elling a Star Wars movie to the moviegoing public
is like selling blood to vampires. You know they want it, they know they want
it, and not any amount of bad press or bad reviews about the movie (or blood) is
going to put them off from getting it. This is the dilemma (if you can call it
that) for Star Wars
guru George Lucas as he embarks on the latest installment in his space opus.
Episode 1 is the kind of
movie that requires you to see it more than once. The first time is to get over
the mind-boggling special effects that are seamlessly integrated with the human
actors and live surroundings. It is a task (but far from impossible) to distinguish
between flesh and blood actors and animated characters such as Jar Jar Binks, or
an army of cgi-blooded characters that populates the screen. In one
amazing scene that takes place in the massive Senate Chamber, the entire cast is
made of cgi with only a
few humans interspersed. And you know what? I couldn't tell the difference. Episode
1 is that well done.
So after seeing it the first time and getting over the
massive leap in cgi technology, what can you expect from the second, third, or
even fourth viewing? Well, if you're like me, a second viewing is enough to see
the many faults in the movie. This is not to say that Episode 1 is a
bad film. That isn't the case by any stretch of the imagination. It's just not, well, a very
good film if you take away all the cgi and sfx. Episode 1's bread and
butter is its legend -- its Jedi myths, its alien worlds, and its pirate
cantinas. Take all that away and there's not much to hold onto.
Story, as was the case in the original Star Wars, its sequels The
Empire Strikes back and Return of the Jedi, is sparse and simple.
You do not have to be a rocket scientist to figure it out and where it's going. Star Wars is a
bedtime story to get your kids to go to sleep. It's a "Once upon a
time" movie, and though memorable for its inventions, it will never be
taught in screenwriting classes. The script, written by Lucas, is just not very
There is no depth to the characters, no sense of
personality, and little semblance of "acting" on display. Truly,
even renown thespians such as Liam Neeson and Samuel L. Jackson are wooden.
Worst, young actress Natalie Portman and young Jake Lloyd, who plays Anakin
Skywalker (the future Darth Vader) are terrible. Both actors speak their
dialogue like machines without the ability to emote. Portman is especially
terrible as Queen Amidala, who has a monotonous speech pattern that is sure to
invoke howls of laughter -- or at least a lot of cringing by acting students. It's atrocious, wooden, and if indeed it was Lucas' order that she
speak like this, it was a terrible choice. She comes across as a lifeless Kabuki
without heart, and considering that she is the engine that runs the movie, it is
a bad choice for Lucas, and an even worst display of acting by Miss
I cannot believe I am going to say this next sentence,
In fact, the cgi characters have more personality than their living,
breathing counterparts. Gasp! Even the much-maligned Jar Jar Binks shows more
personality than his human counterparts.
Taken as a whole, perhaps the bad acting and terrible
dialogue means little. A movie like Star Wars, which has garnered such a
huge fan following, is beyond critique. Like blood to vampires -- they know they
want it, you know you want it, and bad P.R. -- or even bad story, bad acting,
and bad writing -- is not going to change anyone's mind.
All that being said, Episode 1's special effects and
its brilliant use of cgi work are truly magnificent. That aspect alone will make
Episode 1 astounding. Unfortunately, if you're in the mood for something
more than eye candy, you shouldn't bother with Episode 1, since you'll
come away still starving.