Bruce and Scoo set up a major Geek-a-thon for the day of the release. We started at 8:30 am and watched all five of the earlier episodes. I took my sound system over to Bruce' house, and we had it cranked up to a ridiculous level. There's nothing like 4 Hz pounding of Sebulba's pod racer from a decent subwoofer.
We were surprised to find at the end of the day that we weren't burned out on Star Wars after all that. It was Me, B, Scoo, Mo, Ken, and Greg. We got there about 9:30 and our theatre was already being seated. We had to sit nearly at the back row, all the way to the side, but it wasn't bad. That multiplex had it showing on six or seven screens. We were at the 12:20 showing, and I think it was completely full.
We were also surprised at the youth of the crowd. It looked like most were in their twenties. There were at least four Vaders, one storm trooper and a coupla Obiwans and a few Leias out front. I tried to take a few pics, but my phone doesn't do well in low light.
Okay. On to the movie itself.
It starts out in the middle of a huge space battle. The visual just a few seconds in when they pan to look down on the battle is really stunning.
Obiwan and Anikan are still buds, and they're trying to get to the flagship. They have one kind of silly encounter with a submunition weapon. Little droids get on Obiwan's fighter and start ripping it apart, and Anikan ends up scraping them off with his wing.
They threw in some droid comic relief right there at the beginning, too. R2 can't turn off the communicator, so it's making noise and he's trying to hide from two attack droids. Then he squirts them with oil and they do a Keystone Cops. There was some laughing in the theatre, but I found it a bit too contrived. Not horrible, but not needed, either.
I actually had a little trouble recognizing Hayden Christensen (not related, that I know of.) Partly it was due to his very different hairstyle. But I guess he just looked quite a lot older than in the previous film.
There was actually quite a lot to like about this movie. The CGI is, of course, pretty much seamless. And they do tie up pretty much all of the loose ends. There are a couple of contrived bits, but mostly it flows better than the previous two.
Scoo felt that Anikan's turning was a bit too easy. I felt they did a fairly good job of setting up the doubt in his mind about who was the patriot and who was the traitor. It still came down to essentially the same situation as him turning back to the good side in Jedi. I assume Lucas included that echo on purpose. But I felt it was closer to natural than Jedi, which felt horrible to me.
One theme that felt very much out of place in a Star Wars film was the domestic relationship between Padme/Amidala (yummy!) and Anikan. Basically, him being a guy and not being emotionally open, and her being a girl and trying to draw him out a couple of times. She even had the line, "Don't close me out." It makes you think of New Age Self-Help Relationship books. Which, while ostensibly "realistic," is a big tone shift from the fairy tale story it's embedded in. And that makes it a verisimilitude break. Not a huge deal, but it jarred me a little bit. Luckily, it's only about six lines each time, and then it's over.
One bit of social commentary that I liked was the dialogue that explicitly stated that they were transitioning from a republic to an empire. The idea that giving the leader extraordinary powers is inherently dangerous. That he can rationalize keeping the powers to "enforce peace."
"Who would have thought that the end of freedom would be greeted with thunderous applause."
Obviously, this commentary is condensed to fit it into the movie format. And given that the Emporer is clearly corrupt and evil, it's not a direct commentary on things like the Patriot Act. But I see parallels.
This movie has another echo from Return of the Jedi. Simultaneous storylines in multiple locations during portions of the climax. We see the main characters and the rest of the Jedi split up to lead the troops in various battles, while Samuel Jackson stays back and deals with the Emporer and Annikan. That was all handled pretty well.
Yoda gets to fight, again, and that played well. And the other light saber battles flowed very well. Not quite as exciting as the Darth Maul scenes in Phantom Meanace, but not bad at all. They even managed to throw in a four-saber fight scene that worked.
There were a few small bits that didn't work for me. One was the lizard-thing that Obiwan rode during some of the battles. It was just so clearly a completely unstable riding animal that it was just silly. Another was the ever-coughing enemy general. His posture and movements just felt out of place for his machine body.
The overall tone of this movie is definitely a very sharp departure from the kid-friendly Jar Jar humor in Phantom Menace. This movie has a cold-blooded beheading, more limbs lopped off, and someone burning alive (Joe Bob says check it out.) Portions are by far the darkest of any of the Star Wars movies. Albeit, it's still the mostly-sterile fairy tale. I don't remember anything actually graphic.
As I said before, they tied up most of the loose ends. There were a few tidbits that didn't fit the earlier movies. Like Leia talking about her mother. And Obiwan not remembering the exploits of the droids, especially R2D2. But mostly it all worked out pretty well.
On my brother's Total Movie Value Scale, Full Price. A very strong finish to the series. I left the theater thinking that it felt like it led into the first one pretty well.
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