Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Helpful Spoilers

At one minute after midnight tonight I will be sitting in a theater waiting for the new Star Wars film to start. I expect to enjoy it hugely and I would like to thank a number of conservative commentators who have posted reviews critical of the film that will help me enjoy it even more. In particular, Jason Apuzzo at Libertas and Joun Podhoretz at the Weekly Standard have both found things to be annoyed about in the film (to varying degrees – Podhoretz didn’t like it but Apuzzo did) . To them, especially, I offer thanks for almost certainly increasing my enjoyment. Confused? Perhaps I should explain.

Have you ever seen a film that annoys the crap out of you the first time you see it but improves markedly when you see it again? I’m not talking about surprise-ending films -- Usual Suspects, Sixth Sense or Momento – that are good the first time but better the second time since you can see how they misled you; I’m talking films that are real stinkeroos on the first viewing because they have huge flaws -- annoyances that take you longer to get over than the running time of the film. Sometimes, if you give those films a second chance – if you go back to the buffet knowing what the cat did in the potato salad – you can ignore the flaw and find that, on balance, the film is much better than you thought.

I will offer two examples: The first is the Coen brother’s Big Lebowski – one of the funniest films of all time – which has huge pacing problems in its beginning, and a framing device (the old cowboy bit) that makes the problem even worse. The first time you see it you spend the whole movie being cranky about how boring the first fifteen minutes is. If you watch it again the protective eye-glazing that protects you from commercials on TV will kick in during the tedious bits and you can enjoy the rest of the film.

The second example is closer to home for my topic; imagine how much more you might have enjoyed The Phantom Menace if someone had told you exactly how annoying JarJar Binks was going to be, before you went to the movie. You could have considered all of his scenes as some sort of advertisement for an ill-conceived action figure that was somehow edited into the film by mistake.

This is the great service offered by some film reviewers: they subject themselves to the tiresome bits in films so you begin the getting-over-it process well in advance. That way you don't need to see things twice. Given the price of a movie ticket these days, the see it again and then decide what you think process can be pretty expensive.

Several reviewers, including the ones I mentioned, have warned that the latest Star Wars film contains a number of digs at the President and the War in Iraq, both of which I support. These are minor items in the film –- a line or two here and there -- that Lucas put in for his liberal Hollywood pals. There is no reason that he shouldn’t put a few lefty Easter eggs in his film if he wants to – he’s too good a filmmaker to let them really interfere with the story –- but I am grateful to know that they are there so I don’t bite down on them, confused by their color and assuming they are chocolate.


As predicted, I loved the movie. It's good that I knew about the Bush-bashing Easter eggs ahead of time. I probably would have caught a few of them -- not because I am politically thin-skinned, but because of some statements that Lucas made at Cannes. I understand why he felt the need, of course. It's the compulsion of the language. When one is in Italy, if one knows a bit of Italian one must say something in Italian. When in France, if one knows French, one must speak some French so they know you are trying. And when one is interviewed by Reuter's at Cannes, one must say something idiotic, just to be polite.

I have made a few more comments on ROTS (sorry, those are the initials) on a friend's LiveJournal page here (my comment is down a bit.)

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