Thursday, May 26, 2005

Darth Hater

Jonathan V. Last is the online editor of The Weekly Standard, and one of the worst movie reviewers in the history of online publishing. This guy makes Harry Knowles look like the love child of William Faulkner and Pauline Kael. His knowledge of film history, clearly, is limited to what's featured in the 1-6 am timeslot on Cinemax.

I base this on one single review, his currently running piece on George Lucas' epic Revenge of the Sith (far more reasonably reviewed here). How bad is Last's Star Wars piece? Here's the first sentence:

It is now safe to declare the Star Wars prequels a failure. Whatever their merits as films, the three panels of George Lucas's new triptych, The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith have failed to add permanently to the Star Wars mythology.

Personally, I think it's a bit soon to declare that Revenge of the Sith has failed to permanently add anything to the Star Wars mythology, considering that it has been in theaters a week. Does Last have some sort of magical time device that allows him to determine the cultural value of Sith in 10 years? And if so, why doesn't he use this flux capacitor to see what's happening in the future politically, so his magazine would stop being so wrong about every fucking thing.

I mean, was he so busy checking on Bel Organa's Q rating in the year 2045, he didn't bother to check up on that Iraqi mission his magazine was so gung ho about in 2003?

And it's not like Revenge of the Sith wants for additions to the concept of Star Wars. There are literally dozens of new ideas tossed out in the film, from Anakin Skywalker's true origins to the nature of the Sith/Jedi struggle to the Jedi discovery of immortality through the Force.

The only iconic figure to emerge from the prequels is Darth Maul, the horned, red-faced Sith who had barely any dialogue and was dead by the end of Phantom Menace. But at least we'll remember him.

Again, Last just pulls this stuff out of nowhere. The only iconic figure is Darth Maul? Who even gives a shit about Darth Maul any more? Did he even see the new movie?

You can judge the size of the prequels' cultural footprint by studying the merchandising. For instance, when Cingular began hawking its Star Wars tie-ins recently, they used characters from the original Star Wars movies--Chewbacca, Vader, Storm Troopers--not characters from Revenge of the Sith.

Oh, I guess not.

Because if he had, he would realize that Chewbacca and Vader are both prominantly featured, and that those are Clone Troopers.

Now, I may realize I'm coming off like a massive geek correcting all of this guy's errors, but the fact is...these are a lot of errors. This article basically represents all that irritates me about film criticism. This guy's not trying to take on Sith as a movie at all. He just wants to snipe at it, to try and pick it apart to score points off of it and make us think he's too hip for the room. But coming up with lame, inaccurate statements to tear down what is so clearly a satisfying summer movie just makes you look kind of petty and sad.

And when you're an editor of The Weekly Standard looking petty and sad, you automatically classify for Crushed by Inertia blog time.

The Phantom Menace wasn't as bad you think. Buried inside its 133 minutes is a great movie dying to be born. Cut out Jar-Jar, the sea-monster chase, midichlorians, the pod race, and most of young Anakin Skywalker's lines and you have a dramatically interesting story.

Okay, see, I kind of agree with that first sentence. The Phantom Menace wasn't as bad as I remembered it. In fact, I found Menace kind of surprisingly watchable and Clones kind of surprisingly unwatchable. But that second sentence is just ridiculous.

The least interesting part of Phantom Menace is the story, which is awkward, half-formed and never clear. What sells the movie are the eye-popping visuals and action scenes, including the pod race. Making Last's edits would leave you with about 2 hours of trade negotiations and then a battle at the end.

He then proceeds to mess up the story of Phantom Menace beyond all comprehension.

Qui-Gon Jinn, a well-meaning Jedi master, finds a boy whom he believes will fulfill a prophecy to save the galaxy. He is, of course, wrong: Anakin Skywalker is fated to bring death and doom. The Jedi council realizes this and instructs Qui-Gon not to teach Anakin the ways of the Jedi.

Nope, nope, nope. Again, I might come off here like a super-nerd, but this guy cared enough to review these movies and he can't even get the story right. Who is he to complain that Lucas didn't do enough to expand the mythology, when he's clearly not bothering to pay attention to the mythology?

I would get into it here, but that could ruin some of the plot of Sith for people who haven't seen it multiple times already like me. Cause, you know, I'm really really cool.

But anyway, don't listen to Jon Last, cause he didn't really follow Phantom Menace too well. Maybe it was a little too fast-paced for him. He should probably start with something easier, like Son of the Mask or Are We There Yet? and build up to a Star Wars film. (And maybe, one far-off day, he'll be ready for Herbie the Love Bug).

He proceeds to praise Lucas' direction of Menace for a while (what can I's a schizophrenic review...) but then he closes out this section with a befuddling sentence:

This moment is so nimbly directed that for a moment you might suspect that it's Steven Spielberg behind the camera.

What? As if George Lucas isn't capable of nimbly directing a moment in a Star Wars movie? He has made a few classic films, not just Star Wars but American Graffiti and THX, after all). And is Spielberg known for his nimble direction? What is nimble direction?

So, yeah, the guy opens with a full html page bashing the shit out of George Lucas, the Star Wars prequels and everything involved in them. Remember that first sentence...he opens the entire review saying that Lucas' entire prequel project has been a total wash, a failure, a waste of time. And here's the last sentence of the review:

Sith and the other prequels will, happily, soon be forgotten.

Okay, that's really dumb, because it's obviously not true. The prequels will be long remembered, particularly considering they're the basis for a popular ongoing series of video games and will be the subject of an upcoming TV show.

He also has some silly complaints about the plotting of the third episode:

We are led to believe that the prime motivation for Anakin is a series of nightmares about his wife dying during childbirth. In a universe where interstellar travel is the norm, this seems an irrational and uncompelling fear.

What? This paragraph is utterly incomprehensible. Who decided to publish this article? (Oh, that's right, Jonathan V. Last, because he's the online editor...duh...)

What does interstellar travel have to do with an irrational fear of losing ones wife? Just because large spacecraft can travel the distance from Couruscant to Geonosis in a matter of hours, no one dies before their time? Does anyone else think maybe Mr. Last was just looking for things to complain about, out of an irrational fear of appearing enthusiastic about something that doesn't involve an upper-class tax cut?


berns said...

Fantastically bad. But the true worst film critic of all time is Tony Medley, of the Tolucan Times. He's unbelievably awful.

banjo said...

Me thinks you need to chill out some. Getting angry about the films? That I can understand. Getting angry about some guys review of the films? ...not so much.

Lons said...

Well, Banj, let me just say that I'm upset with Mr. Last both because he takes it upon himself to review films he doesn't understand, and because he edits the Weekly Standard, as abysmal a rag as I can think of.

banjo said...

Fair enough. Having never read that magazine I can't comment... but can understand where you might be coming from. Zach Braff, for example, could find a cure for cancer, crap out some gold coins and then break dance twice and I would still find a reason to hate him for it. Carry on.