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Star Wars I: First Impressions | The Full Review | Digital Projection
No Excuse for Jar Jar | Some Levity from the BS
Jar Jar Sucks!

 


THE BRIEF, DON'T GIVE ANYTHING AWAY REVIEW

I won't give away any plot points here, just impressions, so don't worry about me ruining anything for you.

First of all, where does Episode I fit into the cycle quality-wise? Third. It is definitely better than Jedi, but not as good as Star Wars or Empire.

Is Jar Jar as annoying as I feared? Even worse. Fortunately, he fades into the background at times and so doesn't ruin the whole movie.

Is Jake Lloyd as bad as they say? He's okay. But he'd better plan on going to college and getting some kind of degree.

The plot is very good and interesting in its political mechanations, and Anakin's story was really quite moving. What was missing from the movie was a sense of overall emotion, though. It was some stuff happening, some things occurring, and whatever, big deal. But it was still fun. You'll like the pod race and the light saber duel between Obi-Wan, Qui-Gon, and Darth Maul.

But you won't like Jar Jar. Or maybe you will, because a small group of people in the audience this morning were laughing at everything Jar Jar did and said. Hee hee hee. They are the simple folk. We leave them to their own. (If you like Jar Jar, I'll leave you to your own.)

The ships are cool, the settings are great, but the aliens, a vast majority of them, are just stupid. Cartoonish, I mean. You'll see.

If you're worried about standing in line and then feeling ripped off, well, you may. Hell, the hype is so big, of course Episode I can't live up to it. Just keep your expectations low. Today, for instance, Sven wasn't sure if we could get in. But we did, and as soon as I was sitting in my seat, I got excited. Quite excited. Since I didn't allow myself to get excited until then, I think I enjoyed the movie that much more.

There's more to talk about, so I'll do that later. But for now, hey, it's good. And as Sven just said, had the dialogue been delivered properly by better actors (or better CG characters), the movie would have been even better.

That's it for now. I'll send more later.

 

5/15/99 To Top of Page

 
THE FULL-FAT REVIEW

WARNING:
I'm going to go into a lot of detail here about the movie. I'll be talking about characters and settings and story and acting. I'll also be talking about plot points, some of which are still "unrevealed." If you don't want to know anything before you see the movie, save this review for later. If you don't mind learning some stuff but don't want to know about the surprises, I'll put warnings before those parts so you can skip ahead, and I'll put the parts to skip in this color. If you don't care about the movie or don't mind knowing all about it, read everything!

Let's begin, shall we?

 

How and Why and Where. Oh, and Who.

First off, I want to thank Sven for getting me in to see this. We went to a Fox employee screening this past Saturday at the National. The National is an underrated theater—in fact, there was a plan a little while ago to tear it down. But now the theater's staying, thank God, and it was definitely a good place to see Episode Uno. The National is a large, single-screen theater. Fortunately, we got to see Episode I on Saturday instead of Sunday, because Sunday's screening, I understand, was at the Avco, a sad multi-plex hued out of what was formerly a big, single-screen place.

Right behind us at the National sat Danny Alter, the guy who's been waiting in line at The Village for weeks. This was the first time he got to see Phantom Menace as well, since he missed a press screening he had been invited to earlier in the week. I tell ya, the guy is everything you'd expect from someone who's been waiting that long for this movie. So much so that, while we were waiting for the movie to start, I had to tell him to be quiet because he was talking up a storm and beginning to reveal things about the movie I didn't want to know. He was also going on about surround sound, Dolby EX, whether it's best to sit in front of or between the surround speakers... blah blah blah. All the kind of things I myself enjoy talking about, but not in a loud, know-it-all voice in the middle of a theater surrounded by strangers. I guess I'm being a little harsh, but, hey, he WAS GIVING AWAY THE MOVIE!

Now let me be a hypocrite and go on about a technical detail. With Episode I, Dolby is intorducing Dolby Digital Surround EX. EX adds a center rear channel, so sounds behind the audience can be mixed fluidly and more realistically. I have no idea if I saw Episode I in Dolby EX. My guess was I didn't because I did not see any center surround speakers at the National. And I'm wondering how much difference that extra speaker will make. Hmm.

[Well, I didn't notice much difference. The sound at the Chinese is much better than the sound at the National, but I didn't hear any specific rear-center channel sounds. At least not while I was listening for them specifically. Specifically I think the difference between a left-right channel mix to give you your center would be not much different from a specific center channel, unless you are specifically sitting to one side of the auditorium or the other. When you're sitting specifically in the center of the auditorium, the center front channel, for instance, is not as noticable as if you're sitting specifically on one side of the auditorium. Perhaps, then, if I had been one of the people sitting on the side at the Chinese, I would have heard center rear sounds more specifically. Suffice it to say that I don't think Dolby EX is any great move forward in theater sound.]

Enough about that, then.

 

How Is It, Man?

This movie deserves the mixed reviews it's been getting. I didn't read any reviews beforehand because I didn't want to know anything. But I did hear reviews of the reviews. And from that, my opening statement above is valid. Episode I is not a life-changing spectacle like Star Wars was, nor is it the excellent overall film Empire was. It definitely was much better than Jedi. The story is solid, the writing is actually pretty good, and most of the acting is fine. The movie falls down in a couple places: acting and characters. I'll go into those later.

I didn't come out of the movie with my mind missing from having been blown away. I had to think about it first, which is not what I was hoping for. My brain did almost get blown away in the theater, though, thanks to the effects, which are, mostly, amazing, breathtaking, and gorgeous. But the movie itself had very little emotion. I don't mean the "momma has cancuh and daddy's sellun thu fahm, and I gots me a chil' on thu way" kind of emotion. I mean the "this movie has drawn me in and refuses to let go and oh my God am I having loads of fun" kind of emotion. I did have fun, I did enjoy myself, but the characters weren't popping, the plot sometimes was forced, and, well, Jar Jar was a major, gut-wrenching annoyance.

I'm seeing SW:EI—TPM again on Thursday, and I can't wait because there's so much to see in the frames of this flick. (WARNING: Skip to the next paragraph.) For instance, in the Senate scene—the one with the round, floating platforms—right after Queen Amidala calls for a vote of no confidence, look in one of the quick shots that follows for a platform of E.T.s in the bottom left of the screen. Yes, E.T.s represented in the Galactic Senate. A funny in-joke, like Belle in The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

There is a lot to like about this movie, too, so let me wander from the negative to the positive. As I said, most of the effects are fantastic. The story moves along at a quick pace, despite the shenanigans of Jar Jar the Alien Idiot. In fact, at the climax of the movie, there are four major action settings that are mixed together. FOUR! (WARNING: Skip!) There's the attack of the command ship over Naboo; the battle between the Federation droids and the Gungas (Jar Jar's race); the fight between Obi-Wan, Qui-Gon Jinn, and Darth Maul; and Queen Amidala's raid on the palace to capture the Federation dudes.

 

Characters and Actors

The biggest reason why I didn't get completely pulled into the movie (besides Jar Jar, the Idiot of the Universe) was that the characters are dull. Dull, dull, dull. They are good, noble people, but they are DULL. Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) and Obi-Wan (Ewan McGregor) are both noble and good, but they are kinda boring. Liam and Ewan act well, but—and I hate to say this—they don't have much to work with. Obi-Wan shows only a tiny hint of the sarcasm yet to come. Qui-Gon is soooooo serious. Both characters are at their best when they're fighting, only because that's when they become dynamic and they get to show off their impressive light saber skills. Amidala (Natalie Portman) is boring, but noble and good. Anakin's mother, Shmi (Pernilla August) is noble and good, and kinda dull, but she gets the benefit of being a martyr, letting her son exit her life because she knows he's destined for something else. That made her a bit less dull. So did the fact that her name is so close to Shmoo.

Then there's Anakin. He's not as dull if only because he's a kid. As a kid, he gets to behave a little more spontaneously than do the dull adults, but thanks to Jake Lloyd's unstable acting and George Lucas' not being able to write dialogue for kids (Sample: "Qui-Gon, I heard you mention the hamburger, and I have been wondering, what is this hamburger?"), Anakin, the most important part of Episode I and of the whole prequel trilogy, is merely okay. I think his best moments on-screen are during the pod race, and that's because he doesn't say anything. He just drives this haul-ass pod around the deserts of Tatooine. It's fun to watch kids do that sort of thing.

Then there's Senator Palpatine, the guy who becomes Emperor Palpatine by the time Star Wars happens. Palpatine is played by Ian McDiarmid, who also played the Emperor in Return of the Jedi. Before Jar Jar, the Emperor was the worst character in all the Star Wars movies. (I don't count Wicket as a character. Sorry.) He wasn't at all creepy because Ian way overacted. Watch Jedi again. Notice how every time the pace of the movie starts to pick up, the Emperor interrupts with some pathetically repetitive platitude like, "Feel the hate flowing through you," or, "Give in to the hatred and strike me down," or, "You can only destroy me with your hatred!" Please. And if he and Darth had uttered "destiny" and "complete" any more in that movie, the words would have been placed on the Endangered Vocabulary List. So in Episode I, thankfully, Ian reins it in. He's actually fine as Senator Palpatine, and has enough of the Emperor in him as the Mysterious Figure Who We All Know Is Just Palpatine In A Hood (a.k.a. Darth Sidious) to make him snotty and not stupid.

Jar Jar Binks. Jar Jar. Sigh. What a horrible misfire he is. It was interesting to observe the audience when Jar Jar was on-screen. A minority of people enjoyed Jar Jar, laughing and guffawing at his childish, moronic little clumsy antics. But the rest of the audience went cold. Jar Jar was embarrassing. First of all, why oh why do filmmakers think it's so funny to have characters who do everything wrong—EVERYTHING!!!!—but still end up being important and indispensable members to a team of people who have very serious business to accomplish? Jar Jar is like the cliché bumbling accomplice to the usually brilliant and evil genius. Usually, in those cliché situations, you ask yourself, much as the mastermind himself might, why he has surrounded himself with idiots. With Jar Jar, you don't see anyone asking themselves that because he's useless. Completely. They all just try to ignore him. Jar Jar is like all the Ewoks concentrated into one floppy-eared mass. Can you imagine the horror? While Ewoks were annoying, at least—my God, at least—they were cute and fuzzy. Jar Jar is annoying, ugly, stupid, and would never survive a one-on-one fight with an Ewok. How horrible. And to top it all off, his voice is grating and annoying, silly and purile. Ahmed Best is the voice of Jar Jar, and he also was the model for Jar Jar's movements (Jar Jar is a 100% digital character). I don't know who should be shot, Ahmed for doing the hideous voice, or Georgie Lucas for allowing him to do it. Ick.

Jar Jar sucks, but what's worse is he's the most colorful character in the movie. Sure, you have C-3PO, but he's not in the movie much, and R2 also gets less screen time than Jar Jar. So compared to all the serious, dull characters that populate this movie, Jar Jar is an explosion of personality. Too bad Lucas didn't make this explosion a controlled one.

Enough. Jar Jar bites. Let's just pray to ILM he doesn't make it into the next two movies. (Oh, please no!)

One final character to mention: Darth Maul. This guy has been hyped up as more evil that Darth Vader himself, so the anticipation was high for him to be a major force in the movie. (Skip this if you don't wanna know.) He's not. He shows up a few times, scowls, rides a sort of Hover Harley, and has his cool double-beamed light saber. But he only speaks twice. And he only gets into two fights. And then (No, really, skip ahead if you don't want anything ruined), he dies. Huh? I admit, he's a very cool character, he looks mean, those horns are a nice touch, and his moves are wicked dangerous (he'd be at home in the Matrix ), but there's just not enough of him. Now, I'll admit I never understood why Boba Fett was so popular in Empire because, hey, he doesn't do much. I guess it was because of the cool armor and he was badass enough to capture Han. So I might be missing out on the Maul thing here. Me? I wanted more. More Maul. Make me hate him. As it is, you only hate him because he looks funny and tries to kill our heroes. I want more. More evil, please.

Darth Maul. Almost interesting, but he suffers from the dull bug, too. Just a bit.

If you watch Star Wars or Empire again, you can see what's missing in Phantom Menace: interaction. Because the characters are dull, their interaction is dull, and so we don't get any dynamic. Just look at how Luke, Leia, Han, Chewy, Obi-Wan, and the droids all interact. The bicker! They chide! They yell! Conflict! It's so much fun. Sorry, folks, but Episode I doesn't have that.

 

The Story

The story is fun and fairly strong. There are some questions I have, though, which I'll share here. SO SKIP TO THE NEXT SECTION if you want to.

First of all, it's revealed that Anakin built C-3PO. A strange concept, to be sure, but interesting. Also, R2-D2 and Obi-Wan are together several times in the movie. So why does no one remember these droids in Star Wars or Empire? And vice-versa? As for the droids not remembering the humans, Sven suggested it had to do with memory erasure. In Star Wars, you may recall, Luke was to get R2 and C-3PO's memories erased. Makes sense. Their personalities are built-in, but the actual memories can be erased. Then it's just a matter of coincidence that R2 and 3PO always end up together through the years. Still, I question this. It disturbs me. It seems fun, but untidy. It may end up being explained more thoroughly in Episode III.

So why doesn't Obi-Wan remember R2? Or Darth/Anakin C-3PO, the droid he built then abandoned on Tatooine? I guess this can all be explained away by saying droids are second-class citizens. Seen one bondi blue astromech droid, and you've seen them all. There's nothing to remember, really. And, hey, Darth only saw 3PO as a pile of parts in Empire, so there's nothing forcing recognition there. And Darth was evil. Evil people don't sidle up their former childhood science project and say, "Hi. Sorry I left you. How are you these days?"

If you watch Star Wars now, you can read into Alec Guinness's expressions a recollection that he has indeed seen R2 before. But that's just it, you're reading into it. It works, like the "Dark Side of the Moon"/The Wizard of Oz thing. It's what you're looking for. (By the way, the "Dark Side"/Wizard of Oz thing really works. It may be coincidence, but it's a pretty amazing one!)

The most interesting revelation in Episode I is how the Force works in people and creatures. I was intrigued and a little sad. It was definitely an interesting concept, those symbiotic creatures living in everyone. And interesting how they created Anakin. But does the mysticism of the Force get ruined just a little because we know this? After some thinking, my answer to that is no, and I'm glad George has come up with a larger, biological explanation of how the Force is implemented. The Force itself is still an amorphous, non-physical concept, but the addition of another being that lives within us all and allows us to sense and use the Force is neat. It's also very circle-of-life, which is so in vogue these days.

 

The Effects

Wow. Very impressive. But I'll say right away that I'm beginning to miss the presence of physical models. Good models still make CG look wicked fakey, but the ships here, as in the Star Wars special edition footage, look amazing. They have a digital fluidity to their movements, but they look like tangible objects. If models give way to this kind of digital craftsmanship, I won't miss them as much. (Some models were used in Episode I, and sometimes you can tell. That's good.)

The sets for most of Episode I were built to a certain height only (~7 ft.) and everything above was added digitally. Like the ships, the overwhelming majority of these shots are magnificent. I mean, just look at those exteriors of the palace on Naboo! Such amazing detail! The interiors look mighty fine, too, and seamless. Excellent work. Only a few times do the surroundings look fake (like outside the palace with all the huge statues, or in the Pillars of Crackling Energy and Dangerously Unrailed Platforms Room where Sith and Jedis fight). The bad is few, the good is many. Expect to have your socks knocked off.

That being said, there are still problems. I hate to bring him up again, but Jar Jar is an example. Digital creatures are still the downfall of any CG show. Jar Jar looks fake. He looks like something my PC at work would vomit up on a particularly bad day. Okay, I exaggerate, only because I hate Jar Jar so much, but all subjectivity aside, Jar Jar looks digital. Of course, there would have been no way to realize Jar Jar otherwise. Hey, maybe that wouldn't have been such a bad thing! Ha ha. Anyway, there are gazillions of CG creatures here, and while some work, the rest look CG. First, it's that skin thing. When skin stretches on CG creatures, it looks like pixel stretching, which is not what real skin stretching looks like. It's like a pattern on Silly Putty. When you stretch the Putty, the pattern stretches with it, but it's just a surface effect. Second, there's the motion of CG creatures. Droids and ships move mechanically, which suits computers just fine, but try to put organic motion in there, and the task becomes much harder, and therefore problems show up more easily. Even the mighty ILM can't guarantee a completely realistic CG character. (Oh, and that little blue flying thing? Watto? Besides being ridiculous, it's also physically impossible.)

But let's talk about another good thing: the pod race. All I'll say is it's awesome. It's fun, the effects work very well, and, hey, it's exciting!

Because of all the computers working to create this movie (and by that I don't mean to disregard the CG artists who worked those computers—computers don't blow up space ships, people blow up space ships), a ton of detail was able to be crammed into every frame of this flick. I already gave an example above (it was in a skip section, about the Senate chamber in case you missed it), but I wanted to mention the detail again. Part of the pleasure of this movie is it's visual richness. There is so much detail here, it almost hurts the eyes! Ah, what a feast. You'll love it.

 

Music

Hmm. Since I've only seen it once, it's hard for me to comment on the music. I can say that there seems to be a lack of new and exciting themes, though. There's a great choral thingy that happens during the battle between Obi-Wan, Qiu-Gon, and Darth Maul. But that's all I remember. I imagine if there were more cool themes, Long John Williams would have put them in the end credit musical sequence. But all that's there is the Singers of the Sith thing I just mentioned, then some not-so-hot mushy theme. It is good, during the film, to hear the original themes pop in from time-to-time. It makes a good connection to the first three films. But I'll have to reserve more judgment on this when I see the movie again.

[NOTE: On seeing the movie again, nothing more stuck out with the music, which is unfortunate. However, I did enjoy the Song of the Sith even more this time. It may be worth buying the soudtrack just for that. If you can find the soundtrack for a reasonable price. I mean, come on. Suggested retail of $20? Ludicrous. I'll wait 'til it turns up used.]

 

Let's Wrap Up This Sucker

Dull characters and acting, a lack of emotion, and some stupid kiddie crap. Exciting visuals, great ships, fun action sequences, and wowzie FX. Some bad stuff, some good stuff. Luckily, it didn't mix to make a lousy movie; the good was stronger than the bad, and therefore the movie's good. It could have been better had someone other than Lucas directed it, someone who could have added quirks to the portrayal of the dull characters, someone who could have coaxed a performance out of Jake. Like Irvin Kirshner did with Empire.

But the hype is just too much. I suggest you clear your mind, let go your feelings, and expect nothing. Then you'll really enjoy the movie and have fun. Be sure to ignore Jar Jar. Just clench your teeth and keep telling yourself he's not there. (He is much less present in the second half of the movie, thank The Maker.) And if you see it with a huge audience that's having lots of fun, it'll be even better.

What I'm looking forward to is the next two movies. I had a Star Wars trilogy screening at home later Saturday, and we watched the first 3 movies (well, we zoomed through a lot of Jedi, actually). While watching, I came up with all kinds of questions about how George was gonna connect the prequels to the originals. There are a few things that don't jive already. (SKIP.) One is in Empire, when Obi-Wan appears to Luke on Hoth, telling him to see Yoda, the "Jedi who instructed me." Well, Obi-Wan was not instructed by Yoda, he was instructed by Qui-Gon Jinn. Maybe Obi-Wan was going senile. Can ghosts go senile? Then there's also that whole thing about Luke being too old to begin the training. No duh, because in Episode I, even Anakin's "too old" to begin the training! Maybe that too old rule is sort of arbitrary, something the Jedi Council used as an excuse to excuse people they didn't want to bother with.

There's so much more to come, and that's what's exciting. And what's to come is pretty dark and dramatic. Beside the Anakin-to-Vader thing, there's the Clone Wars, the killing of the Jedi, the fall of the Republic... Oh, boy. Great things lie ahead!

 
—Steve

 

5/17/99 To Top of Page

 
WATCHING EPISODE I WITHOUT FILM

The DLP Badge Once again, George Lucas is using his power to effect cinematic change. There's ILM, THX, plus many production and post-production innovations, and now he's paving the way for the wide-spread acceptance of digital projection.

Digital projection has come a long way in just the last couple of years so that it is finally on the brink of being able to replace film projection in theaters across the world. Digital projection has no scratches, no splices, no film flutter, no fading. The last screening will look as pristine as the first. For the studios, digital projection will eliminate the costly need to create and ship thousands of prints; movies can be beamed to theaters via satellite or shipped on optical disks. The possibilities are exciting for them and the audience.

Me? I was not excited by digital video projection. First of all, video projection has always sucked. There is something about film that no electronic process has been able to duplicate. On film, colors are beautiful and tangible, the images sharp and deep. The look of film so much screams QUALITY! at us that some TV shows that are shot on video tape end up being put through a process known as—cleverly—FilmLook, which gives the glaring, ugly video tape picture the texture and atmosphere of a film image. Video is ugly. So this grand experiment to show Star Wars I via digital video interested me greatly. But I wasn't ready to be impressed.

There are only four theaters in the country participating in this experiment: two in L.A., two in New Jersey. One theater in each market is using Texas Instruments' DLP (Digital Light Processing) system, while the other theater is using a system by CineComm (with partners Hughes-JVC). (The link to CineComm is now dead, but check out Qualcomm's Digital Cinema site. CineComm used Qualcomm's compression technology.) At industry demos, TI's system was thought to be the better of the two. Ken and I saw the Texas Instruments screening in Burbank on Saturday.

I am impressed. Very, very impressed.

I love film. The reason I chose to work in film instead of TV at Boston University is because of the physicality of it. You actually have a physical strip of little pictures. You can touch film, cut it and tape it together. You can hold it up and see the individual frames. You can watch the film unspool through the projector, the reels spinning mesmerically. Film is tangible.

I discovered the joys of editing on computer when Catherine and I did A Pound of Flesh. I loved the old fashioned way of editing, using a Steenbeck and splicers and tape, hanging strips of film on the wall and labeling them with paper tape and a Sharpie. But the benefits of the Avid were immediately clear. It's just easier, and a huge time-saver. If you go from physical editing to electronic editing, the techniques you learned on the flatbed can carry over to the microchip and mouse, and you can accomplish fantastic things. (People who learn on an Avid may have a tendency to tinker too much, to muddle a film. Not always, but often, I believe.)

I was secretly hoping the digital screening of Star Wars I was going to be mediocre. Then I could run around with something new to rant about: SAVE FILM! IT'S BETTER! VIDEO SUCKS!

Damn. Now I can't do that. I'm not completely won over, but I will be soon.

The DLP image was bright, and the colors were very rich. There were no reel-change punches and splices, and there was no projector flutter. It looked damn, damn fine. Damn.

There are problems to overcome, though. Even from the middle of the theater, you could see the pixels. Pixels showed up with lettering and titles and credits, and the starfields twinkled slightly like they do on laserdisc. There were strange anomalies in still moments where what looked like waves of slight color variation swept over solid areas. I would say if the resolution can be doubled, or maybe even improved by half, the picture will look extremely sharp.

Another problem was color. Most of the colors were vibrant, but the system had trouble with skin tones. All the digital stuff looked fantastic, some of it even better here than on film. But live action scenes suffered somewhat. Skin tone is always hard for electronics to catch properly, while film does it perfectly. The reds, too, were very harsh. Video has always had trouble with red, too—it's a technical thing—so that's what was going on there, I think.

In this particular screening, the bottom foot of the screen was out of focus, something that could be fixed easily if the system matures. One thing that made me creep with joy inside was realizing that never again would a film be out of frame! OH JOY!

I think the industry needs to do a little work on digital projection before it becomes acceptable to film geeks like me. They could improve the resolution and work on the color problems and have something quite spectacular within 5 years. The industry is bound to go ahead with digital projection now, though, without making the above improvements. Bastards. Ah, well, it's still exciting!

What I don't look forward to is films being shot digitally. Episode II will be shot with digital video cameras, no film involved. I can tell you right now that huge strides need to be made in digital camera technology before film is supplanted on the throne of quality. Some of the shots in Episode I were done on digital cameras, and though I don't claim to know for sure which shots they are, there are some that are highly degraded in quality. A superb digital projection can not make up for a color-poor, resolution-challenged medium like digital cinematography. I think the best combination, at least for the near future, will be shooting on film, then projecting digitally.

One more note: there were a couple graphic bits shown before the movie. They were for the DLP system itself. These were sharp and colorful, but you could see the pixelation and antialiasing artifacts on the screen, and it looked like we were watching a computer presentation on a big TV screen. Blah. This is not the look to go for.

While we all wait for digital projection to become the norm, I suggest we buy stock in Texas Instruments. I think they're onto something here, and if the better system wins out for once, they'll be raking in the cash.

6/23/99

 

I did take a peek back in the theater a couple weeks later and watched about 5 minutes of the digital projection. See my comments in the Muppets From Space review.

 

7/16/99

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NO EXCUSE FOR MR. BINKS

There is no excuse for Jar Jar. None.

The only excuse I've even heard, really, is that kids like him, and that George obviously put him in to make sure a new generation of kids gets hooked on Star Wars.

Bunk. Complete bunk in every way.

First of all, a lot of kids were already hooked on Star Wars. Maybe not in the cult-like way the rest of us were when we were young, but they were well on the road to sipping that Kool-Aid.

Second, and most importantly, Star Wars had none of that. Star Wars had R2-D2 and C-3PO. And a couple Jawas. That, my friends, was the extent of the cutesy crap in Star Wars. And in Empire? Ditto. 3PO and R2 got a little sillier, but there was no introduction of a low-IQ character whose sole purpose was to annoy and distract.

But we loved those movies anyway, without the cute. For many reasons, Star Wars grabbed me as an 8-year-old and never let go. Empire grabbed me, too, and never let go. But see, Jedi grabbed me, then lost its grip as I got older. The Ewoks now are just too cutesy to behold. (I can go on now, too, about the Emperor and the plot and Han being dumbed down, but we're just talking cute now.) Jedi has lost its luster, while Star Wars and Empire remain strong.

Kids today may laugh at Jar Jar and think he's the greatest thing since sliced Pokemon, but that won't last. And therefore, the movie suffers. Those kids will grow up and ask themselves why they liked such a chowderheaded waste of rendering time as that.

Instead, George should have trusted what he created originally. It was not the Ewoks that made kids suddenly love the Star Wars movies. We already loved them! It was so much more. George did not "trust his feelings" and instead trusted marketing and demographic hoo-ha. He's talking down to kids, whereas in Star Wars he talked up. You never talk down to kids; they deserve better. George should have told his Episode I story, perked up his characters, added some more interpersonal conflict, and dumped Jar Jar's sorry ass in the nearest Mac trash can. The kids still would have loved the movie, and would have taken that love with them as they grew up. Now there's just some fake-fleshed alien dingus to eat away like acid at what could have been a much better film.

5/26/99

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AND NOW FOR SOME LEVITY

The Brunching Shuttlecocks. Brilliant. Check out the Phantom Menace Speed Rating, The Jedi Training Generator, and Jar Jar: The Terrible Truth at their site. Laugh, you will.

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©1999 Steven Lekowicz