Tuesday, May 31, 2005

The Holy Womb of Antioch

"Love can't save you Padme. Only my new powers can do that."

"Hold me like you did by the lake in Naboo."

And I'm thinking, "Sweet fuck, why?"

To his credit Hayden Christiansen really gave it his all. He told the story he wanted to tell, he worked as best he could with the lame dialogue and sudden loyalty-switching scene that had very little lead-up. It was a poorly written script. Lucas spent the first half of the movie lovingly panning through long, drawn-out shuttle docking sequences, and must have realized two-thirds of the way through the film that he was actually telling a story that somehow involved the actions of people, and he spent the last half of the movie cutting through a series of quick-cut scenes of the most disrespectful sort that not only insult your actors, but insult your own worldbuilding skills, so that Super Jedi who can "sense" things with the force get taken out by a couple of blaster-shots to the back (in fact, only two Jedi besides Obi-wan actually get any sort of actual fight scene when they get turned on, both of them being men).

The tragedy of this movie is watching what is, at core, a really great story about how power corrupts, and how you kill what you love, and turn yourself into a monster. It's absolutely fascinating to watch someone who's a great "idea" guy fuck up stuff like the actual telling of a story: he has no intuitive sense of narrative drive, of how to cut a scene, of when to trust his actors to deepen a scene, of when to edit a fight scene because they all look alike. In fact, he's not even sure of the right balance between fight scenes and character/plot scenes. Any scene with dialogue is almost always painful. Ewan McGregor is about the only one who can do anything at all with the shitty dialogue, though Hayden gives it his all: you can tell that he was holding out for this movie and fuck George if he wanted him to play it wooden, cause this is why he signed up for this shit, to be fucking Darth Vader.

And then, of course, there's the Holy Womb of Antioch.

I mean, Padme.

The Senator, right? Busy doing senatorial things, meeting with people, having her own subplot, caught up in negotiating with Jedi and telling Palpatine to fuck off and engaging in long talks with the new Queen about domestic policy and...

Oh, I'm sorry, I was thinking of the wrong movie.

In fact, every scene Padme is in, she's sitting on a couch or standing at a window or standing on the balcony staring blankly at something, pregnant, (because everyone knows pregnant women live like invalids) waiting for the scene to start. Waiting for Anakin or some Jedi to come in and break up her staring-at-the-wall reverie. Natalie Portman checked out of this movie a long time ago. And who can blame her? It was utterly obvious from the writing that she was only there as a peice of scenery. Her hair and clothes changed drastically with every scene; she was a walking, talking set peice.

And her death scene? Oh, yea, death scene in childbed in the 80th century! The robots attending her surmise that "There's nothing physically wrong with her. She just seems to have lost the will to live."

Lost. the. will. to. live.

Luckily, she lives long enough to contort her face into what resemebles the face one would make during a particularly troublesome bowel movement, and squirt!-squirt! - there's Luck and Leia! Isn't that cute! I'm the director, and I'm just going to blast through all this silly plot and character stuff here at the end, cause everybody already knows what's going to happen. I'm going to let the next three movies in the series inform just how significant this moment is, so I don't have to work at it and write actual dialogue that makes sense!

So the men and robots make the decision to "operate" quickly to "save the babies" - an operation which essentially consists of her delivering the kids the regular way, not via Cesaerean, so I'm not sure what planet these robots came from where they thought natural childbirth was an operation, but they should probably be mindwiped.

But lo! Padme's death is appropriately celebrated like any good female martyr's - there's a great parade through the streets and she's in an open coffin with flowers all over her like good virginal Snow White. Having fulfilled her purpose for living, the Holy Womb is delivered unto the underworld. All hail the holy womb!

And this is the end, purpose, and plot we get for the only female heroine in the entire movie. She exists to give birth to Darth Vader's kids. No hopes, desires, dreams of her own, except to escape back to Naboo with Vader and raise up his babies. Um, hello, isn't she a Senator? Isn't there work to do? Shouldn't she have scenes where she did work? Couldn't she have been better involved in the plot? I'd almost rather she didn't have any scenes at all and the babies were just sent off to Obi-wan to distribute, but we were supposed to have these stupid scenes with Vader and Padme where they had this obvious love and chemistry for each other, so we could see why he'd go crazy and go all dark thinking that she'd die unless he had his "new powers."

It's such an incredibly sad movie to watch because you can see all these really neat set peices: the image of the Jedi temple burning, Anakin going in to kill all of the Jedi - including the children, the plausible scenerio of how a president/prime minister becomes a despot by ruling through fear, all of Yoda's extreme coolness, Obi-wan's affection for Anakin. All ruined, just ruined, because the delivery was for shit.

I just didn't buy it. It was poorly written, and the actors were insulted with very little slow scene time in which to emote or at least pretend to feel something. Instead it was "line, line, line, CUT: new scene line, line, line: CUT."

Luke! Leia!

The end.

Thank God. Because really, Luke and Leia are way more interesting in the next three movies than just about anybody got to be in these three movies, so the sooner we get back to them, the better.

If anyone ever comes to my house and discovers that I own any of these three prequels, please feel free to put me out of my misery.

17 comments so far. What are your thoughts?

Anonymous said...

Okay, so it's not just me. :)

Posted by Patrick

Anonymous said...

Exactly what I was trying to say, but you said it better! 

Posted by Khandi

Anonymous said...

Yea on Padme. 'The queen will probably want me to retire,' -- wtf? Other than that, it seemed much better than I feared. 

Posted by hf

Anonymous said...

She did have the only good line in the movie, though: "So dies liberty, to thunderous applause." 

Posted by Cecily

Anonymous said...

This movie sucked so much I nearly couldn't stand it (only the pretty pictures kept me going) but you have certainly nailed several of the reasons why it sucked.

Huge continuity and logic gaps throughout the entire flimsy story pretty much finished it off. By the Powers! the stupid thing wouldn't have made it through a high school writing class crit. 

Posted by Katharine

Anonymous said...

Such a sad end to what could have been such a greatly executed story. As an audience member and fan, and I felt pretty insulted. 

Posted by Kameron Hurley

Anonymous said...

YES to all of that--and what's up with the pregnancy taking about four months, if that? Maybe it's just an artifact of the breakneck pacing, but when on earth was there time for pregnancy?  

Posted by Emily H.

Anonymous said...

y'know, i just saw the latest & last of the StarWars eps & i think i was simply relieved that it wasn't as godawful a suckhole as the Clone Wars were...

don't get me wrong - bad acting aplenty & a narrative structure gone all splooey i agree most wholeheartedly

but, dude(s), did any of you actually watch the first three (4,5,6)? they may be fun/great movies but it ain't for the acting or the subtlety of their character development! i mean, what did y'all expect?

& Cecily, you're so very right, that one line by Padme about liberty dying during thunderous applause was amazing. tho' perhaps even better was the exchange during Obi-Wan's & Anakin's final battle-

Anakin: If you're not with me, you're my enemy! 
Obi-Wan: Only the Sith speak in absolutes! *draws lightsabre*

sweet Inanna, i'm trying to defend Lucas! someone put ME out of misery! 

Posted by jam

Anonymous said...

Yea, but you know, Spiderman 3 wasn't the Epic Drama of the Year or anything: it was a movie based on a comic book, with comic book characters, but it was an entertaining little story with great actors and a director who knew how to tell a story and a script with dialogue they could work with - mainly because they were a bunch of real actors working with a good director.

I think you can tell these cliched archetype stories very well - I just don't think Lucas did it with these fuck-fests this time around.

I feel like 4,5,6 were in a similiar vein with the Spiderman movies: not anything we'd never seen, telling old stories, but telling them well with competent actors and having so little money that they had to cut everything extraneous, which made for a better ride.  

Posted by Kameron Hurley

Anonymous said...


i don't think i've ever heard any of the Star Wars movies described thusly - & it's painful i tell you because i've got a mouthful of burning hot coffee that i'm desperately trying to swallow while laughing too hard at said term so as to not spew on my keyboard & thereby freak the locals...

ouch! dammit! fuck-fests! har har har!

now everyone's looking at me...

Posted by jam

Anonymous said...

wait a web-spinning minute! when did Spiderman 3 come out? where was i? 

Posted by jam

Anonymous said...

Oops. Spiderman 2.

Jeez, I haven't had enough coffee this morning...

Too many fuck-fests, recently.... :)

Muwahah ahaha  

Posted by Kameron Hurley

Anonymous said...

I thought this was a good summary (it's humorous):


I enjoyed watching the movie, but I didn't take it seriously at all. One thing about the birth scene that drove me nuts was the fact that Padme was tilted *up*. Like, "I know, let's work *against* gravity!" Maybe the reason for Padme's death wasn't really Anakin's over-zealousness, but rather *incompetent robots*. 

Posted by Barbara Preuninger

Anonymous said...

Thank you!  Padme's character was an embarrassment to women--especially pregnant women! She went from being a driven, capable politician, to, as you said 'the Holy Womb of Antioch ,' whose only real purpose was to give birth and die--as some perverse "sancrosanct" form of maternal martyrdom.

Padme had might as well just shown up in the last five minutes of ROTS as some nameless woman Anakin met in a bar, had an one-night-stand with him, conceived with his genetic material, and died giving birth to Luke and Leia, since that was her only real purpose in the prequels. And the "holy womb," maternal martyrdom overtones all throughout ROTS is right--you'd figure one of those fundie-wingut, anti-choicers had written the script for her character.  

Posted by Pseudo-Adrienne

Anonymous said...

Holy Womb of Antioch!!! ahahahhahaaaaaaa


and those babies...GYNORMO babies. Those two were not curled up in Padme's delicate little tummy that protuded JUST enough to show she preggers but NOT FAT.

And I guess and Queen, a senator and an woman would also have no idea how to cope with stalker whiney boy. She would obviously and simply loose her will to live, duh.

Oh and...Couldn't it have been turned into a great statement about the Jedi's denial of attachement being it's fatal flaw? Take away what Aniken loved and then he turns? Why before on the dream his wife would die? God plant that, and the whisper campaign, have him fight it a bit more and appear over the top good until the secret marriage is revealed and the Jedi's do something shortsighted and stupid...

I've thought this way too much...


Posted by marsha

Anonymous said...

"cause this is why he signed up for this shit, to be fucking Darth Vader."

I love ambiguity.

By the way, giving birth was not her only purpose in the movies. She also had to be there to inspire Anakin to fall in love with her so he could fear for her survival of childbirth and betray the Jedi because the Sith says he knows how to save her.

I'm *really* irritated with how the killing-all-the-Jedi thing was done. The Jedi are, reportedly, spread thin all over the galaxy, fighting the Separatists, yet most of them are in the Jedi temple, yet this huge force of the best warriors in the galaxy is no match for one "we-do-not-grant-you-the-rank-of-master." Then the rest of the Jedi are no match for a couple shots in the back from various clone troopers.

The gender imbalance in THOSE slaughter scenes (males put up a fight, females get murdered easily) reminds me of the biggest beef I have with Return of the Jedi: in Luke & Leia's speeder chase on Endor, Luke gets rid of three troopers, all through skill; Leia gets rid of one by accident, by her clumsiness inspiring his stupidity. (She crashes her bike; he runs into a tree while looking back.)

I honestly wish they'd have played the destruction of the Jedi as a hunt which took years, in the time after the movie finished, so we could have a bunch of books about it. And I wish, say, that Palpatine had had Padme assassinated (perhaps mortally wounded, with slightly-premature Luke & Leia removed via surgery before she died), and made it seem to Anakin that Obi-Wan had killed her or allowed her to die, thus inspiring the big fight scene.

Personally, I think Padme's death IS Obi-Wan's fault; he sort of framed her in Anakin's eyes by sneaking onto the ship so Padme didn't know and then openly coming off it so it looked like she did know; and then he let Anakin jump to conclusions and didn't do anything to clarify it.

As martyrs go, the her death scene wasn't so bad. I am a hopeless romantic and was very happy to hear her say she believed there was still good in Anakin/Vader. I wish, though, that instead of "giving up," she'd recovered, gone to see Vader, and told him that herself. Not that Palpatine would've allowed this, and it probably would've screwed up the timeline 'cause I think he would've jumped at the second chance--if you read the book, it seems that most of his Darkness is the result of dispair.

I need to get my own blog. 

Posted by Kyra

Anonymous said...

But what if, say, Anakin and Obi-Wan had gone off to do their fight thingy, and Padme went into labor right there and then, only she starts bleeding excessively. Because she's actually read up on normal birth, she realizes that she has placenta previa and she and the baby (babies) will be dead shortly, so she performs a C-section ON HERSELF. Big scene with her gritting her teeth, setting knife to abdomen and averting her gaze. Obi-Wan comes back, finds Dead Padme and live babies and takes them off to be fostered (the babies, that is, not Dead Padme).
It's still crappy for her, but heck, at least she gets to look good and dramatic as she exsanguinates on-screen. 

Posted by Ledasmom