The Dark Knight vs. Revenge of the Sith

Like any critic who dared to show themselves less than impressed with Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight juggernaut, I caught a lot of abuse for my dismissive review. Being called a mouth-breathing mountain dweller and a hat-wearing Brooklynite is fine by me, but when my nerd cred was insulted, I knew it was time for a fanboy throwdown: The Dark Knight vs. my favorite film of 2005, George Lucas’s much-maligned pop masterpiece Revenge of the Sith.

Click over to About.com to read why Star Wars beats Batman in every respect — and then I’ll promise to return to your regularly scheduled coverage of art house films, including the lovely In Search for a Midnight Kiss, Johnny To’s Mad Detective, and the much anticipated Fear(s) of the Dark.

Cleopatra, Sith, Death Proof

Prompted by the grand finale of Rome, we took another look at Cleopatra, which is one of those movies I can rewatch every few years. Compare-and-contrast is a fun enough game, and Marcy, who was never entirely sure which of the HBO characters were fictional, was entertained by noting differences in motivation and plot. Every frame of Cleopatra must have cost more than an entire episode of Rome, but the storytelling is much more contemporary on HBO. The movie nearly bankrupted Fox because it was designed to trump TV by outspending it. Forty years later, it has been shown up by… a TV show. But the images are still twice as wide, and the characters twice as grand.

Here’s what fascinated me, though: the palatial sets, outlandish backdrops, and outsized drama of Cleopatra resemble another, much more recent epic about larger-than-life figures. Along with forties serials, The Hidden Fortress, Ray Harryhausen and all the other usual suspects, there is no doubt that the Cinemascope epics of the fifties and sixties, and specifically Cleopatra, served as a blueprint for the Star Wars films. Archetypes in ever-morphing hairdos and caped costumes acting out eternal tragedies and reciting awkward, overwritten lines of dialogue — especially Revenge of the Sith, the episode in which the galactic shit hits the fan, is the spiritual and cinematic heir of Joseph L. Mankiewicz‘s four-and-a-half-hour epic.

Read on for more about Star Wars, Grindhouse, and why Jar-Jar Binks is cooler than Stuntman Mike. Also, lots more screenshots.

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