Saga and Sagacity

It's been about a week since I saw Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. And I've come to the conclusion that I enjoyed it, but I didn't like it.

The distinction may seem indistinct, but I see it this way: I enjoyed it while I watched it, so it was enjoyable. However, that enjoyment faded and disappeared within minutes after I left the theatre. It was there only while I was watching the film.

I would consider something "likeable" that has some staying power. Days or weeks later, I should be able to think of something I liked and say to myself, Yeah, I liked that.

The distinction may seem slight, but it's meaningful to me, and it helps define exactly what I would say if someone asked me if they should see the film. I would tell them, "Well, I enjoyed it," which is the more important operand when dealing with pop culture. The theatrical experience is an ephemeral one anyway, so something that also fades is perfectly in tune with it.

Now, if someone should ask me, "Should I buy the DVD?" I'd probably say, "Well, I didn't like it." DVDs are there forever, man, and shelf space is limited (at least mine is). Looking back at Sith, even the special effects seemed crowded and frantic.

I had this same dual experience with the previous Star Wars film, Attack of the Clones. I enjoyed it while watching it in the theatre, and because I remembered enjoying it, I bought it on DVD. I watched it at home and again enjoyed it. Then it went on the shelf and I never even thought about watching it a second time. Not because of ill feelings toward it, but rather a lack of ANY kind of feelings toward it.

I watched the first hour and a half before seeing the new film, and I found Attack of the Clones to be a dreadful, awful film. I wouldn't consider watching it again, unless there was money involved or I was drunk.

Some of this may seem to be George Lucas-bashing, and thus colored by prejudice. Perhaps. But if ever a man brought on his own bashing, it's George Lucas. He took a remarkably fun and likeable film, Star Wars, and diminished and drained all the pleasures out of it. Is it any wonder people resent his abuse of power? (Note: He owns the films and can do what he likes with them, no one is arguing that he can't. The arguments would be over whether he should. A distinction between the legal and creative realms.) His "special editions" added nothing but stupidity and cheese. I can't think of a single improvement over the original versions. Oh, wait, that one scene where Han Solo ran into the troop quarters. The additional troopers made it funnier. I'll grant that. I'll just revise the letter grade right now from an F to a slightly higher F.

The other changes, such as the CGI Mos Eisley, just make the "Special" film perfect for a double-bill with a contemporary movie that the original film outclassed in every way: Logan's Run.

Lucas claims he made these changes to bring the films up to his "original vision" for them. This just sounds so sad. His original vision apparently stank on ice, and it was only budget constraints that forced him to make the films good. The success of Star Wars allowed the success of Glen A. Larson's cheesy knock-offs. But it looks as if that's where Lucas was heading anyway. It's the greatest argument I've ever heard for studio interference.

Star Wars and its companions in the original trilogy make for solid storytelling with interesting characters and cool special effects, and those three reasons (not just the last) are why many people, including myself, could watch them over and over and enjoy them (and like them). I saw the "Special Edition" versions once, out of curiousity, and can't really imagine watching them again. It's depressing to think that these will be the only versions children born today will see. I suppose it's the perfect accompanyment to action figure sales. It used to be more than that, but I suppose ensuring money flow and capriciously exercising power are more important than having fun and an imaginative vision. That's the lesson I'm taking, here.

I just have to shake my head, and wonder about something. In the new film, the Emperor seeks to possess ultimate power for no other reason than to possess it. There's something in there about controlling the universe, but it's not all that spelled out. Mostly, he just seems to want power because he wants it.

I'm sure the parallel I'm seeing was never intended, but it's sure there.

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