Rated PG-13 - Running Time: 2:20 - Released 5/19/05

So. For the 6th time in a row, George Lucas has done it again. The final, ultimate, culminating chapter of the Star Wars saga, begun a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away (well, 1977 America), is finally upon us, with all its attendant hype, hoopla, media attention, and state-of-the-art merchandising opportunities. It’s amazing to realize that upon the release of the original Star Wars, there was no Internet, no CD or DVD players, no fax machines, digital media, or e-mail, and in fact, very few personal home computers. The question is, in light of all the new technology now available, is this film as good as any or all of the previous chapters? Well, the short answer is yes, it’s generally as good, or better. Star Wars Episode III: Revenge Of The Sith, the episode intended to bridge the gap between the “new” and “old” Star Wars, actually does a phenomenal job of it, not only tying up the numerous loose ends that upon the release of Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999) seemed so irreconcilable with the older trilogy, but also recapturing in large part the sorely needed spirit of the very first episode we ever saw, the granddaddy of them all, Episode IV: A New Hope, or as I like to call it, the movie formerly known as Star Wars.

I have to admit I didn’t think George could do it. Oh, I knew he could make the film, and I knew he could make the money, and I knew he could convince all the cyber geeks (who weren’t even born when the story began) that it was all worth it and justified and fitting, in the grand scheme of Hollywood and science fiction and storytelling and special effects technology. But I didn’t think he could convince me. But here in my little office, in my heart of hearts, within the skeptical, movie-critic sensibilities that have given me such a dim view of Hollywood’s most recent output, I have to admit that yes, I like the series, all six parts, and yes, it does really all make sense as a story. There. I said it. Are you happy now?

Revenge Of The Sith begins, as we would expect from the final moments of Episode II: Attack Of The Clones, at the height of the war between the democratic republic (in Star Trek it’s called the Federation), headed up by the all-powerful Supreme Chancellor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid), and the dreaded confederation of the Sith, that sinister body of baddies under the command of General Grievous (voice of Matthew Wood), an immensely complex half-animal/half-machine creature who barks out orders in between coughing spells that suggest he suffers from some sort of consumptive illness. Amid all the countless spaceships flying around, from small, one- and two- person fighters to immense galactic destroyers, with droids and humans and aliens of numerous different species shooting away and being blasted to smithereens, only we—the audience—know that Palpatine is actually also the dreaded Darth Sidious, leader of the Sith and ultimate champion of the “dark side” of the force. In other words, the two sides of the conflict are both under the command of the same dude. So for him, it’s really a win-win.

While Jedi master Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and his up-and-coming protégé, Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christiensen), are busy battling evil in their well-equipped and efficient fighter spacecraft, the lovely Senator Padmé Amidala (Natalie Portman) is busy growing twins in her equally well-equipped and efficient womb. Yes, although Anakin and Padmé are not supposed to be fraternizing, they are in fact married and expecting. But having two new little mouths to feed (mouths which, incidentally, will eventually belong to Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia Organa from Episode IV) seems the least of Anakin’s problems, since the Jedi Order he’s worked so hard for seems to be dissing him at every turn. They don’t trust his intentions. They don’t trust his power. They don’t trust his allegiance. And they also don’t trust his new best pal, the chancellor, who keeps promising him a plum assignment as his right hand man if he would only consider leaving the Jedi behind.

Will Anakin choose to go with Palpatine/Sidious and betray his Jedi pals? Will Padmé be able to survive having twins in the middle of a colossal galactic struggle? Will Obi-Wan finally decide to settle down and buy that property on Tattooine he’s been looking at? For goodness’ sake, don’t you know the answers to all these questions?

I made it clear in my review of Episode II (not to mention my review of Life As A House) that I don’t care much for Hayden Christiensen’s acting. And I still think that he is not very well-equipped to support the role which is arguably the most important part in the entire Star Wars saga. The man has trouble delivering a line convincingly, and Lucas’s often stilted dialogue, which occasionally trips up even the better actors like Portman and McGregor, doesn’t help him one bit. But he’s certainly doing a lot better now than he was three years ago, and his ultimate transformation into the dreaded Darth Vader is believable not only from an acting point of view, but more importantly from a textual angle. This is really the crux of the whole story—Anakin’s decision to jump the fence and betray all his former friends is something that I didn’t believe I could believe. But Lucas and company have indeed found a way to make it plausible, believable, even inevitable, and while there are certainly some plot elements that could use a little more explaining, the movie, as a whole, generally works very well.

The only problem some folks may find disturbing (aside from the violence, which is sometimes truly disturbing) is that it doesn’t end particularly well for the good guys. But of course, the subsequent episodes, which I have no doubt will now be re-re-released, probably with even more additional scenes and editing to finally and effectively tie up any and all loose ends, will rectify all that. We already know how they come out! This whole thing has just been a ploy to make us all want to see the originals for the bazillionth time, and guess what: it worked. If George Lucas is good at anything, it’s getting his money’s worth out of those first three movies. So get ready—soon your kids will be itching to collect all the action figures, not only of Obi-Wan, Anakin, and Padmé, but Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie, Darth, R2-D2, C-3PO, Yoda, Boba, Lando, Jabba, Mace, Bail, Jango, Jar-Jar, Little Anakin, Middle Anakin, Old Anakin, and all the creatures from that crazy canteen! Get out your credit cards, people—it’s not over yet! ****½

Copyright 2005 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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