I used to have such an imagination. I miss it. When I was very young, I would make up stories with any tools – cutouts from magazines, stuffed animals, plastic dinosaurs. Then I wrote stories – often science fiction or fantasy stories – when I was as young as eight until I was a teenager. Then I started writing other, more realistic stuff.
I could watch movies and be transported into them. I could create and imagine my own character inserted into the plot, on the screen, with lines and actions and everything. I was particularly skilled with the original Star Wars trilogy (Now often called Eposides IV, V and VI).
I hoped the newest Star Wars, Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, would elicit a similar response. (After all, it had good reviews – but I think even the reviewers wanted it to be good so much that they deluded themselves.) Even though I am 34 and barely remember what that powerful imagination felt like, I wanted to taste it again. Episodes I and II certainly didn’t bring it back – man, were they awful. Can’t George Lucas create a movie in which the characters can actually show instead of say what they think? Evidently not. Do they always have to announce, stiffly, their emotions and motivations? Evidently they do.
Maybe the Lucas' direction can be blamed. Or maybe the needs of the story – the fact that we are seeing Jedi knights primarily, who are so stoic, almost Buddhist, not people who usually express passion. No matter what, whoever plays Anakin Skywalker is not so good, bad even. (I had to look it up, Hayden Christensen. Am I showing my age here?) You could argue that Anakin has passion, but Christensen plays it as so pouty – it is not believable passion. But passion – anger and fear – causes his conversion to the Dark Side. So I find myself unconvinced about his fall.
And Padme. Poor Padme. She had potential: A queen and a senator, able to dress down and tough and stick up for herself and her ideals. But in Revenge of the Sith, all she does (with two exceptions) is hang about in an apartment with a great urban view as her pregnant belly becomes increasingly large. (The old "barefoot and pregnant" ideal rearing its ugly head?) She wears impossibly silly nightgowns, including one with rows and rows of pearls on the sleeves. At one point, she is even brushing her hair (in that fake, on-top-of-the-perfect-curls way) on the porch while going through some truly painful dialogue. I don’t know how Natalie Portman, who has proven herself as an excellent actress elsewhere, didn’t break down in hysterical laughter at her situation.
Padme does have some excellent, even powerful, political commentary lines. The best and most chilling: “This is how liberty dies, with thunderous applause.” But she backs down from ever challenging her increasingly wrong-headed husband and actually dies because her heart is broken! So weak. (Yes, I recognize that she has to die for the story line to make sense.)
Even way back in the 1970s, Princess Leia had balls. She was tough. She was a great role model in many ways. Even in love with Han Solo she was not sunk into anything like the almost complete inaction of Padme. Love did not emasculate (efeminate?) her.
I was not transported by Revenge of the Sith. But I had to see it. And I'd see it again. The original Star Wars trilogy was so formative for me. I can actually remember sitting on the sidewalk in Times Square with my dad, waiting for tickets to see the first movie in 1977. I was six years old. I don’t actually remember that first viewing of the movie. I do remember the nightmare following: Darth Vader was taking me away from my parents, as if he were going to take on the role of my father. (So maybe it was a little scary for a six year old.)
Maybe my imagination, dormant for so long, did not want to emerge to hang out with Anakin and Padme. Not worth it. Though Obi Wan Kenobi has potential (and Ewan McGregor manages to get some decent acting in despite portraying a Jedi knight).