I made it out to see "Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith" yesterday. I went in with conflicting emotions--one the one hand, I’ve been a dedicated Star Wars geek since the I saw the original film, at age 10, in 1977. On the other hand, I remembered only too well the bad taste that "Phantom Menace" and "Attack of the Clones" left. So you might describe my going the way that Samuel Johnson described second marriage--a triumph of hope over experience.
Something I’ve noticed in all of the recent Star Wars films--all of the last three, plus, I think, "Return of the Jedi" has been George Lucas’s seeming inability to direct actors (as opposed to special effects). It’s amazing how he can take very good actors like Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, and Samuel L. Jackson (okay, admittedly he didn’t have much to work with in Hayden Christensen, whose on-screen emotions run the gamet from sulking to full-fledged brooding), and get lackluster performances out of all of them. One can almost imagine him, sitting just out of camera range, asking his actors if they can deliver their lines just a little more woodenly.
I guess a lot of it has to do with the stilted dialogue. Call me an old fuddy-duddy, but I liked the franchise more before all the Force and Jedi mumbo-jumbo got out of hand (here again, this started with "Return of the Jedi"). Consider the original film: a farm boy, a sassy princess, a wisecracking smuggler, some droids and a furry guy for comic relief. Sure, there was Obi-Wan going on about the force, but he was just one character. Plus, he was played by Alec Guinness, and because he was old and British he could pull it off. Nowadays we have Amidala and Anakin sharing tender moments that sound like they come out of 18th century political philosophy. And just once I wouldve liked to see Samuel L. Jackson (who plays Jedi master Mace Windu) drop the hocus-pocus and call Anakin Palpatines bitch.
Then there was this little gem. Right in the midst of a lightsaber battle between Anakin and Obi-Wan on the volcanic planet of Mustafarr, the following exchange takes place:
ANAKIN: You are either with me, or you are my enemy.
OBI-WAN: Only a Sith talks in terms of absolutes.
Huh? What was this whole franchise about, if not absolutes? The light side of the force versus the dark side? Darth Vader versus Luke Skywalker? The Rebel Alliance versus the Galactic Empire? Indeed, just five minutes after this exchange Obi-Wan tells Anakin that Chancellor (by this time emperor) Palpatine is evil. My wife had to restrain me from standing up in the theater and shouting, "I thought only the Sith spoke in terms of absolutes!"
Okay, but I have to admit it--it was cool seeing Darth Vader in his helmet and armor for the first time. But that may have been because I knew it meant we wouldn’t see any more of Hayden Christensen’s acting.