Cleansing the doors of cinematic perception... for a better now

Friday, November 30, 2007

You dirty astro-droid!

I'm home sick and stuff so finally get around to watching "Revenge of the Siths" - and I'm cool with the embarassing little helium voices of the droids and that Lucas seemed to have just taped the cooings of his infants for a script. One guy just sounds like he's holding it in waiting in line for the bathroom. And I dig that Lucas is so insecure that not even a single second can pass without something zooming around on gravity beams in the background. What's a drag is that even for a "family movie" SITH's lame, since all the relationships are seething with hostility and dysfunction.

Lucas claims to love family, but his family dynamics have grown hopelessly dour and ill-humored. Obi Wan goes into battle with Hayden Christensen and rather than be either brave and alert or calm and Zen, they gripe at each other like old Chelsea queens who've been together forever and who probably need to start seeing other people (the evil emperor I guess is to become Hayden's new sugar daddy). Christensen does smolder effectively; he instinctively knows that deadpan solemn is the only way to get through this "space night at Chuck E Cheese" embarrassment, but Ewan MacGregor is unable to find a shred of dignity within himself. Rather than just plunging into the shit pool like Bela the trouper did in BRIDE OF THE MONSTER, MacGregor puts a little prance in his voice as if to forge a secret parachute of conscience: "I did TRAINSPOTTING, Mate, remember? If you leave the theater early, please take me with you."

Lucas' dialogue is so poor that for an actor to make it sound natural they would need about four hours to get out one sentence. Lucas gives them exactly .004 of a second, and then he cuts to a blurble, an explosion, or a swoosh of a ship. As an editor myself, I can tell you we call that flop sweat - you don't trust a single shot to stand on its own, so you try to de-claw future film criticism with as much smoke and mirrors as you can cram.  I'm now certain that the original Star Wars would have bombed back in 1977 if not for Harrison Ford and the unsung hero of the hour, producer Gary Kurtz, who worked on the only two good films (Star Wars and Empire) in the franchise, and spent the majority of time talking Lucas out of reams of awful dialogue and kiddie crap. Then he got pissed and left and the result was RETURN OF THE JEDI.

And of course Harrison Ford helped a lot. I remember seeing it in the theater, the original 1977 STAR WARS, at 11 years old, the day it opened and before it became huge. I dug all the monsterness but was too young to understand much of what was going on, I thought it kind of sucked, then Harrison shows up and the Falcon takes off and suddenly it all came into focus. Ford was the big brother who brought the right kind of logic, perspective and humor to the film.

That kind of real man cannot survive for long in the land of the 40 hour work week, minivan, and drive-through Starbucks. Lucases by the dozen can, though. They live for mundanity. That's the wretched part about these last Star Wars films: how so much can be happening to such little effect. John Wayne could show you what it was like to be a real, living grown up man just by walking from the jail to the hotel; Hawks realized he was filming myth in action and letting the guy take his time. In the world of Lucas, the Ned Flanders is in effect - Obi Wan bounces through supposedly life threatening situations like one of the portly old fathers in the post-Mermaid Disney cartoons. He's afraid if he stops spinning his arms and going "whoa whoa look at me!" the kids will forget him and go back to eating paint.

I'm thinking now, of course, of James Dean in REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE, standing in mute horror before his dad... Jim Backus in a girly apron.

I want Harrison Ford to reach his hand through time and take James Dean forward into outer space, let Annakin go back in time and grow up in that sterile Norman Rockwell-hell that Lucas and Backus seem to embrace. Let Dean stand before us again and show us that once man was not split between being sweet/sensitive and strong/certain, that a good father figure should embody a certain mystery and majesty... not since Matthew Broderick finally got some balls in THE LION KING have we seen any of these little adenoidal Dreyfusses do more than call the cops or whine for their moms. Darth Vader was a scary customer with James Earle Jones' voice and a cool helmet, and while Christensen tries hard and I predict in a few years he will have some real gravitas to share (Barbara Stanwyck at 19 years old had more gravitas than Hayden will at 49); his deep rich voice indicates the possibility.

Voice is, ultimately, far more important than Lucas thinks. He knew once that boys do not want to see their dads put on an apron and act all Mister Rogers friendly. And I'm not knocking Fred Rogers, but I don't think he would intend that character to be someone's full-time father. And if Fred Rogers had to go into battle, I bet you he would take the effort to show a little respect and stop grinning like a ninny. Lucas is like that dad you don't want to bring on war maneuvers because he doesn't take it seriously. You shoot him in a fair fight and he refuses to die, saying "no but I ate kryptonite! wooga booga! I'm the mummy!" or some other ignorant, condescending b**lshit.

There's only one director working today who understands the importance of this kind of mythic manhood and that's Tarantino. But then he has to go and act in his own films and so you realize he can't be king either. Russell Crowe and Mel Gibson are Aussies. So I guess it's up to you, JOSH BROLIN!

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