Posts in: watching

Currently watching: The Godfather Part II (dir. Francis Ford Coppola, 1974) 📽️

I’m sorry to say it, but this review more or less captures my feelings on Obi Wan Kenobi. I wanted to like it, but I couldn’t.

This, from John Ganz, more or less describes my feelings about Disney Star Wars. (I am less negative on the prequels than is Ganz, though likely for reasons relating to childhood nostalgia; there are also some rare exceptions, like The Last Jedi and especially Rogue One.)

Three was enough to provide just enough content, but to allow for the imagination of the viewer space to begin its own play. Now, there’s just too much of everything. Once Star Wars represented limitless possibility of imagination; now it’s just another boring action series, of which there are already one million. Here, as with all cultural products, we’re approaching a general glut of the human spirit, caused by the overproduction of boring crap.

I watched “part 1” of Obi-Wan Kenobi earlier today. While I’m enjoying this story more than, say, The Mandalorian, my experience viewing it is basically the same as the other Disney+ Star Wars series: I simply do not find them all that engaging. (The sequel films, especially The Last Jedi, are better in this respect, but they have their own problems; I find Rise of Skywalker unwatchable, far worse than the prequel trilogy.) The major problem for me, I think, is the enormous aesthetic gulf that exists between George Lucas’s Star Wars and Disney’s Star Wars. Lucas’s excesses are probably to blame for the shortcomings of the prequel trilogy (though I don’t find those films as horrendous as others do), but the most recent Star Wars entries feel to me more like Marvel movies than Star Wars films.

Frodo, of Gollum: It’s a pity Bilbo didn’t kill him when he had the chance.

Gandalf: Pity? It was pity that stayed Bilbo’s hand. Many that live deserve death. Some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them, Frodo? Do not be too eager to deal out death in judgment. Even the very wise cannot see all ends. My heart tells me that Gollum has some part to play yet, for good or ill before this is over. The pity of Bilbo may rule the fate of many.

I’ve always liked this line from Peter Jackson’s adaptation of The Lord of the Rings—very similar to the original in Tolkien’s novel, but slightly more economical. I’m not sure I would agree now that “many that live deserve death”—that seems overharsh—and I’m not sure that the reason we should be slow to deal out death is because of a certain near-sightedness; as if someone with farther and keener vision might be so entitled to deal out death.

Indeed, I would probably want to switch the two quantities Gandalf uses here: perhaps it is the case that some that live deserve death; it is certainly the case that many that die deserve life. That alone—that a great many people are dealt death rather than life when they are born into poverty, when they are denied necessary medical care, when they are incarcerated at rates disproportionate to their crime, when they are killed by the state, when they are victims of violence, etc., etc.—that alone should give us pause before further perpetuating death. Death, once dealt, cannot be withdrawn; not by us.

I like, too, how Gandalf recommends pity as a sort of default disposition toward those we encounter; not pity in a patronizing or paternalistic sense, but rather pity as a fellow-feeling of compassion for the sufferings or distresses of others.

At the George Eastman Museum’s Dryden Theatre in Rochester, N.Y., for a showing of The Fellowship of the Ring. For the twentieth anniversary of Fellowship they’re showing all three movies across three nights on 35mm film.