Thursday, May 19, 2005

Anticipation, Nostalgia and Sith

Well, I'm on my merry way to view Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith this coming weekend, although a lot of folks in the media have already seen it and given it very positive reviews. Last time I checked the tomato rating at rottentomatoes.com, Lucas's latest installment had garnered something like 83% positive ratings, which is extraordinary.

Many of the reviews - by grown-up Gen X'ers like myself - have used the occasion of a review to ponder the entire Star Wars experience, 1977 - 2005, and discuss feelings of completion, as a chapter of life closes. I understand the sentiment. I've seen every Star Wars on opening weekend since 1977 with my Mom and Dad, and so every new Star Wars adventure is a kind of special event for me too. And yet, I don't know what I'll feel during the film.

Nostalgia is the most useless of emotions, as someone famous once said and for movie critics, nostalgia is actually an impediment to clear thinking. I wonder if critics who go into Star Wars thinking about all the baggage of nearly 30 years are in the right frame of mind to review the film fairly. Or, conversely, if Lucas is banking on that, and the film is riding a tide of good will.

Nostalgia and anticipation - help or hindrance to Star Wars? Discuss amongst yourselves...

Here are my thoughts. Each time a Star Wars movie is released, aren't we old timers/OT'ers really just comparing the new film to an "experience" we remember as a pleasant one from childhood? How can anything really compare to that memory? So - clearly - nostalgia and anticipation have worked against previous installments...

For instance, I consider The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones - both of which I own on DVD - two of the most boring motion pictures I've ever sat through. Nowadays, from the comfort of my couch, I can't stay awake through more than the first 11 minutes of Phantom Menace without heavy doses of caffeine. I guess Attack of the Clones is marginally better. I can usually stay awake almost thirty minutes sans coffee.

I just hope I will stay awake through all of Revenge of the Sith. That's my first benchmark. Let alone re-capture the glory of Star Wars that I remember from childhood...

But on the other hand, Revenge of the Sith plays most like an OT movie by all accounts. We see the inside of the rebel blockade runner. Darth Vader and Chewbacca return. Luke and Leia are born. Yada yada (or Yoda Yoda...). So Lucas is clearly banking on nostalgia here to carry some elements of his flick. It seems to have worked, because nearly every review has commented on the film's closeness in tone to Star Wars.

So nostalgia cuts both ways in regards to Star Wars movies. I'm just not sure which way it will cut for me as a critic. But that's okay, because only a Sith thinks in absolutes, right?

2 comments:

  1. I will admit that Revenge Of The Sith brings a sense of closure to me. After watching the film, it did make me reflect on the past, and the old trilogy. Particularly when it came down to the old blockade runner, the Lars moisture farm on Tatooine and its twin suns setting on the desert horizon. Most of all, the scenes involving the Emperor, Darth Vader in his black armor and mask, construction of the new Death Star, and so on and so forth. Like another science fiction saga that has come to a close this year (i.e. Star Trek), Star Wars has also come to a close. One chapter has ended in our lives, and another awaits to be told. Or, to quote the character of David McIntyre (Michael York) from the conclusion of the third season Babylon 5 episode "A Late Delivery From Avalon", One journey has ended. Another beckons.

    Revenge Of the Sith definately was nostalgic. Not only did it bring back a lot of fond memories for me, it also made me realize that this was truly the end of a classic space opera. George Lucas definately saved the best for last in the prequel trilogy by adding the nostalgia of the original trilogy into this picture. The nostalgia definately helped Revenge Of the Sith and served as a bridge between both the prequel and old trilogies. I can definately say that the Star Wars saga has ended on a good note. Despite the darker and edgier content of this last film. Then again, The Empire Strikes Back was also darker and edgier, too.

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  2. Hey Sandman, I agree with you. Nostalgia isn't such a useless emotion after all! I became swept up in Revenge of the Sith as all the plot-points began to circle round to point us - like a speeding freight train - right back to the beginning of Star Wars (or Episode IV: A New Hope).

    Now the question becomes - did Lucas miss a bet by making his earlier prequels so unlike the original trilogy in content/style? I mean, I would have been pre-disposed to like The Phantom Menace, I guess, had the set interiors/spaceship designs resembled something we were already familiar with. As it stands, those two earlier prequels almost look like they could be occurring in an alternate universe.

    So should Lucas have exploited nostalgia more in the prequel trilogy in Parts I and II? I wonder.

    And I loved Sith.

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