Anthony Lane’s review is hilarious. He clearly hates the series, and expresses it with glee. The problems with his review stem from this hate. His anger has clouded his judgment; he has gone over to the dark side of movie reviewing. No longer does he think with a logical mind, or even with an untinted eye.
Disagree? Here’s my case, point by point. And mind you, I hate to do this, because I generally dislike critiques of critiques.
Lane starts by taking issue with the sinister word “Sith:” “It sounds to me like the noise that emerges when you block one nostril and blow through the other.” Come on. It does have a wicked ring, and “Sidious” sounds just as evil, not much different than that dark class in Harry Potter, the “Slitherin,” which Lane also despised: “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is, despite its trickery, that plainest and least surprising of artifacts; the work of art that is exactly the sum of its parts, neither more nor less.” He declares the naming of villains in his beloved Lord of the Rings trilogy superior: “Tolkien, earthed in Old English, had a head start that led him straight to the flinty perfection of Mordor and Orc. Here, by contrast, are some Lucas inventions: Palpatine. Sidious. Mace Windu. (Isn’t that something you spray on colicky babies?) Bail Organa. And Sith.” Hmmmm...that’s funny when you first read it, but when you stop and think about it, you realize that Palpatine is actually a decent name for a senator.
Would you vote for someone named “Dark Lord Sauron” or “Morgoth?”
And Bail Organa is Princess Leia Organa’s stepfather. You can’t name him “Bail Valiant” because then you’d have to explain why Leia would change her name to “Organa,” which no brave rebel would ever do.
Then you have this: “Anakin, too, is a divided figure, wrenched between his Jedi devotion to selfless duty and a lurking hunch that, if he bides his time and trashes his best friends, he may eventually get to wear a funky black mask and start breathing like a horse.” That’s funny ha-ha too, but it would be funnier if it were true. The “funny black mask” results from “trashing his best friend,” yes, but he turns to the dark side only to save his wife. He has visions of her death, but guess what? No visions of a black mask. Lane must have been having visions of these visions. Of course, Mr. Lane couldn’t tell us that it’s far-fetched for a man to abandon his friends out of love for his wife. It might have happened once or twice.
Next, there’s this: “What can you say about a civilization where people zip from one solar system to the next as if they were changing their socks but where a woman fails to register for an ultrasound, and thus to realize that she is carrying twins until she is about to give birth?” Hee-hee. True, so true. Or--hey, wait a minute! Nobody says that she doesn’t know she’s carrying twins! She tells Anakin, “I’m pregnant.” She doesn’t say, “with one baby boy whom I will name Luke.” No. And guess what else! If you didn’t know you were having twins, wouldn’t you be surprised when you did? Padme not only shows absolutely no surprise when she has the twins, she already has names ready for a girl and a boy. Maybe Lane wanted Padme to go round telling everyone, “Hey everybody, I’m having twins!” But she doesn’t have to, because it should be obvious to the unblind members of the audience that she knows.
“Nobody ingests or excretes.” Lane would probably be happy if Yoda farted during a session of the Jedi Council. Come to think of it, I’d probably enjoy that, too. Lane must have overlooked General Grievous, who spends all of his scenes coughing and hacking, and he doesn’t even have lungs! Maybe Lane was too afraid of the General to keep his eyes on the screen during the Grievous scenes. He was big and scary, and I think that next to Jedi, his greatest bloodthirst would be for New Yorker readers.
Lane goes on: “Did Lucas learn nothing from “Alien” and “Blade Runner”—from the suggestion that other times and places might be no less rusted and septic than ours, and that the creation of a disinfected galaxy, where even the storm troopers wear bright-white outfits, looks not so much fantastical as dated...”
Is he talking about "Revenge of the Sith?" Because all of the fighting ships and uniforms were stained, dented, scratched, and battered in some way. I challenge you to find a clean one. The original Star Wars movie has Stormtroopers in clean uniforms, but that was while they were on ships prior to battle.
Then he picks on Yoda: “At one point in the new film, he assumes the role of cosmic shrink—squatting opposite Anakin in a noirish room, where the light bleeds sideways through slatted blinds. Anakin keeps having problems with his dark side, in the way that you or I might suffer from tennis elbow, but Yoda, whose reptilian smugness we have been encouraged to mistake for wisdom, has the answer."
Now Lane has crossed the line. Call Luke “Gaywalker,” call lightsabers phallic symbols, whatever…
But Don’t. Fuck. With Yoda.
First of all, Yoda is not reptilian. God…just because he’s green, he must be reptilian? Stereotyper! He’s an alien mammalian. Witness the hair. Remember Biology 101? Clearly not. Also, Yoda is a Jedi master, which is sort of a cosmic shaolin monk, and in the scene Lane speaks of, the room is actually set up sort of like a serene dojo, if you look at it closely. As a Jedi Master, it’s his duty to teach his pupils the way of the Force, which should go without saying if you already saw “Empire.” That was a long time ago, though, and you can’t expect a SW hater to revisit that. He’s no more a shrink than Gandalf is to Frodo. But don’t pick on his beloved Lord of the Rings. He might cast magic missile.
The Yoda-bashing continues: "“Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose,” he says. Hold on, Kermit, run that past me one more time. If you ever got laid (admittedly a long shot, unless we can dig you up some undiscerning alien hottie with a name like Jar Jar Gabor), and spawned a brood of Yodettes, are you saying that you’d leave them behind at the first sniff of danger?”"
So I loved the “Jar Jar Gabor,” and yes, funny, funny. But there’s the bad biology again. Any third grader knows that Kermit is an amphibian, not a reptile. Second, and we already covered this, Yoda is a Jedi master, which is essentially a monk, and even younglings know that Jedi are not allowed to hump or marry. So if one has a logical mind, one knows that Yoda is not telling Anakin to leave his wifey and kiddies, because as far as he’s concerned, there are none; it is verboten. But even if you want to assume that Yoda did know, would he advise Anakin to go ahead on over to the dark side, knowing that the good of the many would suffer under his imperial rule? Again, all of that follows only if you’re a logical thinker and not clouded with emotion.
And even more on Yoda: “Also, while we’re here, what’s with the screwy syntax? Deepest mind in the galaxy, apparently, and you still express yourself like a day-tripper with a dog-eared phrase book. “I hope right you are.” Break me a fucking give.”
Okay, so annoy you that does, Mr. Lane. Spoke like that he did in "Empire," if you’d bother to watch it again. So if his English were correct for this movie, the only explanation for the syntax in “Empire” would be that he took years of Bad English classes, which they don’t have and can’t get in the Dagobah system, even via high-speed connection.
Many funny paragraphs, most of them wrong, wrong, wrong.
So if you’re looking for a good laugh, or just feel like Jedi-bashing, read Lane’s review.
But if you want to read a good, fair, factual one, try A.O. Scott’s in the NY Times, where these lines sum it all up perfectly:
To be sure, some of the shortcomings of "Phantom Menace" (1999) and "Attack of the Clones" (2002) are still in evidence, and Mr. Lucas's indifference to two fairly important aspects of moviemaking - acting and writing - is remarkable.
Anyway, nobody ever went to a "Star Wars" picture for the acting. Even as he has pushed back into the Jedi past, Mr. Lucas has been inventing the cinematic future, and the sheer beauty, energy and visual coherence of "Revenge of the Sith" is nothing short of breathtaking. The light-saber battles and flight sequences, from an initial Jedi assault on a separatist stronghold to a fierce duel in the chambers of the Senate, are executed with a swashbuckling flair that makes you forget what a daunting technical accomplishment they represent.
The integration of computer-generated imagery with captured reality (in other words, what we used to call movies) is seamless; Mr. Lucas has surpassed Peter Jackson and Steven Spielberg in his exploitation of the new technology's aesthetic potential. [Anthony Lane is ready to fight now]
And the most important question:
Would George Lucas at last restore some of the old grandeur and excitement to his up-to-the-minute Industrial Light and Magic? Would my grown-up longing for a return to the wide-eyed enthusiasm of my own moviegoing boyhood - and my undiminished hunger for entertainment with sweep and power as well as noise and dazzle - be satisfied by "Revenge of the Sith"?
The answer is yeth.
This is by far the best film in the more recent trilogy, and also the best of the four episodes Mr. Lucas has directed. That's right (and my inner 11-year-old shudders as I type this): it's better than "Star Wars."
Of course, if you want to spit out your own opinion, you're going to have to fork out your offering to Lucas, Inc. and see the movie first.