Star Wars Episode III, an average movie (box office receipts not withstanding). Where do I begin?
First, a disclaimer: I WANTED this movie to do well, both box office wise AND among the critics. I spent entire summers watching the original triology REPEATEDLY, I had most of Episodes IV and VI memorized at one point for god's sakes. The reason I vehemently argued with Mr. Proliferation on the issue of "viewing context" was because I felt that these movies (any Sci-Fi movies for that matter) had to be viewed using the eyes of a kid. Mainly because I feel like we get too wrapped up in the whole critical viewing of cinema that we can't always enjoy movies for the sake of enjoying movies. I'm sad to say even though I went into the theater with my Darth Vader t-shirt on, with the excitement of a 10-year old, I still was not able to fully enjoy this one.
I wasn't expecting a masterpiece. I wasn't expecting some life-altering scene with Yoda's version of fortune-cookie wisdom. And I wasn't even comparing this movie to other current "hot" movies (i.e. Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Spiderman, etc.). I viewed this bad boy in a cinematic vacuum, with nothing to compare it to but the OTHER Star Wars movies. And even then, I was left wanting.
Lets start with some of the NEGATIVES. I agree wholeheartedly with Mr. Proliferation. The scenes with Anakin and Padme were beyond painful to watch. Anakin didn't exude "whiny bitch" as much, but a better actor than ANYONE in the original trilogy he is not. Natalie Portman, bless her heart, got screwd over royally in this trilogy. I was hoping that Lucas would write something minimally worthwhile for Portman to recite/act, but Mr. Proliferation got it right that woman are the unsuspecting(?) beacons of evil doers.
I didn't care so much for the battle scenes, though I wasn't necessarily bored while watching them. I'm definitely not part of the anti-CGI camp, but there's something to be said about using straight up miniatures versus computer-generated ships which look more advanced than their future counterparts. Each of the battle scenes (particularly the first one above Coruscant) made me wonder how the hell R2-D2 lost all of his cool droid capabilities. For a second I thought R2 could have been a stand-in for 007s Aston Martin, what with all the neat little gadgets he had up his pipes.
I love light saber duels/fights. I clocked my cousin in the head several times when we were trying to imitate the Luke vs. Vader duel in Episode VI back in the day. But I felt absolutely robbed, ROBBED when the jedi masters got skewered by Darth Sidious in less than 10 seconds. Is the definition of 'Master' basically the equivalent of calling someone an 'Associate' on the corporate ladder? Come on George, if this were extended it would have shortened at least one, maybe two of the excrutiating scenes with Anakin and Padme.
The most heinous scene in this movie involved Anakin's first appearance as the Darth Vader we all know and love from the original trilogy. Not only did that scene make me cringe (and tear up my Darth Vader shirt then and there), I think this scene single-handedly diminished the badass persona of Darth Vader. Instead of screaming "Oh Snap, here comes Vader!", forever will the word 'Pussy' come to mind when I see that black helmet of his. Oh, and Darth Vader is NOT Frankenstein, so he shouldn't move like him (with or without the suit).
I could end this portion of the post with the numerous inconsistencies in continuity from the Original Trilogy and the New Trilogy, but they're a) too numerous to list and b) they'd be a waste of space.
Now for a few POSITIVES:
The killing of the Jedi was one of the better cinematic montages I've seen in some time. I was miffed that the scenes were cut short (i.e. Arguably, there were thousands of Jedi in the universe and we were only treated to the demise of 5 of them), but the length didn't take away from the impact. It was great to finally SEE what the hell Obi Wan was trying to communicate in Episode IV. It was sad, it was frightening, and it was overwhelming all at the same time.
As I mentioned before, I love lightsaber duels. I can't help it, I always though swordfighting was/is a more civilized way of fighting. There was no arms-length separation between you and the enemy, the enemy was right in your face, and you had no choice BUT to fight. Defend yoruself or die, it was that simple. The lightsaber fights, as numerous as they were, were still the best part of these so-called 'battles'.
Yoda: 900 years old and still kicking ass. Too bad he couldn't take the Emperor out, though he was close (Mace was a helluva lot closer, but he couldn't close the the deal either).
As far as some of the individual performances are concerned:
Ewan McGregor did a far better job this time around. His lackluster performance in Episode I can finally be put to rest (unless you're sadistic and actually liked the Phantom Menace). Over the course of the New Trilogy his casting was probably one of the better over all decisions made by the production team. Still a wooden performance compared to some of his other gigs, but he's a jedi. He has no feelings.
Sam Jackson, to his credit, did NOT go out like a chump. I will admit, he was the worst at handling a light saber in the original Trilogy and his death scene was reminiscent of some of his lines in "The Negotiator" (i.e. "You are NOT IN CONTROL!"). Again, to rationalize away his duller than dull on-screen Star Wars persona: Jedi have no feelings. I think I would have preferred Dave Chappelle acting as Sam Jackson acting as Mace Windu in this movie.
Ian McDiarmid as the emperor. If he wasn't a returning character, he would have trumped McGregor's performance easily. Fortunately, he's part of the returning crew and he took his character to town. Even without the 'wrinkles', the emperor was a scary son of a bitch. How in hell did he manage to fool all of those Jedi, the Senate, and everyone else around him into his plan?
The duo of Christensen and Portman couldn't put together a worthy performance as individuals. Add them together, and you're just a few ewoks shy of a full scale rebellion. Hayden performed better than in Episode II. He whined less and grimaced more (I think it was the manly haircut). Portman, unfortunately, lost the will to live in the movie, and lost the will to act well too it seems.
Final analysis: Not unlike many of my fellow fanboys, Episode III is ranked fourth among the Star Wars movies. Possibly DVD worthy, but definitely not worth more than a matinee viewing.