So I decided to go see Star Wars, Episode 3, before it left the theatres. I’d seen every one up till now on its first run in the theatres, and it’s apparently part of the zeitgeist of my generation that the ticket get punched for each one. I saw the first one at a less impressionable age than some, and so wasn’t as impressed with it as that generation–my lodestone for SF movies remains 2001, having grown up on a steady diet of Heinlein, Clarke and Asimov, and that was the first SF movie that really tried to get it right (unlike Star Wars, which simply tried to get the effects spectacular, physics notwithstanding).

I know I’m a little late to the party, in terms of reviewing this film, but it’s tough, given today’s technology, for a movie to ride on special effects any more, just as it was easy to do so in 1977, because so much of the field laid unplowed. So the effects were simply what was expected, and had lost their capability to amaze.

How did I like the movie?

As I’ve already said, not being a Star Wars fanatic, I had no expectations. Or rather, given the previous two pathetic Lucas efforts, my expectations were that it would be bad. It lived down to them, but managed to barely maintain my interest for a couple hours, if only to see if it could manage to not be as bad as its predecessors. In that, it succeeded. Barely. I do think that, that had I been Lucas, and wanted to goose the box office draw, I would have at least put out a rumor that Jar-Jar Binks would be killed in some drawn-out and gruesome manner, if not actually doing it in the movie. I’d have paid double the price to see that.

I’m putting together case studies for system failures as part of my day job, and I think I may do this as one for a failure of management. The Jedi screwed the puppy big time, though the Anakin character seemed too weak and pussilanimous to begin with to be the appropriate subject of a proper Greek tragedy.

But mainly, it increased my admiration for Natalie Portman as an actress. She was given a role so pedestrian and devoid of character (unlike her putative daughter, Leia, in the pre-sequels) that it seemed a travesty of her talent. I’d always thought her a good actress, but the first two movies of this series were disappointing. But in this one, George Lucas’ wooden dialogue skills brought her talents fully to the fore. Any intelligent woman who can mouth the words “Hold me, Anakin, hold me like you did by the lake on Naboo,” and keep a straight face deserves the Oscar.