The International Writers Magazine
: Review

Abp. Dr. Antonio Hernandez, Spring 2005

Out of breath and not really worried about why, here I come, screeching to a halt to comment once again on a particular horror. I never use that word "horror" lightly, and I am doing a rare thing: film review. But what I saw was a very rare horror indeed.

My dear friend and I went to see George Lucas' latest installment of "Star Wars". This one, "Episode III: Revenge of the Sith", was more like Revenge of Montezuma. In the first place, we were in some kind of weird hepcat theater, built on the ruins of a solid old 1940s theater which my father took me to enjoy many times during my childhood. This place has been remodeled into a glorified sports bar, with chairs and tables, so we tried imagining we were at some kind of 21st century opera house to hear Mozart. We did try to celebrate the fact that we have a theater again, having been deprived since 1999.

We both wanted this "Star Wars" experience to be a good and memorable one, since it will be the last. What strikes me about "Revenge of the Sith" [hereafter ROS, I'm too lazy to keep typing it] is how very, very awful it was. The picture was blurred, we didn't seem to have the trademark Lucas THX sound (more like 1960s POS sound), and our seats were killing our butts. This dovetailed with the stomach-churning lack of overall film quality. We said what we said when we saw Lucas' "Episode I: The Phantom Menace". We said it was THE WORST movie we had ever seen.

After I've had a night to sleep on it. I guess it's morning-after regrets. I won't say that it is the worst. "Phantom Menace" still ranks in the top five, but not ROS. The reason for this is Yoda. Half of ROS is Yoda; he saves and carries this dreadful piece of trash. The computer cartoon has finally come to life, more or less, but his scenes and the action really satisfy. In fact, to be fair, Yoda had a major scene that actually made me shoot my fist delightedly into the air and blurt, "YES!!", something I have never done in my life.

Which is a good thing, because I can't fathom how George Lucas was otherwise allowed to release this mess. It is really two films: a great Yoda film for the second hour and the rest is trash. With an absolute sonic smear for a soundtrack (John Williams' ears should be boxed), cinematography that looks like one of those documentarists running from a volcano while trying to film it, and scenes that reduce the cardboard characters to the size of ants, I knew it had to have been about 1959 since I last saw a movie that was technically this bad. It was in some ways a joke of an attempt at a horror film.

I will take a page from Lucas and his mad journal, and assume everyone knows the basic plotline. It's delivered, and none too badly. The problem here is Lucas' usual one: he's trying to concentrate on all the wrong things. He thinks a cartoonish image will play well on the silver screen, but it can't. Not the way he wants it to do. Half of this film is comprised of horrible battle scenes. As usual, it is on a grand scale and the eye simply can't take in anything from the great blur. The viewer is doing something no one should do during a movie: looking at the floor for relief.

The acting is dreadfully canned, as one expects, but this time it is punctuated by Ian McDairmad (Palpatine) and his revolting scene-chewing. Maybe that helped sanctify Yoda. I said it three years ago: Lucas would have too much to cram into his third episode, and he would disappoint. I was right. Ultimately, beauty will be in the eye of the viewer. I can only say it generally stank. No doubt most will disagree with me.

Perhaps the strong point of the film is its weakest. Lucas manages to tell the "rest of the story" elegantly, albeit in shorthand. He flies from one scene to another, not badly or carelessly (until the last half hour). He manages to putty the cracks quite well. After all, he is "setting the stage" for the 1977 film that changed the world. Lucas just doesn't rise to the challenge. My biggest let-down was the fact that he took an essentially good movie and filmed it into a horrible, nearly un-watchable video game cartoonfest. It is clear he wanted a horrifying plot, disturbing and dark. He blew it, he isn't any good at doing Frankenstein or even Frank Miller. But then, that's the kind of idiotic stuff George Lucas does.
There was and remains little excitement surrounding the film and its release. Nothing like the original film, nothing like the undeserving "Phantom Menace", and even "Attack of the Clones", not as well received as it should have been, got some rave reviews. But this film isn't going to get a lot. Only Yoda will save the day. Clearly Lucas is intent upon killing the magic he created and one cannot blame him. Why not go out with a whimper? Who cares?
Well, everyone knows what happens to directors with that attitude.

© Rev Antonio Hernandez May 23rd 2005

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