TPM: Critical Weakness?

Todd McF

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I watched this for the fifth time yesterday, and my wife and I agree on what we think is the critical weakness of the film that leaves it, tragically, so flat.
Its not the story. The story is there. Yeah, Jar Jar is a pest and the Jedi characters and the Queen where not developed - at all really - but there is something worse:
Anikan's mother can't act and it destroys the audiences only real emotional link to Anikan.
The audience is *supposed* to feel Anikan's heart whenching departure from his mother and eagerly anticipate his return to free the slaves (Episode 2?). Unfortunately for me, I could care less if I ever see his mother again because she has the emotional level of drift wood.
Look at Star Wars for contrast: the audience was linked to Luke because we
1. Felt his regret at having never met his real father
2. Sympathized with his desire to "get involved" and ultimately become a Jedi, like his father.
During the "dinner scene" at Anikan's house his mothers awful acting quality is nothing short of debilitating for the film. I swear I saw here reading off of cue cards. At least Luke whined convincingly.
Any comments?
- Todd
 

Rich Malloy

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I think you nailed it. Not just Anakin's mother, but the whole damn thing lacked the heart and soul that made the first couple of films so endearing.
Lucas has made great strides in the field of special effects, but seems to have lost ground when it comes to creating drama and eliciting emotion. TPM was a bore precisely because it lacked drama and emotion.
 

RobertR

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I agree with you about Anikan's mother, but the problem is not confined to her. I've never seen a worse kid actor than Jake Lloyd. He's utterly unconvincing in every scene he's in. This makes the departure from his mother scene doubly flat--the only emotional content in the scene at ALL comes from the music. This is a fatal flaw in a movie that is supposed to be centered around the Anakin character.
For that matter, none of the characters is sufficiently developed to really care about them (for example, what do we really know about the Queen other than her involvement in the war against the Trade Federation?). Screen time that could have been used to do so is devoted to Jar Jar "humor".
And yes, I'm well aware that some people would say that it doesn't matter that the film lacked true drama and emotion, because "it's only the first chapter in the whole 'book' --the real drama comes later".
Hopefully, there will be real drama later, but that will never give drama to this effort.
[Edited last by RobertR on October 24, 2001 at 01:01 PM]
 

Carlo Medina

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Odd, I didn't find anything remarkable about Pernilla August (mama skywalker). Nothing great, but nothing bad. It's funny you should mention that her acting was bad since she's a classically trained stage actor, and check out her IMDB profile.
I think actors are only as good as the directors who direct them, and I think that's ultimately where the blame lies.
I've loved Liam Neeson, Natalie Portman and Ewan MacGregor in tons of other roles but I cringe when they deliver the lines in this movie. That's not the fault of those actors, I assure you.
 

Richard Kim

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For that matter, none of the characters is sufficiently developed to really care about them (for example, what do we really know about the Queen other than her involvement in the war against the Trade Federation?).
The same thing can be said about Princess Leia in ANH. What do we really know about her other than her involvement in the war against the Empire? Of course we don't find this out until ROTJ. Likewise we will learn more of Padme in Ep II and III.
As for Pernilla August, IMHO she did a good job actingwise. The only thing I thought strange was her Swedish accent. I would have to guess the reason Lucas chose her is because of her appearence. She does have the look of a woman living the life of a slave in a harsh desert planet.
 

Sam Davatchi

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I think actors are only as good as the directors who direct them, and I think that's ultimately where the blame lies.
This is definitely true. Remember Terence Stamp. I mean he is a great actor and I was surprised how bad he acted in TPM. He was like a person who has never acted in his life before. How could a professional act so badly!
There is only one big exception and that's Ian McDiarmid. It's very strange but he is completely Lucas-proof. I mean no matter how bad Lucas directs him, he goes natural. He is the only person who acted natural. Every single other person in TPM has laughable acting!
 

Chad R

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I disagree with the assessment of Pernilla. She plays that scene wonderfully. She can't show how upset she is her son is leaving because it'll make it harder for him to go. She has to be a pillar of strength for the boy. She knows that he'll have a better life as a Jedi than as a slave on Tatooine, so her restraint is justified.
It just comes off badly because of Mannequin Skywalker's flat performance. I laughed during the documentary when Lucas said he nailed the scene where he leaves his mother. I don't know what take that was but it certainly wasn't the take used in the film.
Jake Loyd and his singsongy delivery remains my only major complaint about this movie. I happen to like Jar Jar and think the story is strong in the sense of it setting up the next one.
(Sorry, no desire to offend, comment removed for that sake
)
[Edited last by Chad R on October 24, 2001 at 04:14 PM]
 

Todd McF

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Her acting is laughable and painful during the dinner scene, especially in here limp objection to the Pod race.
Jake's acting isnt so hot either, but his lines are truly pathetic, so blame the writers. [Whoa / Neat Trick / Yippie / All Right!] ???.
I'll tread lightly on the Jedi death scene due to PC issues, but I will say I agree with you 110%. But thanks for bringing attention to it, now it will bother me every time I watch it!
.
BTW, Since you stated that you actually like Jar Jar, I am left with little choice but to sweepingly discount your opinions he he he
.
 

Richard Kim

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I'll tread lightly on the Jedi death scene due to PC issues, but I will say I agree with you 110%. But thanks for bringing attention to it, now it will bother me every time I watch it!
If that bothers you so much, definitely don't watch the male bonding scenes in John Woo's The Killer.
 

Adam Lenhardt

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(Oh yeah, I also cringe when Qui Gon gently caresses Obi-Wan's face before dying. How gay is that?)
To quote a favorite movie of mine: "Hey, suitor-ette, this guy's a homophobe! You heard how repulsed he sounded!" What's the big issue with homosexuals, anyway? Regardless, that scene didn't come off as gay to me. Qui-Gon has presumeably raised Obi-Wan as his son (we don't know Yoda was Obi-Wan's first master until Episode V). He'd want to touch his "son" one last time before he dies.
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Robert Crawford

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Chad,
Your last comment wasn't really necessary!
Crawdaddy
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Neil Joseph

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Yes, the mother acted without the gut wrenching separation look but I had thought of it more like this....
She knew for years that her son was gifted and that his future was not on Tatooine. When he was leaving to become a Jedi, she had years of preparation for that moment. She had to be strong and not allow her feelings to come out too much.
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Brian Perry

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As for Jake Lloyd, did you see the "3,000 Anakins" feature showing the search for the best actor? Compared to the other two finalists, Jake looks like Marlon Brando. I almost got the feeling that showing the other two boys was Lucas's way of defending the choice of Lloyd. (As if those three were the only choices. Yes, Jake was the best of the three -- by far -- but how he could have been the best out of 3,000? Perhaps the need to get his demographics right whittled the field down too much.)
Someone also mentioned the music of the goodbye scene. I think it was the best part of the score.
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MickeS

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I don't think Pernilla August did a particularly bad job, I felt her character had already resigned to the idea that Anakin had to leave, and she needed to show him that she was strong, and that he should be too.
However, since I've seen her in several other productions, I must say this is one of her weaker efforts. Much like all the other actors in this movie perform way below their capacities, especially Ewan McGregor. I think the whole blame must rest on George Lucas' direction.
Is he directing Episode 2 himself? I really hoped he would get a screenwriter and a director to put his ideas into action, like he did in ESB and ROTJ. He's just not a good director or screenwriter.
/Mike
 

Michael Napier

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I am probably way off base here, but it looked to me like a LOT of the scenes had looped dialog. If that's the case, couldn't that be a possible reason the acting seemed so bad?
Maybe some of the actors in TPM just aren't very good at looping?
-Mike
 

Carlo Medina

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Michael,
Yes, almost everything is looped. But some of my favorite spaghetti westerns...okay ALL of them...are looped. Like The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. Still, Leone's directorial prowess shines in that movie. And none of the actors in TG,TB&TU struggle as much with their craft like the PROVEN actors that starred in Ep.1.
 

Mark Kalzer

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I agree that the mother was unconvincing, for me, right from the start. I mean, how would you react if your 8 year old son suddenly came home with three adults (We'll consider Jar-jar an adult simply for comparison's sake) saying that they're staying for the night? I'd expect at least some sort of reaction from her, but she just goes along with it. It's almost like it's a regular occurence, Anakin bringing drifters home!
"Homer, are we going to invite every drifter into our house?"
"No Marge, we'll decide it purely on a drifter by drifter basis!"
 
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Although I agree with most of the statements in this thread, the argument could be made that the lack of emotional attachment displayed by the characters was intentional but could have done with some embellishment. To qualify this I offer the following, possibly extreme, interpretations:
1. Anakin's mother was detached from "her" child due to the parasitic nature of his conception and gestation
2. Anakin's limited ability to understand and display emotions is symtomatic of his ultimate transition to the "Dark Side".
3. Anakin is very self absorbed and almost exlusively focussed on his own interests.
As I say, these are extreme and arguably ridiculous explanations but they do fit with how the characters interact in TPM.
 

MickeS

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I'd expect at least some sort of reaction from her, but she just goes along with it.

I didn't have a problem with that. It seemed like she had expected this for a long time, like she knew that Anakin was a special child and would be taken from her.
/Mike
 

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