Three recent items on controversial religious movements (if we can consider the Jedi following “religious” that is…).
1. The New York Times reports that Paramount Pictures just might pull the plug on Mission: Impossible 3, which is supposed to start filming in six weeks, because Tom Cruise has been talking about Scientology (and Katie Holmes) too much during interviews in which he is supposed to be talking about his upcoming Steven Spielberg movie, The War of the Worlds. I’m not sure what to make of this, myself. On the one hand, I think people should be free to talk about their beliefs without jeapordizing their careers, but on the other hand, I have long argued that Christians, at least, shouldn’t let their faith become an excuse for sloppy work, and if promoting the movie is what Cruise is supposed to be doing…
Revenge of the Sith is, so Lucas assures us, a ‘tragedy’. It might have been wise to have stationed an announcer at every movie house to announce this fact over the PA system since it eluded the audience I saw it with last weekend. When the Sith hits the fan, the fan bursts out laughing. Oh, to be sure, they were diverted by the opening dogfight and Obi-Wan Kenobi riding a wild four-legged space beast to hunt down General Grievous. But they were howling with laughter through all the so-called ‘tragic’ elements. When Senator-Queen Padmé (Natalie Portman) reveals that she’s pregnant, her secret husband Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) reacts with an eerie glassy-eyed expression as if he’s hypnotised himself trying to remember the next line. Eventually, Lucas prompts him and he utters the words, ‘I’ll have the club sandwich.’ No, wait. That’s just what it sounds like. He actually says: ‘You’re so …beautiful.’
‘It’s only because I’m so in love,’ says Padmé tonelessly, like a spy giving the reply password.
‘No,’ says Anakin. ‘I’m so in love. With you,’ he adds helpfully, just in case Padmé figures it’s the hot-looking Wookie strolling by in the background.
At this, my fellow theatergoers exploded with guffaws of derision. . . .
I also find myself nodding along, grinning, to this:
You can’t make the core of the story the absolute overpowering love of boy for girl when the two of them have all the sexual chemistry of their Burger King merchandising tie-in action figures. Lucas is truly one of the all-time worst directors of actors, and I include the teacher who put together the school production of Fiddler on the Roof I saw last week and got a more touching love scene out of a couple of 11-year-olds as the middle-aged Tevye and Golde than anything Christensen and Portman manage here. Presumably actors say yes to Lucas because they figure Star Wars will do for them what it did for Harrison Ford. Instead, Lucas turns everyone he touches into Mark Hamill.
Of course, the main reason Ford — whose performances of late haven’t been particularly great either — got out from under Lucas’s shadow was because Spielberg lobbied Lucas to cast him as Indiana Jones. It was Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) that enabled Ford to break out from the Star Wars pack and go on to other acclaimed films like Blade Runner (1982) and Witness (1985).
FWIW, Steyn has also re-posted his reviews of Episodes I, II and the “special editions” of IV, V and VI. He gets some good lines in there, too, and one that jumps out at me is his description of John Williams’ theme tune as “‘Born Free’-sideways”. By gad, he’s right!