Star Wars III -- The Empire Strikes Out
(Warning: Spoilers ahead, if you haven't figured out what the Big Surprise is supposed to be in Star Wars Episode III.)
I've been reading The Farthest Shore by Ursula K. LeGuin. It's the third in her Earthsea cycle. I wish George Lucas had gotten her to write the screenplays for Star Wars Episodes I, II and III, which I saw tonight.
It's when the action slows down that questions start to pop into one's mind. Questions like, "If the Jedi are so in tune to the Force, how come they are so completely caught flatfooted when we find out who Chancellor Palpatine really is, or that one of its rising young stars is married to a prominent politician and living with her in lavish apartments visible to the entire city?" A capital city with no paparazzi? Please. With the obvious technological sophistication of the world of Star Wars, how can a woman be pregnant with twins and not know it until she goes into labor? In fact, how could she be such a notable politician and be so obviously pregnant and unmarried, without anybody wondering who the father was? Only Obi-wan seems to notice, and doesn't seem phased by the fact that his Jedi padawan has ignored the basic Jedi rule of celibacy. The Jedi Council seems as dense as the FBi and the CIA were about 9/11. Where's that sensitivity to the disturbances in the Force that we saw in the first trilogy?
And lastly, is there anyone who didn't think that Senator Palpatine and the Emperor from Return of the Jedi were one and the same? Yet Lucas goes on with the charade to the bitter end. This is what Roger Ebert calls the "idiot plot," a story that could only happen if everybody in the film is an idiot. No wonder the Jedi got wiped out! They didn't feel anything while the Sith, who apparently had once ruled the Galaxy and been defeated were plotting a comeback. So where's the explanation for that, especially when Darth Maul shows up not exactly incognito? They know about Darth Sidious (best name since Oilcan Harry), but don't notice a thing about the machinations of Palpatine.
One mystery that remains after this film is whether Hayden Christensen can act. If and when he's given a good script we might find out. He looks good and he's good in the action scenes. But it's not fair to judge him as an actor on the basis of two films where he was supposed to convey complexity and conflict in a series of scenes where the costumes and the digital backgrounds overwhelm the characters and their words sound like they were written by a Middle Schooler. This is supposed to be the Jedi Messiah? Wooden dialogue makes even good actors seem like stiffs, but action can make up for that--sometimes. But not this time. The audience wants the drama and mythic story they got in the first three releases, but Lucas lost that somewhere between the first three and the last three.