Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Revenge of the Sith (3)

But Andrew, remember: you are very, very old. "Revenge of the Sith" is not intended for you. It's basically a kids action movie. If you had seen "Revenge of the Sith" when you were 12, or even 12A, you would have loved it.

You would have rushed home and bought the book, the comic, all the guide books. In fact, you would have gone to see the film already having read the comic. You would have known the script by heart and known when a good bit was coming. You would have narrated the plot to your baby sister until she wanted to throw her teddy bear in your face.

Kids in your class with whom you had previously had nothing in common would have turned out to be your friends when you discovered that they also had creased-up copies of the "Revenge of the Sith" paper-back novelisation in their Addidas hold-alls.

You would have got special dispensation from your form teacher to read the new issue of "Revenge of the Sith Weekly" on Wednesday mornings during class-reading time (*), after showing him that it contained quite a lot of text and big, grown up words in the speech bubbles.

Using cardboard boxes and felt-tip pens, you would make a sequence of progressively weak attempts to conctruct replicas of a Obi-Wan Kenobi's Jedi Starfighter in your bedroom.

You would join the "Revenge of the Sith" fanclub and try to start local chapters among your school friends.

You would become so familiar with the characters through the comics and toys that when you went back to the cinema for the third, fifth, tenth, twelfth viewing, it would almost come as a shock to see these comic-book, four-inch high action figures appearing in "real life"on the screen.

You would have favourite bits of dialogue. You would recite faviourite bits of dialgoue and act them out with your friends.

You would walk past your Junior School, look through the window of your first classroom, and it would cross your mind that when you were sitting there crosslegged drinking milk with a straw some impossibly long time ago, seven years or maybe eight, "Revenge of the Sith" had not been made – maybe not even thought of. Thinking about "a time before 'Revenge of the Sith' "would make you think about other strange notions: time and mortality.

You would start to notice that they were no-longer talking about "Revenge of the Sith" on Blue Peter and in the Daily Mirror; that the toys were harder and harder to find in the shops, and that it was harder and harder to find a cinema where the film was showing.

You would start to wait for the sequels.

You would notice that your friends had become less interested in running a local chapter of the "Revenge of the Sith" fan club, and that it had in any case never been very obvious what such an organisation might actually do.

People would start to snigger at your "Revenge of the Sith" pencil case.

"Revenge of the Sith" would gradually cease to be the film that "everyone" is talking about. People would start to identify you as "that "Revenge of the Sith" nerd."

"Revenge of the Sith" would no longer be the first comic you read on a Wednesday. But the older issues would still retain their magic, and certain specific images would retain their aura. (The colours; the typscripts; the design would be as important – more important – than what you remember of the actual movie.)

You would start to wonder if you would ever see "Revenge of the Sith" again, because, like Disney cartoons, it would never be shown on TV.

One Christmas, you would watch "Revenge of the Sith" on TV.

Eventually, you would not be twelve any more, and "Revenge of the Sith II" would come out, and everybody would be talking about it again, but, even though you would see it a dozen times and even though you would agree that it was even better than the original, you would feel on the outisde, because, somehow, "Revenge of the Sith" is special, special to you, and this sequel which everyone is talking about is, well, only a movie.


Or, on the other hand, maybe not.

(*) Literacy hour? (Typing the words make me want to vomit.)

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Anonymous said...

> "when you discovered that they also had creased-up copies of the "Revenge of the Sith" paper-back novelisation..."

... complete with the eight pages of full-colour glossy movie stills in the middle. Including three or four different shots of one scene, but none of some really interesting villain.

Any copy of the novelisation found in a second-hand book store would always -- always -- be minus the photo section.

This custom seems to have vanished completely after 1982-83, ie, about the time that SF movies started to replace laser beams with bullets (viz Blade Runner and Aliens).

Anonymous said...

The words being used in these conversations are evidently English, but the language seems to be a dialect with which I'm subtly unfamiliar.

I think that the problem is that I wasn't twelve, or unborn, when Star Wars came out; I was nineteen. And the movie wasn't a religious experience for me. It was quite fun, certainly, and impressive, and something of a big event - especially for a science fiction fan like me - but that was all. I didn't have the cinematic literacy to unweave this rainbow properly; I hadn't seen The Hidden Fortress or The Triumph of the Will and I'm not sure if I'd seen The Searchers, but I'd seen a bunch of westerns and The Dambusters and maybe one or two martial arts movies, and I'd read some Doc Smith, so I could see what Lucas was doing essentially; gluing lots of cool stuff together with some really nice special effects. This wasn't a new hope or a new faith; it was the culmination of several old things.

(What was the influence on later movies of Star Wars? Well, it proved that SF movies could sell, and it demonstrated the new state of the art in special effects... Compare and contrast the way that Blade Runner or Alien saturated the zeitgeist, and still do.)

Of course, the problem with the Lucas/Rilstone argument that the new movies aren't really meant for the 40-year-olds who were captivated by the first series when they were 13, but are meant for a new bunch of 13-year-olds, is that, so far as I remember, quite a lot of 40-year-olds were quite taken with the first movie at the time. Maybe not captivated or obsessed, but not actively hostile. Maybe there were some old 2001 fans who grumbled about the dumbing-down of SF cinema (and maybe they were right), but kicking Lucas's frothy construct would have seemed pretty gratuitous to most.

Does this mean that Lucas has changed from a maker of harmless ageless entertainments to a children's entertainer with excess pretensions? Maybe. After all, the worst naffness they had to complain about was R2-D2, and later the Ewoks. Nowadays, people have to make exuses for Jar-Jar Binks. But maybe it's just that, partly thanks to his Gygaxian pioneering efforts, the grown-up genre fans have got better alternatives these days. If I want to watch a story about the terible conflict between love and duty, punctuated by acrobatic sword fights, I can watch Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. If it's the temptations of power and evil (plus great special effects) that float my boat, I've got the X-Men and Lord of the Rings DVDs on the shelf. If I want to recall an age of innocence in intelligent retrospect, there's The Incredibles, and if I want teenage-smart-arse-level cod philosophy, there's The Matrix. Maybe all Lucas has got left is children and congealed nostalgia. Like he should worry.

Which is why I watched The Phantom Menace on a borrowed DVD, and I still haven't caught up with Attack of the Clones (let alone the new thing) yet. Because I also have the obstinate objection to giving somebody money for something which I'm not likely to find terribly entertaining - and nothing which has been said about those movies convinces me that they're worth it.

Andrew Rilstone said...

the problem with the Lucas/Rilstone argument

Time to give the whole "irony" thing a rest for a week or two, methinks.

Anonymous said...

Well, I could see that there was some sort of irony in there. But I couldn't see any disagreement with Lucas's basic claim in that recent interview - that this is a movie aimed at (or at least, working best for) a new generation of fans, rather than the grognards who saw the first trilogy the first time round.

If you're saying that the new movies just won't have same effect on a new generation as the first lot had on the younger you - well, I can't see why not. Other than any implicit suggestion or assumption that they're Just Not As Good - which just doesn't strike me as a convincing argument when talking about 13-year-olds.

Anonymous said...

I doubt Revenge of the Sith will have the impact the Star Wars film had, because there are now so many other similar things around.

(Or is there a Star Wars equivalent SF-fairytale film that appeared before it? Can't really think of one myself.)

Anonymous said...

My 13 year old is certainly not blown away, although he liked the latest one. I suspect the lack of thrill may be partly because he's had the last few years of listening to endless adult critiques of the new trilogy as it arrives. LotR on the other hand did have a huge impact.

Anonymous said...

My money would be on "simplicity of story". A New Hope is really the only SW film that's a story in its self. The prequels in particular are almost all backplot. As stories on their own they make almost no sense.

Anonymous said...

Further to Dan's comment: not only is the prequel trilogy all backplot, only one of the films (Sith) has the backplot we're actually interested in.

I suspect those of us who enjoy Star Wars were quite excited when we heard that the prequels were coming out, because we'd get to see how Darth Vader turned evil, wrecked the Republic and helped establish the Empire. All this stuff happens in the third movie - Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones are really quite sparse in terms of vital plot points. We don't really care that Anakin was a cute little kid who built C3PO and a pod-racer of his very own, or even that he had silly floppy hair before it all got burned off in the lava pit.

Every fact we've learned about Anakin in the prequels has worked to make Vader less and less of an interesting character in the original films: the point of the prequels, to my mind at least, was that they were meant to be an attempt to turn a two-dimensional villain into a three-dimensional character. I think Lucuas has actually managed to squash some dimensions...

Anonymous said...

To echo what anonymous said, when leaving Phantom Menace I mentioned how terribly bored I had been. My far too eager friend asked, "But don't you think it's exciting seeing the very roots of the Rebel Alliance?"

The answer was unquestionably, "No."

Seeing the root of Vader in Revenge was a bit more interesting. So, I'll give it that.

But yes, it is probably unwise to compare Sith to Star Wars, or any of the sequels to Star Wars.