Archive for the ‘review’ Category
Filed Under comics, review, scifi, superheroes
Spent all my free time today catching up on news and writing some reviews for Comic World News. A Distant Soil and Elephantmen are both scifi comics, though A Distant Soil reads more like a fantasy and Elephantmen like a noir mystery. Rocket Girl is an indie superhero comic.
Tomorrow I hope to get around to talking about a couple movies I’ve seen recently: Lost Horizon and Day of the Dolphin.
Filed Under comics, fantasy, mystery, review, scifi
I’ve had a busy morning and it may interfere with Links today, but I’ll see if I can get caught up. Also, I’m having to dig out my Phil Jimenez issues of Wonder Woman and remind myself why I quit reading it before I can finish part two of the Wonder Woman article. I’m pretty sure it had to do with Trevor Barnes, but I don’t remember if it was a good reason or not. Need to revisit it.
In the meantime, I just posted some genre comics reviews at Comic World News, so please go check those out. I review a mystery/crime comic (The Killer), a fantasy comic (Eberron: Eye of the Wolf), and four scifi comics (Gødland, Retro Rocket, Blind Mice, and Fireblast).
Filed Under adventure, review, tarzan
I liked the first two Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan movies so much that I was sure I’d also enjoy the third, Tarzan Escapes. Not so much though.
The plot’s pretty simple, but that’s not the problem. The plots were simple in Tarzan, the Ape Man and Tarzan and His Mate too. In this one, a couple of Jane’s cousins have come to the jungle to bring her back to England so she can claim an inheritance that they hope to share. They’re not as mercenary as that makes them sound; they really do love Jane. Unfortunately, they hire an unscrupulous guide to help find her, but don’t realize that his motivation for doing so is to capture Tarzan and show him off as an exhibition.
There are a couple of cool parts in the film. Tarzan immediately dislikes the guide and there’s a nice tension between the two of them through the movie. You get the sense that Tarzan’s starting to learn his lesson about civilized folk and their disregard for the jungle. But even better than that is the fancy treehouse that Tarzan and Jane have built. It’s very Swiss Family Robinsion, but long before Disney made that film. Putting aside for a second that it means Jane is domesticating Tarzan, it’s an undeniably cool place to live.
But I can’t leave Tarzan’s domestication aside for too long, because that’s one of the big problems I have with Tarzan Escapes. The Weissmuller films obviously take a very different approach from the Burroughs novels and that’s okay, but I’m starting to not like how they’re portraying the Ape Man. It was fine for a while that he could only speak in grunts and monosyllables, but by the time Tarzan Escapes rolls around, he’s been with Jane for a while and you’d think that an intelligent person would’ve picked up more English. He hasn’t though, and I’m guessing that he doesn’t for the rest of the series.
It makes Tarzan look stupid. Jane talks to him more like a pet or a child than her husband. You never doubt that she loves him or that the jungle is exactly where she wants to be, so it’s not like she’s being condescending. She genuinely struggles to communicate with him, like she’s not sure that he understands. And frankly, neither are we. Tarzan should be a guy who’s very presence communicates with you on a primal level and lets you know that you do not want to mess with him. Bad things may happen to him, and it’s okay to empathize with him when they do, but he’s not supposed to be an object of pity like a defenseless kid who gets picked on at the playground.
Another problem I have with Tarzan Escapes is that they re-use a bunch of footage from Tarzan and His Mate. Not just shots of Tarzan swinging through the jungle or stock footage of animals, but whole battle sequences and fight scenes. You definitely get the idea that MGM realized it had a hit property and figured it could just hack out whatever and still make money. They even frumped up Jane’s costume into a one-piece mini-skirt.
At least they spent some dough on the treehouse.
Filed Under adventure, review, tarzan
I never did come back and post again about Tarzan the Tiger, but that’s because my opinion of it never really changed from what it was three episodes in. Except that maybe I appreciated Jane’s legs more and more as it went along.
There was one scene where Jane took everything off and went for a swim and even though she was always shot too far away to ogle properly, I found myself wondering how they got away with that in 1929. Naive me, thinking that nudity was some kind of issue in the late ’20s/early ’30s. I hadn’t seen Tarzan and His Mate yet.
I didn’t know it going in, but the Jane-swimming-naked scene in Tarzan and His Mate is infamous. According to the IMDb, it was shot three different ways (with Jane fully clothed, topless, and completely naked), but all the versions were originally removed due to pressure from religious groups. Nothing new under the sun, eh? Anyway, the nudie version is what’s on DVD, though it’s Josephine McKim, an Olympic gold medal swimmer, and not O’Sullivan who’s actually in the water.
I like how Tarzan and His Mate is a true sequel to Tarzan, the Ape Man. Another preconceived notion I’ve had about the Weissmuller films — probably due to my sporadically catching them out of order on TV over the years — is that they’re purely episodic in nature and don’t cross-reference each other. That might be true of the later films (or not), but TaHM picks up where TtAM left off, only a year later. Neil Hamilton (who would later play Commissioner Gordon to Adam West’s Batman), Jane’s initial love interest in the first movie, has returned to the jungle to collect all that ivory they found last time. And if he can talk Jane into coming back home with him, so much the better. Complicating matters is the fact that he’s brought along his major investor, a cold-hearted cad who’s sunk all of his finances into the venture and has also taken a shine to Jane. Can’t really blame him.
There’s a lot to love about this movie. Some of the special effects are unbelievable. I’ve spent a goodly amount of time trying to figure out how they shot a scene in which a native is killed without actually killing the actor involved. Another scene that I’ve mostly figured out involves Tarzan’s wrestling an enourmous crocodile. I know it’s a fake croc, but there are moments in the fight where I honestly couldn’t tell how they were doing it. It’s as convincing as most modern CGI.
Not that all the effects are awesome. As in the first Weissmuller film, you can still see the trapeze bars that Tarzan uses to swing on, and the Asian elephants they used still have fake ears to make them look African. Some of the animals are obviously fake — especially a lot of the apes that Tarzan hangs out with — and there’s also a lot of rear screen projection going on. But that’s the kind of stuff that I expect from a ’30s adventure movie. The fact that they were still able to fool me on a couple of scenes is remarkable.
About the only thing I didn’t care for in the movie was Jane’s jungle yell. I guess it makes some kind of sense internally to the series that she have one to go along with Tarzan’s, but it sounds so shrill and silly that I cringed everytime she used it.
But everything else is great. I even like Cheetah in it, and I’ve always found her (always thought she was a boy, but not according to Jane in this movie) to be an annoying sidekick, but she’s really charming and heroic here. And that final scene! I won’t spoil the specifics, but the idea of having ivory poachers battling natives in the midst of a pride of clawing, biting lions is something to make Grant Morrison jealous. Then you add a herd of elephants to the war and my head explodes.
Filed Under adventure, review
I haven’t wanted to “watch” Force 10 from Navarone as much as I wanted to gawk at the trainwreck that I knew it must be. It first got my attention by having Harrison Ford in it, but the rest of the cast is mostly made up of ’70s “stars” who were all better known for other, particular roles than they were for actual acting talent. Carl Weathers from Rocky is there. Barbara Bach from Caveman and The Spy Who Loved Me is there. Even Richard Kiel, who played Jaws in The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker. All folks who were popular at the time, but who don’t exactly scream “quality.”
There’s also the interview I once read where Harrison Ford admitted that he took his role in Force 10 not because it was a good part or a good story, but because it was a good career move for him. It was the first time he was able to get his name before the film’s title in the credits. Purely a career move, and I can’t fault him for it, but it didn’t bode well that I was going to like the movie.
Surprisingly, it’s not all that bad. The worst thing about it is that Carl Weathers’ role is forced into the plot for no good reason, but more on that in a minute. The movie is a sequel to The Guns of Navarone
(starring Gregory Peck and David Niven) and I was concerned that Force 10
wouldn’t have anything to do with Guns
outside of trying to capitalize on the name. Fortunately, both films are based on books by Alistair MacLean, so there’s continuity between the two. Robert Shaw and Edward Fox take over Peck and Niven’s respective roles and the movie becomes sort of “the further adventures of…” with their characters getting a new mission that piggybacks on another Allied mission being executed by a group called Force 10 under Harrison Ford’s command.
Carl Weathers is a soldier who gets caught up in the story as he’s being escorted to jail by a group of MPs who stumble across Force 10 as they’re trying to sneak off on their mission. The MPs misunderstand what’s going on and attack the heroes, allowing Carl Weathers to escape and jump on Force 10’s plane just as it takes off. It’s a silly way to get him involved and then he doesn’t really contribute to the story in a meaningful way afterwards. He’s there mainly to be racially insulted by the bad guys and to pout about not being treated as an equal with the members of the unit who are, you know, actually supposed to be there. Still, as poorly written as his character is, Carl Weathers is a charismatic guy and I always like seeing him on screen.
Harrison Ford is great as the no-nonsense leader who may not exactly lighten up by the end of the movie, but does find new respect for Shaw and Fox’s characters whom he thinks have been forced on him. Shaw and Fox are the real heroes of the movie though, even if they’re not the biggest stars. Fox is no David Niven, but he’s got his own easy charm and I liked him in the role. Shaw was the big surprise though. Mainly because I didn’t recognize him at first.
Even though I sort of had to grimace and bear through the parts of the movie with Richard Kiel (one of the worst Bond villains ever), that’s balanced out by the fact that Robert Shaw played one of the best Bond villains ever, the assassin Grant in From Russia with Love (not to mention Quint in Jaws). I caught on to it about five minutes before the end of the movie (he’s heavier and less blonde than he was as Grant, and cleaner than Quint) and it made me want to watch it all over again.
Which is something that I never thought I’d want to do going into it.
Filed Under horror, review, scifi
So, Glen or Glenda made me feel sorry for Ed Wood. At least for the character of Ed Wood in the Tim Burton movie. In that sense, it made me appreciate the movie even more than I already did for its general campiness.
Bride of the Monster
, on the other hand, got me curious about something. There’s a memorable scene in Ed Wood
where Ed’s filming Bride of the Monster
and is shouting directions at Bela Lugosi through a megaphone. Bela’s coming into a hallway from a door on one side and has to exit through a door on the other. Wood’s directions are basically something like, “You leave the laboratory. You’re sad that the experiment isn’t working. No, no. Not that sad. You must get through that
door.” Then Tor Johnson — playing a guy named Lobo — has to do the same thing and Wood repeats the same directions verbatim
. Tor bumps into the wall as he goes through the second door and shakes the whole set, but when the cameraman asks if they should reshoot it, Wood replies, “No, it’s fine. It’s real. You know, in actuality, Lobo would have to struggle with this problem every day.”
It’s a hilarious scene that really emphasizes what a sloppy director Wood was. The only problem is that the scene they were shooting doesn’t appear in Bride of the Monster. Not unless I fell asleep and don’t remember, because I kept waiting for it and it never happened.
That got me wondering about other inaccuracies in Ed Wood
, so I checked Wikipedia and it turns out there were a bunch
. And some a lot more significant than just making up scenes that didn’t exist. For example, one of the most touching moments in Ed Wood
is when the hospital kicks Lugosi out of rehab for not having any insurance. According to Wikipedia, Lugosi “made a full recovery and newsreel footage exists of him leaving under his own power.” Apparently Lugosi’s funeral was a lot better attended than Ed Wood
depicts it as well. “Lugosi’s funeral was well-attended by his family and numerous fellow film stars, including Boris Karloff (whom Lugosi did not actually hate) and Peter Lorre, who said to Vincent Price (also in attendance) as they stood looking at Lugosi’s body in his famous Dracula cape, ‘Do you think we should drive a stake through his heart just in case?’”
So, digging into Bride of the Monster has made me a little disappointed about being manipulated by Burton’s film. I prefer pretending that everything I see in biopics is exactly how it happened in real life.
As far as the quality of Bride of Monster
goes: yeah, that octopus was hilariously awful. Whether it was just sitting there, supposedly looking menacing, like the rubber prop that it was, or having its arms manipulated by whatever actor it was supposed to be attacking, it stunk. Other than that though, it wasn’t any worse than Lugosi’s earlier, non-Wood, low-budget horror films. I’d put it above, say, The Corpse Vanishes
. Lugosi is wonderfully campy in it and the rest of the cast do as well as should be expected for actors of their caliber. The lab set is ridiculous with its flatly painted-on stone wall — and of course, there’s that octopus — but if you have any tolerance at all for cheesy, old horror movies, Bride of the Monster
is worth watching for Lugosi alone.
Filed Under review
I guess it’s just time to clear away a lot of movie-watching experiments that I’ve been meaning to get to for a while. Blame Netflix. They just make it so easy.
Now that I’ve got the Star Wars
marathon out of the way, I’m onto something that I’ve wanted to do ever since seeing Ed Wood
for the first time in the theater. Being a big fan of both Johnny Depp
and Bela Lugosi, I loved Ed Wood
, but I always felt like I was missing out on something because I’m not familiar with the actual films of Edward D. Wood, Jr. So, I’ve been wanting to watch the Ed Wood
DVD and whenever it gets to the point where he releases a film, stop the DVD and then watch the actual Wood film.
Yes, it’s an incredibly geeky thing to do, but admit it — you think it’s kind of a cool idea.
There are three films that Ed Wood
talks about: Glen or Glenda
, Bride of the Atom
(aka Bride of the Monster
), and Plan 9 from Outer Space
. Last night we (my wife and I) watched the first part of Ed Wood
and Glen or Glenda
. In Ed Wood
the producer of Glen or Glenda
calls it a “stink bomb.” He’s absolutely right.
Forget about the fact that it’s overly-serious and preachy as all get out about the plight of transvestites. Forget the stupid symbolism like when Glen/Glenda’s girlfriend is pinned beneath a tree that represents the burden of knowing Glen’s secret and Glen, not Glenda, is the only one able to lift the burden off of her. Forget the completely unnecessary use of Bela Lugosi as a mad-scientist-like puppet master who serves as one of the film’s three narrators (actually, that bit is the best part of the film thanks to Lugosi’s classic line, “Pull the string!”). Forget the overly long use of stock footage, like when a transvestite enlists in the military and we’re treated to several, dialogue-less minutes of shots depicting military personnel shooting cannons and stuff. Forget about all that.
What I can’t forget about, because I’m still trying to get my mind around it, is the buffalo imagery and Lugosi’s creepy viewing of S&M/rape flicks and striptease images (which he follows up by looking straight into the camera with a “See? I told you so” expression as if I’m supposed to have understood any of what I’ve just seen, much less agree with the film’s point in showing it to me).
What’s truly sad about Glen or Glenda, if Ed Wood is right about the back-story, is that it was supposed to be a deeply personal movie for Wood, who was a transvestite himself. He was fiercely proud of the movie and really thought that he was showing society something that would change its opinion of cross-dressers and transsexuals. Knowing that, and actually seeing the stink bomb that he made, makes the character that much more sympathetic to me.
I think I’m going to enjoy this experiment.
Filed Under review, scifi, star wars
I didn’t mention it before, but my recent re-watching of The Phantom Menace was to kick off something that I’m sure all real Star Wars fans have done a long time ago: watching all six movies (plus the Clone Wars cartoons) back-to-back in chronological order. I’ve put off doing it for reasons that would bore you, but finally decided it was time.
I was surprised by a couple of things during the experience, especially once I got to the original trilogy (which I hadn’t watched since the first time I saw Phantom Menace). Seeing Star Wars so soon after watching Revenge of the Sith made seeing Vader for the first time in Star Wars even more of a thrill than it usually was. I tried watching the original trilogy as if I’d never seen them before and I found myself looking more forward to the Vader scenes than usual. As flawed as they are in some points, the prequels did a nice job of investing me in the Anakin character. (I’ve never been one to criticize Hayden Christensen’s performances as Anakin. I blame any weakness there on the script and directing. He’s actually got some very nice moments as an actor.)
When Leia meets Vader for the first time in Star Wars I got another little thrill. “Oooh, that’s your daughter and you don’t even know it!”
I was also surprised at how easily explainable most of the inconsistencies are between the films. I’m not the kind of guy who needs for everything in serialized fiction to perfectly jive with everything else. I know that inconsistencies occur, and rather than get bent out of shape over them, I find it more fun to try to figure out plausible explanations on my own. For example, Artoo’s leg-rockets that he uses all the time in Clones and Sith never get used in the last three episodes. I was actually looking pretty closely for times when they might have come in handy and didn’t see any occasions in which they would’ve made a crucial difference in the story. In other words, he never really needed to use them, so maybe he just chose not too. Another explanation though is that both Artoo and Threepio are considerably worse for wear in Star Wars than they were at the end of Sith, so maybe the leg-rockets were destroyed or disabled at some point between the two. (Speaking of the droids, by the way, I love the fact that having them finish Sith and start Star Wars in the service of Captain Antilles takes that horrible Droids cartoon from the ’80s and the just-as-silly Dark Horse comics that followed right out of the canon.)
I won’t go into every apparent inconsistency — because it’s clear that Lucas made most of this up as he went along and there are a lot of inconsistencies — but another explainable one is the conversation that Luke and Leia have in Jedi about their mother. Luke says he has no recollection of her, but Leia claims to have a general impression of what Padme was like. My theory is that Bail Organa and his wife were able to tell Leia stories about Padme that influenced Leia’s childhood memories of her mom, whereas Owen and Beru wouldn’t have been able to do the same for Luke.
Some of Obi Wan’s references in Empire and Jedi to being trained by Yoda are hard to explain knowing that he never actually was directly trained by Yoda, but borrowing his “certain point of view” logic I can let that slide. Obi Wan obviously just likes to tweak facts in order to simplify whatever story he’s telling.
Other things I noticed watching the films this way:
The duel between Vader and Obi Wan in Star Wars was much more powerful this time. As I watched it, I was reminded of their duel in Sith and I was able to feel a lot of latent anger and released frustration in Vader. Also, knowing that Obi Wan had learned about the Jedi afterlife from Qui Gon while on Tatooine made Obi Wan’s “if you strike me down” claim make a lot more sense.
I like how you never hear Boba Fett’s name in Empire, especially since he looks so much like Jango Fett from Clones. If you were watching these without any outside knowledge of the characters, you’d suspect that there might be a connection between Jango and this new “bounty hunter,” but you wouldn’t know for sure until Jedi. Unfortunately, the revelation of his name comes just seconds before he’s anti-climatically killed.
As I expected, the scene where Vader tells Luke about their relationship loses a lot of power if you’ve seen the prequels. But there’s still something important happening there as Vader suggests that he and Luke overthrow the Emperor. Before seeing the prequels, I thought it was possible that Vader was just lying about his goals in order to seduce Luke to the Dark Side. Now, seeing how conflicted Anakin was about joining Palpatine in the first place, I’m pretty certain that he meant what he said.
I love how every time I look at the Emperor now, I remember that it was Samuel L. Jackson who gave him that face.
The scene where Luke tells Leia that she’s his sister is still the clunkiest, worst written and acted scene in the history of cinema.
I’ll finish up with a word about tinkering. I’ve never blamed Lucas for wanting to mess around with and adjust the movies. With the exception of Greedo’s shooting first, I’ve agreed with the changes Lucas made. I wasn’t sure, though, when I started out on this little experiment, how I was going to feel about Lucas’ putting Hayden Christensen in at the end of Jedi with Yoda and Obi Wan. Part of me just felt like enough was enough and that Lucas should just leave it alone. I was totally wrong though.
Putting young Anakin in was absolutely the right thing to do. With no disrespect to Sebastian Shaw (who played “Old Anakin”), that final scene in Jedi is infinitely more powerful seeing the now-familiar, young Anakin standing there, almost sheepishly, as if the character knows he’s not really worthy, beside Yoda and Obi Wan. It’s a beautiful, satisfying moment.
It was also satisfying to see Naboo added in to the montage of planets celebrating the Emperor’s defeat.
And, was it my imagination, or was Temuera Morrison’s (Jango Fett) voice dubbed in for Boba’s voice in Empire? And the Emperor in Empire sounded a lot like Ian McDiarmid. Did they dub him in too, or do McDiarmid and Clive Revill (the original voice of the Emperor in Empire) just sound a lot alike?
Anyway, I like the tinkering (again, with the exception of Greedo’s shot, but I can just blink during that scene and pretend that it never happened). I’m irritated by the complaining I’ve heard from fans about how certain actors’ performances weren’t used or were wiped out because of Lucas’ changes. As if Lucas somehow owes these actors something.
I saw an interview with Johnny Depp once in which he claimed that there are many of his movies that he’s never seen. The reason is that Depp understands his role in the making of a film. He’s an actor, one contributor to a project that’s got a lot of other contributors. He’s hired to play a character and that’s his one and only contribution to the film. If he starts thinking of himself as more than that, as if his contribution somehow entitles him to more than a paycheck, he’d go nuts the same way that these fans are going nuts. If he’s worried about how his performance is going to be used in the final product, better to just not see it than obsess over what should’ve been done differently.
My point here is that Lucas hired a bunch of different people to play different aspects of Boba Fett, the Emperor, and Anakin/Vader. He paid those folks for their performances and he should be able to use or discard or change around whatever pieces of those performances that he likes. He doesn’t owe any of those actors anything and the professionals among them would agree.
One last thing that watching all these movies together did was to reignite my interest in reading Star Wars novels and comics. I really do love the Star Wars universe and would love to spend more time in it. Unfortunately, I don’t have time to do that and also read anything else in my life ever again (something that the publishers of Star Wars literature have very carefully seen to), so I’m just going to ignore the urge until it goes away.
Filed Under review, scifi, star wars
I re-watched Phantom Menace last week and realized what it’s big problem is. And no, it’s not Jar Jar.
I love Phantom Menace. The coolness of Qui-Gon, Obi Wan, and Darth Maul more than make up for Jar Jar (though I’m nowhere near as annoyed by him as popular opinion is) and the unevenness in the acting of Jake Lloyd, and the special effects and art direction are amazing. It feels like a Star Wars movie, and that’s the most important thing to me. Still, I’ve always found watching it to be a vaguely unsatisfying experience.
Some have questioned what the movie is really about. “A trade dispute?” they ask. “Really?” Well, no. Of course not. That would be boring. The movie’s not about the trade dispute. That’s like saying that Casablanca is about exit visas or that Pulp Fiction is about Marsellus Wallace’s briefcase. Those are just the things that keep the story moving. But the fact that people have to ask what Phantom Menace is about is its major flaw, I think. Because really, just from watching the movie, it’s not very clear.
Star Wars (I’m too old and stubborn to refer to the first film as A New Hope) is clearly about Luke Skywalker’s leaving his old, boring life behind and setting out to become a hero. But in Phantom Menace, it’s a little more difficult to see who the main character is. Obi Wan is the only character who appears throughout the entire movie, but it’s really not about him. He’s just there to support the other characters who do all the real work, and to be there at the end to pick up for Qui Gon. He doesn’t go through any significant change during the movie. Qui Gon’s an even less likely candidate since he starts off the movie being perfect and, well, we know he ends up.
The real hero of the film is Amidala. The trade embargo is all about harming Naboo, and Amidala represents Naboo. Several times during the film she makes statements to that effect. “I will not condone a course of action that will lead us to war.” “I was not elected to watch my people suffer and die while you discuss this invasion in a committee.” That kind of thing. The liberation of Naboo (and so, Amidala), almost entirely through Amidala’s actions, is the movie’s real plot. Unfortunately, we don’t learn anything about Amidala in the film. She spends all but the final third of the movie in disguise (for reasons that — let’s face it — are a little vague and weird), so we don’t get to know her as a character. In fact, that’s a major problem with all three prequels. We get that Amidala is a great lady and we want to know her better, but regretably, we never really figure out what makes her tick. So, as integral as she is to what’s going on in Phantom Menace, it’s not her story either.
It takes George Lucas’ explaining it to figure it out, and it’s never a good thing when an author has to step out of the story to explain a major point to his audience. Lucas has told us for years that the prequels — heck, the whole series of movies — is Anakin’s story. And it fits that he’s the central figure of Phantom Menace. It’s the story of not only Naboo’s liberation from the Trade Federation, but of Anakin’s from slavery on Tatooine. And his liberation is largely due to his own actions, so he’s also a hero (though his heroism saves only himself and not a whole planet like Amidala). It’s his idea to help Qui Gon and company to leave Tatooine, and obviously it’s his use of the Force that not only motivates Qui Gon’s interest in him, but also wins the pod race and provide the means of everyone’s escape.
The problem is that we don’t meet Anakin until halfway through the movie. We do get to know him better than we do Amidala, but if it’s Anakin’s story, what’s with all this prologue stuff about the Federation and Naboo? No wonder people lose sight of the movie’s point and have to wonder what it’s about. Rather than start the movie focused on Qui Gon and Obi Wan, from a storytelling perspective, wouldn’t it have been better to spend that time on Anakin?
Or, better yet, spend it on Amidala. Let us see why she cares so much for her people. Let us see why it’s a good idea to spend so much time in disguise while a decoy does your talking for you. Let us see why she would have a soft spot for a kid like Anakin.
Either of those would’ve been better choices than what the movie actually does. By focusing on Qui Gon and Obi Wan, the movie’s main heroes — Amidala and Anakin — become mystery characters that we have to figure out along with the Jedi. Lucas builds his whole story around supporting, peripheral characters and that’ s Phantom Menace’s big flaw. It’s like telling the story of Rocky entirely from Paulie’s perspective, or focusing The Godfather on Tom Hagen.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s still a cool movie. I’m glad to have been able to see Qui Gon and Obi Wan whup up on as many droids as I did. But, unlike a couple of the other Star Wars films, it still leaves me feeling a little empty inside and this is why I think that is.
Filed Under adventure, review, scifi
I’m really in the mood for some crazy spy stuff lately. Casino Royale totally fixed everything that’s been wrong with the James Bond franchise because it brought the movies into alignment with my beloved Fleming books. But it also means that there’s a hole that needs filling. There’s a place in this world for over-the-top, wanna be world-conquerors, scantily clad vixens, impossible gadgets, and mind-blowing stunts. I don’t want Bond movies to be that place, but I certainly want those things to exist somewhere.
The Spy Kids movies
make a good go at filling that void. They’re family movies, so forget the scantily clad vixens (Carla Gugino is gorgeous, but unfortunately, no bikini), and the stunts are all CGI, so don’t expect too much there, but there are gadgets and over-the-top villains galore and it’s been a long time since I’ve seen such sheer imagination thrown up on a movie screen. Whether it’s Alan Cumming as the Willy Wonka-like host of a children’s TV show or Steve Buscemi on a mysterious, Ray Harryhausen-inspired island or Sylvester Stallone playing four different roles — all in desperate need of a hug from Ricardo Montalban — Robert Rodriguez tosses influences and ideas into the films like a crazy man. And that’s a good thing, by the way.
The movies really do need to be seen in order though. My pal Dave saw just the last one and didn’t care for it, but I really think that’s because he didn’t know what to expect. Out of context, it does feel like a lame video-game rip-off, but when you know what Rodriguez did with the first two movies, the third one fits in perfectly as yet another celebration of everything that makes us smile.