Finally saw Star Wars: Return of the Sith last night.

Warning: there’s spoilers below. If you’ve not seen, and your’e sensitive to such things, stop reading now.

Overall impression: I was expecting something better than SW:AotC, and that’s what it was. Not stellar, not great, barely even good, but much better than AotC. But then, as Mark Kermode said: so is slamming your hand in a car door.

Specific details, based on notes I scribbled in the dark while watching the movie, much to the annoyance of [info]sych‘s annoyance:

* General Grievious puzzled me quite some at first – I couldn’t figure out why a droid would have some kind of respiratory disease – to the extent of, at one point, even coughing up some phlegm quite noisly. This was (slightly) cleared up later with the revelation that GG has organic bits… but, still, the wispy little organic bits we saw aren’t enough to account for the coughing and wheezing we heard – that takes *lungs*, lungs are, not huge, but noticeably large.. and they weren’t there.

* It was very pleasant to see Christopher Lee get a role he deserved: one cut short (literally, with removal of his head) after <5 minutes in the film. I can’t stand the man, he’s an arrogant fool. It took only 10 minutes of hearing him in LotR commentary talking about how “At first I was really disappointed not to be Gandalf – but then I realised that Saruman was really the central character after all” (then filling the rest of the 10 minutes with waffle about how Saruman really really is the central character of the whole series) to make me realise this. Watching him boycott one of the films (TTT? RotK? Can’t remember which one now) because his screen time got cut confirmed my opinion..

* I’m confused about what happened after GGs ship was hit. It starts falling toward the planet. This, on its own, is perplexing; to be fighting a space battle, you’d want to be quite some way from a planet: if you’re in too close, you’re constantly burning fuel to fight gravity, not to mention how complicated things get in terms of trying to target other ships and such while maintaining your own position.. So, why, when hit, does it immediately start falling towards the planet? Yes, the explosion will have some affect on its momentum – but unless it’s a long, sustained vent on the side of the ship away from the planet, it’s not going to have the affect of having the ship immediately drop down…. Gravity just doesn’t work that way!

* I’d rant about the gravity in the ship and people sliding around.. but Phil Plait did a much better job of it in hisreview on BadAstronomy.com, so I’ll just direct you there instead.

* I realised how spoilt I’ve been watching Firefly. In SW:RotS, the spaceships move semi-aerodynamically, which would be fine if they were in an atmosphere and using air pressure differences to keep themselves from falling – but they’re not. In Firefly, the motions you see the ships make are realistic, and match what you see thrusters doing. In SW:RotS, the engines always fire backwards, but the ship moves in any damn direction it pleases. Ugh!

* And I’ll also do you a favour and not get started on sound in deep space, hearing explosions, etc. Again, see Phil Plait 🙂

* I noticed in SW:AotC that many of the sets in the movie were very clearly CG; so much so that it looked like they’d not bothered making a set, it felt more like watching a walkthru of the video game. I’ve not seen the game, but I bet anyone watching the movie has seen about 6 “levels” of the game directly in the movie. The only reason I’d be surprised if I found out that the computer models for the game had been taken directly from the models used in the movie is: I’ve seen better graphics on PS2 games than I saw in some parts of AotC – no game produce would settle for such a crappy set.

* By contrast, all I noticed in SW:RotS was the bridge of GG’s ship; it looked like it was constructed from Lego. Considering the marketing deals SW and Lego have, this probably isn’t a coincidence – I’d be willing to bet you can get the complete set to build that exact bridge..

* One thing (out of many) that annoyed me: the lame, stilted dialogue I expected. I didn’t expect the constant weak attempts at humour throughout though. SW isn’t a comedy franchise; it’s a space opera action franchise. If you’re not going to be able to do it properly, why bother with the pissweak humour? It really detracted from my enjoyment of the movie..

* When I was at school, we used to have to play soccer for sport, and we used to have a position called “rush goalie”. A “Rush Goalie” was someone who liked being a goalie, and was good at it – but got bored standing in the goal area all the time. They’d delegate someone else to be the goalie, but whenever the action was moving in that direction, the “Rush Goalie” would “rush” in and take over. This seems to be how the Jedi Knights fit into the Republican navy; they go off doing their own thing most of the time, but whenever the navy is doing something interesting, they are suddenly all chummy with the navy and getting involved in their operations.

* Relatedly, why do Jedi Masters all seem to have the rank of “General” in the navy? Surely these navies are highly-trained professional teams – random outsiders who know nothing of their methods get to come in and order them around? Doesn’t make sense to me..

* The theology, even within this movie, wasn’t internally consistent. In SW:TPM, we were told that the force was generated by “midichlorians”. In this movie, we’re told that the force is actually composed of the souls of dead people (or at least, dead Jedi), somewhat reminiscent of Nibbana. Later, though, Darth Sidious makes mention of Darth Plagiarist “manipulating the midichlorians to create life”, which implies that the midichlorian theory is right after all.. C’mon George, which is it?

Lastly, I realised why this film would upset political conservatives of all sorts. Sure, there’s the direct quotes that seem to be directly referring to current events in the US – particularly the famous “If you are not with me, you are my enemy”, and the quote from Anakin about having bought “security” to “my empire”.

The real jab at conservatives is more subtle though; it’s best exemplified when Obi Wan tells Anakin “Only the Sith deal in absolutes”. It’s exemplified many times through the entire six movies: the various Forces of Right might not always agree on what the right thing to do is, or even what the immediately neccessary thing is to do – but they discuss their ideas, weigh up benefits, and reach a compromise. Darth Sidious, though, is convinced (or at least, says he is) that he knows the One Right Way to achieve security and peace in the empire. DS is so convinced he knows what’s best for everyone in the entire galaxy that he’s willing to use every ounce of his power to force his vision upon an unwilling populace.

This is very, very typical of Conservative thinking. Liberals (that’s small-l liberals, the capital is only because the word is used at the start of a sentence – please don’t confuse them with Australia’s Australia’s Liberal Party, which isn’t at all liberal) have a tendency to be open to the idea that perhaps their ideas are less than perfect and could stand some improvement; conservatives tend to think they know what’s best and tend to be very, very unwilling to consider alternatives or compromise.

Yes, you heard right by the way – I said that that DS isn’t entirely evil. One of the things that suprised me about this movie was that DS and DV are both portrated, not as absolute “black” characters, but, in my opinion, fairly gray. DS is clearly heavily motivated by the personal power he can attain; but it seems to me that he’s genuinely convinced that he’s doing the right thing for the galaxy. He genuinely seems to believe that the Empire is a better solution to the governance of the galaxy.

Anakin/DV, likewise, surprised me. The comments I’d heard led me to expect a sudden transformation from “Good Anakin” to “Evil Darth Vader”. The summary I best remember was along the lines of “He eats some pizza before bedtime, has a few bad dreams, wakes up and decides “I’ll be evil now”. That wasn’t how it came across to me at all. Anakin spends much of the movie questioning what the Jedi are doing; he spends much of the movie uncertain whether the Council of Palpatine are more to be trusted; he spends much of the movie worried sick about what he can do for Padme; he spends much of the movie torn between what he knows he should be doing as a Jedi, and what he wants to do as a husband.

After he kills Mace Windu, he doesn’t immediately turn into “Evil Darth Vader” – he’s still the same Anakin, still wanting to defend the innocent, protect the galaxy – and above all, to save his wife. All that’s changed is that he’s acted without thinking, and now has no choice but to turn to the Dark Side. Even though he’s made the choice, you can see that he’s still having internal conflict.

Contrary to what I’d heard, I thought Anakin’s “turning” was handle very well; it wasn’t a sudden 180-degree turnaround, it was a very, very subtle shift after much persuasion.

I’m told that the book makes this whole transformation much clearer; in the book, you get to see Anakin’s thought process; apparently, he’s got very definite plans that all he wants to do is get access to the library, find Darth Plagiarist’s notes, discover how to save Padme- then destroy Palpatine.

Apparently the book also goes into a lot more detail on why he was so upset not to become a Master after Palpatine appointed him to the council – he needed that rank in order to gain access to the library archives. He wasn’t just fuming about not being made a master – he was upset by his plans to save Padme being frustrated.

So. That’s my rant done.. Whee. What did you think?

(LJ people, please note that I’m not posting this on LJ directly, so I won’t see any comments you make there..)

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