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DVD Review: A GALAXY FAR FAR AWAY
10th ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL EDITION



Studio: Cinevolve
Year: 2001
Cast: James Duval, Roger Corman, Meat Loaf, Christopher Vogler, Joe Pesci, Andy Garcia, Robert Loggia, Harry Ufland, Dan Madsen, Adam Corolla, Jimmy Kimmel, Melrose Larry Green
Director: Tariq Jalil
Release Date: March 24, 2009
Rating: Not Rated for (brief mild language)
Run Time: 01h:03m:52s
Genre(s): documentary

"I was always kind of fascinated by the Star Wars phenomenon. I mean, I like the movies, but I know people that are obsessed with them." - Tariq Jalil

A GALAXY FAR FAR AWAY

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This is a mean-spirited look at Star Wars that tries to be insightful but comes off as misguided and cruel.

Movie Grade: D+

DVD Grade: C-

Let me start by saying I am not a Star Wars geek—and that I mean no disrespect by that label because I am certainly a frothy geek for plenty of other franchises, such as Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Mystery Science Theater 3000, Lost or The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Even though I don't consider myself a Star Wars geek, I've seen all the films (the "original" three many times, in fact), and while I have enjoyed them I don't have that manic frenzy that seem to define what I so kindly refer to as being in genuine geek mode—like I said, it takes one to know one. For me it's just a case of "like", not "love".

In A Galaxy Far, Far Away director Tariq Jalil used the long-awaited (and ultimately anti-climactic) opening of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace in 1999 as a jumping off point to theoretically examine the rabid legions of Star Wars fans. His doc was released in 2001, and now Cinevolve has confusingly titled this 2009 re-release a "10th Anniversary Edition"—I'm not a math wiz, but somehow that just doesn't add up right. Regardless, Jalil claims—in an opening voiceover—to want to find about the obsession people have with the Star Wars genre, though what it really seems like he wants to do is just make fun of people. There's no heart in Jalil's film, just an ugly sense of phony superiority over a bunch of folks who really enjoy Star Wars.

It's one thing to chuckle at people waiting in line for 42 days for the opening of The Phantom Menace, and then to see their disappointment on the way out of the theater, but that was already done (better and with more sincerity) in the 2000 doc The Phandom Menace. Here it's as if Jalil builds up to a moment that he almost ignores in the final cut, choosing to gloss over the tepid reactions while deciding to cull dull comments from—of all people—a female Charlie Chaplin impersonator. Jalil jumps around during the 63 minute runtime, traveling to conventions and toy shows, pulling soundbites where fans talk about the "historical event" of the new Star Wars film, though in the end A Galaxy Far, Far Away seems more like jabbing an excited child with a hot poker in order to kill a mosquito. It's just mean and unnecessary, and all the attempts at rationalization don't justify any of it.

Jalil crashed some celebrity golf tournament to get quick and mostly uninteresting soundbites from a weird assortment of celebs (Meat Loaf, Andy Garcia, Robert Loggia), and lodges these clips in between things like dancing stormtroopers and a hip-hop Boba Fett impersonator. There's a narrative disconnect to the entire film, a jumbled collection of random bits makes his theoretical thesis fuzzier than a Wookie.

Jalil tries to sugarcoat the whole thing with an unintentionally comic message near the end that tries to get philosophical, where an attempt is made to parallel real-life daddy issues with the way some of these people relate to the Star Wars universe. It's a cheap shot to try and rationalize the mocking that has gone before, and Jalil just doesn't pull together a viable connection at all.

IMAGE/AUDIO
The backcover has some technical inaccuracies, with the film listed as "widescreen" and in "surround sound". That's not quite right, as it turns out. Jalil's doc is actually presented in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio, a fairly soft and fuzzy-edged transfer that looks about as mediocre as a film shot on hand-held video a decade ago might look. Colors are all over the map, ranging from relatively bright to somewhat washed out. The audio is presented in 2.0 stereo, and it's the sort of mix where voices clip and distort at times, though conversations are typically all understandable. Cinevolve also lists the runtime as a generous "80 minutes", when in reality it clocks in at 63 minutes and some change.

EXTRAS
I'm still a little baffled by referring to this re-release as the "10th Anniversary Edition", considering the doc wasn't formally released until 2001. I guess the ten years is meant to connect to the release of The Phantom Menace, which curiously is just a sliver of Jalil's film is technically about. Your guess is as good as mine on that one. As far as extras are concerned, there's a pair of trailers (one new, one old), an automated photo gallery (01m:36s) and a block of deleted scenes (15m:06s).

The 10th Anniversary Interviews with Producer & Director (17m:57s) has Jalil and Terry Tocantins yakking up the origins and their concept, and despite their best intentions and a fairly likeable demeanor it didn't make me appreciate the film any more. Jalil and Tocantins go all Mystery Science Theater 3000 with The 10th Anniversary Video Commentary with Producer & Director, where they attempt to crack dryly wise as they're shown in silhouette in a mock movie theater setting. Also included is an "all new" audio commentary, which is simply the video commentary minus the visuals. The original 2002 Vanguard DVD commentary with Jalil and Tocantins, along with editor Mikee Schwinn and cameraman Jeremy Ides. The audio quality is a bit rough, but there's an opportunity to hear Jalil and Tocantins try to justify the tone of the film.

Extras conclude with a link to the Cinevolve site, and additional trailers for The Town That Was, Becoming Family, 12 in a Box, Goodbye Baby and El tinte de La Fama.

Posted by: Rich Rosell - May 2, 2009, 8:30 am - DVD Review
Keywords: star wars, documentary




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