing tug-of-war-with-the-soul.)
Yes, AOTC centers on the institutional consumption of primitivism and the feminine mystique?which is why Padme needed to be the haunted, vibrant counterbalance, so as to remind us what the heroes of the OT are fighting for. In the moments when this big-budget talkie transmutes to that of the silent film, the effect is achieved. (Recall that staggeringly beautiful final shot, wherein Padme clasps her husband?s ?hand?, accepts the kiss, and gives him a look as sorrowful as any I?ve seen in a movie. Great! Do that for two hours!) Yet whenever Portman opens her mouth?subjecting us to monotone declarations instead of wisps and purrs?the space opera goes off rails. I can only chalk this to disengagement on the actress?s part.
Best American films? Here it goes:
1. The Godfather
3. Harlan County, U.S.A.
6. The Godfather: Part II
7. City Lights
8. Raging Bull
9. Mean Streets
13.The Empire Strikes Back
Interesting that you reference these two passages, as they share a commonality in anticipating the death of Qui-Gon Jinn (IMO, the second most intriguing character of the saga, behind Anakin). Although Padme?s decision to return to the scene of the crime is laudable, allowing for the short-term liberation of her people (one wonders how the newly appointed Chancellor would have resolved this), it also provides the context for Jinn?s end at the hands of Maul. In a sense, Naboo?s victory was the galaxy?s ruin, for with the surrogate father?s death, so went the only obstacle between An
It's almost as if audiences instinctively "sympathized" with Portman (because she's familiar) and assumed that Christensen was playing his part incorrectly. If anything, she's the one who's dull and lifeless. The transport scene also has a nice kicker:
"You've changed so much."
See, this is where I disagree. It seems to me that PadmÃ© as a vibrant counterbalance would run totally against what the film is trying to say. She can't be a wispy, purring vixen-like embodiment of femininity because femininity and sexuality have been rendered obsolete in the world around her. She's been drained. Watched on mute, most of the scenes are strikingly effective, to be sure. But that monotone has its place. The best example is the notorious fireplace scene. When PadmÃ© refuses Anakin's creepy advances, she retorts with "We live in a real world. Come back to it...I'm a Senator. If you follow your thoughts through to conclusion, it will take us to a place we cannot go...I will not give in to this." PadmÃ© is completely delusional, and here's the key: she is taking a Senator's approach to "love." Cold, detached, irrational. Listen to her word choice and attitude. It makes no sense.
Bingo! Also, the ushering in of a new series of films and the temptation to seek refuge in the established classics of the OT. The idea of going back is usually greeted with a sense of danger or doubt--if one goes back, there
Although I'm still not convinced this was the best approach, I'll take your words to heart when I revisit the film.
My favorite of these remains Anakin?s TPM premonition: ?I had a dream I was a Jedi. I came back and freed all the slaves.? Now that we?re beyond literalist interpretations (did anyone else expect Anakin to lead a Spartacus-styled campaign against Gardulla in Ep. II?), it can be seen to perfectly encapsulate the treacherous ramifications for The Return. Certainly, Anakin?s abhorrence for this specific institutional evil (slavery) is indicative of an abundant humanity all but alien to the likes of the PT Jedi; yet this yearning, which could easily point to a desire to return to the womb/primitive state, is elemental to his assimilation into a system even more monstrous (much like Dooku, the ?political idealist? gone horribly adrift).
Now that it is all said and done and I have had time to process it all, my ranking is really like this:
1.) Star Wars (1977)--one of the great films of all time
2.) The rest.--as franchise films go, one of the better ones, but still just a franchise. Only the original stands on its own as a film. While ESB might have the best direction, RotS the best action and effects, etc. These all just feel like parts in a juggernaut, and really don't have the timeless magic of the original for me anymore. They are definitely fun--but the original was truly a special moment in film for me. Reading the debates here make me see the relative merits of even the films I don't care for (RotJ, TPM and AotC) to the point where I realize that they are just as much integral parts of the saga as ESB and RotS; this just makes me realize that my fandom is really for the original film, not the franchise. This is why I post less these days; I still love Star Wars, I just realize that, other than the original, they just aren't that special to me anymore.
So you really like all the sequels about the same?
At this point yes--with the saga complete, they really are (for me) chapters in a story--ESB, while (again to me) a finer told story, it is incomplete and virtually meaningless (from a story point of view) without RotJ (among the not so well told chapters). The 3 prequels and 2 sequels, for better or for worse, can only be seen (by me) as part of Lucas's "saga" conception of the series and thus the success/failure of one of them is contingent to some degree on the success/failure of the others. Only Star Wars (1977) can live independently of this franchise approach to the films; I have always held that this film was my favorite, and it is the sole reason I am a fan; I enjoy the others as they provide one interpretation of a broader context of the story contained within that film. One can argue if there are other possible valid contexts or not, or even if a broader context is necessary; the further I get from the films, the more I think that "a broader context" is not only unneccessary, but (again for me) does not enhance my pleasure in watching Star Wars (1977). So, if I am just going to watch a film and judge it in terms of acting/directing/editing, sure ESB is my second favorite, or if I am just going to judge it in terms of action/effects, it would naturally be RotS. However, looking at them as stories/drama, I do see them (the PT and sequels) as all about the same and merely as parts of a juggernaut franchise. For me Star Wars '77 alone is a cinematic masterpiece, the rest are just "sauce for goose" as it were. Sometimes the sauce is quite tasty, but it ain't the goose and the goose is so good it doesn't really need the sauce.
I hope that answers your question Stryphe. I have only come to this realization (again, for me and me alone) recently.
Hmm, well, I follow the line of reasoning with ANH, or "Star Wars", but I, personally, see a veried quality in the others, and favor them differently, accordingly. Although it can be hard to choose between the OT, I can to a point.
1. RotS, ESB, TPM
Although, ANH and ROTJ can easily be switched around either way.
AOTC-Natalie was terrible! This film still felt like Star Wars. It all looked like a videogame.
ROTS-Anakin's fall is weak! The visual effects are hit and miss! There's some really bad acting and bad writing in this film!
I posted the above back in '05 and my opinion hasn't changed in the slightest.
ROTJ - For all of its flaws (and it has some huge ones), its peaks make up for it.
TESB - The best quality film and some of the best performances in all six movies, but the middle has always dragged a bit too much for my taste
ROTS - Easily the best prequel and a few solid performances, and a couple exemplary by McDiarmid and McGregor lift it up. Plus, it actually had some artistry in it, or at least noble attempts.
ANH - Started it all, sparked the imagination, and probably the most pure of what Lucas was going for with the old fashioned space opera. Some of the dialogue and performances are sketchy, but overall it's a good film.
AOTC - An amazing action-packed closing and a nice effort by Ewan are brought way down by a very sorry attempt at a love story and some truly unneeded scenes (a GFFA diner? Like that? Come on.) It has its moments, both good and exceedingly awful. Still fun to watch, though.
TPM - By far my least favorite. It has some nice elements - Qui-Gon, Maul (though it would be nice if he had some personality), droidekas, Palpatine's beginnings, Watto. Way too many just plain stupid, awful, and/or head-scratching things in it, though. Just to list a few: Jar-Jar, Jake Lloyd, Gungans in general, taxation on trade routes, political maneuvering, the means of destroying that cruiser at the end, Yipee!, etc. Some parts are just painful to watch, even more than Anakin's fireside speech in Episode II.
1) THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK
2) A NEW HOPE
3) ATTACK OF THE CLONES
4) REVENGE OF THE SITH
5) THE PHANTOM MENACE
6) RETURN OF THE JEDI
I have concluded that on my favourite list the movies are featured in pairs.
1: ESB& ANH
2: ROTJ & ROTS
3: TPM & AOTC
1) THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK
2) A NEW HOPE
3) REVENGE OF THE SITH
4) RETURN OF THE JEDI
5) THE PHANTOM MENACE
6) ATTACK OF THE CLONES
1. A New Hope: The original and still my personal favorite. The only film of the series that works as a stand-alone story and the film that best captures the spirit and energy of the Original Trilogy and Star Wars in general. This film established the Star Wars universe (with a bang) and its impact is still being felt on filmmaking and popular culture today.
2. The Empire Strikes Back: Easily one of the greatest sequels in film history. Added several layers of depth and meaning to the plot and charcters and proved that Star Wars is more than just a campy space adventure with fancy special effects.
3. Revenge of the Sith: The darkest and most serious of all the films, the style and pacing provided a perfect backdrop for the birth of Darth Vader and a perfect segue to Episode IV (or possibly to the upcoming TV series if you've been keeping up with the news).
4. Return of the Jedi: A fun, emotionally satisfying end to the series. I used to hate the ewoks but now, with the completion of the Prequels, I see how important they are to the resolution of the story. They represent a reclamation of the simple innocence that had been lost way back in the prequels and provide a perfect thematic complement to Anakin's redemption.
5. The Phantom Menace: I originally had my reservations about this film but the more I watch it, the more I like it. Emotionally and thematically the lightest of all the films, it is the (almost) perfect introduction to the saga of Anakin Skywalker. The useless battle-droids were my least favorite part of the film and I could have done with less "potty humor" but these are countered by the awesome Darth Maul, the introduction of Qui-Gon and seeing the young Anakin & Obi-Wan.
6. Attack of the Clones: I enjoyed this film very much but one of them had to be last! Although this film dwelled a bit too much on politics and featured a poorly-handled love story, seeing the beginning of the Clone Wars made it all worth it.