June 1999
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An Open Letter to George Lucas

by Jason Morrison

Even if I sent it, George Lucas is not going to see this letter. I can name the number of multi-millionaire producers and directors who read my letters on one hand.

Well, no hands.

But that's not the point. The point is, billions of people have seen Star Wars: Episode I, and billions of people have opinions about it. I talk about it with my friends, you talk about it to yours, then we chat about it on AOL pretending to be 14-year-old bisexual cheerleaders. There are so many opinions out there on the net right now, you could punch Star Wars into Alta Vista and spend the rest of your life reading amateur reviews.

So why, then, am I bothering to add my two cents to the hundreds of millions spent on tickets, action figures, and men's briefs underwear?

Because I can. I run The Shrub and you do not (unless you are Jessica).

So now I get to tell you my take on the movie. And you have to read it.

Oh yes. Don't even try to leave now.

Point Number One: Acting!

I do not think this film could have been much better cast, except for one exception (more on that later). I was really impressed by Ewan McGregor. I knew he was a good actor, but up until now everything I've seen him in has had him playing very similar characters. Like Robert De Niro, great actor, but when do we test his range? Star Wars is a far cry from Trainspotting or that one episode of ER, and Ewan was great. What got to me the most was his voice. Ye gods, he sounds like Alec Guiness. Though we've seen different actors playing Obi-Wan at very different points in his life, because of Ewan I can believe it's the same person. Oh, and the lightsaber fighting was lovely.

Liam Neeson is always good, though we really didn't see enough of him doing anything but deflecting blaster fire. Natalie Portman was quite good as the queen, and my brother votes for her as hottest chick in Star Wars, though my vote is still out until I see Carrie Fisher in her Jabba's Palace bikini again. The real-life human cast was good enough to point out that though the effects are seamless, actors still add a lot to a movie.

Something I hope Mr. Lucas never forgets.

But there was one casting decision that bugged me. Jake Lloyd. He's 10 years old, but he looks 8. An 8 year old, though indeed short enough to fit in one, does not look… right… in a racing a pod. Or, for that matter, flying a fighter against a droid space station. And the kid really didn't do much in the way of acting, not that he was given a really pithy role.

Enough of this, I want to move on.

Point Number Two: The Force is not with us.

The Force in this movie is apparently different from the Force in the older films and all the books I've read. It's not longer an energy field that surrounds and penetrates us all, it's not longer a mystical, zen-like connection with the universe. Nope, it's bugs that live in your cells and talk to you. They're just like mitochondria or vacuoles, only they are the Force. No more, no less. Wow, all of a sudden it seems stupid.

Other clues that the Force is just some Michael Chriton-esque psuedoscience-for one, no one was able to sense anything anymore. Qui-Gon Jinn, a powerful Jedi master, good enough to be on the council, practically trips over Anakin, the most powerful potential Jedi ever, and doesn't sense anything. Nada. The Emperor can sense Luke from halfway across the galaxy, but Jinn needs to see Anakin build C3PO before he gets it.

So maybe Jinn's just a little rusty at other-Jedi-sensing. He takes Anakin to the Jedi Council headquarters, and what do they do? No, not attempt some sort of psychic contact or make him stand on his head and recite platitudes. No, they do the old "tell me what's on the other side of this card" trick, as seen as a fraud at the beginning of Ghostbusters.

I can let the whole not sensing the evil in Palpatine thing go, because I can buy that Palpatine is so powerful he can conceal himself from the other Jedi. But as for the rest, everyone gets an F.

Point Number Three: Jar Jar must die.

Jar Jar Binks had way too much screen time. I know he's just there to sell toys to kids, but come one, even Wicket didn't have that much screen time in Return of the Jedi. And he was an Ewok: the ultimate merchandising tie-in ever imagined. Enough people have said it that I need not go on.

Jar Jar made the movie much, much worse than it could (should) have been.

Point Number Four: These aren't your father's Jedi.

Finally we see some real-life Jedi butt kicking. Throughout the middle trilogy, we kept hearing how incredible these Jedi would be if they weren't all dead, but what little we saw from Luke just didn't leave a lasting impression. But Obi Wan and Qui-Gon deflect major amounts of laser fire, slice through hundred of robots, do the Jedi speed thing, jump really high, and sword fight like madmen.

The last lightsaber duel with Darth Maul was probably the most intense sword fighting of any kind I've ever seen on film. The move to cast Ray Park as Maul paid off big time-the use of a martial arts expert rather than an actor was quite appropriate for the role.

I guess that's enough for now. If you are George Lucas and you are reading this, feel free to drop me a note and I'll consult on the next film. If you are not George Lucas, I hope my Jedi-like reviewing reflexes have left you in awe. After all, it's not me but the tiny people who live in my cells that are important.

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