Sunday, February 7, 2010

Culture Corner: Star Wars II

A look at the second film in the series:


This weak film features several very large plot holes. The most obvious is the inability of the Jedi Order to see Anakin Skywalker’s unfitness for his job.
Anakin is a precocious boy with little discipline. He is a hothead, a loose cannon, and emotionally involved with Padmé. He is not yet a good Jedi. But the Jedi Council--that collection of oh-so-sapient magi presided over by the Green Guru--ignores Obi-Wan’s explicit warning and sends Anakin to guard Padmé. (“The Council is confident in its decision.”)
A major source of Anakin’s anxiety is his mother. This problem could of course have been solved if it had occurred to anyone to buy her freedom and bring her to Coruscant, but nobody cares about poor Shmi. Even her loving son, with all his powers, is unable to come up with such a brainstorm as setting her free. And how limited communications seem to be in the galaxy: there have been no messages between Anakin and his mother for years. One thinks she would drop him a line occasionally--at least a postcard, if she can’t afford a hologram--to mention little things like her marriage. Anakin might even try to write to her.
Obi-Wan and Anakin go to tremendous lengths to run down Zam, the assassin. When Zam is killed, however, and the two Jedi see the killer take off via rocket-pack, they just sit there looking at the dart. Why not chase him?
The diner scene is what Mr. Lucas calls a “homage to American Graffiti,” but it is still idiotic. The resources of the Galactic Republic cannot discover where a dart comes from, but a short-order cook can (a cook who of course prospected “on Subterrel beyond the Rim”, but apparently without much success considering the job he now has). And how humble of Mr. Lucas to pay homage to himself.
Among all the bizarre fairy-tale creatures with which Mr. Lucas populates his universe, the Kaminians are the silliest. These effeminate giraffes hardly seem tough enough to run a war college, and they are so dumb they cannot see that Obi-Wan has not been sent to collect the clone army but is an intruder. (Jango Fett deduces this instantly.) Given such stupidity, one wonders how the Kaminians have managed to figure out how to clone humans. But they are very generous in granting credit to customers: they have never written anyone about the 1,200,000 clones they think the Jedi ordered; instead, they wait years for someone to show up and ask how things are going. (And who is paying for all this? Who’s writing checks to Kamino? Why don’t the Jedi try to find out?)
The comment track reinforces what I said before. The mechanics again bloviate on how clever they are. See how Sebulba’s tentacles move! Behold him walking on his hands! Lo! Lama Su brushes his knee! (“An extra level of acting and realism” says the commentator. Really.)
The weirdest scene in any of the films is Scene 23 in this one. Senator Amidala—who, we recall, is five years Anakin’s senior—tells her young admirer they cannot fall in love. [As Mr. Lucas mellifluously puts it in the commentary, “She’s obviously older and, and, you know, in a professional thing that a queen, a senator, a leader so that she’s much more reality-based in all of this…”] When giving Anakin this message, Ms. Amidala chooses to wear a strapless black leather bustier and shoulder-high gloves, and to meet her ardent bodyguard on a comfy sofa in a richly-furnished darkened room with a cozy fire burning on the hearth.
If this film had any depth, one would assume that the senator is actually trying to seduce Anakin, saying no with words but yes in every other way, or that she is setting him up for an assault charge when the overheated teenage Jedi quite understandably jumps on her.
But because the film has no depth, we may infer that this scene is a tiny serving of cheesecake made to the long-suffering daddies accompany-ing their tots to this kiddie flick—a motif that is repeated at the end of the film, when Ms. Portman, wearing a form-fitting body stocking, has her costume lacerated by a big ugly monster, exposing her cute midriff, after which her bosom unaccountably gets bosomier in subsequent scenes until she is very bouncy indeed at 2:10:26. The commentary track, usually so loquacious, does not specify if this involves CGI, although the effect is certainly more enticing than Lama Su brushing his knee. (The reader will understand my attention to such details is evidence only of rigorous scholarship.)

So farewell to Star Wars II, another testimony to Mr. Lucas’s inability to write any more decent or logical scripts, to the poverty of his mind, to the victory of appearance over substance. But let us close with a game. I was hoping to see, among all the wondrous machines shown on the bonus disk, the Alphabet Soup Generator that picks character names. From the list below, select the memorable names of real characters from among the silly names I made up.

1 - Fangor Pondictat

2 - Cronash Tal-Avarin

3 - Figraz Kloongarth

4 - Oppo Racisis

5 - Depa Billaba

6 - Pooja Naberrie

7 - Sio Bibble

8 - Plo Koo

9 - Ash Aak

10 - Elan Sleazebaggano

11 - Gilranos Libkath

12 - Triz Estonna

Answer: Nos. 1, 2, 3, and 12 are mine. The others are Mr. Lucas’s.

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