"Super" is probably short for "superscript"

Just now the national news came on, its top story being of course Imus. What a waste of airtime.

Anyway, I bring it up because the super said “Apology Accepted”, and as soon as I saw it I immediately intoned, “Apology accepted, Captain Needa.”

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My reaction to Revenge of the Sith. SPOILERS, SPOILERS, SPOILERS.

I am three kinds of depressed right now.

The first kind is a result of the perfect tragedy of the story. Anakin turns against everything he believes in, everything the people who love him believe in, in order to save the woman he loves. But as he walks further and further down that path, he loses even that. Just enough. Just enough so that when Sidious causes Padme to die, Anakin finds it conceivable that his own Force-choke was the reason. That he had killed his wife; that his ties with his former life have been completely severed; that all he can do now is move on down the dark path, continue his quest for power–not for any noble purpose, but because it is all he has left.

I could have believed in that tragedy.

The movie didn’t let me.

It was so good. I was thoroughly enjoying myself. I was happy. New things were happening that I didn’t expect, but that made sense. I watched Palpatine’s web of deception and I understood, to the depth of my being, how it was affecting Anakin. I was convinced that it would all culminate in one great event that would send Anakin plummeting into the Dark Side; I had every indication that the story was that strong.

The event turned out to be Palpatine pretending to be frail so that Anakin would save him from Windu–Anakin slicing off Windu’s hand–Palpatine “recovering”, screaming “unlimited power!” and blasting Windu to his death with Force lightning.

This happened, and Anakin said thickly, “What have I done?”

And you see how this could not possibly have been the scene that turned him. For he still had remorse.

But he staggered forward as Palpatine approached him. He dropped to his knees. He said, “I will do whatever you wish.” He said, “I pledge myself to you.” And when Palpatine immediately slay all the Jedi, he said, “Yes, my master.”

In his very next scene, Anakin ignites his lightsaber to kill a child.

I do not believe in Anakin’s fall to the Dark Side!

I do not believe that the man who, for the duration of the film’s exposition, was in anguish over his feelings of ambition and jealousy, who strove to do the right thing, who refused to leave Obi-Wan to die, could so quickly turn to slaying children.

The Windu scene could have been a factor. One that caused him to rethink everything. But it couldn’t be the factor.

Not unless Palpatine was doing something to Anakin’s mind. And while this is a possibility (especially given Palpatine’s apparent ability to kill people from afar), there is no indication that he is doing anything. The film does not provide evidence of this theory. I have only come up with it out of desperation.

That scene is the primary reason for my second depression, my depression at the fact that the movie could have been brilliant. There is another.

Anakin and Obi-Wan’s duel.

“Don’t try it,” Obi-Wan warns, but Anakin leaps anyway–and then Obi-Wan relieves Anakin of all his remaining limbs. Anakin’s body falls to the edge of the rocky hill and catches fire due to the molten lava not a foot away from him. He burns, and writhes, and screams.

And Obi-Wan watches, and then turns and walks away.

“You were my brother,” he said. “I loved you.”

But he was going to let this “brother” die in torment, rather than putting him immediately out of his misery. He didn’t expect Anakin to survive. But he didn’t ensure Anakin’s death.

I can understand the reasoning that Obi-Wan couldn’t stand to kill Anakin. He said as much when Yoda sent him on that very mission. But I find it hard to believe that Obi-Wan could stand to watch Anakin suffer through that much pain. I find it hard to believe that Obi-Wan wouldn’t show his padawan, his brother, mercy.

There is an answer for both of these scenes, and it is the worst answer possible.

“Well, it had to happen that way, to prepare for the other movies.”

These scenes were very good, but in the end they were both forced to fit a mold that was no longer suitable. Realism–I mean story realism, realism of character–was abandoned in favor of getting everything to work out correctly.

I think Lucas was on the road to telling a different story than he originally intended, and I think the new story changed how other things worked out. Padme wasn’t supposed to die in childbirth, after all. Leia remembered her mother. “Very beautiful…kind, but sad.” Lucas had to change this to make Anakin’s fall work out properly. I’m not happy with that edit, but I can understand the need for it. Anakin needed to lose Padme so that Palpatine could manipulate him fully. Leaving her alive would have fit the later movies, but it would have felt unbelievable. “Surely Anakin could sense Padme,” people would say. “Surely he’d look for her, surely he wouldn’t just believe Palpatine’s word.”

Lucas saw that this would be unrealistic, and he modified it. But he didn’t apply the same wisdom to the two most important scenes of the movie.

I do not believe in Anakin’s fall to the Dark Side, and I do not believe in Obi-Wan’s decision to leave Anakin writhing in pain.

Those two scenes were the pillars for the entire film. And they completely collapsed, taking the rest of the movie–which was perfectly planned, well-executed, beautifully rendered, and even decently acted–down with them.

I think the overall story was sound. I think the acting was good. I think the special effects were wonderful, and they didn’t seem to overshadow the plot this time. This could have been a brilliant movie.

But in crunch time, at the moment when everything had to make sense, when I was supposed to be twisted up inside with the terrible necessity of it all, when I should have been thinking, “They don’t know what they’re doing, but it couldn’t have happened any other way”…it all fell flat. None of the artistry that went into making the rest of this film beautiful could save the two glaring plot inconsistencies that sucked all joy out of my final Star Wars experience.

And that, my friends, is my third depression. This is it; this is the end. This movie, that could have been great, that should have been great, has put the final nail in the coffin of the girl who once introduced herself to her dormmates with “The most important thing about me is that I love Star Wars.”

It’s all over. And I don’t even get to say “What a way to go.”

Art, and remakes and revisions thereof

I started this as a response to Hai’s comment to my previous post, but it got long-winded so I decided to put it here.

Regarding the third Harry Potter movie: they did rearrange stuff, and leave a lot out (I was really looking forward to seeing Snape hover unconscious with his head lolling to the side…and they never explained how Lupin knew about the map, or about Prongs! Plus the movie ended early, etc…). As I was telling Brooke the other day, though, I guess I don’t see movies as “adaptations to a different format” so much as I see them as “retellings”. You know how several different people can see the same movie, but they’ll all talk about it differently? Or how the same event can happen to two people, but they’ll both give two different accounts? That’s how I see “remakes”–movie versions of books, anime versions of manga, etc. (This doesn’t typically apply to book versions of movies; I haven’t come across many book retellings that were all that great, because I think they try too hard to bring out the feel of the movie, instead of trying to be good literature.)

So I guess if someone’s complaint is that a movie didn’t include everything from the book it was based on, or if a movie rearranged things to make for a better movie, then I can’t agree that those are good enough reasons to dislike the movie. I feel that movies should be judged as movies, not as “moving picture forms of books”. The media are completely different; it is impossible to make a direct translation.

I think there is a sense in the US that the first version of something is automatically the best version, and everything else must be judged based on the first version. I get the feeling that later versions are supposed to present the perfection of the first version to new audiences, and when this is “unsuccessful” or when the new version goes in a different direction, those who were fans of the original don’t say “wow, that’s interesting”, they say “I want to rip out the entrails of anyone involved in the making of this garbage!” There is a keen sense of betrayal that I think can shoot any chance of good, collaborative, community storytelling right in the foot. Originality, in this particular genre, is not seen as a good thing.

People who know of my disdain for the Star Wars Special Eds (they ride the short bus) may think that I am being hypocritical here. Far from it. I would have no problem with George Lucas making new movies, and reinterpreting what he set down in the originals. My problem comes when he takes the originals and changes them fundamentally. You can’t disagree that the stories were changed. This is, I feel, more of a slap in the face to the integrity of the original work than would be making an entirely new version of it.

I have a strong sense of history in the arts. I feel that any piece that has been published should be allowed to remain available to the public. By revising and revising and then only releasing the revised versions on DVD, George Lucas is sweeping his original Trilogy under the rug. I’m lucky enough to have a set of laserdiscs, but I don’t have a laserdisc player, and my tapes won’t last forever.

A remake, on the other hand, does not in any way “undo” what has come before. It’s just a different version; a retelling from another point of view. Anyone who has studied history even a little should know that we never know the whole truth. Everything is shaded by bias and by the scope of perspective of the observer(s). Only by getting multiple perspectives can we even begin to approach “what really happened”.

I used to be really, really anal about “canon”. Basically, I wanted everything to fit, to be internally consistent, and to recognize that there was only one real “truth”. This gave me plenty of headaches on the AMRN, because we were constantly revising history in order to explain away GM or player disappearances, or to add in new Macross information. It drove me nuts. I felt that the integrity of the game was demolished every time it happened.

I think this mindset came from my childhood, when I believed that everything I read or saw on TV was real, out there somewhere in another dimension that I couldn’t reach. I was comforted by the fact that I could at least watch what was going on. Many times I would pray that God would send me and my family into one of the universes I loved. Back then, when I encountered a remake–like the Popeye movie–I had to explain it to myself as “pretend”, and later as simply more alternate dimensions.

But as an adult, I started to watch more anime, seeing how different stories have been made and remade and accepted not with cynicism and judging but with open-armed excitement at seeing an old story in a fresh, new light. And I slowly began to change my mind. New versions of something do not negate or invalidate the old. They’re all the same story, but told through different eyes. (And if that’s too difficult to grok, then the alternate universe theory should placate you.)