I've been a fan of Israeli-born Natalie Portman ever since her turn as a young girl who hires a hitman for revenge in The Professional. Since then, she's gone on to appear in plenty of films I really like (even if other folks don't), such as Mars Attacks!; Garden State; Cold Mountain; V for Vendetta and The Other Boleyn Girl, among others.
Unfortunately, she also played Luke and Leia's mother in George Lucas' Star Wars prequel trilogy. Over this holiday weekend, one of the cable networks (I think it's Spike, but don't quote me) has been running these unfortunate films on what seems like a constant loop. Now, I didn't see any of them in a theater, but rather caught them on DVD or HBO. And, like many fans of the original Star Wars trilogy, I hated them. Boring and over-produced, Episodes 1 through 3 seem to spit in the face of the spirit of the original films. Of course, the payoff is seeing terrible actor Hayden Christensen burned by lava before becoming the character we all know and love to hate, Darth Vader in Revenge of the Sith.
Deciding I may have given the new trilogy short shrift upon my initial viewings, I decided to watch them again today. And I am somewhat saddened to report that they are no better now, than when I first saw them.
It has recently been revealed that Lucas never actually intended to make a trilogy of trilogies, but rather wrote the original Star Wars because he wanted to make a Flash Gordon movie, only to find the rights unavailable. So it should come as no no surprise when 20-odd years later, Lucas sat down to write the series' prequels, he had nothing really worth saying.
Not that he was the greatest writer to begin with. In fact, one of the original trilogy's most famous lines was ad-libbed by Harrison Ford, after several takes using Lucas' original. But the dialog in the prequels is among Lucas' worst, and poor miss Portman comes off sounding like an ill-bred hillbilly, rather than royalty. And it doesn't help that Christensen's 'skills' as an actor fall far short of the rest of the cast. Though to be fair, Samuel L. Jackson, Ewan McGregor and Christopher Lee all sound silly spouting Lucas' lame dialog.
Advance reviews for Darren Aronofsky's (The Wrestler) latest film have been pretty much off the charts, and Portman is being touted for an Oscar nomination almost four months before Black Swan's official release date. Having spent five seasons working with NYC Ballet as an actor in their Education programs, I know that ballet dancers can be... odd. Even odder than actors, if you can believe that. Their days are made up of both grueling physical pain and artistic expression, a combination which can make for some intense personalities, especially among it's stars. If you've ever seen The Turning Point, you have some idea of what I'm talking about. So it comes as no surprise to me that Aronofsky should want to explore the dark side of dance... I've seen it up close and personal, as they say, and am looking forward to seeing both his take on it, and Ms. Portman's much ballyhooed performance. In case you've missed it, here's the trailer:
It is my fervent hope that Black Swan will finally be the movie that erases the last three Star Wars films from audiences' collective consciousness, at least as far as Natalie Portman is concerned. Of course, I'm much more excited about her involvement in the film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, than anything. But that's just me...