Saturday, May 21, 2005

Thoughts on Revenge of the Sith 

I have just returned from watching Revenge of the Sith. It was, I believe, a significant improvement on the other two prequels. However, the acting was still wooden (the droids have an excuse, but not the rest of the cast) and the plot was convoluted. The strength of the original trilogy lay in the cast (particularly Harrison Ford, who made the films for me) and in the engaging plotline. Even after three prequels I still could not get myself to care about Anakin (until he donned the Vader suit, that is; in that suit even the dullest actor becomes the epitome of cool), Padme or even Obi Wan. The warm humour exuded by the original trilogy is parodied by the cheap laughs in the prequels (although Revenge is a real improvement on the earlier prequels in this regard). There is nothing to match the witty dialogue of the original trilogy in the prequels. Rather, with Yoda's poor attempts at sentence construction continually bombarded we are. The sheer overdose of special effects and choreographed action sequences quickly amount to sensory overload, after which time one doesn't really care much. The sustained tension and subsequent exhilaration achieved in many parts of the original trilogy was conspicuous by its absence. The flimsy plot soon collapsed, overwhelmed by the collective weight of the numerous setpieces and action scenes, any one of which was rendered fairly anonymous by virtue of the gratuitous quantity of them. Why is it that many film-makers seem incapable of resisting the allure of the newer additions that computer technology has granted to the palette of their art? On occasions the plot of Revenge felt like one might expect a series of cinematic footnotes to look like. Points of the original trilogy were supported and expounded, and elements of the earlier prequels were developed, but any sense of strong inner coherence and direction to the plot of Revenge itself was lacking. The plot lacked a clear focus, a problem (as I have already observed) compounded by a myriad instances of distracting special effects. There are a few lessons that I hope that George Lucas learns before he finishes his work on the next Indiana Jones movie. The chief among them are as follows: the backbone of a film is its plot; strong characters give life to its flesh. Without a good plot a film becomes an amorphous blob; without strong characters it becomes a corpse. Special effects should be subtle and understated, like good jewellery. Overdose on them and them become the cinematic equivalent of 'bling'. Special effects wizardry can be impressive, but good film-making is primarily achieved by more quotidian means. FWIW

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