Episode III, Part II

(I suppose there are more spoilers ahead, so again, consider yourself warned.)

My favorite account of second (first)-trilogy Lucas came from my friend Joseph: “It’s clear he’s lost something, and not the way a pitcher loses a live fastball. Rather, the way a farmer loses an arm to a combine.” My general response to the first trilogy: it was good for Episode IV to have those first three episodes as a backstory. It’s not at all clear to me that it’s a backstory that needed telling. But even if you were dying to see that first showdown between Vader and Obi-Wan (and I was), and so were willing to put up with Jar-Jar, trade federations, etc., there’s still the matter of his ability to direct a scene. When the newly quadriplegic Vader is being fitted with his robotic limbs prior to being locked inside his black suit, it should be the most heart-rending scene in the film – the man is becoming “more machine than man, now.” This is Oedipus pulling out his eyes – the awful consequences are playing out. Imagine a close shot of a metal leg being fitted onto a ruined stump; the slow, precise movements of the robot surgeon… Instead, we get one ridiculously quick overhead shot of the operating table, during which all I could think was, “Wow, that robot is moving quickly.” R2-D2 got more loving treatment. And then, when the Emporer tells him that Padme is dead, we get Vader spreading is arms and crying “Nooooooooo” to the heavens. The Star Wars mythos is powerful, but it ain’t powerful enough to rescue that reaction from the abyss of cliche.

Comments

  1. Anonymous says

    Matthew,

    Amen! Great analysis of the Darth Vader scene. (The bellowing to the heavens was so bad that I imagined it to be some dream sequence from Napolean Dynamite – I was half-expecting Darth to rip his helmet off and the frizzy head of Napolean to appear. “Gosh! Emperor! You IDIOT! You took away my flippin’ LEGS! GOSH!”) And I think what’s wrong with the scene is sort of symptomatic of the entire “prelogy.” – The machine gets in the way of the man: if Vader is more machine than man so too is Lucas in his treatment of what should have been the emotional payoff of the entire saga (or at the very least a close second to the deshelling of Vader by Luke at the close of RoJ). And as goes the focal scene of the prelogy, so the whole prelogy’s “humanity” falls by the wayside.

    I go back, of course, to my original argument: no Han Solo (or at least a Han Solo character – NOT Jar Jar Binx), no dice.

    Ah well.

    JOB

    p.s. At the close of the film, during the funeral procession for Rockme Amadeus, er I mean, Padme Amadalis, we get a glimpse of Jar Jar – and I recall saying: Don’t. Say. A. Single. Word.

    Happily, he didn’t. A meager bright spot in the film.

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