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Rant #93
(published August 1, 2002)
The Madness of King George
by J.E.C.
It was bound to happen. The greats don't stay great forever. Woody Allen hasn't been funny in years. Spielberg is showing his age with AI (beware of any movie with an epilogue that begins "and then, a few thousand years later . . . "), and now Lucas, the summer movie Great One, has fallen.

But did you have to fail so miserably, George? Couldn't you've tossed us a crumb? A character we could root for, a plot we could care about? I wasn't asking for much. Just some sign you were still plugged in, that there was a great storyteller in you somewhere. I wasn't expecting another Han Solo, but Christ, Jar-Jar? Did you have to replace Sir Alec Guinness with the boys from N'Sync? Couldn't you have directed your actors to show a shade of humanity?

Of course he couldn't have. George hasn't actually written a screenplay in years, and after the latest installment of the saga, I'm beginning to think that even at the height of his talent he wasn't very good at it. Dialogue, subtlety, character, these aren't Georgie Boy's strong suits. Do you know what the last screenplay was that George wrote, before the prequels? More American Graffiti. Empire Strikes Back, Raiders of the Lost Ark, all the greats: he came up with the story, someone else filled in the details. But, George, oh poor, mad George, the devil's in the details.

George is great with coming up with the big picture. Boy fights evil father in galactic civil war. Great. Archaeology professor battles Nazis to find Ark of the Covenant. Great. It's a wonderful start. But it ain't what we go to the movies for.

We go for dialogue we don't forget five minutes later. Does anyone remember a single line from "Phantom Menace"? Okay, the "Wipe them out, all of them" line. Anything else? Now how about the first film? "The force is with you, Luke!" "No reward is worth this." "R2-D2, where are you?" That's just for starters. Or how about characters? Name five characters from Star Wars. Now name five from Phantom Menace. Don't take too long.

You know what George does best lately? Video games. Lucasarts is where his heart and mind have been for the last eight years. Have you played Rogue Squadron? Great game. Certainly more fun than the new movies. Video games are all about operatic backgrounds, great set pieces and hour-long action sequences. Cheesy dialogue, an unimportant story and wooden acting don't damage a video game. The problem is, George thinks that what makes a good game makes a good movie. Earth to George: I fell asleep during the bloody pod race. George, you should've played to your strengths and delegated a little authority in writing the script and directing your clearly directionless actors.

I'm not trying to be mean. Hey, I wanted to like the prequels. But God almighty, how can you not roll your eyes at the whiny, pubescent love-dialogue between Darth Stud and his lady fair? Remember the Han and Leia love story from the first movies? That sexual, adversarial tension that built for two movies, that sparring, Beatrice versus Benedict, Elizabeth Bennet versus Mr. Darcy dialogue that was so cool?

"You weren't there in the south passage, where she expressed her true feelings for me."
"Why you scruffy looking nerf-herder!"
"Who's scruffy looking?"

Want a taste of the new dialogue? "I am haunted by the kiss you should not have given." And some blather about not giving into passions and forbidden love. Some of it was lifted out of a Danielle Steele novel, I'm pretty sure.

So, I'm left to wonder: was George always this tone deaf? Were the original three movies really a testament to the collaborative talent he had around him? Or has self-imposed hermetic lifestyle simply eroded his connection to the pulse of the American moviegoer over twenty years?

Well, King George, maybe I'm being too harsh. You had a great run while it lasted. You made three of the greatest movies of all time, and if you stop making Special Edition versions of them, maybe they'll even stay that way. No one can take that accomplishment away from you, not even yourself. And a hundred years from now, when fan-boy critics like me are all in our graves, no one will fault you for Attack of the Clones any more than we fault Shakespeare for King Henry the Eighth. Your legacy is safe; make as many bad prequels as you want.

But for the love of the Force, keep N'Sync out of the next movie.

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