May 27, 2005

What's Missing Are the Yucks

FP0467 STAR WARS yoda.JPGHere it is, the half-day Friday before a long holiday weekend and Cinecultist can feel ourselves stretching our wings like a long dormant moth. One of those pretty moths, not the ugly, super furry ones but a moth nonetheless, because while we appreciate our freedom, what we really want is to be back in the dark (at the cinema, of course). Sure enough, post our 1 pm Day Job let out today CC slipped on the flip flops, donned the sunglasses, popped into Jamba Juice for a 16 oz smoothie and then thought about what movie we were going to see this afternoon.

Now, last weekend CC (like most other suckers born or living during the late '70s) had gone to see Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith but we couldn't really bring ourselves to post something about it before now. In fact, we even had difficulty talking about it amongst our friends who wanted to know what we thought of George's supposed final chapter. Generally, we liked it but we didn't love it and we really couldn't figure out why. Sure, it's better than the other two prequels but is that really a reason to recommend a movie? It could suck at the level of one of those fancy schmancy Dyson vacuum cleaners but instead it just sucks like my Mom's 25 year old upright Maytag? Is this a real review?

marvin.jpgThen today, CC went to see The Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy and suddenly our opinion on SW: part trois was made clear. Hitchhiker's is a sci-fi movie that knows how to have fun. Star Wars used to be fun. Remember when it was just a screwball comedy with cinnamon bun hairdos and over-grown laser pointers? It didn't take itself so seriously, and it certainly didn't expect its audience to think it was the most profound thing since Goethe. But somewhere along the way, perhaps after the zillionth interview with Joseph Campbell about the leitmotifs, Lucas lost his sense of humor. The only laughing in our theater happened when Nathalie asked Hayden hold her like by the lake on Naboo. This most recent installment has plenty of explosions and an army of Wookies which would ordinarily give CC much pleasure, but there's no sense of fun in the proceedings. George, where did the "yahoo!" go?

Hitchhiker's by contrast is silly and real and fanciful and wry and has tiny talking mice seeking world domination. Unlike our Seattle Maggie, who's a long time fan of the book and saw it before its release, CC didn't really know anything going into the movie but sitting there in the theater, we couldn't have been more contented. The film's also filled with charming performances, particularly from four of the most likable yet grossly underrated actors working today (ie. Martin Freeman, Zooey Deschanel, Mos Def and Sam Rockwell), though we also loved Alan Rickman's voice of the depressed robot, Marvin (pictured). Here's a movie that exists in a "real" place, one that despite its gadgets and intergalactic space travel, seems rooted in humanity. Cinecultist is all for geeking out, but the way that Lucas has come to express it, there's no room for something plausible. It's too refracted.

Perhaps the most telling moment for us was when the film cut away to Ewan McGregor walking down a hallway and we thought "crap! That's a real hallway set that they're walking inside! Weird." If your movie world is so removed that even an actual hallway looks out of place, there's something seriously wrong with your cinematic technique.

Posted by karen at May 27, 2005 4:56 PM