Star Wars and all that Jazz

I’m not a real jazz fan. I know this because, despite liking a lot of the more popular jazz music, in the end I like to hear a tune. I have occasionally heard a piece on the radio and wondered what it was, only to be told by the announcer afterwards that it was “Oh When The Saints” or something similar, rendered almost unrecognisable by the (very technically accomplished) twiddly-widdly variations on the basic theme. Don’t get me wrong; there is a plenty of very tuneful jazz, but there is also a great deal that would mean little to somebody unfamiliar with the tunes on which it is based. In that sense it is a rather derivative art form.

I’m not a real Star Wars fanatic either. I know this because my seeing the latest episode last night, on its opening day in the UK, was not dependent on my having booked it weeks in advance but on my friends suddenly having a spare ticket.

I was hesitant about watching it after the great disappointment that was The Phantom Menace. In that episode, I felt, the technical wizardry and the twiddly-widdly variations on the original ‘tune’ were not enough to make up for the lack of a simple, coherent plot and the immensely annoying Jar-Jar Binks character. In this new episode, I think they are.

There are many weak points in “Attack of the Clones”, of course. I’m not convinced about either Anakin or Amidala’s acting abilities, but perhaps that’s deliberate homage to the original. Their son Luke won’t turn out to be much of an actor either. And the critics have laid into it with great gusto. Roger Ebert, in the Chicago Sun-Times, says: “[A] technological exercise that lacks juice and delight. The title is more appropriate than it should be.”

But nobody would really expect the critics to like a fifth-in-a-series film of this type, especially one that was likely to be popular. I thought that it was visually absolutely stunning and had some interesting, if occasionally rather heavy-handed, references to the original. It also had a few jokes which showed it wasn’t taking itself too seriously. Overall, a very enjoyable evening. But I don’t think it would mean much to somebody who didn’t know the tune already.

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© Copyright Quentin Stafford-Fraser