War of the Worlds. It wasn't until the closing credits of the movie that I was reminded that Steven Spielberg had directed this, which then retrospectively explained a lot. This was an interesting kind of experience; I didn't know the story, and even on my small TV screen, it was incredibly intense--the kind of movie described as an aerobic exercise. But when it was over, I was disappointed, and I have no inclination to see it again. The movie wasn't the sum of its parts, let alone more. The ending in particular was unsatisfying--that Mary Ann's parents' townhouse was intact and that Robbie made it back safely just stretched plausibility so much that at first I thought it was a dream sequence.
I respect that they didn't try to have Cruise's character be the big hero in some takeoff of Independence Day--that's one of the things that stands out about the movie, actually; the helpless, erratic path of Ray and his family across the devastated landscape, completely at the mercy of whatever whimsical, terrible, and unpredictable thing they encounter next, and the fact that the aliens succumbed to simple viruses or whatever it was. That was cool. But overall, I don't know--I just wondered, what am I taking away from this? There's no real pleasure or catharsis. In fact, I found the second half of the movie almost unbearably grim in a way that failed to make up for a very small emotional payoff. Tim Robbins' character induced deep gloom, and the bloody fertilization with humanity's drained bodies was--I don't know how else to say this--the ultimate downer.
Random thoughts on the actors: Dakota Fanning *is* good. I thought she'd annoy the piss out of me, but as usual, Spielberg gets brilliant performances from child actors. Tom Cruise is finally succumbing to gravity, poor guy. Tim Robbins was nearly unrecognizable (I was like, oh that's him, and then five minutes later doubted myself) and did a decent working-class accent that I recognized but couldn't place. Justin Chatwin was incredibly compelling to watch and reminded me of Vincent Kartheiser, a similarity intensified by the father/son friction subplot.
Revenge of the Sith. Who the fuck edited this? Some of the movie was so choppy I couldn't figure out how much time had passed from scene to scene, and the scenes themselves often had no real segue--their sequence seemed random. There was too much story packed into the movie for its length, far more so than in any of the others, I thought. Yet compared to the last two (and editing aside) it was also far more dramatically cohesive and compelling, and the personal stakes of the characters were higher and easier to understand.
I've been told that the small TV screen undermines the success of CGI, and I could see that from time to time, but the imaginative variety of worldscapes--some of them barely more than a casual backdrop for a few seconds of screen action--was one of best things about the movie. And I loved that feathered lizard-horse thing. So! Cute! So sad when it died--I suppose it might have survived the fall, since Obi-Wan did. I hope so.
Drama-wise, the betrayal of the Jedis was one of the most affecting sequences. Padme did *not* seem appealing or interesting enough to serve as the trigger for Anakin's downfall. In fact--
Padme: Natalie Portman looked like she had many sleepless nights during filming, though if her puffy reddish face was meant to be a symptom of pregnancy, I suppose I shouldn't have a problem with that. Her character had no inherent interest. Wasn't she supposed to be a senator? WTF?
Obi-Wan: I like Ewan McGregor a lot, and maybe it was an issue with the material, but Obi-Wan didn't really convey a sense of raging grief at Anakin's betrayal and agony over the epic events. He kind of put the "wan" in Obi-Wan.
Mace Windu: Had more to do than previously. Go, Samuel Jackson.
Yoda: I have never recovered from the new Yoda. It's like New Coke. He's just creepy, yo.
Chewbacca: I have deep not-so-secret Wookie love. (*waves to flambeau, grinning*)
Palpatine: Ian McDiarmid did a hell of a job, though to be honest, I kept thinking: why the hell doesn't Anakin notice what a sinister shmuck this guy is? I mean, right up front he's urging Anakin to kill Dooku with malice and relish in his voice. Anakin is supposed to be an honorable Jedi, and this is the guy he looks to as a patron? I realize that Anakin was supposed to *be* susceptible to the Dark Side, but it never really rang true on that score. I guess we're supposed to believe that Palpatine had been working on his mind for a while, shaping it, but if so, why the hell didn't the other Jedis tune in better to what was going on? Eh.
Anakin: Holy fucking hottie. I couldn't take my eyes off him. The darker he got, the more mesmerizing he was. I'm not sure he was the ultimate evil hottie, but I think he made my top three. I'd hated him in the second film--at that time I thought Hayden Christensen was unattractive and badly cast. He really turned it around here.
As I was watching, I had the thought that the Star Wars is one of the closest things to sustained, filmed fan-fiction we have--a long epic series--and I wondered what would take its place if they're not filming any more of the movies. When will we get something like it again? Someone needs to take up Lucas's dropped reins.