Thursday, May 19, 2005

Heads in the Clouds

Lance is having a lot of fun with this, so I'm going to join in. (I shall not address the Anthony Lane/Annoying Limey-Twit aspects, however - I left those in comments to LM's post.)

In a city far, far away from where I am now, I, too, watched what is now known as Episode IV with pleasure on its first weekend. I was old enough to know it was derivative, and from what, but I loved the polish, the tech, the excess of scale (which I found funny). I wasn't plugged in at the same level that the kids in the audience were, though - they were amped even before the first fanfare, and they were bouncing off the walls when we all left the theater. It was cool. This could be for them, I thought, what Tolkien had been for me, alone, in my room, the beginning of a long romance.

I was especially grateful for Alec Guinness being in there - he embodied the backstory, the hint of history and its gravity that the rest of the actors (and the rest of the script) were too lightweight to sustain. As I recall, George Lucas was lucky he was able to make it at all, and if it hadn't become an historic monster hit, we wouldn't have the saga of Obi-Wan, after death and before, winding up as we speak.

My favorite of the Six (and I will have to wait on the DVD of Episode III, friends - I'm busy keeping someone alive here) is, of course, No. V, "Empire...". Irvin Kershner gave some body to those lightweight kids, and he knew how to pace lines and where the beats should be. The writing wasn't appreciably better than the first movie (with the possible exception of Yoda, and his very special - now legendary - syntax), but it was full of feelings the first had skirted. This is the one that should have been titled "A New Hope."

Whatever happened to Lando? Who can count the reasons - stupidity, tech, budget, Ewoks, A New Insularity, maybe a hack at the helm? - fuck, I don't know. My enthusiasm died with ROTJ - and I have not been disappointed, subsequently, with a revival. Even with the advantages of DVD, I had to borrow in to find some key dialogue in Episode 1 - those damned midichlorians (or midi-chlorians, or, as another Google hit puts it, "Comics Ate My Brain") - and poor Liam Neeson still had to rush over them. His nobility is preserved in his contract to get killed off.

So, while I shall look forward to the DVD of Epsiode III, I don't have much invested in it. Readers will note that I quizzed out as Boba Fett, below, and I'm still not quite sure who he is (I blame the chaos of Episode II). It seems wrong, but maybe you can ask my sister - she has at times thought me a sociopath.

Speaking of Socios, I am amazed at the weight this space fantasy-romance is now expected to bear. Stephanie Zacharek gives a clear-eyed review (it's a MOVIE) in Salon, and Echidne at Atrios jumps all over her for the most passing implication that it's even possible for both Left and Right to oversimplify (E's quote is in paragraph 4 of a 13-paragraph piece) - god, read the rest of it! As SZ says toward the end:

"So is Palpatine supposed to be George W. Bush? It appears so, because he's ruthless, unappealing and arrogant. He's a cartoon baddie, like Ming the Merciless, or Mumbles, or the Penguin -- all of these are very bad men, just like that bad old George W. If Lucas really knew what he was doing, he'd have given us a character who believed with all his heart, as George W. surely does, that he's on God's side. That would have made for a truly creepy and treacherous villain."

Is that clear enough? Look, I'm rubbed raw by everything that's going down - Bolton, that idiot Frist, scapegoating Newsweek for fury and death in foreign lands (who suddenly turned policy responsibility over to Newsweek, btw?). I like Echidne very much, but this is getting too close to a Rumsfeldian "watch what you say/do" thing to make me get my boarding pass.

Geez, I haven't even addressed all that JRRT lore. Next time. I would also like to bring up another presumptive Tory, Anthony Powell. Watch, please


Lance Mannion said...

Don't you dare bring in Anthony Powell!

I've been putting off reading A Dance to the Music of Time for some peaceful summer down the road. If you bring him up I might be tempted to start reading now.

And Lucas's prefering to focus on Ewoks rather than on Billie Dee Williams is a sign of all kinds of character flaws and neuroses.

Btw, it's the Right side of the blogosphere that is going nuts over whether or not Palpatine is George W., which is very funny. What do they know that we don't?

grishaxxx said...

Closet Sith, they must be (maybe it was those Trade Agreements back in 'sode I).

Powell - it looks enormous, but it flies. Sharp and funny, but full of loss - weird occult strain in there, too. I have a print of the Poussin after which it is named above my desk (courtesy of a brother-in-law's London trip) - like the books, nothing static about it.

I envy you your start upon that journey.