I think I know why "Star Wars" is such a divisive thing these days.
Upon my second viewing (just as in "The Phantom Menace"), I found myself truly bored and anxious to get back home.
I can honestly say that I NEVER felt that, either as a kid watching them for the very first time, OR in any subsequent video/TV viewings, of the original trilogy.
There's simply something missing in these two newer ones that were abundant in the original trilogy.
Heart. A simple story. Yes, the acting could be just as hokey and the dialogue as overstuffed and corny, BUT the charisma of Harrison Ford carried it through the rough patches. The feistiness of Carrie Fisher. Artoon and Threepio were funny and heroic and worthy of our adoration.
There seems to be no spark or life in these two newer additions to the franchise. None of the actors seem to be particularly "acting" or hitting their mark. There are a couple of lines spoken by Natalie Portman and Ewan McGregor during the movie that makes it so obvious they were acting with a tennis ball or green screen.
For all the advances in CGI and digital this and computerized that, there isn't 1/10th of the charm or wide-eyed awe that you got from watching any of the original three movies.
I rooted for Luke, Leia, Han and the rest before. There's just something about this new bunch, the way it's written, acted, played out, etc. that just makes me go "so?".
I know. Things have changed. It's a lot different world now than 25 years ago. In some ways, this stuff is old hat and it's tougher to impress a new generation of people, especially when your average video game or cartoon has as much computer animation and effects as a full-tilt major Hollywood sci-fi flick.
But even beyond that, if you could somehow strip away the effects and eye candy, I don't think most of us can latch onto this newer stuff.
Maybe part of the charm and ease of the original trilogy WAS indeed the simple "good vs. bad" nature of it. Things were clear cut and got right to it. Not a lot of long, ponderous talk about Senate votes, squabbles, Trade Federations, political maneuvering, etc.
I remember sitting in the theater during "The Phantom Menace" and, in addition to being tortured by Jake Lloyd and Jar Jar, thinking "who in the hell can follow this or sink their teeth into it?".
Lucas seems to have lost something along the way. In all honesty, it seems like, in some ways, he's embraced the culture of the "jawdropping money shot" school of filmmaking.
There's a lot of grand eye candy in both of these films, but there's nothing behind it. I can clearly imagine George Lucas sitting behind his animators or CGI people at ILM with a cup of coffee and saying, all day long, "there's a space in this frame...we need something there. Drop in a goofy-looking character doing something cute".
Does anyone else get that feeling? It's almost as if Lucas knows now that with computer and digital effects, ANYTHING is possible. And he, being who he is and completely running the show, has never learned restraint, or simply had someone say to him "George, that's kinda lame and doesn't really need to be there...".
There's just something not there. Charm, wit, a lack of self-consciousness by the actors.
I don't know, exactly. But there is a long, long step from the original trilogy to these new movies. And for all the advances in the visual arena, it seems that the storytelling and character aspect of it has taken a bit of a backseat.
Upon my second viewing, I was looking closer at the FX. And when it isn't done right, then do it the old fashioned way. It looks better. That Dex guy Obi Wan met (with the four arms and baggy pants) looked PAINFULLY lame and "not there". As did the room of Chancellor Palpatine. You can see these fake shadows under the feet of everyone when they walk.
In two scenes in the movie, Anakin rode atop a large alien animal of some sort. Once for fun, once for his life. Both of those scenes completely stunned me in their lack of realism, regarding the CGI. I would just as soon see them revert to the tried-and-true method of stop animation and close-ups with fake animals being manipulated by crews underneath (like they did with the tauntauns from "Empire") than to see this goofy-looking, herky-jerky and not quite convincing image of a guy riding a big space rhino or whatever.
I heard that the principal shooting, involving the actual human actors, was done in less than 60 days. And that the past 18-24 months has just been the CGI and stuff.
To me, that speaks VOLUMES. Pretty much nails it on the head, doesn't it. Look what's getting the most attention and effort!
No wonder these newer movies ring a bit hollow. Every review I've read (including the informal, fan-based ones here) ALL lament the acting, story and character development.
Or lack of it.
What doesn't this dawn on Mr. Lucas? I guess because nobody would ever step up and say anything.