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mercredi, mai 25, 2005

 Kingdom of Heaven & Revenge of the Sith

(For $5 a show, you'd do two movies a day too.)

Kingdom of Heaven was a letdown. It tossed and turned and meandered almost aimlessly, trying not to offend Christians and Muslims alike. It almost succeeds - I say almost because it doesn't offend either party, but that made the treatment of the film rather clinical. Facts from both sides of the story were presented, and nothing really made any character particularly sympathetic. Orlando Bloom (Balian) spends most of his time with a perpetually furrowed brow, and all the other knights look pretty much the same, so I can't really tell who's who - and therefore can't really care if they die or not.

I'm not sure how much I liked the points of view presented - I like that it showed the sheer madness of how wars are waged because "God wills it!" - both God and Allah want bloodshed? - but I'm in two minds about Balian's giving up of Jerusalem for the lives of people. On one hand, Jerusalem is a holy place to both Muslims and Christians. On the other, it's also just that - a place. I feel like this conversation between Balian and the Muslim Saracen General Saladin.
Balian: How much is Jerusalem worth?
Saladin: Nothing. (strides back towards his army, then turns back with both fists clenched in a boxing stance) Everything.
I felt really depressed after watching the show. All those wars, the crusades - it's part of history now, but it actually did happen. "Killing infidels is a pathway to heaven!" some priest cried out at the beginning of the movie. Dramatised, but I think that was the sentiment of the day, and it's depressing, how cruel Christianity and Christians were. I should really do more reading on this.

After that depressing movie, I decided that I would go two for two and watch another depressing movie, Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. Natalie Portman was truly sad in this installment - I was expecting a stellar performance from her, but all she got was five lines, a belly, a birth/death scene and a grand funeral where she looked her prettiest in the movie. And while I obviously feel a lot more sympathy for Anakin/Darth Vader now that we know the whole story, I (again) feel really sad that he didn't find out that Padme Amidala did not die at his hand in Return of the Jedi.

One of the best parts? Yoda. He's short, but he packs a punch! And he took on the Emperor! And he pushed those red guards flat against the wall with his Force! I wonder why he called Palpatine "Emperor" when fighting him. Shouldn't he just have called him "Senator", "Palpatine" or best - "Pal"? (I thought that Ian McDiarmid played the evil-weevil amazingly. He's totally creepy as Palpatine!)

Ewan MacGregor was also amazing in this installment. Granted, he had the best material aside from lousy wooden Hayden Christiansen (who seems headed for Mark Hamill obscurity if he doesn't buck up!) but he made the most of it, which is more than what we can all say for Hayden C. I hope he makes more movies! But without the beard and the moustache, thanks. I think it was to make him look more lik Alec Guiness, but... no. Leave Ewan's face alone!

The surprise of the movie for me had to be Jimmy Smits. After NYPD Blue, and then seeing him as Matthew Santos in The West Wing, I thought I'd be in stitches seeing him in Star Wars, but no, he was actually pretty good - the acting wasn't overdone, and yet he made an impression. I thought he played this to perfection. And the last part, where we find out that he raised Leia? I thought that was such a lovely touch.

I was discussing it with my brother - who once got into a hissy fight with me because I forgot to tape The Empire Strikes Back when it was showing on tv a few years ago! - and we both agreed that this show had a LOT of stuff packed into it - the plot just travelled on a relentless trajectory toward the conclusion we already know: Anakin = Darth Vader. I thought that he was good that the movie had so much plot in it, KM thought it was a little too much, and could have been spread out over the first two episodes. He thought it was so-so to sucked, while I think it stands on par with Episodes IV, V and VI. I thought that more could have been done with the Wookie battle, but that might have turned out to be the equivalent of the Ewok battle in Ep VI, which got a little tiresome, like the stupid pod race in Epi I.

For better or for worse, tonight, 30 years of cinematic history ended for me once those credits rolled.

[Kingdom of Heaven & Revenge of the Sith]
Sngs Alumni @ 25.5.05 { 0 comments }


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