Master Voss reports

Last night was our belated anniversary night; I took Kath out to dinner at the Gramercy Tavern, which was INSANELY good and also expensive. I was having stomach issues so I didn't quite eat as much as I wanted, but holy crap it was good. Then we headed over to Kips Bay to watch Episode III in an all-digital theater.

So, I'm not really that into Star Wars. Sure I was into it as a kid, but I can't recall being into it beyond the movies themselves; I was way more into the actual, literal universe at the time, stars and planets and such, and found that a lot more interesting than laser blasters. Whatever. The point is that my interest in the prequels has always been closer to a familiar kind of curiousity than rabid geekdom. And to be honest, a lot of that is the fault of the prequels themselves, films which I pretty much hated across the board. Shitty dialogue, which resulted in a lot of shitty acting, arcane political maneuverings so complex and poorly explained that I just didn't care anymore... oh, and Jar Jar, one of the most unforgivable cinematic sins of the last 20 years. In light of the incredible acheivements of the LOTR trilogy, these prequels became (to me) almost unwatchable.

Which is why I was as surprised as anybody that I fucking LOVED Episode III - so much so that I'm willing to rank it as #2, very close behind Empire. It's by far the best of the prequels, and I would totally see it again. Maybe the digital projection screen has something to do with it, I don't know, but GODDAMN it was incredible. Each scene served an actual purpose in terms of the storytelling. One of the things that drove me batshit about 1 and 2 were the overly elaborate setups for scenes that ultimately didn't serve any importance in the overall storyline (Exhibit A being the pod race in Episode 1, although really most of Episode 1 could fall into that category). Whereas in ROTS, virtually every single shot was important; there was no filler, no extraneous dialogue, no excuses to have lavish CGI for no other reason than to have them.

Sure, the movie may have problems - I still think that Anakin was too whiny and pouty, and his post-Mace Windu submission to the Dark Side too sudden, and the Bush-bashing (which is welcomed, of course) might have been a bit too obvious - but overall I totally went along for the ride. The CG is un-be-fucking-lievable, especially on the digital screen (I want an HD television RIGHT NOW), the John Williams score was actually quite stunning (they're always good, although sometimes they're a bit overwrought)... but mostly it's the pacing of the movie that really worked, especially the few moments of stillness. There's a sequence near the middle, after the Jedi Acadamy has been ransacked, where it's just long shots of the city, where the tension of the moment is simply allowed to exist instead of being pounded over your head... that was absolutely breathtaking, and probably one of my favorite sequences in the entire 6-film opus. This movie was made with passion, with fire and, most importantly, with balls.

And of course, afterwards, Kath and I tried to figure out the correct viewing order for our future children. We both ultimately agree that it should be 4-5-6-1-2-3-4-5-6, because you need to see 4-5-6 afterwards in order to fully appreciate it*. Darth Vader shouldn't be sympathetic when you first see him, and the revelation that he is Luke's father needs to remain shocking. Even if Episodes 1 and 2 had been made better, I maintain that 1-2-3 wouldn't have been nearly as interesting if they'd been made first. What made 4 so awesome, especially as a kid, was that you were thrust into this universe that had clearly been around for a while, and it didn't need to be explained to you in order to appreciate the action on screen. There's a huge galactic conflict, and Luke is this nobody who suddenly gets caught up right in the middle of it - that's a great way to get immersed in the universe, as opposed to slogging through tons of exposition. Most importantly, the duel between Darth Vader and Obi-Wan in Ep. 4 remains mysterious, as it should. You should know that some pretty heavy stuff is going on, but knowing why would sorta ruin it the first time out. (Also, because if you watch it now, that particular light-saber duel is pretty hilarious, in terms of how tame it is.)

And since our children will most likely be watching these movies for the first time on DVD, I'll just come out and say that in that particular context, I don't mind the tweaking of the original trilogy on DVD that much - in fact, I think it can be fairly said that some of the CGI tweaks make the films that much more immersive. I don't know which is worse to look at, crappy sets or overly-fake CGI, but at least now all 6 films have a somewhat more cohesive look.

*Sorta like how, after reading Infinite Jest, you need to re-read the first 100 pages or so.
This is probably the most positive review I've read anywhere thus far. Perhaps a digital theater I shall seek... [/tobias]
Coupon: The Movie!
To borrow a Mr. Show phrase, if you're going to see it, see the shit out of it. The digital screen experience is absolutely incredible - I've never seen anything like it. The opening space battle on the digital stage is as riveting as anything I've ever seen.
"It was the wettest I've ever been... and I'm from Canada!"
There are exactly two theaters showing it digitally in MA, with no mention of eventually IMAX showings. Sounds like a plan, then.
I'm a superstar, in a superstar machine... taking it to the staaaaarrrrrrsss
I don't know that I'd see it on IMAX - I tend to get major-league vertigo on a screen that big, and there are some moments in the movie that would enhance that effect. The digital experience on a regular-sized screen ought to suffice.
Re: I'm a superstar, in a superstar machine... taking it to the staaaaarrrrrrsss
i read somewhere that there will be no IMAX print of Episode III. So see it in digital-- now!
a wee caveat
But also keep in mind that I had pretty low expectations. A lot of my friends are SW uber-nerds, and for the most part they weren't nearly as happy with it as I was.
Re: a wee caveat
I'm not nearly as big a SW nerd as ANY of my friends, so we'll see. I remember that while seeing AotC in the theater, I was very excited during 80% of the movie and cringing like a mental patient for the other 20. If they can break the ratio of 80:20, edge of the seat excited:turn away from the screen like George C. Scott in Hardcore, I'll like it. :)
Re: a wee caveat
For me, AotC was closer to 55:45. But that said, RotS is 90:10, maybe better.
Hooray. Very glad you liked it. And concur with the 4-5-6-1-2-3-4-5-6. Which means you need to spend basically an entire weekend with Star Wars...
You know what? The more I think about it, the more I can say that Ep. 3 is the movie that re-energized my interest in Star Wars. Before last night, the thought of a weekend with the SW movies wasn't terribly exciting - now I can't fucking wait.
I've seen what's been released on DVD, which is apparently ALMOST all of it. I'm pretty sure there are 20 chapters on the DVD, and I know that there's stuff that wasn't DVD-ized yet, which ties in directly with the opening sequence (as well as explaining why General Grevious has a rasping cough).
Yeah, those episodes were just on Cartoon Network (chapters 21 through 25, which took an hour and a half total). I have them TiVoed if you want a digital copy.
I would imagine that they'll be DVD'd eventually, though, right? I mean, why not?

But if you could rip a DVD (and send it along with your mix, which I haven't gotten yet), I'd gladly reimburse you for postage.
Yeah, I dropped the ball on the mixes. Life's sturm und drang has hit me hard... I will try to DVD and send with the mix this weekend.
dude-- i pretty much agree with your review 100%-- down to it's potential rank as #2 behind Empire. that's awesome that you loved it so much-- and i recommend seeing it again, as i feel it only gets better.

the only thing i might disagree with is the order in which you plan to show them to your future kids. may i suggest 3,4,5,6. or 4,5,6,3 (4,5,6). i'm not even sure 1 & 2 are worth showing-- though the kids do seem to like them. But still, your point about about episode 4 and not needing an explanation of the universe is spot-on, and should hold true for episode 3, too. Start the story there, i say.
I was sorta thinking along those lines, too; Kath pointed out, though, that the actual important information in 1 and 2 is somewhat necessary to get the full flavor of 3. What I would do is re-edit 1 and 2 for the kids, so they don't have to suffer as I did.

Of course, it's always possible that Lucas will do that anyway. He's clearly not averse to tinkering with his films, and in the case of 1 and 2, I say go for it.

I also say go ahead and redo that Obi-Wan/Vader battle in episode 4 with CG so it's more in keeping with the prequels (there are in fact rumors of this).

As much as I hope for them, at this point i've resigned myself to the fact that we'll never see the original movies as they first premiered on DVD, so my wish is for Lucas to go ape-shit on those as he sees fit.
Kath and I watched the DV/OW duel from 4 the other day; it's hilarious. "Clang"... "Clang"... dead. Although I don't know that it would need to be radically re-wored; having seen their duel in 3, I can sorta get down with how non-amazing the follow-up is, considering what happens. Obi is much older, wiser and I can't imagine he ever thought that he'd be able to kill Vader at that particular moment in time, especially knowing what he knows.

Also, it's kinda cool that Anakin/Vader actually does end up fulfilling the prophecy; Luke is just the way he get there, in the end.
Yeah, he does fulfull the prophecy, after all, which is pretty cool. In fact, you'll find the next time you watch Jedi-- or any of the originals I would think-- that they take on a very different feel after seeing episode 3. As I was watching Jedi the other night I couldn't help but feel Vader was now the center of the story, as opposed to Luke, which was a weird feeling, to say the least, but also cool as I've watched these movies one way for about 20 years and now i get to see them differently. Also episode 4 actually feels like a sequel to me now, which is also quite odd.

Going back to the Obi-Wan/Vader duel in ep4-- i would have bought the excuse that he's an old man for the reason why they might as well be clacking walking sticks... but then they go and have Christopher Lee, who's a good 20 years older than Guinness was, doing back flips off of steps, etc.
Yeah, but doesn't it seem like the light-side Jedi end up going a bit batty and feeble? I mean, look at how decrepit Yoda gets between 3, where he's kicking serious ass, and 5, where he's hitting R2 with a stick. Whereas all the Sith, like Dooku and Palpatine/Sidious, are completely badass. Maybe it just takes them longer to achieve their potential.

Speaking of asskicking, fucking R2D2 kicked SO MUCH ASS!
We are going to see it Thursday (Thanks for the great spoilerless review btw!). I'll have to look up a local digital showing.

The one thing that does bug me about the tinkering that was done to 4-6 on DVD is in 6. The extended music scene in Jaba's lair was just pointless and silly. The original was much better. They did slightly improve the end though with the music change. It's my least favorite of the original trilogy anyway, though I hear it is made better AFTER seeing Ep 3, so we'll see. Your putting it just behind Empire is certainly intriguing the hell out of me.
All of the extended musical sequences are pointless and dumb. The new cantina scene in 4 is especially unnecessary and certainly worth fast-forwarding.

RotS and Empire are kindred spirits in several ways - they're both incredibly dark, the endings are not happy, etc. Most revelant here, though, is that they are both the most story-driven - there's very little bullshit. Lots of action, lots of plot, and all of it is fascinating ahd illuminating.

I can't believe I'm raving about a SW movie. This is unheard of.