Archives for posts with tag: Ewan McGregor

Of the “Star Wars” prequel trilogy, “Episode III: Revenge Of The Sith” is the best movie.  Is this a glowing recommendation from yours truly?  Surely, you jest; and yes, I am calling you Surely.  “Episode III” is, after all, written and directed by George Lucas.  I could end my review with that previous sentence; but since I gave another two hours and twenty minutes of my life to another Lucas movie that did not live up to my expectations — or to anybody’s, as far as I know — I will give more details as to what I think of this movie.

“Revenge Of The Sith” focuses on the fall of Anakin Skywalker (played by Hayden Christensen) from being a Jedi knight to becoming the Sith Lord, Darth Vader.  Christensen’s fear of losing his wife (played by Natalie Portman), his ever growing ambitions, and his anger at the Jedi Council for the perceived slights against him make Christensen an easy target to be taken over by the Dark Side of The Force.

It is indeed a dark time for the Republic: total war has spread throughout most of the solar systems; Jedi Knights struggle to bring order to the galaxy; and the Republic’s Chancellor is at the heart of this turmoil, fueling the war so that he would be given more emergency powers that would eventually make him Emperor — and not one Jedi foresaw this until the end.  This giant flaw in the story is something I wrote about in “Episode II.”  Here we go again.

How can one Sith Lord turn every Jedi into a blind idiot?  Yes, the would-be Emperor is very powerful, but Yoda almost beat this guy in a fight!  And Yoda would’ve finished the job if Yoda hadn’t fallen a great distance and the Emperor’s reinforcements didn’t show up.  And Samuel L. Jackson (playing Jedi Mace Windu) actually beat the Chancellor in a fight!  Obviously the Chancellor wasn’t that powerful.  Remember in “Empire Strikes Back” when Mark Hamill (playing Luke Skywalker) asked Yoda if the Dark Side was more powerful?  Yoda quickly said no; but the Dark Side was more seductive.  So tell me exactly how the Chancellor was able to keep secret from every Jedi Knight all his plots and schemes for several decades?  Bottom line, that’s what George Lucas wanted, and instead of giving us a plausible reason as to how things played out, he got lazy with his screenwriting and gave us flimsy explanations.

Enough of my rants…for now.  There are many bright spots to “Revenge Of The Sith.”  We get to see Chewbacca for the first time in this trilogy!  And yes, he is once again played by Peter Mayhew.  We see the birth of Luke and Leia; we are treated to the early versions of the X-Wing fighter, Imperial Shuttle, TIE fighter, and the All Terrain Scout Transport (“chicken Walker”); Princess Leia’s Blockade Runner ship makes several appearances late into the movie; and we get glimpses of a younger Grand Moff Tarkin and Captain Antilles.

Lucas’ third part of his “Star Wars” saga has many flaws, but the good more than outweighs the bad.  And here are my top three memorable, movie moments of “Revenge Of The Sith”: #1) the last two minutes of Christensen’s duel against Ewan McGregor (playing Ben Kenobi), where Christensen forces a move based on his bravado and anger, and suffers greatly for it; #2) the first 30 seconds of the movie — we get a flash of storytelling genius from George Lucas here; and #3) the montage of Portman sitting quietly in her home and Christensen in the Jedi Council chamber, his mind racing and soul struggling to decide whether he should save the Chancellor — and thereby save his chance to possibly learn how to cheat death and save Portman — or let him be arrested by the Jedi.  #3 deserves to be watched multiple times by any filmmaker or writer, because it shows how much emotion and information can be conveyed without dialogue.

What we have here is Ferrari with a body that is perfect and immaculate; but the owner never spent the money to change the fouled spark plugs or change the rusted exhaust system or replace the brake pads that have worn down to their last millimeter.  The result is a car that looks like a million bucks but runs like a $1500 beater.

— M

“I’ve been dying a little bit each day since you came back to my life.”  “I truly, deeply love you.”  “…being around her is intoxicating.”   If you’re like me, you’ll find these lines in “Star Wars: Episode II — Attack Of The Clones” nauseating.  This is dialogue I expect from a first time screenwriter who is still in Junior High School.

Co-wrote another mediocre screenplay, George Lucas has.   One of my greatest fears is that Lucas writes or co-writes another “Star Wars” screenplay; and my fears came true again with this movie.  Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.  And so, my fellow “Star Wars” fans, we again suffer through another Episode that had so much promise that went unfulfilled.

Ten years have passed in the “Star Wars” universe since Episode I.  Thousands of solar systems have left the Republic (the Separatist Movement); intergalactic war is imminent.   Hayden Christensen (playing a teen-aged Anakin Skywalker) is now a powerful, Jedi apprentice, learning from Ewan McGregor (playing Obi Wan Kenobi).  Both are tasked with unraveling a mystery as to who is trying to kill Natalie Portman (playing Senator Amidala).  This leads to an awkward, ten year reunion between Christensen and Portman, leading to awkward banter, leading to awkward flirting, leading to a cringeworthy romance.  Let’s get this straight: Christensen and Portman are good actors; but no matter how good your actors are, if they are given a s*#t script, you will get a s*#t performance.   It’s like giving a Ferrari low-grade fuel that’s been sitting around for 5 years.

Anyway, as Portman and Christensen are making kissy faces at each other, McGregor investigates a bounty hunter involved in Portman’s assassination attempt.  This leads him to a planet where a clone army (clearly, the predecessor of Stormtroopers) has been ordered by a Jedi Knight for the use of The Republic.  Who exactly ordered this army, and why?  The overall plot of “Attack Of The Clones” is a good one, with a bit of mystery and a few plot twists; but most of all it contains the evolving relationship between Portman and Christensen, and Christensen’s slow descent into the Dark Side of The Force .  In the hands of a skilled screenwriter, this movie would have soared to new heights that would have approached the level of “The Empire Strikes Back.”  Instead we got Stevie Wonder behind the wheels of a Lamborghini.

Please give me a few moments to suffer in silence as I ponder on what could have been…

Okay.  On to Manny’s memorable, movie moments.  One such moment is the scene when we see jet packs come out of R2-D2’s legs and he starts flying!  That was super cool!  I’m sure we were all geeking out with that scene!

And for my most memorable, movie moment of “Attack Of The Clones”…Yoda’s lightsaber duel with Count Dooku!  I think every “Star Wars” fan yelled out “holy s*@t” when the little dude lit up his green saber and went off on Dooku!  In “Empire Strikes Back” Yoda said “Judge me by my size, do you?  And well you should not.  For my ally is The Force, and a powerful ally, it is.”  He was not kidding.

Nitpicking time.  Wasn’t it nice for the insect army of Geonosis to let Portman keep her utility belt during the execution scene so she could slip out a pin to remove her shackles and escape?  Didn’t you find it odd that McGregor didn’t bother to help out Yoda during his fight with Dooku?  Yes, McGregor was wounded, but he could still wave his hand and move things around.  What about Portman’s decoy (played by Rose Byrne) who was a few feet away from a huge explosion that destroyed a large ship?  A few minutes later into the movie, she’s right as rain.  Yoda mentions early in the movie that it is impossible to see the future.  WTF, George!  In “Empire…” Yoda and Luke saw the future (Han and Chewbacca being tortured in a city in the clouds, Leia being the other hope)!  George Lucas had Yoda say this to cover his ass re: why none of the Jedi Knights — none, none, all these years — foresaw Anakin becoming Darth Vader!  And one doesn’t have to be clairvoyant to see that Anakin Skywalker is a bad egg — just look at his face, his attitude, the things he says, his reckless actions, his disregard for authority.  What about…never mind.   I should know better than to ask when dealing with a writer/director who spends hours finding the right pattern on a piece of clothing for a character that shows up for only two seconds, yet does not put in the time necessary to turn in a script absent silly lines of dialogue and plot holes.

Yes, Maximus, I was entertained, but equally disappointed.  A movie this important to “Star Wars” fans, with a gigantic budget and thousands of people working in it should be as close to perfect as possible.  No excuses are acceptable.  So here are your grades, George Lucas: Special Effects — A; Sound Effects — A; Costumes — A; Sets — A; Direction — B; Screenplay — F-.

Now go home and get your shine box!

— M

 

 

Written and directed by George Lucas — six of the most fearsome words to movie fans, these are.

“The Phantom Menace” is the first part of the prequel trilogy to the “Star Wars” movies.  Lucas goes way back here…before Luke Skywalker was born, before Anakin Skywalker became Darth Vader, before the dark times, before the Empire.

Senator Palpatine (who would become the Emperor) has created a false threat — a phantom menace — about a growing conflict involving taxation of trade routes and embargos and invasion and war, all to set in motion events that will allow him to rise in power as he promises to bring order throughout the galaxy.   Put into this turmoil are two Jedi Knights — Liam Neeson and his apprentice, Ewan Mcgregor (playing a young, Ben Kenobi) — who, throughout their mission, encounter the droids R2-D2 and C3PO, a young Anakin, and Anakin’s future wife (played by Natalie Portman).

One of my memorable moments of this movie is the scene when we are first introduced to R2-D2.  Portman’s ship is under attack, and her deflector shield has been damaged.  Four Astromech droids are sent outside to mend the broken parts, and three are quickly destroyed by enemy laser beams.  R2-D2 is the last droid standing, and it manages to bypass the thingamajig’s energy particle dilithium crystal thingies to repair the damage.  R2 saves the day, setting a precedent that will last all six episodes.

As most “Star Wars” fans may have guessed, my most memorable, movie moment of “The Phantom Menace” is the lightsaber duel between McGregor and Ray Park (playing Darth Maul).   Whatever problems the movie had — and it had plenty of them — they all went away when Darth Maul emerged and his light staff lit up to fight  Neeson and McGregor.  Unfortunately, when the duel was over, we were again in the world of Lucas’ shortcomings.

I want to be fair to Lucas.  I believe the man is a genius when it comes to filmmaking.  It’s not that he lost that ability, it’s that he lost his focus: instead of focusing on the story and characters, he started focusing on the costumes and special effects and sound effects and action sequences.   There are parts in “Episode 1” that shows his talents: the droid army entering Naboo’s capital is similar to the Nazis entering Paris during WW II; the duel between the Jedi Knights and Darth Maul; and Lucas’ great use of the subject of a government creating threats to instill fear in those they govern, in hopes the people will give the government more power to supposedly provide greater protection for the people.

All of the good things above are crushed by the following: Jar Jar Binks (and his way of talking that sounds like a black buffoon of early movies); horrible dialogue throughout the movie (“Are you an angel?” — I almost throw up every time I hear that line); the Trade Federation who sound like stereotypical, old Jewish men; the character Watto who sounds like a stereotypical Arab man; enemy droids who talk like idiots (“roger roger”); the lack of emotion on Anakin’s mother when Anakin leaves her (was she not capable of acting like a distraught mother who may never see her young son again — in which case it’s Lucas’ fault for not casting someone who was capable of doing so — or did she have the talent to do so but Lucas didn’t see a need for all that drama, in which case it’s Lucas’ fault for lacking the vision to know that the separation scene should have been more emotionally devastating).   Okay, I’ll stop beating a dead horse.

“The Phantom Menace” is light years away from being in the same league as “The Empire Strikes Back,” but it still has to be seen by every “Star Wars” fan because it’s part of the story, whether you like it or not.  We’re stuck with that movie…search your feelings, you know it to be true.

— M

 

 

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