Fandom menace, indeed.
For the record, my roommate stood in line for only 22 hours (camping began about a week ahead of time in my little burg) and myself and about 35 of our closest friends came to the 8pm show on opening day. Thank you, line sitters, for humiliating yourselves so we don’t have to. It did not take a team of Gallup Poll scientists to figure out that the insane hype machine driving the pre-release of Episode I would end up with inevitable disappointed expectations. But I think most people expected a movie at least as decent as The Empire Strikes Back. Is that so much to ask? That was 1980, we’ve come a long way, baby!
All I have ever asked of movies is two things: entertain me, and don’t insult me. I can enjoy Weekend at Bernie’s and Silence of the Lambs equally with this basic principal. Most of my readers will agree that I can take something away from nearly every movie I see. The Flim Flam Menace failed me utterly. Curse my rule of no spoilers – my fans (friends) know that I am all too happy to discuss details with folks who have seen the movie, so contact me for direct ranting. My Star Wars savvy roommate pointed out that despite the widespread, fully justified negative reaction toward this movie, we are still talking about it. Dammit! Enough talking! Let’s take some action. House Bill 138, prevent George Lucas from directing people ever again.
OK, the first movie (ep.4) was rather simplistic and didn’t really have all that much tension in it, but at least it made up for that with, oh, I don’t know, CHARACTERS and DIALOGUE. I didn’t know who Vader was but I knew he was up to no good the minute I saw him and heard his theme. This boring, overly pretty movie was not entertaining, it crammed visual after visual in and didn’t even bother to make us want to see. Too many aliens and spaceships – how can we fall in love with a creature or a ship if it’s on screen just long enough to be replaced by the next one? Well, I know they all get out alive, so I have no tension in the majority of the situations that I should have. When I am so bored I have to go looking for things to remember to say I liked in my review, that says something. I liked the sound design of Sebulba’s pod during the race. Uh….
In a movie as vapid as You’ve Got Mail, there were two levels of tension: one, between the Big Bookstore and the Little Bookstore, and two, between the love interests. Tension, baby! YGM mucked it up by being kind of banal, but the elements were there at least.
I have complained about Ep. 4 having little tension but it had repartee and interpersonal tension to make up for the mythically straightforward plot. This flick rested on the first three (4-6)’s laurels and said, well, you know who Yoda is, so you will cream your jeans as soon as you see him even if all he does is act like a cantankerous naysayer. Natalie Portman’s look was beautifully designed, but she was one note – nice without makeup, stubborn with makeup. The episodes 4-6 all had their own inherent structure and strength – granted, the Ewoks were abominable, but they *served a purpose* – not unlike the ganjafrogs Gungan. Why should we even be concerned? Fart poop “how rude” and ethnic slander aside, the aliens seemed designed purely to be new different toys. Sorry to give away one of the only jokes in the movie, but you’ve probably all seen it by now anyway: The audience cheered when the sand people took potshots at the pod race, probably because they were all thinking the same thing. “We know he’s going to win, this is basically all the same crap over and over again, just knock out the hand walking jerk and win already!”
Nice sound design. Nice production design. Whoopie. What Dreams May Come had lovely visual design and a seriously trite tear-jerking storyline but it had 1. plot structure 2. characters you gave some level of a crap about and 3. music that forced you to feel when the script failed you. And the CGI effects, which were substantial, all had that weird internal glow I have never been able to describe, but you can tell it’s fake. OK, it is fake, and we know it, but I have seen movies older than this one, with less computing power behind them, and the CGI/real compositing looked more real. Jurassic Park leaps to mind. Jurassic Park – oh Spielberg, save us! John Williams took a nap on this one too. Also wasted: Darth Maul, Samuel L. Jackson, hell, even Ewan was wasted.
The OSHA-unapproved light saber battle, what the hell was that red stuff? OK, yeah, great, nice. Modern USA type jokes (moan with me here) – kowtowing to the kids does not make your movie popular, it does nothing but rob your formerly respectable epic of its only real virtue – the virtue of its fantasy. Star Wars (you know, A New Hope) was un-self-conscious and utterly simplistic but that was its appeal. You have Leia cracking Monica Lewinsky jokes as she pops open a Pepsi, well, the kids just don’t respond to that – and the adults will blast you on the internet. Has Lucas gone the way of John Hughes?
I wanted to like it. I expected the worst – I expected Ep. 4 plus Ewoks. By the end I was waxing nostalgic for the relative superiority of the Ewoks. I got no plot tension, no romantic tension, no character interaction, no “welcome to this interesting saga which somehow thinks its cool enough to make up NINE movies” laying of a seed. I got someone who says “I got me a franchise and my fans know all they need to know to understand this movie so I don’t need to explain anything.” Well, dude, you do – why would anyone attack a planet based on a taxation issue? Boring! Why/How is that hooded creepazoid powerful? What’s the Sith and why do I care, if they are basically one-man teams of hand to hand combatants, whoopie, no big threat.
I liked the rolling killbots, the robot transports, I liked the fishies, but basically this movie was emptier – EMPTIER – than Independence Day. ID4 was full of broadly drawn characters but I still cheered when the dog survived. Someone asked me if I liked PM or the Mummy better and I have yet to come up with an answer! Titanic was a sketchily written visual tour de force but it was engaging on more levels than just “look at the cool thing on screen!”
Shame on George Lucas! Shame!
MPAA Rating PG-13
Release date 5/19/99
Time in minutes 131
Director George Lucas
Studio 20th Century Fox