It’s hard to understand exactly how other cultures with very different languages handle imported pop-culture.  China in particular is now a huge (if not the biggest) single audience for Hollywood popcorn, but what exactly is their experience?  While English is the “universal language”, fluency in English isn’t.

Complicating matters is the vast Chinese bootleg market.  I don’t know how many average Chinese buy into bootlegs, but with a population that huge, it has to be a significant number.  So then we come to Star War The Third Gathers: The Backstroke of the West.

By some miracle Youtube has chosen (for now) to allow the entire film to stream in this form.  While it IS transformative, leaving it online could open the floodgates for many similar projects.  But for now enjoy, and my comments below:

This is actually my first time watching Revenge of the Sith as I only ever caught selected scenes from Episode II and III on TV, having long checked out after the abomination of Episode I.  Therefore it’s a unique experience to watch it with fresh eyes, not knowing what the original dialogue was.  Many have compared this dialogue to Shakespeare.  One definitely sees a parallel between the relationship of Obi-Wan and Anakin to Romeo and Mercutio.

Romeo and Mercutio in Zeffirelli’s 1960s version of Romeo and Juliet

The historical era of Romeo and Juliet is one steeped in masculine rituals of honor, loyalty, and proving your manhood as a swordsman, which is largely the same as that of the prequels.And the melodrama of two doomed lovers is also similar in some respects.

While this is not intended as a review of Revenge of the Sith, I just found this perception of the dialogue being Shakesperean to be a happy accident.

The mysterious people to feel motivated enough to redub the dialogue to match the translation and attach it to the HD picture rather than a crappy workprint may have felt the same.  The dub performances are surprisingly good, featuring several different voice actors.  The voice actors for Obi-Wan and Dooku are very close, whereas Yoda sounds like he’s portrayed by a woman, presumably for comedic effect.

As for the merits of the film itself, I will say that after having now become accustomed to the post-Lucas era with two films, that Lucas is better at staging action scenes.  The opening dogfight in particular is visual ballet in a way that none of the dogfighting in Episode VII and Rogue One were.  By the time of the third movie it became clear that the prequels’ only saving grace was Ewan McGregor, and it’s hard to watch this film and not feel that Obi-Wan is the real protagonist.  He performs the most action and comes across as the most “bad-ass” all the way to the final lava battle.  The lava battle, although not matching my childhood imagination of what it would have been like, was still pretty decent.  You get a sense this is George Lucas finally putting in a full effort for the sake of salvaging his reputation, and while he simply doesn’t have the skill to succeed, he gets an A for effort.

Living as we do in a mashup culture, efforts like Backstroke of the West are going to be more and more common whether the studios like it or not.  Lucas himself couldn’t keep his paws off his original creations, after all, forever muddying the idea of what is or isn’t “official”.  But there are now reports that Disney is prepping a new 4K scan of the original Star Wars, though, and there’s hope (no pun intended) that a new post-Lucas restoration will come out that rolls back most of the questionable changes he made with the special editions.  Now that, I would like to see.