The Passion of the Anakin

May 24th, 2005  |  Published in old and busted  |  4 Comments

I saw “Revenge of the Sith” on Sunday morning. I got up at 6:30 and drove to the theater by 7:15 so I could scout the situation (and suffer a little … a token nick of the fingertip compared to Sven’s 15 hour vigil, but blood was spilled in the form of a forfeited sleep-in Sunday). A cup of coffee and a danish later, it was 8:05… people sidled up to the front of the theater. I affected a casual, care-free walk to the tenth or eleventh spot in the line, seething that I hadn’t spotted that full minivan behind the bush.

By 8:30, the line was very long, stretching the front of the theater and around the side. By 8:45, we were milling in. I acted like I was with the single mother of three in front of me so I could slide through the “10-15 people at a time” throttle imposed by the door workers. It involved pressing in close enough to look like I was, you know, with her without her noticing and maybe complaining or becoming alarmed. I also affected a slightly proprietary set of the shoulders in her direction. It worked… the guy right behind me got stopped. It was irrational of me, but damnit … it had to be done.

Something one of the children of that mom said to her as we waited in line:

They had a little friend along. The friend’s uncle, a cabdriver, pulled through the theater to drop his kids off. The mom said “Wow… that’s his uncle!? Small world!” Her son said “It’s not a small world, mom. This is a big movie.”

I had a Fandango ticket printout. When I got to the ticket taker, he discovered that his printer wasn’t working and he couldn’t print a little tearable ticket for us. An ugly rumble went through the Fandango people, because we’d paid our extra buck fair and square to dodge the line all the other suckers were standing in to get tickets from the half-awake Ashleys and Britneys behind the counter. The guy threw his hands up and quit scanning the ticket printouts, choosing instead to just wave us through. I got exactly the seat I wanted.

Sven joined me a few minutes before trailers began to roll, but after the Jack Johnson video was over, which I didn’t mind (the video or the arrival time). They sure are trying to push that fella hard (Jack Johnson, not Sven).

The theater wasn’t packed full, but it was as full or more than many opening weekend crowds for other stuff that’s popular but not huge.

Trailer notes: Fantastic Four looks neat, but I fear it; Batman looks neat, I anticipate it; Mr. & Mrs. Smith seems to be why Brad and Jennifer are no more … the trailer offers just a few clues as to why that might be, including more variations on “Ms. Jolie’s lips parted sensuously in [shock, surprise, pleasure, fear, arousal]” in a two minute trailer than I thought possible. Those things have to be cybernetic to maintain their state of emotive precision through falls from windows and running gun battles. Brad was lost from the first sultry sneer.

Then the Fox drumroll and fanfare, which permitted a moment’s reflection on how when I was nine, I thought ALL the best movies DEFINITELY came from 20th Century Fox because, you know, Star Wars. Then the Lucasfilm logo. I still think of it as “the new logo” because I miss the plain, blue, sans type of the original trilogy’s openings before the retrofit. Then the crash and fanfare.

First, those who’ve already said their say somewhere:

  • Sven takes the whole thing to town from several angles I hadn’t even begun to consider.

  • Nate offers a few more ideas and some proposed edits.

  • Gretchin offers a survey.

  • Jim gets a little mixed up.

And now, a tiny few of my own thoughts (some of which went over to Phil earlier today). Oh, and

Spoilers

> “A young Jedi named Darth Vader, who was a pupil of mine until he turned to evil, helped the Empire hunt down and destroy the Jedi Knights.” — Obi Wan Kenobi, “Star Wars: A New Hope.”

If you spent 28 years waiting around for George Lucas to show you that sentence stretched out over hours, then “Sith” gets a break because the whole thing is almost as much about the story finally being told than being told perfectly. It’s a passion play for Star Wars fans.

When I was about the same age as the age when I first saw Star Wars, my family went to a passion play. Our friend Mick, a big guy with a beard, got tapped to be Jesus. They tied him up on a cross, he writhed some, but there wasn’t a lot of gushing blood or crying out. The action on the floor in front of him was pretty staid, too. Everyone in the room knew the story… they were part of a tradition that’s been telling itself that story for nearly 2,000 years. What was important was that everyone get the sequence of events right so each person in the audience could be triggered to remember the story on their own, perhaps influenced by a childhood of little paper Jesuses being pushed around feltboards, with little paper Pilates laving in little paper bowls.

Star Wars people have scripture, too. We know the story:

> “A young Jedi named Darth Vader, who was a pupil of mine until he turned to evil, helped the Empire hunt down and destroy the Jedi Knights.”

We’ve just been waiting for someone to translate the story to the screen. Copyright and certain moral rights meant George got to keep his priestly vestments, even though I was suitably annoyed with the tablets he brought down from the mount that were Eps I & II that I wanted him to enlist a little help on this one, in case he wasn’t hearing God quite right as he was told the story.

Like the previous episodes, the more clinical part of my brain was a little put off.

Outside the theater, I told Sven that people are rarely badgered into becoming the most evil figure the universe has ever known … they have to kind of rack up some bad karma … so I wanted a little more time spent on Anakin’s slide. The murder of the younglings needed a bit more narrative motivation than it got, and I knew how I’d manage it in about 30 seconds of screen time that would have motivated the atrocity that unfolds. I’m not telling because my changes would rock your world and embarrass George, who should have a little time to bask in the glow of our money, which he’s using to fuel his tiki torches.

Overall, though, I think this installment was superior to the previous two prequels and even serves to elevate them a little, because it provides the payoff people suspected we wouldn’t get judging from the initial direction of the trilogy. I’ll admit it: I spent a lot of time scared that maybe when Anakin took his tumble into the lava, the prevailing mood of the first two prequels would dictate maybe a shadowy (and maybe stumpy) form writhing around in a bacta tank with an obligatory med-droid, then, you know… birds over Naboo as Vader strides forth, force-chokes a few captive Jedi, then looms into the camera and takes us to credits.

Quick question, because it’s late and I’m too lazy to go pop in the DVD and find the scene. Has this bit of dialogue survived the “special edition” Return of the Jedi?

> When your father left, he didn’t know your mother was pregnant. Your mother and I knew he would find out eventually, but we wanted to keep you both as safe as possible, for as long as possible.

Because pretty much the first thing that pops out of Padme’s mouth when she sees Anakin in “Sith” is “Good news… bun in the oven! (and on the sides of my head!)” Maybe Obi Wan was lying again, even as he pretended to come clean.

A few quick side notes:

  • I don’t care that the dialogue isn’t so great. It’s a passion play. I know that Anakin and Padme share a love that will tear the galaxy asunder and result in Mark Hammil and Carrie Fisher, so while it’s good form to show and not tell, well, I already know. So it’s not a question of their love being “believable” or whatever else some hack for a mid-size regional paper barfed out the morning after general release. Evidently Padme and Anakin were just sort of wooden people, because we can see their love tore the galaxy apart: It took Eps IV-VI to put things back again. Duh.

  • Not so fond of the obligatory “Speaking as an old-skool sci fi buff who read Heinlein and Asimov and several other very important science fiction authors, Star Wars ruined the genre by making all those people think they liked science fiction after all when what they really like is science fantasy and so I cannot like this movie, either” comments. You’ve had 28 years to remind us that your favorite genre was ruined by the unwashed. Move on to… I dunno… practicing not sneezing on other peoples’ food.

  • Not so fond of complaining about how Anakin looks like he’s suffering from a migraine when he becomes evil. The Dark Side takes some getting used to, evidently. Perhaps all of us would look pained. And having seen the massive forehead bumps the emperor developed after getting some of his own force lightning back, it might have just been some anticipatory cringing over his own eventual transformation into a bumpy old man.

  • O.k. Yes. I could have done without “Noooooooo!”

  • The look of horror on Anakin’s face just before the mask descends (and we get a glimpse of Darth-o-Vision) was pretty damn good for some guy everyone says is a wooden jerk.

  • There’s been blogospheric talk among the right-wingers about boycotting the movie because it has a point of view about tyranny that pricks their consciences a little too hard. They should go ahead and do that. In its place, I can recommend some of the nastiest slash ideological fandom has yet to cough up, produced right here in Portland. If your eyes don’t water a little when you get to the “angel, may I call you angel?” part … whew.

I think I think a few other things, but it’s late and I think the whole passion play thing is overextended, anyhow, so I’m going to let this thing go into the folder where entries go as they await upload.

Parting thought, I suppose, is that I’m satisfied. I had a good time (that’s important), and I finally got to hear a tale I’ve been waiting to have told to me for nearly 30 years.

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