Book Review: Return of the Living Dad by Kate Orman


Author: Kate Orman
Title: Return of the Living Dad
Publication Info: London : Virgin, 1996
Summary/Review:

In this story, Berenice returns with her newlywed husband Jason to investigate what became of her father.  It’s long been believed that Admiral Isaac Summerfield turned coward in a space battle against the Daleks and died, but new evidence suggest otherwise. Berenice asks the Doctor to use the TARDIS to witness the battle and see that her father’s ship is sucked into a wormhole.  Following through, the TARDIS team arrives in a remote English village in 1983.

Isaac and his crew are not surprised to see the Doctor and Berenice, as they’ve been expecting them to arrive one day.  Isaac’s ship arrived 20 years earlier, and in the intervening years he’s opened a cafe and taken up the duty of cleaning up the messes left behind by UNIT and the Doctor himself.  With an Air Force base nearby with nuclear weapons, the village attracts a strange assortment of refugee aliens, paranormal investigators, and anti-nuclear protesters.  Of course, once the Doctor arrives, strange things begin happening as the TARDIS and several people go missing. There’s a mystery to be solved and a traitor or two in their midst.

Kate Orman is one of the best writers of Doctor Who and particularly good at getting at the humanity (or lack thereof) of her characters and their relationships.  It’s surprising that she’s never written for the television series like other New Adventures writers, but perhaps she’s just not keen on scriptwriting.  Nevertheless, aspects of the book are familiar to what would be picked up ten years later in the new tv series, such as the need to clean up after the Doctor’s adventures, and the nodding winks to fan culture.

Since this is an Orman novel, it also has approximately a gazillion characters and it does get hard to keep track of them all.  I kept forgetting the Doctor’s other companions, Roz & Chris, were even there, and their main plot is their getting romantically involved.  Berenice, who had left the Doctor in Happy Endings, is front and center and this book is very much setting up her own series of New Adventures that would start in 1997.  Indeed, in various media, Berenice Summerfield is still appearing in new stories through today.

 

Other Doctor Who Virgin New Adventures

Rating: ***1/2

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rating:

Movie Review: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019)


Title: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
Release Date: December 20, 2019
Director: J. J. Abrams
Production Company: Lucasfilm Ltd. | Bad Robot Productions
Summary/Review:

Non-spoiler review: The ninth and (probably not) last installment in the Star Wars saga is a good but not great movie. In addition to being a step down from the classic movie that preceded it, The Rise of Skywalker fails to be a fully satisfying capstone to 42 years of galactic adventures. Viewed on its own terms, though, it’s an entertaining adventure that offers a new and different of Star Wars film while still allowing  favorite characters to shine and for moments that recall this series’ lore.

Rating: ***

Related Posts:

BEWARE! A HUTT-LOAD OF SPOILERS BELOW

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=83apjSbVV-o

Continue reading “Movie Review: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019)”

Star Wars Film Festival: The Last Jedi (2017)


In preparation for the release of The Rise of Skywalker, I am rewatching all of the previous Star Wars films in episode order.

Here’s my review of The Last Jedi, originally published December 22, 2017.

TitleStar Wars: The Last Jedi
Release Date: December 15, 2017
Director: Rian Johnson
Production Company: Lucasfilm Ltd./Walt Disney Studios
Motion Pictures
Summary/Review:

The Last Jedi is a movie that that defies all expectations a Star Wars film, or action-adventure films in general, deliberately undermining genre tropes again and again. Whatever movie you expected to see after watching The Force Awakens, or what you imagined about what would happen to the Rebellion after defeating the Empire when you watched the original trilogy when you were younger, or what you may have read in the extended universe books, or even what you saw in the trailer for The Last Jedi, this is not the movie you were expecting.

This movie feels like a spiritual sequel to Rogue One, as again and again we see people sacrifice themselves to save the Resistance, yet those sacrifices end up being ineffective and it is an open question whether the Resistance can survive the loss of so many lives. We see the Resistance begin with a large fleet and finish with just a handful of people aboard the Millennium Falcon. The First Order suffers heavy casualties too – losing Supreme Leader Snoke, Captain Phasma, and at least two enormous ships – but they seem unaffected, relentlessly continuing pursuit under the monomaniacal leadership of Kylo Ren.

The movie is steeped in failure.  Rey fails to convince Luke to join the Resistance.  Rey fails to convert Kylo Ren and Kylo Ren fails to convert Rey.  Vice Admiral Holdo, after being vindicated for her plan to rescue the fleet against the Poe’s mutiny, sees that plan fail too due to DJ’s treachery.  One of the major subplots of The Last Jedi, where Finn and Rose go to the casino at Canto Blight to get a codebreaker (and end up with DJ) turns out to be a MacGuffin ending in complete failure.  Albeit, the whole sequence is valuable because I live Finn and Rose and their blossoming friendship, and the scenes at Canto Blight introduce a part of the Star Wars galaxy we’ve never seen before, the disgusting inequality at the root of all these wars.  As Yoda says, “The greatest teacher, failure is.”

While much of the ongoing saga of Star Wars is steeped in the greatness of the Jedi, and the Skywalker family in particular, as wielders of the force, this film challenges the notion of the great hero entirely. Kylo Ren bluntly informs Rey that she doesn’t come from anyone special, her parents were ordinary people, and I believe he’s telling the truth.  The most egregious flaw of The Phantom Menace, that certain people have midichlorians that make them more sensitive to the Force, is condemned as a heresy against the Force which flows throw all living beings.  Once again, Rogue One is the model here.  Success does not come from waiting for a great hero but by ordinary people working together. Even when Luke Skywalker finally makes his stand against Kylo Ren and the First Order forces, it is not the heroic moment we’re expecting. But it’s the heroic moment we need, as does the Resistance.  Rose Tico says it best “This is how we’ll win. Not fighting what we hate … saving what we love.”

If there’s one major flaw to this movie is that it runs too long.  Not that there’s anything I could suggest that could be cut out. It almost feels as if this story could be made into an entire tv series, expanding on the great characters and deep themes.

I’ll have to see The Last Jedi again – preferable when I’m not with children who need to visit the bathroom frequently – but I think this a movie that will reward repeat viewings.  I like a movie that makes me think, and The Last Jedi is an action-adventure space opera that deeply considers the realities of the human condition in an imaginary galaxy far, far away.  That, for me, is filmmaking that puts The Last Jedi among the best of Star Wars movies and the best of films.

Some stray things I loved/admired from The Last Jedi:

  • Chewbacca becoming the perfect father figure for Rey
  • Admiral Ackbar died tragically as result of … a trap
  • Rose Tico is no one’s depiction of an action hero, but she’s awesome in every way
  • R2-D2 guilt-tripping Luke with the old hologram of Leia
  • Sassy dead Yoda living up his afterlife by teasing Luke for his dramatics
  • Laura Dern as Admiral Hold is fascinating in a relatively brief appearance. In of the great ways that The Last Jedi undermines our expectations, we identify with the “hero” Poe in his mutiny against what we’re lead to believe is Holdo as Captain Queeg, only to realize with Poe that she was right all along
  • Another great misdirection is Supreme Commander Snoke, built up to be the next big bad, but ending up to be a deformed creature lounging in a Hugh Hefner robe who gets cut down in his arrogance.
  • Seeing Gwendolyn Christie’s blue eye through the crack of Captain Phasma’s helmet just once before she plummeted to her death
  • The allusion to Hardware Wars. Just beautiful
  • There’s a lot of humor in this film that is not distracting but builds on the movies themes and characterization (unlike the cheap gags in the prequel trilogy)
  • Bite me, porg haters.  They’re hardly in the movie at all, and dammit they’re cute!
  • So many stunning visuals – Paige Tico in the bomber, Skellig Michael, Snoke’s chamber, the salt planet Crait
  • Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, and Oscar Isaac all impressed in The Force Awakens and really knock it out of the park in The Last Jedi. One disappointment is that there’s very little time with Rey and Finn or Finn and Poe on screen together.  I hope the three of them get to team up for the next film
  • Luke and Leia’s reunion.  Perfect played and filmed.  It breaks my heart that neither Luke nor Leia will be in the next film (albeit Mark Hamill may return as a force ghost).
  • I don’t envy the filmmakers having to find someway to explain Leia’s absence in the next film. There doesn’t seem to be any good options that will be respectful to Carrie Fisher and Leia’s character.

Rating: ****1/2

 

Star Wars Film Festival: The Force Awakens (2015)


In preparation for the release of The Rise of Skywalker, I am rewatching all of the previous Star Wars films in episode order.

Here’s my review of The Force Awakens, originally published February 20, 2016.

TitleStar Wars: The Force Awakens
Release Date: 2015
Director: J.J. Abrams
Summary/Review:

I was probably among the last people in the Star Wars-loving universe to see this movie, but it was worth the wait.  The Star Wars franchise is back in good standing with this movie that, yes, has great special effects and action sequences, but more importantly it has a good story, terrific acting, and heart.  While it was great that old favorites such as Han, Chewie, and Leia play an important role, I’m impressed with how the new characters Rey, Finn, and Poe slide so seamlessly into the Star Wars saga and the lead roles of the film.  And I’m really amazed by the acting ability of Daisy Ridley, John Boyega,  and Oscar Issac.  The future of Star Wars is in good hands and I look forward to the upcoming sequels and side projects.  While The Force Awakens isn’t quite good enough to unseat The Empire Strikes Back as the best Star Wars movie, I think it sits comfortable beside the original Star Wars in a tie for second.
Rating: ****1/2

Some Stray Post-Rewatch Thoughts:

  • The major criticism of The Force Awakens, repeated so often that its trite, is that it is a rehash of the first Star Wars film. People of made lists of similarities as proof, but I think that they miss the forest for the trees in their criticism, and thus the unique aspects of this movie including:
    • Rey is like Luke in that she is a young protagonist entering into a new world of galactic war and the use of the force. But unlike Luke who had a family support system, she is an orphan, abandoned as a child. She’s had to teach herself to work, fight, and survive and as a result is a more skilled and capable person than Luke. I think the “Rey is just Luke as a girl” argument misses the many fascinating details of her character.
    • Finn is unlike any character we’ve seen before. Stormtroopers in previous movies are literally faceless as we never see one remove their helmet in the original trilogy and they are clones in the prequel trilogy.  In Finn we have a character forced as a child to be a soldier choosing to leave that life behind because of its immorality.
    • People are disappointed that Han Solo has reverted to his youthful life as a smuggler seemingly negating the growth of the character in the original trilogy.  While it’s not overtly mentioned,it’s pretty obvious to me that Han is desperately looking for his best friend and brother-in-law, Luke, and using his skills as a smuggler as a means to that end.  And how anyone watch Harrison Ford’s performance in this film and deny the growth of the character, both in the original trilogy and in the intervening years offscreen, is beyond me.
    • The point of Star Wars (and in many ways Rogue One) is to destroy the Death Star.  Starkiller Base is a similar weapon to the Death Star and demonstrates how the First Order has come to rely on more firepower to compensate for the loss of the Empire’s widespread forces.  And yet it’s destruction is a minor subplot in the film, something so run of the mill that Han jokes “How do we blow it up?”  The real purpose of Starkiller Base is to add tension to our heroes duels with Kylo Ren and the question of how they will escape in time.

 

Star Wars Film Festival: Return of the Jedi (1983)p


In preparation for the release of The Rise of Skywalker, I am rewatching all of the previous Star Wars films in episode order.

Here’s my review of Return of the Jedi, originally published February 29, 2016.

Title:  Return of the Jedi
Release Date: 1983
Director:  Richard Marquand
Summary/Review:

And so we conclude introducing the children to the classic trilogy of Star Wars films.  The kids enjoyed this and certainly got a lot more laughs than the previous two installments.  Return of the Jedi certainly does have more humor and a positive spirit of bonhomie that is a big tonal shift from Empire Strikes Back. On the other hand the Luke-Vader-Emperor scenes have an undertone of menace I didn’t catch as a child (although at least one of my kids was spooked). The portions at Jabba’s palace really creeped me out as a kid, and they’re still pretty creepy (I didn’t recall just how gruesome it is when Leia chokes Jabba to death)

Over the years, Return of the Jedi has gotten a bad rap, but I loved it as a kid and I think it still holds up.  People criticize the Ewoks, but dammit, I love the Ewoks.  Not only are they cute, but the whole success of the Rebellion hinges on the fact that the Emperor is too narrow to foresee that a small, non-human species will ally with the Rebels and turn the tide of the battle.  

Of all the changes made for the Special Editions, this one fares the worst in my opinion.  Give me back my Ewok celebration song and the ghost of Sebastian Shaw! All things considered, it was a delight to revisit this series of childhood memories with my own kids.

Some stray post-rewatch thoughts:

  • In the prequels, Palpatine has a charming public persona and he even plays his “deformity” for sympathy. In Return of the Jedi we only see the cackling, controlling villain. I wonder if he maintained the charming persona for public appearances after declaring himself Emperor?
  • Leia has the fighting and tactical skills equal to the men around her, but her scene with Wicket W. Warrick shows her great diplomatic skills that Han, and even Luke, lack.
  • I’m still angry that Leia clearly remembers her mother and they still had Palme die in childbirth for no reason. I’m surprised Lucas didn’t edit that scene out when he stuck Hayden Christensen in.
  • Speaking of edits, I never noticed that freakin’ Jar Jar is shouting “Wesa free!” in the celebration scene on Naboo. 🙄
  • It never occurred to me how much Han is the comic relief character in this movie, probably cause Harrison Ford does it so well. Perhaps they should have cast Ford to play Jar Jar too.
    Rating: *****

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7L8p7_SLzvU

 

 

 

Star Wars Film Festival: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)


In preparation for the release of The Rise of Skywalker, I am rewatching all of the previous Star Wars films in episode order.

Here’s my review of The Empire Strikes Back, originally published February 22, 2016.

Title:  The Empire Strikes Back
Release Date: 1980
Director:   Irving Kushner
Summary/Review:

Still the best of the Star Wars films, allowing space for the characters to breath and grow and for the actors to show their chops, while still having intertwining action plots that come together at the end.  And it’s funny.  It certainly wasn’t satisfying as kid to have it just end with the good guys essentially losing and so much unresolved.  Watching this with my kids for the first time meant lots of questions, Yoda being scary, and Darth Vader being unexpectedly cool.

Rating: *****

Some Stray Post-Rewatch Thoughts:

  • I’d never cottoned on before that “The Imperial March” made its debut in this movie. And how impressive is it’s first use on the fleet of Star Destroyers!
  • Han is really creepy to Leila in this movie. I guess she does like scoundrels.
  • Watching so soon after the prequels’ CGI Yoda really emphasizes how much more lifelike and expressive is Frank Oz’s puppetry work.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=96v4XraJEPI

 

Star Wars Film Festival: Star Wars (1977)


In preparation for the release of  The Rise of Skywalker, I am rewatching all of the previous Star Wars films in episode order.

Here’s my review of Star Wars, originally published February 16, 2016.

Title:  Star Wars
Release Date: 1977
Director:   George Lucas
Summary/Review:
Rating: ****1/2

What can you say about this movie in 2016?  Most people know and love the movie and our popular culture is steeped in its motifs.  But this was the first time my children watched the movie and  the first time I’ve watched it in a long, long time (but still within this galaxy).  The kids generally claim not to like movies, but they liked this one and asked to watch it again, which is always a good sign.  I wonder what it’s like to watch Star Wars for the first time when it’s something that’s always been around and references are wound into our culture like mythology as opposed to when I was a child and it was brand new?  I was impressed that the movie holds up very well.  There are many things from the 70s, 80s, & 90s that seem to have dated much more than this.  Of course, I’m an old fuddy-duddy and prefer the somewhat slower pace and practical special effects of Star Wars to many of today’s blockbusters.  But really the stories and the characters are what made the movie what it is and what makes it persist.  So simple, rooted in older stories, yet so fresh and new at the same time.

Some Stray Post-Rewatch Thoughts:

  • I’m pretty sure the opening scenes on Tantive IV features the only time in any Star Wars movie that a blaster is used on stun setting.
  • Captain Antilles: A Star Wars Story
  • A distinction of this movie is that it really allows scenes and settings unroll slowly.  For example, we spend a lot of time just following the droids through the desert, panning through the Jawa sandcrawler, looking around the cantina. Maybe modern filmmaking considers this “boring” but I think a lot of the success of later Star Wars media is that it provided such a rich background for creators to fill in the blanks.
  • It’s often said that R2-D2 and C3PO are the point of view characters for this movie but that’s only true up until the point when Aunt Beru calls Luke to dinner.  From that point, Luke is the point of view character, with cuts to things happening on the Death Star.
  • From the dialogue, every indication is that Uncle Owen and Anakin Skywalker are brothers. I’ve been re-writing the prequel trilogy in my head and think that a tense relationship between a teenage Anakin and a disapproving older brother would’ve been a good place to start. I suppose, alternately, Beru could’ve been Anakin’s older sister.  Either way it would be a much less convoluted family dynamic.
  • I unironically love “Maclunkey!”
  • So TK-241, another stormtrooper, and the scanning crew are all killed by Han, Chewie, and Luke.  Do they fly off from the Death Star with four dead bodies on the ship?
  • Leia recognizes the name “Ben” Kenobi and calls Han a “flyboy” when she shouldn’t know these things yet.
  • I want a supercut of all the scenes in Star Wars movies where stormtroopers are just chatting.
  • Chewbacca doesn’t get a medal, but he gets the last word in the movie – “ARGH!”

 

Star Wars Film Festival: Rogue One (2016)


In preparation for the release of The Rise of Skywalker, I am rewatching all of the previous Star Wars films in episode order.

Here is my review of Rogue One, originally published October 2, 2017.

Title: Rogue One
Release Date: December 16, 2016
Director: Gareth Edwards
Production Company: Lucasfilm Ltd., Distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Summary/Review:

This Star Wars spinoff tells the story of the events that happened immediately before the original 1977 Star Wars film, showing a ragtag band of Rebels stealing the plans for the Death Star.  While the main Star Wars saga details the experiences of generals, princesses, and Jedi knights, this movie offer more of a “working class” perspective of the Star Wars universe.  The film is full of references and special treats for fans of Star Wars and they could be accused of overdoing it, but ultimately I don’t think it detracts from Rogue One as a standalone film.  Like the best Star Wars films, the focus is on quickly developing and making the audience care about this group of characters. Standout characters include Alan Tudyk as the sarcastic droid K-2SO and Donnie Yen as Chirrut Îmwe, a blind warrior-monk with a strong faith in the Force.  At the head of the Rogue One team is Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso who doesn’t shout commands or make wisecracks, but leads with a quiet confidence.  I appreciate Jones’ performance not only as representation for women as leaders but also for introverts.  It’s unfortunate that this group will only appear in this one movie as I’d love to see more of them.  Nevertheless, I found this an interesting expansion of the Star Wars universe, both beautifully-filmed and character driven.

Rating: ****

Some Stray Post-Rewatch Thoughts:

  • I never put it together before that Vader’s palace is on the same planet where Obi-Wan kicked his ass.  Weird flex, but okay.
  • Bail Organa: A Star Wars Story
  • In my memory, I underestimated just how good this movie is.  It’s a competition between Rogue One and The Last Jedi for the best Star Wars movie of the decade, and with Empire Strikes Back, they make the top 3 of all time.

 

Star Wars Film Festival: Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)


In preparation for the release of The Rise of Skywalker, I am rewatching all of the previous Star Wars films in episode order.

Here is my review of Solo, originally published on May 19, 2009.

Title: Solo: A Star Wars Story
Release Date: May 25, 2018
Director: Ron Howard
Production Company:Walt Disney Studios
Motion Pictures
Summary/Review:

Han Solo is one of the most beloved characters in movie history and in 4 movies (and a holiday special), he was portrayed by Harrison Ford, arguably the most popular actor of the past five decades.  A Han Solo movie without Harrison Ford is missing an essential element.  Not that Alden Ehrenreich can be blamed as he does an excellent job performing as a young Han, it’s just not possible for him to be the same character.

As one might expect from an origin story, a lot of familiar aspects of the Han Solo character are introduced here.  We see Han get his last name, meet Chewbacca(Joonas Suotamo) for the first time, get his blaster, meet Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover), and acquire the Millenium Falcon.  The notorious Kessel Run is even part of the plot.  Many of the movies set pieces are generic  or derivative action-adventure tropes.  Early on, landspeeders are used in a classic car chase, then there’s a railroad heist, and finally scenes of the Falcon dodging asteroids and a space creature reminiscent of Empire Strikes Back.

Where Solo works best is around the edges, where we see the people and events that shape Han Solo into becoming both cynical and self-interested and having a big heart with a weakness for the underdog.  The former is demonstrated by Han’s mentor/antagonist Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson) who repeatedly instructs Han to not trust anyone.  Another important figure is Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke), Han’s childhood sweetheart.  At the start of the film, we see them both trying to escape their home planet of Corellia, but Qi’ra is captured at a checkpoint.  Han serves in the Imperial Navy for three years with plans to go back to rescue her, but when they meet again, she has found her own way out, and it’s strongly implied that she’s done some unsavory things in the process.

Han’s heart is shown again and again.  He’s placed in a pit to fight Chewbacca to the death, but realizes that they are both prisoners and finds a way for both of them to escape.  A big twist in the film involves another antagonist Enfys Nest (Erin Kellyman), and Han’s response to new knowledge is very telling.  Even Han’s final confrontation with Tobias is one that’s filled with tears, rather than celebration.

Solo has a lot in common with the other Star Wars Story, Rogue One, in that it shows the People’s perspective of the galaxy rather than one of royals, knights, and generals.  Imperial officers are typically unquestionably evil, but the one who recruits Han has a tender moment where he calls Han “son.”  Of course he also promises Han that he’ll be flying starships, so it’s very telling when the movie jumps ahead three years to show Han in a battle, on foot.  Deconstructing the myth of Imperial efficiency, the battle is depicted as a mess with no clear objectives and the officers having nothing more to offer than catchphrases.  Also like Rogue One, one of the best characters is a droid.  In this case Lando’s companion Elthree (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) who speaks the truth that has been evident through all the Star Wars movies: droids are treated as slaves and need to be liberated.

The movie never seems to decide whether it wants to be a romp or to delve into the more serious undertones of poverty in the Empire and what that drives people to do.  As a result the movie is a bit uneven and not as good as it could be.  Nevertheless, the acting is strong, the humor is sharp, and Solo is generally an entertaining movie.  It’s a worthy addition to the Star Wars saga (and certainly better than any of the prequels).

Some Stray Post-Rewatch Thoughts:

  • We see Lando dictating his memoirs as “The Calrissian Chronicles,” and we need a spinoff movie with this title starring Donald Glover NOW!
  • Speaking of Lando, I never mentioned how  much I laughed the running gag about his capes.
  • Elthree successfully frees everyone enslaved in the Kessel mine on a whim.  Qui-Gon never even tried.
  • Chewbacca is 190 years old when he meets Han.  We need a spinoff movie from earlier in his life too!  Perhaps with an all-Wookiee cast speaking entirely in Shyriiwook with no subtitles.  Ok, I’m joking about that last part.

Rating: ***

 

Star Wars Film Festival: Revenge of the Sith (2005)


In preparation for the release of The Rise of Skywalker, I am rewatching all of the previous Star Wars films in episode order.

Title: Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith
Release Date: May 19, 2005
Director: George Lucas
Production Company: Lucasfilm Ltd.
Summary/Review:

As the prequel trilogy movies were being made, I imagined a perfect ending to Episode 3. Annakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) is placed into his famous Darth Vader outfit, the helmet is lowered on his head, and he makes that mechanical wheeze for the first time.  And then, credits.  A scene like this actually does occur in the film but alas, it is not the final, dramatic moment.

Revenge of the Sith starts well and the first hour or so is perhaps the most entertaining and consistent filmmaking of the entire prequel trilogy.  Yeah, there are some bad moments, such as Annakin and Padme (Natalie Portman) exchanging awkward romantic dialogue, and General Grievous (Matthew Wood) is too ridiculous to be a compelling villain.  But that opening sequence where Annakin and Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan MacGregor) rescue Chancellor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) and crash land the ship is top notch.  Christensen and MacGregor have such good chemistry that I wish there was just a movie of the two of them having adventures together (yes, I know the animated Clone Wars exists).

The latter half of the movie fails to live up to its potential, because Lucas’ emphasis seems to focus on filling in a check list of things that we know are going to happen from the original trilogy. There are some good moments. I think the sequence of clone troopers turning on the Jedi is beautifully and tragically done. And I like how Bail Organa swoops in to rescue the surviving Jedi.  But the Palpatine/Annakin relationship and Annakin’s turn to the dark side feels rushed.  We’re told they have a close relationship, but have never seen it before this movie.

The worst part of this movie is the reduced role for Padme.  She’s treated merely as a prop to motivate Annakin. And then she dies in childbirth for no apparent reason.  Her line about the death of the Republic “with thunderous applause” should’ve have been part of her story of breaking with Annakin and helping to start the Rebellion.  It’s especially egregious since in Return of the Jedi, Leia says she can remember her mother.

In retrospect, the prequel trilogy could’ve been improved by discarding The Phantom Menace and splitting the same general storyline of Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith into three movies. Developing Annakin’s relationships with Padme, Obi-Wan, and Palpatine could’ve been spread over all of the films.  And yet each individual film could’ve been shorter than the bloated, nearly 7 hour run time we got.

Revenge of the Sith may be the best of the prequel movies, and it was the only one I saw multiple times in the movie theater.  But the entire prequel trilogy seems to a galaxy away from the imagination, humor, drama, and thoughtfulness of the movies that preceded and followed.

Rating: **