Friday, May 20, 2005

Star Wars. Episode 3. The Reviews.




Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the SithDark side shadows 'Sith'
Release Date: 2005

Ebert Rating: ***½

By Roger Ebert / May 16, 2005
George Lucas comes full circle in more ways than one in "Star Wars: Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith," which is the sixth -- and allegedly but not necessarily the last -- of the "Star Wars" movies.

After "Episode II" got so bogged down in politics that it played like the Republic covered by C-Span, "Episode III" is a return to the classic space opera style that launched the series. Because the story leads up to where the original "Star Wars" began, we get to use the immemorial movie phrase, "This is where we came in."

That Anakin Skywalker abandoned the Jedi and went over to the dark side is known to all students of "Star Wars." That his twins Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia would redeem the family name is also known. What we discover in "Episode III" is how and why Anakin lost his way -- how a pleasant and brave young man was transformed into a dark, cloaked figure with a fearsome black metal face.

As Yoda sadly puts it in his inimitable word order: "The boy who dreamed, gone he is, consumed by Darth Vader." EDITOR'S NOTE: SNIFFLE.

As "Episode III" opens, Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) and his friend Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) are piloting fighter craft, staging a daring two-man raid to rescue Chancellor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid). He has been captured by the rebel Gen. Grievous (whose voice, by Matthew Woods, sounds curiously wheezy considering the general seems to use replacement parts).

In the spirit of all the "Star Wars" movies, this rescue sequence flies in the face of logic, since the two pilots are able to board Grievous' command ship and proceed without much trouble to the ship's observation tower, where the chancellor is being held. There is a close call in an elevator shaft, but where are the guards and the security systems? EDITOR'S NOTE: WAS HE NOT PAYING ATTENTION? THE ENTIRE REASON FOR THE KIDNPAPPING OF PALAPTINE WAS TO BAIT A TRAP FOR OBI-WAN, AND MOST ESPECIALLY ANAKIN. THEY WERE SUPPOSED TO GET IN. IT WAS TO PUT ANAKIN IN A POSITION TO KILL DOOKU AND FURTHER HIS SLIDE TO SERVITUDE TO SIDIOUS. And why, for that matter, does a deep space cruiser need an observation tower, when every porthole opens on to the universe?

But never mind.

Back within the sphere of the Jedi Council, Anakin finds that despite his heroism, he will not yet be named a Jedi Master. The council distrusts Palpatine and wants Anakin to spy on him; Palpatine wants Anakin to spy on the council. Who to choose?

McDiarmid has the most complex role in the movie as he plays on Anakin's wounded ego. Anakin is tempted to go over to what is not yet clearly the dark side; in a movie not distinguished for its dialogue, Palpatine is insidiously snaky in his persuasiveness.

The way Anakin approaches his choice, however, has a certain poignancy. Anakin has a rendezvous with Padme (Natalie Portman); they were secretly married in the previous film, and now she reveals she is pregnant. His reaction is that of a nice kid in a teenage comedy, trying to seem pleased while wondering how this will affect the other neat stuff he gets to do. To say that George Lucas cannot write a love scene is an understatement; greeting cards have expressed more passion.

The dialogue throughout the movie is once again its weakest point: The characters talk in what sounds like Basic English, without color, wit or verbal delight, as if they were channeling Berlitz. The exceptions are Palpatine and of course Yoda, whose speech (voiced by Frank Oz) reminds me of Wolcott Gibbs' famous line about the early style of Time magazine: "Backward ran sentences until reeled the mind."

In many cases the actors are being filmed in front of blue screens, with effects to be added later, and sometimes their readings are so flat, they don't seem to believe they're really in the middle of amazing events. How can you stand in front of exploding star fleets and sound as if you're talking on a cell phone at Starbucks?

"He's worried about you," Anakin is told at one point. "You've been under a lot of stress."

Sometimes the emphasis in sentences is misplaced. During the elevator adventure in the opening rescue, we hear "Did I miss something?" when it should be "Did I miss something?" EDITOR'S NOTE: LOST THE STRESS MARKS FROM THE ORIGINAL REVIEW. NOT SURE WHICH IS WHICH, BUT YOU GET THE IDEA?

The dialogue is not the point, however; Lucas' characters engage in sturdy oratorical pronunciamentos and then leap into adventure.

"Episode III" has more action per square minute, I'd guess, than any of the previous five movies, and it is spectacular. The special effects are more sophisticated than in the earlier movies, of course, but not necessarily more effective.

The dogfight between fighters in the original "Star Wars" and the dogfight that opens this one differ in their complexity (many more ships this time, more planes of action, more detailed backgrounds) but not in their excitement. And although Lucas has his characters attend a futuristic opera that looks like a cross between Cirque de Soleil and an ultrasound scan of an unborn baby, if you regard the opera hall simply as a place, it's not as engaging as the saloon on Tatooine in the first movie.

The lesson, I think, is that special effects should be judged not by their complexity but by the degree that they stimulate the imagination, and "Episode III" is distinguished not by how well the effects are done, but by how amazingly they are imagined. A climactic duel on a blazing volcanic planet is as impressive, in its line, as anything in "Lord of the Rings." And Yoda, who began life as a Muppet but is now completely animated (like about 70 percent of what we see onscreen), was to begin with and still is the most lifelike of the non-humanoid "Star Wars" characters.

A word, however, about the duels fought with lightsabers. When they flashed into life with a mighty whizzing thunk in the first "Star Wars" and whooshed through their deadly parabolas, that was exciting. But the thrill is gone.

The duelists are so well-matched that saber fights go on forever before anyone is wounded, and I am still not sure how the sabers seem able to shield their bearers from attack. When it comes to great movie sword fights, Liam Neeson and Tim Roth took home the gold medal in "Rob Roy" (1995), and the lightsaber battles in "Episode III" are more like isometrics.

These are all, however, more observations than criticisms.

George Lucas has achieved what few artists do; he has created and populated a world of his own. His "Star Wars" movies are among the most influential, both technically and commercially, ever made. And they are fun. If he got bogged down in solemnity and theory in "Episode II: Attack of the Clones," the Force is in a jollier mood this time, and "Revenge of the Sith" is a great entertainment.

Note: I said this is not necessarily the last of the "Star Wars" movies. Although Lucas has absolutely said he is finished with the series, it is inconceivable to me that 20th Century-Fox will willingly abandon the franchise, especially as Lucas has hinted that parts VII, VIII and IX exist at least in his mind. There will be enormous pressure for them to be made, if not by him, then by his deputies.


Some Surprises in That Galaxy Far, Far Away

CANNES, France, May 15 -

With "Episode III - Revenge of the Sith," the "Star Wars" cycle at last comes to an end - or rather to a middle, since the second trilogy, of which this is the final installment, comes before the first in faraway-galaxy history even though it comes later in the history of American popular culture.

Like many others whose idea of movies was formed by (and to some extent against) the galactically later, terrestrially earlier "Star Wars" trilogy, I was disappointed by "The Phantom Menace" and "Attack of the Clones."

So I approached the recent press screening of "Episode III" in New York warily, and perhaps a little wearily, though to balance my own trepidation I brought along two fans whose enthusiasm in 2005 easily matched my own in 1977, when I was a little older than they are now and when "Star Wars" - oh, all right, "Episode IV - A New Hope" - landed in my hometown.

I was anticipating, at least, a measure of relief: finally, this extravagant, ambitious enterprise, a dominant fact of our collective cultural life for nearly 30 years, would be over. But I was hoping, a little anxiously, for more. Would George Lucas at last restore some of the old grandeur and excitement to his up-to-the-minute Industrial Light and Magic? Would my grown-up longing for a return to the wide-eyed enthusiasm of my own moviegoing boyhood - and my undiminished hunger for entertainment with sweep and power as well as noise and dazzle - be satisfied by "Revenge of the Sith"?

The answer is yeth.

This is by far the best film in the more recent trilogy, and also the best of the four episodes Mr. Lucas has directed. That's right (and my inner 11-year-old shudders as I type this): it's better than "Star Wars." EDITOR'S NOTE: WOW! (I MIGHT AGREE, ACTUALLY. NOT SURE. APPLES AND ORANGES).

"Revenge of the Sith," which had its premiere here yesterday at the Cannes International Film Festival, ranks with "The Empire Strikes Back" (directed by Irvin Kershner in 1980) as the richest and most challenging movie in the cycle. It comes closer than any of the other episodes to realizing Mr. Lucas's frequently reiterated dream of bringing the combination of vigorous spectacle and mythic resonance he found in the films of Akira Kurosawa into American commercial cinema.

To be sure, some of the shortcomings of "Phantom Menace" (1999) and "Attack of the Clones" (2002) are still in evidence, and Mr. Lucas's indifference to two fairly important aspects of moviemaking - acting and writing - is remarkable.

Hayden Christensen plays Anakin Skywalker's descent into evil as a series of petulant bad moods. Natalie Portman, as Senator (formerly Queen) Padmé Amidala, to whom Anakin is secretly married, does not have the range to reconcile the complicated and conflicting demands of love and political leadership. Even the more assured performers - Samuel L. Jackson as the Jedi master Mace Windu, Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi, Jimmy Smits as Senator Bail Organa (note the surname) - are constrained by their obligation to speechify.

Mr. Lucas, who wrote the script (reportedly with the uncredited assistance of Tom Stoppard),EDITOR'S NOTE: REALLY? is not one to imply a theme if he can stuff it into a character's mouth.

Ian McDiarmid, as Supreme Chancellor Palpatine, who transforms from a rancid political hack into a ruthless totalitarian before our eyes, gives the most powerful performance; Yoda, the spry green Jedi master voiced by Frank Oz, some of his finest work in this film does. (R2-D2 is also in fine form).

Anyway, nobody ever went to a "Star Wars" picture for the acting.

Even as he has pushed back into the Jedi past, Mr. Lucas has been inventing the cinematic future, and the sheer beauty, energy and visual coherence of "Revenge of the Sith" is nothing short of breathtaking.

The light-saber battles and flight sequences, from an initial Jedi assault on a separatist stronghold to a fierce duel in the chambers of the Senate, are executed with a swashbuckling flair that makes you forget what a daunting technical accomplishment they represent.

Some of the most arresting moments are among the quietest - an evening at home with the Skywalkers, for example, as they brood and argue in their spacious penthouse overlooking a city skyline set aglow by the rays of the setting sun, or a descent into the steep, terraced jungle landscape of the Wookiee planet. The integration of computer-generated imagery with captured reality (in other words, what we used to call movies) is seamless; Mr. Lucas has surpassed Peter Jackson and Steven Spielberg in his exploitation of the new technology's aesthetic potential.

Even the single instance where the effects don't quite work - a climactic battle superimposed on a filmed eruption of Mount Etna - suggests not a failure of vision but a willingness to try what may not yet quite be possible. EDITOR'S NOTE: I GUESS I WAS SO WRAPPED UP IN THE EMOTIONS OF THAT LAVA-PLANET DUEL, I WASN'T EVEN LOOKING AT THE EFFECTS OR THE BACKGROUND MUCH. BUT WHAT I DID SEE, WORKED, I THOUGHT.

But every picture, however ravishing, needs a story, and the best way to appreciate how well this one succeeds is to consider the obstacles it must surmount in winning over its audience.

First of all, though there are a few surprises tucked into the narrative (which I won't give away), everybody knows the big revelation of the end, since it was also the big revelation at the end of the previous trilogy: Darth Vader is Luke's father. We also know, for the most part, which of the major figures are going to survive the various perils they face. So an element of suspense is missing from the outset.

More than that, the trajectory of the narrative cuts sharply against the optimistic grain of blockbuster Hollywood, in that we are witnessing a flawed hero devolving into a cruel and terrifying villain. It is a measure of the film's accomplishment that this process is genuinely upsettingEDITOR'S NOTE: IT'S NOT JUST ME THAT FEELS THIS! YAY!!, even if we are reminded that a measure of redemption lies over the horizon in "Return of the Jedi". And while Mr. Christensen's acting falls short of portraying the full psychological texture of this transformation, Mr. Lucas nonetheless grounds it in a cogent and (for the first time) comprehensible political context.

"This is how liberty dies - to thunderous applause," Padmé observes as senators, their fears and dreams of glory deftly manipulated by Palpatine, vote to give him sweeping new powers.

"Revenge of the Sith" is about how a republic dismantles its own democratic principles, about how politics becomes militarized, about how a Manichaean ideology undermines the rational exercise of power. Mr. Lucas is clearly jabbing his light saber in the direction of some real-world political leaders.

At one point, Darth Vader, already deep in the thrall of the dark side and echoing the words of George W. Bush, hisses at Obi-Wan, "If you're not with me, you're my enemy." Obi-Wan's response is likely to surface as a bumper sticker during the next election campaign: "Only a Sith thinks in absolutes." You may applaud this editorializing, or you may find it overwrought, but give Mr. Lucas his due. For decades he has been blamed (unjustly) for helping to lead American movies away from their early-70's engagement with political matters, and he deserves credit for trying to bring them back.

But of course the rise of the Empire and the perdition of Anakin Skywalker are not the end of the story, and the inverted chronology turns out to be the most profound thing about the "Star Wars" epic.

Taken together, and watched in the order they were made, the films reveal the cyclical nature of history, which seems to repeat itself even as it moves forward. Democracies swell into empires, empires are toppled by revolutions, fathers abandon their sons and sons find their fathers. Movies end. Life goes on. EDITOR'S NOTE: WELL HERE'S SOMEONE WHO DEFINITELY GETS IT, HUH?! WEEPING AGAIN.


"Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith" is rated PG-13. Some of its violent scenes are more intense and upsetting than those in previous episodes.


Has George Lucas helped or hurt Star Wars by making prequels?
He's made the entire series more fulfilling: 28% EDITOR'S NOTE: MY VOTE.

He ruined my love for the original trilogy: 11%

One trilogy has nothing to do with the other: 15%

He did OK, but I was hoping for better: 30%

Depends on how good Sith is: 16%

Total Votes: 555

George Lucas didn't save the best for last with Sith EDITOR'S NOTE: GRRR.
By BRUCE WESTBROOKCopyright 2005 Houston Chronicle

Even after Jar Jar Binks' insipid hijinks and Attack of the Clones' insipid title, we had hope for the Star Wars prequels.

But beyond bloodbaths that earn a kid-unfriendly PG-13, Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith is more of the same: wildly flamboyant effects serving weak characters, bad acting and obtuse plotting. What's worse, its ending is so wrong-headed that even George Lucas' yes-men must have been tempted to say no. EDITOR'S NOTE: WHAT IS WRONG WITH THE ENDING? IT'S SOME OF THE MOST POWERFUL STUFF. WONDER WHAT SPECIFICALLY HE'S REFERRING TO?

Instead, they stayed the course toward what's become his own dark side: exalting technology for visual splendor while neglecting humor, heart and humanity.

Even when Episode III is most spectacular, as in an opening 22-minute space battle, its crowded skies are an incoherent mess. A few AT-AT war machines in Episode V and a half-built Death Star in Episode VI worked wonders enough. The prequels gorge on effects as an end in themselves.

When 1977's Star Wars became a surprise blockbuster, its quick imitators brandished space hardware and aliens, but without strong plotting and characters. With his prequels, Lucas has been guilty of the same thing. Visually he's delivered, but emotionally he's ridden the coattails of past successes.

Luke, Leia and Han were flesh-and-blood denizens of a universe we all share, even if they existed "a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away." Poorly written and woodenly played, most prequel characters lack a real feel, from stuffy, formal Obi-Wan (Ewan McGregor) to maddeningly mixed-up apprentice Anakin (Hayden Christensen) to Anakin's clothes-horse wife, Padme (Natalie Portman). With no big surprises ("No. I am your father"), Anakin's three-film descent to darkness has been dully inevitable, and his hyped appearance as Darth Vader is fleeting.

From the start, Anakin has been the prequels' chief problem. Whether played by young Jake Lloyd as an innocent kid or by Christensen as a troubled teen, the boy who would become Vader hasn't lived up to the legacy.

Without a hint of the dark side to come (couldn't he have squashed a bug with a gleam in his eye?), Lloyd's Anakin simply did what kids do: savored an adventure. But Christensen's Anakin is worse. Whining and petulant, he's a banal juvenile — at least, when we can get a fix on his character. EDITOR'S NOTE: ISN'T THAT A LARGE PART OF UNCLE GEORGE'S POINT? THAT EVIL, WITH THE POSSIBLE EXCEPTION OF SIDIOUS, ISN'T DROOLY AND FESTERING. EVIL IS BANAL. IT'S PETULANT. IT WANTS THINGS IT CAN'T HAVE AND HASN'T THE PATIENCE TO GET THEM THRU THE ORDINARY COURSE OF EVENTS. IT HAS MORE FEAR THAN HOPE. IT IS ORDINARY.

By the end of Episode III, we don't know who he is. Blame writer-director Lucas, whose talents in both realms have atrophied since his glory years making American Graffiti and the first Star Wars.

Anakin's murky motivation hits new lows in Episode III, as puppet master Palpatine (the superb, show-stealing Ian McDiarmid) grasps galactic control. Anakin whimpers that he shouldn't do horrible things at Palpatine's behest, then does them with a savagery belying his alleged good intentions. He mercilessly slays his Jedi friends, grabs his pregnant wife by the throat and (off screen) even kills small children.

As Lucas' token female lead, Padme is almost as perplexing. She's gone from being a reserved teen queen in Episode I to a kick-butt warrior woman in Episode II to a self-pitying, stay-at-home future mom in Episode III.

Her alleged romance with Anakin gets no better. There was more spark between Luke and Leia before learning they were siblings than between fashionista Padme and pouty Anakin. Most damning is the notion that Padme, despite having two babies, starts losing "her will to live."

Even so, some final scenes ring with resonance for Episode IV, showing people and places where it all began. Coming full-circle works — but with one nagging question: How could valiant Luke and Leia be the spawn of a weak-willed killer and his weak-willed wife? Plagued by their poor example, what began six years ago with new hope now ends with an action wallop and an emotional whimper.

Effort may be the ultimate prequel in the Star Wars galaxy
JAKE HAMILTONFor the Chronicle

"I hate you."That phrase, which Anakin Skywalker mutters to Obi-Wan Kenobi at the end of Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith, summarizes the theme of the film, a darkly cast tale that completes the story of Darth Vader.

Essentially, the Star Wars prequels have been the story about the rise of a villain. And now with the film that connects the old-school trilogy to the effects-filled prequels, George Lucas drags us into the depths of hell to witness the fall of one of fictional history's most tragic heroes.

Revenge of the Sith follows Skywalker into the downward spiral that ultimately leads to his succumbing to the dark side and reigning over the galaxy as Darth Vader. It's the story Star Wars fans have craved since Lucas first introduced his galaxy far, far away, and it is the darkest in the six-film series.

The Empire Strikes Back, known as the dark chapter of the Star Wars saga, is now rightfully dethroned by Sith, which makes full use of its PG-13 rating.

The best of the prequels, Sith reigns as third best in the series behind Empire and A New Hope (the renamed original). The film adds a new dimension and depth of emotion to these characters. I felt a true sadness as I saw Anakin's path to the dark side rock the foundations of our favorite characters and lead to a heartbreaking end. EDITOR'S NOTE: ME TOO!

If I had to complain about something, it would be the stiff performances. It's not so much bad actors as the bad dialogue that the actors have to work with. Among the few good performances were those of Ewan McGregor, in his best showing as Obi-Wan, and Ian McDiarmid as Emperor Palpatine. McDiarmid fleshed out his character amazingly well, adding new features that we've never seen before. EDITOR'S NOTE: THE ROYAL SHAKESPEARE ACADEMY. IMPROVING MOVIES AROUND THE GLOBE.

The film's climax, the light-saber battles between Anakin and Obi-Wan on the lava planet (symbolic of Anakin's slide into hell) and the stylish battle between Yoda and Palpatine, is incredible. These beautifully choreographed battles are interwoven, providing double the suspense.

I was lucky enough to see this film two weeks ago, but I'm sure I'll be seeing it again in theaters very soon. Evil reigns over this film, but the true theme is love. Strong emotions, mind-boggling special effects and a tragic story line make this the ultimate Star Wars prequel.

Impressive it is.

Original film set the standard

By JEFF MILLARCopyright Houston Chronicle
Editor's note: This review appeared in the Chronicle on May 28, 1977.
The Trekkies, the comic book collectors, the folks who go to nostalgia conventions, the people whove covered their walls with Frank Frazetta posters, they were already lined up, salivating, all the way past the ice rink when the Galleria opened George Lucas new film Star Wars Friday.
But the rest of you, you're looking to ole Jeff for guidance this morning. Sure you've seen 2001 (three times, actually) and like it a lot but, well, that was a Kubrick film. Star Wars sounds, you know, like science-fiction. Should you go see it?


Star Wars (with what seems to be an unnecessarily harsh PG rating) is an immensely entertaining film that has an excellent chance of charming you even if youre the type who went right past Flash Gordon in the funny papers or who were always too embarrassed to pick up the pulp science-fiction magazines off the bottom shelf of the drug-store magazine racks.

And anyone who misspent his formative years buying those magazines and reading them on this back porch, reading them until your mother screamed that you were rotting your mind, who would always go first in the school library to the H shelf in hope that there was a new Robert A. Heinlein juvenile novel ... well, you'll be stunned by how precisely Lucas has evoked the details, the conventions, the simple FUN of hackwork space-opera science-fiction.

Understand that Star Wars is not. Although some of the visual look, and much of the miniature work (especially of the spacecraft), derives from Douglas Trumbull's work for Kubrick, it is NOT 2001.

By far the biggest attraction of Star Wars is that it's completely deintellectualized. The film is so comprehensively escapist that not only is there no symbolism, no meanings to puzzle out. You dont even have to remember what happened five minutes before in the continuity.

And it is NOT camp. Repeat: NOT CAMP. Heavy SF readers will recognize each character, every situation by its stock number and almost feel the affection Lucas has for them. There is not the tiniest sniff of cynicism anywhere in this film. You laugh often, for the film has a lot of easy humor and high spirits exclusively at Lucas' will, because he's engineered it.

In order not to devalue it for you, I don't think I'll tell you what it's about, except that there's a struggle between an oppressive intergalactic empire and heroic rebels, and there's a captive princess, and wonderful comedy-relief robots (derived from Trumbull's Huey, Dewey and Louie in Silent Running), sensational battle with rayguns, battle cruisers, dogfights in outer space, and a young protagonist who bears in his genes the mysterious Force of a dead race of warriors.

The cast includes Alec Guinness (the standard oracle/teacher character), Mark Hamill (the protagonist), Carrie Fisher (the princess) and Harrison Ford. Ford plays beautifully a character who populated 50 per cent of pulp SF. The cocky, handsome, infinitely resourceful, hot-shot-pilot space smuggler and adventurer who becomes a hero in spite of himself and who became more real to we who misspent our youth than Mickey Mantle.

Star Wars is the closest thing that a lot of us is every going to come to time travel. It took me all the way back to my back porch.

'Star Wars III' a Political Tease
By John HartlFilm critic, MSNBC

"If you're not with me, then you're my enemy."
"I am the Senate."
"He has control of the Senate and the courts; he's too dangerous."

Those quotes may sound remarkably similar to recent utterances by President Bush, Tom ("I am the government") DeLay and nervous Democrats, but they pop directly out of the mouths of central characters in the uneven final installment of George Lucas' 28-year-old "Star Wars" series.

Is Lucas having a bit of fun with contemporary politics here? With its many references to arrogance and lust for power leading to the dark side, is "Revenge of the Sith" intended as an allegory for our times? "Only a Sith deals in absolutes," says one of the wiser characters, who is clearly not in favor of endorsing a good-vs.-evil agenda.

Nevertheless, that's mostly what Lucas has to offer in his action sequences, in which various evildoers cross lightsabers with virtuous Jedi knights. The duels almost always happen in a spectacular setting, with spaceships whizzing past the fighters or lakes of lava threatening to upstage their battles. The visual effects are especially impressive in the opening scenes.

There's a fairly complicated plot, beginning with a tense battle in which Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) declares, "This is where the fun begins" as he joins Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan MacGregor). But we all know how the story turns out because we've seen the episode that comes next chronologically: the original 1977 "Star Wars," otherwise known as "Episode IV: A New Hope."

The suspense in "Sith" (or "Part III") revolves around how Anakin will be lured to the dark side and become Darth Vader. Mostly it involves a bit of blackmail involving Anakin's wife, Padmé Amidala (Natalie Portman), who will give birth to the twins, Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia, before "Sith" is over.

Aside from the political teases, "Sith" is pretty much what you'd expect from this increasingly tired series. Perhaps it was inevitable that once Han Solo disappeared, so would the fun of "Star Wars." Still, there were reasons to expect something special from this finale, and the film does generate a narrative momentum that's been missing from the series lately.

The last two episodes were weak partly because they seemed like prologues to the main event: Anakin's transformation and his split with his wife and Obi-Wan.

Now that the climax has arrived, however, everything seems too predetermined.

Christensen glowers a lot, just as he did in the previous installment, "Attack of the Clones," and his love scenes with Portman are even more embarrassingly banal than they were last time around. Lucas' dialogue is more to blame than the actors, who are repeatedly sabotaged by unspeakable lines.

Ian McDiarmid, as the sinister Palpatine, manages to create a nearly three-dimensional character in just a few scenes, and so does MacGregor, who emphasizes Obi-Wan's growing spirituality. MacGregor is so good, in fact, that he almost makes you wish for an in-between installment, in which he'll gradually morph into the original Obi-Wan: the late Alec Guinness. EDITOR'S NOTE: I WOULDN'T DISAGREE WITH THIS PART. AND NOT JUST FOR MACGREGOR'S PERFORMANCE. I MEAN, I KEEP FLASHING TO HOW TRAGIC AND POIGNANT OBI-WAN'S STORY IS, AND HOW I NOW REALLY WANT TO KNOW ABOUT HIS YEARS IN EXCILE, HIS THOUGHTS ABOUT ALL HE'S LOST.

Indeed, he's halfway there.


The stars finally align in 'Revenge of the Sith'
By Claudia Puig, USA TODAY
The Force is definitely with it this time.

Star Wars, Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (* * * 1/2 out of four), which screened at the Cannes Film Festival on Sunday and opens at midnight Wednesday in many U.S. theaters, fulfills the promise of the series and rises far above its two most recent predecessors. It's the darkest of the six-film opus, but it just may be the best of the lot.

It seems George Lucas has listened to fans' complaints and entreaties, particularly in regard to the last two films released.

The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones were disappointing and dull. It almost seemed that Lucas was driving the franchise into the ground. But he wisely eliminated the cutesy touches and minimized characters such as Jar Jar Binks (a major character in Phantom Menace but only an extra in this one) and the plodding exposition and concentrated on the epic tale of a good guy gone bad.

We learn how the powerful but impetuous Jedi Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) becomes Darth Vader. And most important, we learn why. In Star Wars: A New Hope, the fourth in the series and the original film released in 1977, Vader was creepy, but mostly just an archetypal villain with a bad case of mouth-breathing.

Revenge of the Sith chronicles Skywalker's transformation from a principled, love-struck young knight to the epitome of evil. It offers some terrific lightsaber battles, particularly between Anakin and his mentor Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) with a terrifyingly fiery backdrop.

There are major improvements in quality over the previous two films, notably the writing and the acting. Christensen and Natalie Portman as Senator (formerly Queen) Padmé Amidala, in particular, seem more comfortable and less stilted. McGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi has grown more assured as well.

In Revenge of the Sith, Anakin grows impatient with Obi-Wan, and falls more deeply in love with Amidala. His love for her is also his undoing, sharpened by memories of his mother's brutal death and his inability to save her.

The screenplay is tighter, the dialogue sharper and the pacing right on the mark. When you watch the first three films released more than two decades ago —A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi— they feel slower and plodding compared with Sith, which achieves just the right balance of emotional drama, suspense and action.

Also, beloved characters from Episodes IV-VI are featured more prominently (Yoda) or introduced (Chewbacca). It's also the first time we hear James Earl Jones' voice as Darth Vader, one of the most memorable vocal performances in film.

Perhaps Revenge of the Sith is all the more powerful because so many lingering questions are answered, in particular, the true identity of the Sith lord who lures Anakin to the dark side. And seeing the handsome Anakin's physical transformation to the malevolent, black-helmeted Darth Vader is riveting.

There's also a poignancy to this film because it is Lucas' final installment to one of the most groundbreaking cinematic endeavors ever made.

But there are some jarring disconnects when watching the series as a whole, from the rapid aging of Obi-Wan to the disparity in special effects from the first three films to the last.

A cautionary note: This is the only one of the six movies rated PG-13, and there is some disturbing violence. The very young ones should be left at home. But for adults who may have avoided the series, this is the one to see. Even for non-fans, Revenge of the Sith is engrossing, and fans of the series will likely be over the moon — and into another galaxy — with this film. EDITOR'S NOTE: I THINK SHE MISSES THE POINT A BIT ON EPS 1 AND 2....I DON'T THINK UNCLE G DID ANYTHING BUT WHAT HE INTENDED TO DO WITH THOSE. HE ISN'T ADJUSTING OR COMPENSATING WITH EP3. THIS IS ALWAYS WHAT THE STORY WAS MEANT TO BE.



Episode III deliversFinale wraps up Anakin's tale, as well as a career-long journey for Lucas

By Michael WilmingtonTribune movie critic

The climax for George Lucas' entire "Star Wars" series comes in a blaze of fire and darkness, wild light-saber battles and enough Sturm, Drang and digital pyrotechnics to fill multiplexes from here to Tatooine.

Like some grand, crazy Moebius strip of fantasy and adventure, "Star Wars: Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith," twists back on itself to end where it began, with all the players and puzzle pieces finally explained and set in motion, ready for the events of the first "Star Wars" film (1977's "Episode IV: A New Hope") to start all over again.

Is that a spoiler?

Yet who in the world doesn't know how this "Star Wars" is going to finish: with Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) making his last metamorphosis and the Evil Empire rising?

Actually, it's hard to think of any big popular movie entertainment that has ended -- or appeared to end -- more horrifically and tragically than this one, with not just characters we may like, but an entire planet, galaxy and way of life going up in flames.

It doesn't matter, of course. I enjoyed the movie.

Even though many critics have been rough on the last two "Star Wars" (1999's "The Phantom Menace" and 2002's "Attack of the Clones"), this one is a smashing success on its own terms, achieving exactly what Lucas wanted and carrying most of its viewers where they want to go.

It's also the scariest, most exciting, most visually prodigious of the sextet, with action sequences that explode off the screen, characters who finally awaken your sentiments (a bit) and images of violence, inferno, chaos and the dark side that descend like a shroud of noir.EDITOR'S NOTE: AMEN AND HALLELUJAH! EXACTLY! (EMOTIONS, MORE THAN A BIT, THOUGH).

"Revenge of the Sith" begins with an amazing, bang-up air fight, -- led by young Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and Anakin, whipping through the skyscrapers and alleys of city-planet Coruscant -- and ends with awesome visions of destruction, a fantastic plunge into the abyss.

The story that charts the last stages of the eventual Evil Emperor's insidious plot to overthrow interplanetary parliamentary democracy and replace it with tyranny and horror is enhanced by incredible digital imagery. CGI bears the actions from the violent battles with renegade Jedi Count Dooku (Christopher Lee); to starchy parliamentary debates presided over by Chancellor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid); to intrigue on the Jedi council; to the tragic love of Anakin and Padme (Natalie Portman); to Obi-Wan's grand military adventure; to Yoda's swashbuckling Errol Flynn act; looks at the series' most persistent characters, robots C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) and R2-D2 (Kenny Baker) -- and, finally, to the blinding terrors of the dark side of the Force.

All of this approaches a darkness even deeper than that of 1980's "The Empire Strikes Back," the critical favorite of the entire series, and earns this movie the series' first PG-13 rating.

Yet the final effect is exhilarating. The gloom and tragedy are muted because we know the real end of the story, the fireworks-fantasy celebration of the Evil Empire's end, set decades later, in 1983's "Return of the Jedi."EDITOR'S NOTE: I REALLY NEED TO RE-WATCH THE ORIGINAL TRILOGY SOON. BECAUSE RIGHT NOW, WITH ROTS FRESH IN MY MIND, ITS HORROR AND TRAGEDY OVER-SHADOWS THE EVENTUAL HAPPY END OF ROTJ.

Lucas has constructed the whole last half of the epic double trilogy something like the flashback solution of a mystery story, though by now little of it is a surprise. As he writes finis to a project that has preoccupied him for most of his moviemaking career, he achieves once again, at his best, technological marvels and storytelling delight with characters who (Yoda charmingly excepted) have become endearingly stiff, trading dialogue that's beguilingly clunky.

Now, as he puts a close to the epic (if not to the merchandising), we can feel something for which many critics never gave him enough credit: the real affection and personal joy he took in these movies, the ways he fussed and fretted over them, and the ways he ignored the Hollywood establishment and forged his own relationship with the audience.

Perhaps it's that personal investment in what is usually the impersonal blockbuster form that really bothers Lucas' most intelligent critics. They may feel that ambition should be saved for less silly stuff.But throughout his career, Lucas, like his comrade/colleague Steven Spielberg, has gotten a raw deal from some for bringing pleasure to audiences. All the "Star Wars" movies will continue to entertain us for many years to come. They were grand fun, and this last one's a corker. That's all the defense they need. EDITOR'S NOTE: I LOVE THIS REVIEW. AND NOT JUST CAUSE HE LIKED IT, BUT BECAUSE OF THE CREDIT HE GIVES UNCLE GEORGE. JUST RE-READ THIS LAST PARAGRAPH OR SO. HERE'S THE SPIRIT IN WHICH STAR WARS SHOULD BE TAKEN, YES? THIS CRITIC SEEMS ABLE TO SEE THE SAGA AS A SAGA AND ABLE TO FEEL THE IMPACT OF IT WITHOUT THE CYNICISM AND JADEDNESS OF MOST OTHER REVIEWERS. THANK YOU!

By the numbers

3 Severed (non-robot) heads

6 Severed hands

2 Severed legs?

Android and clone soldier deaths: too many to count

8 Padme's (Natalie Portman) hairstyles

0 Words spoken by Jar Jar Binks

6 Kisses


'Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith'

The "Star Wars" master fails to produce compelling dialogue or charismatic acting, but the strong visual effects make "Revenge of the Sith" the best of the three "Star Wars" prequels.
By Kenneth TuranTimes Staff Writer

Never but never underestimate the power of the dark side of the Force.

It has made "Episode III Revenge of the Sith" into easily the best of the trio of "Star Wars" prequels and has even attempted the tougher assignment of saving writer-director George Lucas from himself.

It's a tribute to the power and durability of the universe Lucas and company created in the first three "Star Wars" movies that we want to see this episode despite the tedium of the previous two and despite knowing exactly what will happen in it.

Or maybe, as with a familiar story told around a campfire, it is precisely our knowledge of how things will work out that makes us interested in the first place.

As anyone who was part of the estimated $3.4-billion worldwide theatrical gross of the previous five "Star Wars" films can tell you, "Revenge of the Sith" is where the beloved Republic turns into the dreaded Empire, and Anakin Skywalker, once thought to be the Chosen One, goes over to the dark side and ends up Darth Vader, he of the heavy breathing and black-on-black ensemble.

Because it contains the creation myth of one of the most durably popular films of our time, and because seeing a potential hero torn between good and evil before succumbing to iniquity is always involving, "Revenge of the Sith" is the most energetic of the prequels, the only one at all worth watching. EDITOR'S NOTE: GRRR....

But that doesn't mean it is without the weaknesses that scuttled its pair of predecessors. Quite the contrary."Revenge of the Sith" begins with one of its areas of strength, combat on screen. An elaborate, multi-part action sequence — which starts with a cataclysmic air battle featuring fast jets swooping between huge air ships and ends focused on individual lightsaber duels — lasts for close to half an hour and shows that the droids at Industrial Light & Magic have made excellent use of the film's more than 2,200 visual effects shots.

The fight has Jedi knights Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and Anakin (Hayden Christensen) trying to rescue Supreme Chancellor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) from the clutches of the evil brotherhood of the Sith. Their opponents include Count Dooku (Christopher Lee) and the computer-generated rebel leader General Grievous, a rasping villain who resembles nothing so much as a syphilitic grasshopper.

It's not just in warfare that "Revenge's" visuals excel. The film is frankly overwhelming in its ability to create a spectacular variety of alternate worlds. Starting with footage from a range of countries, Lucas and his cohorts create everything from the Wookiee homeland of Kashyyyk (Thailand was the backdrop) to the burning world of Mustafar, which began with electrifying footage Lucas had shot during the eruption of Sicily's Mt. Etna.

Given how strong "Revenge's" purely visual element is, we leave it with reluctance when the film turns to dialogue to explain a plot that involves not only the Republic's war with the Sith but a power struggle between the Chancellor and the Jedi Council, which includes old pals Yoda (computer generated and voiced by Frank Oz) and Mace Windu (Samuel L. Jackson).

That reluctance does nothing but intensify because, as veterans of the last two films can testify, whatever gift Lucas had for dialogue has deserted him. The language in "Revenge" is banal and stilted, with sentiments of the "Let's get a move on, we have a battle to win here" variety predominating.

Given that one of Lucas' original inspirations was Saturday afternoon serials (hence his insistence on numbering all six parts), it makes one wonder if the language is intentionally bad, the better to echo the spirit of those long-gone matinees of the golden past.

Lucas' weakness with words is matched by a marked lack of facility for working with actors, especially where emotional scenes are concerned. That limitation tends to flatten out everyone's performance (has Jackson ever been this bland, McGregor this uncharismatic?) but it completely cripples the work of poor Natalie Portman as Anakin's pregnant but still hairdo-challenged wife, Padme.

When the film's ILM animation director Rob Coleman told Premiere Magazine that "George enjoys the postproduction process the most, I get so much more of his time than the actors do," he was unknowingly putting his finger on the flaw that keeps these films dramatically leaden and earthbound, however much their visuals soar to the heavens and beyond.

Finally, however, George Lucas does not seem to care. He owns the "Star Wars" concept outright and clearly feels that this is his world to do with as he pleases. If he wants to put in a big close-up of Jar Jar Binks to metaphorically thumb his nose at the creature's detractors, he does so. If he wants to put in lines that sound as if they reflect as much on the current political situation as the one in the future — as when Padme listens to the Senate cheer and says, "This is how democracy dies, to thunderous applause" — he does.

Lucas must feel he's earned the right to be this way, and from one point of view he has.Although the "Star Wars" universe wouldn't exist if Lucas hadn't fought for it and taken it more seriously than anyone else, he seems to be taking it so seriously today that the raffish energy and wised-up sense of humor that marked the very first "Star Wars" is completely gone from the scene.

Though the return of Darth Vader provides "Revenge of the Sith" with a classic film moment that lives up to expectations, the people we'd really like to see make a comeback are Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and, most of all, Harrison Ford. It is not to be, of course, but that only makes us miss them even more. EDITOR'S NOTE: WHATEVER.


Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith
Movie Review

PHILIP WUNTCH / The Dallas Morning News
In order to succeed, Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith must vanquish a few albatrosses. The last two episodes left an increasingly bitter aftertaste. Also, Star Wars fans already know the latest installment's conclusion, since the 1977 original begins where the new film ends. EDITOR'S NOTE: WELL, 20 YEARS LATER, AT ANY RATE.

Not to worry, moviegoers. Revenge of the Sith succeeds.

So now let's get down to basics: What's wrong and what's right with it?

In the con corner, Star Wars auteur George Lucas still has trouble staging and writing intimate scenes. The new film also lacks the witty dialogue that was The Empire Strikes Back's hallmark. The three recent chapters have all suffered the lack of Han Solo's liberating sass. Even so, some of Sith's dialogue is downright limp. When such reliable actors as Natalie Portman and Samuel L. Jackson give mechanical performances, director and dialogue are at least partly at fault.

Most Star Wars fans can endure those shortcomings. What, then, is right with Revenge of the Sith? Just about everything else.

The newest Star Wars finds Mr. Lucas functioning in prime showmanship mode. Despite his intimacy issues, the movie takes a hearty emotional tug, tracing tormented Anakin Skywalker's inevitable embrace of the Dark Side.

Although parts of the film are submerged in melancholia, Mr. Lucas' sheer exuberance for filmmaking makes joyful viewing. Besides, everyone knows that the first three segments, Episodes IV, V and VI, will make the galaxy a better place.

From a technical perspective, Sith is a work of inspiration. The film begins with a 23-minute combat scene that sets the pace in dizzying style.

In the Sith opener, Anakin and Obi-Wan Kenobi set out to rescue Chancellor Palpatine from General Grievous' boney grasp. To achieve that goal, they must navigate their relatively diminutive space vehicles through fleets of magnificent aircraft that come at them from every conceivable space corridor.

It's an exhilarating galactic romp, with the urgency and (technical) intimacy of the best three-dimensional films, albeit without the glasses.

However, the scheming Palpatine proves unworthy of such bravery. It is he who persuades Anakin to embrace the Dark Side of the Force, preying on the younger Jedi's indignation at not receiving the title of Jedi master. Even worse, Anakin's secret bride, Padmé, is pregnant, and he's haunted by nightmares of her dying in childbirth. Palpatine works such traumas to his own advantage.

Along the way, there are electrifying light-saber duels and beautifully realized interiors. The combat between Anakin and Obi-Wan Kenobi is no less riveting for its inevitability. Mr. Lucas knows how to choreograph duels with a balletic grace that never detracts from their physical vigor.

Among old friends, Yoda has never looked better or had more to say. His effusiveness is a mixed blessing, for his fractured syntax ultimately grows irritating. R2D2 has more to do than ever and even shapes up as an action hero. The ever-precise C3PO sometimes goes for the heartstrings, in his own fastidious way. Chewbacca has little to do, and the notorious Jar Jar Binks is gone in two seconds. For that particular brevity, much thanks to Mr. Lucas.

Among new acquaintances, the giant lizard that serves as Obi-Wan's mode of ground transportation is a dynamic creation, and Ian McDiarmid's Palpatine joins the top ranks of Star Wars villains.

With the exceptions of Ms. Portman's pallid Padmé and Mr. Jackson's arch Mace Windu, all the human performances are better than in the previous two segments.

Ewan McGregor has grown completely comfortable with Obi-Wan, deftly matching his delivery with Alec Guiness' rendering of the older character in the first-released films. Hayden Christensen movingly registers Anakin's plight, wisely playing even his most sensitive moments with a hint of the arrogance that facilitates his fall from grace.

For Mr. Lucas, Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith is a return to grace. More than a first-rate wrap-up job, it stands on its own as a dazzling piece of showmanship. EDITOR'S NOTE: ANOTHER AMEN!

DiscussLive transcript: Tom Maurstad and Philip Wuntch on Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith 02:07 PM CDT on Thursday, May 19, 2005
The newest Star Wars installment, Revenge of the Sith has arrived! The News' critics -- Tom Maurstad and Philip Wuntch discuss the film and the series.

cfan: Confession: I have not seen episodes 1 & 2. Should I wait or rent those before I go see Sith? Or does it stand alone?

Philip Wuntch: Don't feel guilty. Plenty of people are in the same fix. Happily, Sith stands alone as a piece of entertainment. But definitely rent the other two at some point. Episode 2, The Empire Strikes Back, is my favorite.

Tom Maurstad: I think you can wait as long as you want to see 1 and 2. See them on DVD and just click to the few cool battle scenes. Everything you need to know about character and relationship development to follow the story in Sith, you can infer for yourself. You don't need four-plus hours of mostly boring viewing to explain it for you.

jmglu: Of all the Star Wars films, which character is your favorite and why? Which character do you dislike most?

Philip Wuntch: Han Solo is my favorite human character. He has the best dialogue in the entire series, and his cockiness helps balance Luke Skywalker's relentless earnestness. The screenplay also was willing to laugh at Han Solo's cockiness, which keeps him from becoming abrasive. I also enjoy R2D2, perhaps because I am somewhat shaped like him. But he is a lovable character, and in the new movie he really gets to kick some butt.

Tom Maurstad: When I watched the original Star Wars for the first time, I though Han Solo was the coolest guy I'd ever seen so he's my sentimental favorite. But I really like what fans did with Boba Fett. They just plucked him out of the background and made him into a cult star. That's the kind of creative interaction that I think has made Star Wars such a powerful, you know, force. And while I dislike Jar-Jar as much as much as the next guy, the characters that have really bugged me in the new trilogy are those played by famous celebrities. Every time Samuel L. Jackson or Jimmy Smits walks into a scene it throws me out of the movie. Smits is especially out-of-place, he just looks like he's wondering 'What am I doing in this movie?' I hate the Hollywood Squares-ification of Star Wars. EDITOR'S NOTE: OH POO ON YOU. I LOVE THE IDEA OF LEIA'S ADOPTED DAD BEING A HOTTIE! AND SMITS BRINGS A RECOGNIZABILITY AND GRAVITAS TO BAIL ORGANA. (AND YOU NEED THAT INSTANT RECOGNITION FOR SUCH GLORIFIED WALK ONS PLAYING SUCH SMALL BUT SAGA-IMPORTANT ROLES)

kevind: Besides seeing in DLP, which DFW theaters, in your opinion, have the sound and best screen presentation?

Philip Wuntch: The Cinemark plexes in Plano, the Legacy and the Tinseltown Plano, usually have the best overall presentation. I think Legacy is one of the best theaters in the country. The Cinemark 17 on Webb Chapel is also very good -- but make sure your feature is playing in the two large auditoriums. The Regal/UA Galaxy has the biggest screen in Texas and does an excellent job -- but again make sure your feature is in the large auditorium. The AMC Valley View also has good presentations.

Tom Maurstad: I think the Cinemark Legacy in Plano is, no surprise, really good. And the theater I've had the most overwhelming sensory experience at is the IMAX theater at LBJ and Webbs Chapel. That sequence in Robots where the young hero travels into Robot City for the first time, and the domino scene -- I felt like I was thrown into the movie.

GSchrett: Is there at least one movie place that will not have a bunch of people dressed as Star Wars characters? Movies are great but the dressing up? What gives?EDITOR'S NOTE: SPOILSPORT. WHINER.

Philip Wuntch: I'm afraid that at least for the first seven days, each theater will have some patrons dressed as Star Wars characters. The Rocky Horror Picture Show and even The Sound of Music get the same treatment. The big megaplexes, of course, will have the biggest turn-out of SW dress-up. A relatively conservative non-megaplex theater like the AMC Glen Lakes might be your best bet to avoid them. Going to the movies is always a social thing, and attending an "event movie" like Star Wars becomes a special event. People have grown attached to the SW characters and enjoy having a party atmosphere when they see a SW movie.

Tom Maurstad: I would just wait a week to see it. People dress up as part of the spectacle of seeing a Star Wars movie, it's part of the back-and-forth between the movies and the viewers that have sustained and enriched the experience. But if you don't want to sit near a guy dressed as a storm trooper or a Jedi just go to a midday screening in the middle of the week after opening.

SRC: Now that you've seen all the Star Wars films, what order would you rank Episodes I through VI? (from favorite to least-favorite)

Philip Wuntch: 1. Episode V 2. Episode IV 3. Episode III 4. Episode VI 5. Episode I 6. Episode II

Tom Maurstad: Let's see, I'm just going to list by episode number rather than type all those punctuation-filled titles. So my ranking is (drum roll) 5 4 3 6 2 1 EDITOR'S NOTE: THIS MIGHT BE CLOSE TO MY RANKING TOO. I MIGHT PUT 3 AHEAD OF 4. I'LL KNOW MORE AFTER I SEE IT A SECOND TIME.

troyd: Is this version acceptable viewing for an 8 year old? When would you suggest I introduce my children to the Star Wars saga?

Philip Wuntch: This is such a difficult question to answer because each child is different. Some can very blase about things, while others are very much affected. Sith is the most violent of the series, showing the deaths of characters. The deaths are quick and not bloody, but you do see innocent characters dying. I think, overall, eight is an okay age to be introduced to SW, but it might be best to first introduce him to the first two -- the original and The Empire Strikes Back. That will get him in the spirit of things. I often get emails from parents wondering if it's okay for their child to see a certain film. I always find it difficult to answer because, as I said, each child is different. I know it's a tough call but ultimately parents are the best judge.

Tom Maurstad: That's a tough question. I have a seven-year-son and I would not be comfortable taking him to this movie. It's intense, dark and violent. There's nothing shocking or outrageous, but the atmosphere and emotional background are very dark and there are a couple of brutal fight scenes. But only you know your child well enough to know how he/she would handle it.

FireBall: What will George Lucas do with his time now? Any other projects on the horizon for him?

Philip Wuntch: He will produce Indiana Jones IV, which Steven Spielberg will direct. They've had some trouble with the script, but I think it's almost ready to go now. Lucas has announced no plans for directing. I would really like to see him try his hand at something intimate. He needs more confidence in directing on a small scale. The intimate scenes in Sith are the least effective in the film.

Tom Maurstad: The only specific plan I've read him talking about is his idea to start production on a live-action Star Wars TV show. You have to wonder what his next movie will be, if there is one. Does he stay in sci-fi/fantasy or go into some new genre story-telling? (It's) hard to imagine him making a romantic comedy, but my favorite George Lucas film remains American Graffiti so who knows?

chatter_K: Do you believe this will really be the end of the Star Wars saga? Can you recommend other movies for those needing a sci-fi/storytelling fix?

Philip Wuntch: As of now, I believe this is the end of Star Wars as we know it. But maybe in five or six years, Lucas will return with an entirely new set of characters and situations. Among other sci-fi flicks, Steven Spielberg's War of the Worlds will open June 29 and has the look of a winner. I'm a fan of Ridley Scott's Blade Runner, one of the few films that actually improves with each viewing. Also, Robert Wise's The Day the Earth Stood Still and Howard Hawks' The Thing are superb '50s sci-fi flicks.

Tom Maurstad: No, I don't think this will be the end of the Star Wars saga. (I wrote a story about this question in last Sunday's paper). Already, George Lucas is talking about a live-action TV show and I think side projects like Cartoon Network's Clone Wars are going to continue. I also think the Internet and online gaming may be the medium for the future of Star Wars and sci-fi storytelling. As for other movies, I can't think of any recent sci-fi movies that have really grabbed me but Terry Gilliam's 12 Monkeys was just re-released in digitally-enhanced DVD format and I'd forgotten what a great movie it is.

chatter_K: OK, you've told us you like 'Empire' best. Why? Is it the story, the technical effects, the direction or all of the above?

Philip Wuntch: The dialogue in Empire is the best in the series, and the three lead characters come into full focus. The "I love you" -- "I know" exchange between Han Solo and Leia is excellent. They become genuinely romantic, in a non-saccharine, bickering sort of way. And the relationship between Luke and the princess hints at the sibling relationship that is to come. The effects are excellent although, obviously, the more recent episodes have a more sophisticated inventory. But it's the dialogue and characters that make Empire so rich.

Tom Maurstad: I think it's the best storytelling episode. It's got great fight scenes and action, but really it's just the emotions and the tension between the characters.

troyd: If it were up to you, what extras would you put on a dream DVD of the Star Wars series?

Philip Wuntch: It would be great fun to watch the gradual development of such characters as R2D2, C3PO, Yoda and even the giant reptile that Obi-Wan rides in the new movie. Also, what does Lucas think of all the sci-fi films that Star Wars inspired? Get "serious" directors like Sidney Lumet to reveal how they feel about the SW phenomenon. Did it help or hurt American cinema in general?

Tom Maurstad: You know, I'm not sure I want to see all about how the magic was made. I think there's too much of that kind of tell-all-the-tricks stuff. It makes us more self-conscious as an audience, harder to pay no attention to the man behind the curtain pulling all the levers. I would like someone to go around and interview fans about what Star Wars has meant to them, how they've used the force in their lives.

cubzter: With the Lord of the Rings trilogy it seemed as if the Academy was sort of holding back to award Jackson until the series ended. What is the possibility of something similar happening for Lucas, or these films to saddled with negative issues related to dialog and acting to even be considered for any awards beyond the technical ones?

Philip Wuntch: It wouldn't surprise me if Sith were nominated for best picture as a token acknowledgment of the series' success. But I don't think it would have a chance in the galaxy of winning. As you mention, the dialogue and acting are negative issues. I don't truly think the Academy was holding back on rewarding Peter Jackson. The final 'Rings' was the best of the trilogy, and the Academy wanted to acknowledge it. Rings' win was a combination of merit and good timing.

Tom Maurstad: Obviously, the Star Wars franchise has changed both the film industry and the film-going experience in many important ways. And while Revenge of the Sith is a much better movie than the previous two, it's still hard to imagine what non-technical awards it deserves to win. The script is full of clunky dialogue, the acting is for the most part is really stiff and stilted and, while the battles and fights are thrilling and well-choreographed, the movie wanders about and is full of dead zones. I agree that the Academy held back on the Rings trilogy and ended up giving the weakest of the films the award as a commemoration of the trilogy (which is appropriate since Jackson made them as one nine-hour movie instead of three three-hour movies). But while I think Star Wars is certainly deserving of some tribute for all it's accomplished, I can't imagine this picture winning best picture or director. EDITOR'S NOTE: WOW. I DONT' AGREE WITH HARDLY ANY OF THIS. I MEAN, THE THIRD LOTR WAS THE BEST OF THE BUNCH, WASN'T IT? AND AGAIN, I DONT FEEL THE CLUNKINESS OR BAD ACTING FACTOR NEARLY AS MUCH AS MOST FOLKS. I ALSO DONT SEE THAT THERE AER DEAD SPOTS IN ROTS AT ALL.


padme_wannab: I noticed the dialogue in Episode III is much better than Episodes I and II. Did George enlist some help?

Philip Wuntch: A very good question, for which I have no insider info. I'm sure all big movies have several script doctors. Maybe we'll find out more info as the months roll on, but for now Lucas is keeping things to himself.

Tom Maurstad: Is the dialogue better? I suppose so but only because the focus of most scenes is off the machinations of intergalactic politics and is more on the what's going on between the characters. I don't know about what help George Lucas may have enlisted in writing it.

homer30: What is your overall feeling about the new movie?

Philip Wuntch: I think it is moving and poignant. The sets and creatures are fantastic. The combat scenes are thrilling. But the film's poignant moments are due to the overall thrust of the story rather than the acting, which is very elementary. Having said that, let me add that Hayden Christensen is much more comfortable playing Anakin and gives a strong performance.

Tom Maurstad: I think it is much better than the previous two. It's got some great action/battle scenes. But at 140 minutes, I think it is too long and drags in many places. The dialogue may be better than the last two, but it's still not good. I don't think Ewan McGregor is all that good as the young Obi-Wan, he's just so flat. I think about how much Alec Guiness had going on beneath the surface of his performance -- funny, sad, wise, hopeful. I think the love story between Anakin and Padme is unconvincing because I don't understand what drives their love. We don't see it or feel it from what goes on between them. EDITOR'S NOTE: OH HUSH. AND TOO LONG? MEANWHILE, THEY CUT ALMOST ALL OF THE COOL POLITICAL STUFF (LIKE THE BEGINNINGS OF THE COALITION THAT WILL BECOME THE REBELLION, WITH BAIL ORGANA AND PADME AND MON MOTHMA. SURE HOPE THAT STUFF ENDS UP ON THE DVD!)

padme_wannab: Who gets the credit for the amazing creatures and costumes in the Star Wars saga? Lucas is the big name, but I wonder who has the imagination to create the Wookie, Yoda, Jar-Jar etc.

Philip Wuntch: My understanding is that they all originated in Lucas's mind, but it took vast armies of special effects people to bring them to the screen. Lucas is usually pretty generous about giving people credit, and the credits on Revenge of the Sith are long and detailed but worth reading when you realize how much effort went into every character and every set.

Tom Maurstad: I think this is one of those I'd-like-to-thank-all-the-little-people-who-helped-make-this-possible questions. I know George Lucas has teams of animators/designers/programmers who are assigned to specific scenes and characters.

Roz: Have you seen the film in a digital theater? Is there a great difference seeing it there, as opposed to seeing it in a regular theater?

Philip Wuntch: I definitely recommend a digital presentation. It engulfs you, and you feel like you're really a part of the Star Wars universe. Overall, the Cinemark Legacy in Plano has an outstanding presentation. EDITOR'S NOTE: DRAT. NO DIGITAL IN HOUSTON!

Tom Maurstad: Yes, I saw the movie at the Cinemark Legacy. Obviously with a spectacle movie such as Star Wars, the bigger and better the sound and pictures are, the more overwhelming the experience. But once the movie starts, it takes over no matter what kind of screen and speakers you're watching and listening.

padme_wannab: In your opinion, who is the film's biggest audience: those of us who grew up with the last three episodes or those who have since been introduced to the series through the first three episodes?

Philip Wuntch: Those who grew up with the last three episodes will get more of a sense of "closure" than the relative newcomers to the series. Everything comes together in Revenge of the Sith. It's a good package.

Tom Maurstad: That's an interesting question. Based on who's camped out in line waiting for it, I would say those who grew up after the first trilogy -- the gen x/y audience. But then it's easier to camp out when you're in your 20s than when you're in 40s. I also think that generation grew up with parents and older siblings who had been blown away by the originals so it become a mythology passed down from one generation to the next.

young fan: What explains the big gap between the first trilogy and the prequels? If the first three were such a success, why wait?

Philip Wuntch: Lucas likes to take his time. He doesn't give many interviews, so I don't have a lot of inside information. He was probably occupying himself with his special effects company and various Star Wars -related data. He remains something of a mystery man.


young fan: I have read about the films having an underlying political or religious message. Do you think Lucas intended that, or is it just fans reading in what they want?

Philip Wuntch: Movies are always subject to various interpretations, some not even intentional. However, I do feel there are some cautionary political messages in Revenge of the Sith. Lucas has said that his feelings about Vietnam influenced his screenplay. He hasn't yet addressed any comparisons with the war in Iraq. But some of Darth Vader's rhetoric sounds a lot like George W. Bush's.

Tom Maurstad: I think it's probably some of both. I don't think you could have a movie about clashing political factions and a war come out at a time of clashing political factions and war and not have some real-world parallels flashing back and forth.

young fan: Tom, you mentioned a plan for a live-action TV version. Who is being considered for the cast of that, and what is the timeframe?

Tom Maurstad: I haven't heard any specific talk about it, just general discussion. So I don't know if gotten far enough to be deciding when or who's going to star in it. I'm sure if and when it does get to that point, we'll be hearing all about it.

Roz: Do you have one favorite scene from the entire series? If so, what is the scene?

Philip Wuntch: My favorite scene has to do with human interaction rather than special effects. It's at the end of The Empire Strikes Back when Han Solo is about to meet a possibly cruel fate. Princess Leia says "I love you" tenderly. Han Solo answers, "I know." But he doesn't say it arrogantly. It's simple and sweet but not sappy. It's a human moment in the midst of all the special effects.

Tom Maurstad: The climatic battle scene between Luke and Darth in The Empire Strikes Back -- powerful stuff.

moderator: Thank you to Philip, Tom and all the fans who participated in today's chat. May The Force Be With You!




I have watched my last new STAR WARS film. Really don’t know what to say. I’ve wanted to see Obi-Wan fight Vader on that Lava Planet since that issue of Starlog in 1978. My 6 year old reading comprehension grasping for every word of every article I could get my grubby little hands on. For me, the origin of Vader has been the Holy Grail of my geek soul. That story most coveted, but yet untold.

I’m 33 years old now. EDITOR'S NOTE: YET EMOTIONALLY, STILL ABOUT 6. 27 years lay between me and that boy that dreamt of that fight – but right now, he’s on my shoulders and we’re slapping high-fives. The imagery in REVENGE OF THE SITH -- The turning of Anakin, the annihilation of the Jedi, the expulsion of Yoda, Obi-Wan vs Anakin, Palpatine revealed, the birth of the twins, Alderran, the adoption of Luke, what became of the droids… These are all near religious iconography in the minds of children raised in the ways of the Force. I’ve spent a quarter of a century discussing these things, speculating on what it’d look like, how it’d play out… I’ve seen it in countless dreams, but never with my eyes open. Never George’s dream of what it was. Till now.

As I sat at the Regal Metropolitan Theater in South Austin watching the film – I couldn’t help but get caught up in it. Dad was there with me, we’ve spent countless years talking STAR WARS – through STAR WARS – I learnt of the source material George was smashing and grabbing from – B serials, Pulp sci-fantasy adventure romances, Asian cinema – all of it.

Before STAR WARS – I was well on my way – after STAR WARS the road was poured. I would be a geek for the rest of my life. That would mean, I’d be primed to openly weep as Yoda crawled through that damn crawlspace to escape, during the whole of Obi-Wan and Anakin’s fight and the death of Luke & Leia’s mother.

It is a very powerful thing to see the dreams one has spent a quarter of a century pondering. It might be cheese ball of me, but dammit – this is exactly what I wanted out of this last STAR WARS film… closure.

I’m having a really hard time writing about this one. It’s just so damn big. So full of literally everything that I wanted to see in all the prequels – but crammed all into this one. This really is the big Michael Corleone episode of STAR WARS… It’s where all the traps are sprung, all the cards are laid on the table, where everybody dies, all is lost and evil rules the galaxy.

That’s what makes the film so damn hard to talk about, at least off a first viewing.

Let me see if I can explain this. We all know how dark this film is intended to be. We all know how incredibly dire things will turn out in this film. However, the first 40 minutes are so light… as to be completely disconcerting. There’s just a feeling that THEY shouldn’t be having fun.

Don’t they know this is the last smiles they’ll share? That when Obi Wan goes on that last mission and Anakin wishes him well… that that’s the last time they would be friends… Don’t they know that? EDITOR'S NOTE: OK. I HATE MYSELF NOW. BUT I COMPLETELY AGREE WITH THIS. THE OBI-WAN/ANAKIN PARTING WAS THE FIRST TIME I STARTED TO WELL-UP. AND THE FUN STUFF AT THE BEGINNING, THE BANTER WAS SO POIGNANT TO ME...KNOWING HOW FAR THEY ARE ABOUT TO FALL. WE DO, why can’t they see what’s coming? WAKE UP!

The film makes you powerless to change things. EDITOR'S NOTE: IT'S THE STAR WARS VERSION OF A HOLOCAUST MOVIE. WE WATCH IT AND HOPE THAT THIS TIME, IT ENDS DIFFERENTLY. It’s like sitting still for a fucking tragedy right from the get go, but unlike TITANIC, you don’t have it all spelt out yet. Unless you’ve read all the spoilers – and I don’t really know what you spoiler-lovers will think. Just because for me… I knew, basically, what was going to happen. The broad strokes. I’ve gone out of my way to ignore as many spoilers as possible – which is a near impossible thing to do when you’re being emailed by everyone on Earth 300 images a day, 40 reviews a day now and were sent all the books, comics, score, everything from Publicity firms… shit… I bought that Talking Yoda toy – and next thing I know the little Green Bastard is trying to tell me the story of REVENGE OF THE SITH. It’s so hard to be pure on this – there’s just so much information out there. Everywhere.

The most shocking or surprising emotion I felt during this film experience is that… I don’t want Anakin to become Darth Vader. I just… Despite 27 years to the contrary, as I sat in that theater watching the last act of a good Jedi that turned evil… I just found myself wanting to scream at him to stop. I wanted desperately to send him on that mission with Obi Wan. I wanted Mace Windu to put his hand on Anakin’s shoulder and say, “Come on Kid, Let’s finish this!” and march off as brother Jedi to kill the fucking Emperor. I wanted Anakin to let go of his hate, fear, ambition, jealousy and self-centered egotism and just be the knight in shining armor… FOR THE GOOD GUYS! You can tell… Anakin so wants to do what is right. He even does the right things, it’s just everyone around him doesn’t treat him as an equal… save for Palpatine. That when push comes to shove, the only fucking rat bastard in the galaxy that is going to call him son, tell him ‘fairy tales’ and really listen to his problems enough to find out what is REALLY troubling him is the bad guy! Why? Because the whole damn galaxy is at war, because to everyone else, Anakin’s existential crisis doesn’t amount to a hill of beans, they’ve got bigger fish to fry.

They’ve got to Protect Wookies and the mushroom people and Hellraiser’s home planet and kill lots of robots and General Grievous and police the fucking universe… and… and… well, their damn domestic policy sucks!

The Bad Guy has his priorities right. He’s controlling the robots, the clones and to a large extent the Jedi… yet still manages to multi-task enough to listen to Anakin and help him deal with his premonitions of personal tragedy. He'll take the time, to ignore an amazing science fiction zero G Esther Williams numberEDITOR'S NOTE: GIGGLE, to tell young Skywalker a SITH LEGEND. A story, an anecdote. And he tells it, like a father would to a son. And the story is directly related to the problem Anakin is facing, it gives him hope, direction and the first glimmer of a happy ending to his concern. He doesn’t tell Anakin bullshit like… learn to not give a shit, detachment is the key to inner peace… What sort of bullshit is that? Ignore your problems, betray those you love, watch everyone you care about die – and just be happy cuz they’re food for the force, which you manipulate… and everyone’s death will just make you more powerful. WHAT SORT OF FUCKING JEDI WISDOM IS THAT SHIT YODA??? THAT'S NOT REALLY HELPFUL YOU NEGATIVE GREEN TURD! My god. The Jedi really are a bunch of goody two shoe clueless fucks. They’re so concerned with fixing the galaxy’s problems that they don’t have time for their own… and due to their unrealistic and inhumane rules about not loving or caring about anything other than the almighty “force” they created an air of fear for Skywalker.

How could he level with them? How could he share with them? By the time Obi Wan finds out Anakin and Padme have kids on the way… it’s too late. That ship has sailed. Everyone is so busy being good little soldiers, that they just are not communicating. Obi Wan never takes Anakin out for drinks and just levels with him. Sits him down and explains fascist totalitarianism. He doesn’t explain why sacrificing the most marginal freedoms to create a false sense of security enables those taking on those additional powers to create a greater evil than that which they fear. Hell, nobody really explains to Anakin why Democracy is better than Absolute Rule. Instead it is all this, “Search your feelings” bullshit. Turn to your ancient religion.

This is why ultimately Luke Skywalker kicks ass. Because he doesn’t have all this dogmatic bullshit. Because he’s got a buddy like Han Solo that’d be willing to bust ass across the galaxy to save his ass. Somebody that has his back. FRIENDS! Because when the Sith hits the fan, it’s the love of your friends that’ll help you push through and kick ass. Because Luke believes in twin sunsets, the good guys and saving his dad.

What does Anakin have? Who cares about Anakin? Well Obi Wan, but he doesn’t know how to show it. Yoda? He’s too busy being disturbed about the cosmic meaning of shit to even form a no bullshit non fortune cookie sentence. Mace Windu? He’s got his head so far up his ass it ain’t funny. Padme? She’s more concerned with her hair, her image, everybody’s standing and well being. EDITOR'S NOTE: NOT FAIR TO PADME. (I AGREE WITH THE OTHERS). ANAKIN DOESN'T LEVEL WELL WITH HER, SO SHE'S NOT ADVISING HIM BASED ON ALL CARDS ON THE TABLE.

And then Anakin himself? He’s told he’s the chosen one, the key that will make the galaxy unified. Yet, the only one empowering him to do that is the fucking Emperor.

I love how together Palpatine is. He’s just one of the greatest bad guys in the history of bad guys. He absolutely must be Karl Rove’s hero.

Look at this. Palpatine has engineered so many things. The creation of the Droid armies, the creation of the Clone armies, his various Sith apprentices, Fall guys for Fall guys… all with the direct purpose of spreading his enemy so thin, that no matter their powers, when he calls ORDER 66… they’ll never see it coming. It’s like inviting your friends over for an all night session of game play and spreading cyanide on the fucking pizza. They’re all gonna eat it, cuz… dude… it’s what you do when you play games.

The Jedi are fighting their war, doing Jedi shit. Kill the droids, tons of them. This shit is fun for them. They eat it up. This is their Frosted Flakes with Bananas. They finally got their Holy Crusade, woo hoo, a sense of purpose. They never think twice about all them fucking Boba Fetts watching their backs. It’s so beautifully laid out. It’s fucking immaculate. This is literally how you rule the universe. It is to be admired. And learnt from. Cuz as Padme says, “This is how Democracy ends, with Thunderous Applause.”


Distractions, a clear and concise innocent front and cutthroat evil behind the scenes.

REVENGE OF THE SITH is a masterpiece. The final piece of the puzzle Lucas first presented me at age 6. 27 years later, the Jigsaw is complete and damn if it isn't just damn near the most tragically cool thing I’ve ever seen put to film. We won’t see another like this. This is it. We’ll see enormous sci-fantasy told, with more focus and even grander visions in our lifetime… but we’ll never care as much about a story like this one. For our generation, Star Wars is our mythology. The big story we lived to see told the first time. For those of you that were kids in lines in 1977 through to the coming weeks… I have to say, it has been an absolute fucking honor to do this with y’all. We all know where we each were at the opening of all these films.

This is your last story.

I’ll never see a new Star Wars movie with my father again. I’ll see many more movies – but this is the last Star Wars, I’ll ever see for the first time with my dad. I’ve seen all 6 with him. All on either the first day – or before. It’s the mythology he’s grown old with and helped me grow up with. This one counts, this one is beautiful. This is the last one. I can’t possibly express how profoundly odd that is to type. How weird it makes me feel.

I went out after the film – I went to find a toy to sit on my desk to look at while I typed this. I went through aisle after aisle of Star Wars stuff, and I couldn’t pick something out. I think the one I most thought was cool – was this Lego play set of Anakin and Obi Wan on Mustafa. EDITOR'S NOTE: MUSTAFAR, I BELIEVE? You pressed down the Lego character’s head and the light sabers lit up. Gosh that’s cool. I’ll probably buy it for my nephew… Instead I came home, played the score to REVENGE OF THE SITH and wrote this.

Remember – this isn’t a Star Wars movie to cheer for, to erupt into applause and call cool. If you really love STAR WARS – this one is heartache. Not only is it the end of a nearly 30 year journey for us… It really is the story of how things got so bad, that the good guys had to be a rebellion, where the Jedi had to hide and how evil ruled the galaxy. Wow, I’ve seen my last new Star Wars film. FuckEDITOR'S NOTE: NAUGHTY VERBIAGE ASIDE (SOMEONE BUY THIS GUY A THESAURUS), THAT IS EXACTLY HOW I FEEL. ABOUT THE MOVIE AND ABOUT THE EXPERIENCE OF THE MOVIE.



Josh's Revenge of the Sith Review

(SPOILER WARNING: review contains many spoilers)

I'm not sure if the tear I shed was because this is the last Star Wars movie, or if it was really that good.

And to be honest, I don't really care either way.

For the longest time, people have felt the story of Star Wars was about Luke Skywalker - until now. This is Anakin’s story, hands down.

Episode I set up the innocence of a little boy filled with the Force. The story must start there, despite many wanting it to begin further down the road. Innocence is celebrated in this first film, then tested and tried in the second prequel, Attack of the Clones.

Episode III: Revenge of the Sith is the culmination of that loss of innocence with the complete giving in to the Dark Side. Anakin’s downfall is absolute and he will become Darth Vader.It is certainly a tall order for the final movie in Star Wars history.

The Phantom Menace introduced the dominoes, Attack of the Clones set them up, and now Revenge of the Sith comes in to knock them all down, break them in half and light them on fire. EDITOR'S NOTE: AN EXCELLENT ANALOGY!

Earlier today two of my good friends and I got the chance to attend the press screening of Revenge of the Sith at Mann Village here in Los Angeles, California. Several celebrities were there and plenty of people to nearly fill the 1000+ seats in the digital theater.It is perhaps paced awkwardly in places and has the now infamous cheesy lines now and again, but this is clearly the part of the story Lucas was most anxious to share.

Unmistakably this is the meat of the back-story we now get to see it in all of its glory.

It is made more powerful by the set up of the earlier films, for many they will find redemption here.

Why You’ll Love This Film

I’ve got a whole checklist of all that has to happen in this film – so this truly is an action movie.

Deception, lies and lightsabers fill this story up to the top. Aside from a weak second act, this film delivers non-stop action that will delight fans.The opening battle was fantastic; visually this film is near perfect.

From the opening sequence to the very end, there is precious little that may look off. In fact, with all of the new worlds, characters and vehicles I think it is safe to say ILM has gone next level. This does have a visual effects nomination … and win, written all over it.The lightsaber battles are second to none, and there are plenty of them to go around. Obi-Wan vs. Grievous was great, even if the droid general did lose his extra hands a bit fast. The Duel is amazing, plenty of action with between former friends and interaction with the environment as well.

You’ll finally get to see the Emperor take out Jedi, feign his own weakness to lure Anakin in to help and then fully unleash hell on Yoda.

I love.Ian McDiarmid in this film is incredible. I felt his character was a bit too happy and eager in the opening moments, but it is corrected quickly and he goes the other way especially fast. I have nothing but pure joy over his addition to the saga. He nearly steals the show from Anakin and does an amazing job. Once you get to the Opera scene, prepare yourself to be blown away.

Other notable standouts are from Ewan McGregor - especially in the last half of the film. He truly believes the ways of the Jedi are the right path, and is willing to even take out his apprentice who has betrayed them.

After the romantic scenes I began to really dig Hayden Christensen, too. He delivers some powerful emotions later in the film that bring added depth to the character. When he opens the door to the Youngling’s room and they ask for help, you will be moved.

The Clone Wars montage was awesome; it was so great to see some other worlds to show the epic campaign and galactic conquest. All of the visuals here were great, and it is for certain that the Jedi are all alone at this point.The sound was good but felt a bit too familiar with the exception of the wheel bike and Boga sequence.

Quite a risk they took having Obi-Wan ride a lizard after the other mounted sequences in the prequels, but this one is picture perfect. And the cries from that other worldly creature fit flawlessly.

I wish that the new Jedi starfighters had more of a Tie fighter sound and that the aliens had voices that had to be translated or subtitled, but it works. Just timid and safe, I think.

The featured score isn’t nearly as memorable as even Across the Stars. I’m glad Duel of the Fates makes a reprise and there are some great ambient tracks at key moments that add to the tension.

And let’s not forget about one lengthy scene that has no music at all – very nice.

Listen for it and see if you agree.

And it's always great to hear elements from the early John Williams' work as well.

Some other favorite moments? I think Obi-Wan standing at the top of the spaceship ramp on Mustafar is commanding. I love Anakin closing the doors on the Separatists then killing them off one by one. Tarkin quickly shuffling off-screen to make way for Vader to survey the Death Star. The dozens of new clonetrooper designs and vehicles. Palpatine’s face … Anakin bursting into flames.The end of the movie was satisfying, wrapping up many lose ends and bridging the prequel-classic divide nicely. I love Vader crushing stuff and the twins being handed over to their respective surrogates. I do wish Yoda landing on Dagobah was included on the digital print, and the pan to sunset closing shot should have been sans-Lars.

Stuff You May Not Love As Much

Natalie Portman isn’t brilliant in this film. She just can’t seem to pull off her character. I have to say though her funeral scene is done perfectly, and the Jappor snippet actually got to me.

C-3PO is basically non-existent, he even gives a “helpless” line and that’s exactly how I felt about his character. Where is Jar Jar? You see him maybe twice, and except for background noise he doesn’t even have a single line.

The Kashyyyk battle is way too short. If you saw all of the trailers and the Episode III footage that Rick McCallum showed at the Celebration then unfortunately you’ve seen much of it. It was so stunning; too bad we didn’t see more of it. And the Jedi swinging on wires with lightsabers? It is a 2 second clip.

The voice acting of the Nemoidians and other aliens is again terribly weak, with the exception of Tion Meddon. Of course, he is relegated to a cameo as well, albeit a cool one. Another oddity was that droids talk so much in the opening few minutes of the movie. And there were just a couple of moments I was disconcerted by the effects work. The clonetroopers without helmets never did look quite right, and in one shot baby Luke in Obi-Wan’s arms looked like it was rotoscoped awkwardly.

A few other interesting moments - the suited Vader says “Padme,” the droid memory wipe felt like an afterthought and the whole Qui-Gon holds the key to the Force felt very forced.

Anakin choking Padme should have been more over the top and did she really die of a broken heart? Ugh.

Anakin’s final move in The Duel makes no sense to me either.

Still though, minor squabbles when looked at as a whole.


This is a great Star Wars film – the best of the prequels without question. In many fans minds this will fall under Empire and A New Hope, and I think that is a fair analysis. A powerful movie that you’ll not want to miss, weakened by one vulnerable act and a few nitpicky problems. I saw it once today, and I’m already anxious to see it again.

You will be, too.May the Force be with you.

Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith Reviewed by: Scott Chitwood

Rating: 8 out of 10Movie
Summary:Revenge of the Sith is probably the best of the prequels. With strong performances by Ian McDiarmid, Ewan McGregor, and Yoda, it delivers much of the action and darkness that fans have been looking for. The final connection with the Classic Trilogy ultimately makes it a satisfying conclusion to the Saga.

Story:Please note that this review contains spoilers here and there. You've been warned!Revenge of the Sith is the third Star Wars prequel. It is set 3 years after Attack of the Clones and 19 years before A New Hope.War! The Republic is crumbling under attacks by the ruthless Sith Lord, Count Dooku. There are heroes on both sides. Evil is everywhere. In a stunning move, the fiendish droid leader, General Grievous, has swept into the Republic capital and kidnapped Chancellor Palpatine, leader of the Galactic Senate. As the Separatist Droid Army attempts to flee the besieged capital with their valuable hostage, two Jedi Knights lead a desperate mission to rescue the captive Chancellor...

Amid a vicious space battle around Coruscant, Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi board the cornered Separatist command ship in order to save their leader. There, Anakin and Obi-Wan have their final duel with Count Dooku. Unfortunately Anakin taps into the Dark Side to defeat his enemy. It ends up being his first major step in becoming Darth Vader.

After successfully saving Palpatine, Anakin returns home after 5 months of battle in the Outer Rim to find Padme pregnant. However, the joyous occasion is marred by Anakin's vision of Padme dying in childbirth. Desperate to save her, Anakin looks everywhere for a way to prevent his vision from coming true. It is then that Palpatine reveals himself to be the Dark Lord of the Sith and offers Anakin a way to save Padme. Will Anakin remain loyal to the Jedi and the Republic or will he forsake his training and Obi-Wan in order to save his wife and child?

Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith is rated PG-13 for sci-fi violence and some intense images.

What Worked:I should start out by saying that I'm a little biased when it comes to Star Wars. I'm a lifelong fan of the movies and I helped start TheForce.Net, so take my opinion of the movie with that in mind. I should also say that this review is unique in that I'm reviewing it with two different hats. I'll be giving my opinion as a card-carrying member of the Star Wars Fan Club and also as a parent with a young child begging to see this extremely intense film. I'll also say that I spoiled myself silly by following spoilers since Episode II and reading the novelization.

With that out of the way, let's dive into the film itself.Revenge of the Sith is probably the best of the three prequels. It takes everything that was good about Attack of the Clones and reduces everything that was bad about it. You have cool battles, Yoda in a lot of action, more cool bad guys, and no Jar Jar (well, at least no Jar Jar dialogue).

That being said, you also still have some bad dialogue, slow scenes between the action sequences, and cheesy romantic moments. Fortunately none of these weak points drags the film down like they did in Attack of the Clones. With everything said and done, I think my favorite Star Wars films from best to worst are The Empire Strikes Back, A New Hope, Revenge of the Sith, Return of the Jedi, Attack of the Clones, and The Phantom Menace. (But ask me again in a year and my ranking will most likely change.)

The acting this time around seems to be better for a prequel. Ian McDiarmid really steals the show as Palpatine. The way he manipulates Anakin's feelings is superbly done. His physical transformation from the Chancellor to the Emperor is stunning. From his look to his voice, it is quite impressive. When he finally looks like the Emperor from Return of the Jedi, it is very disturbing. McDiarmid also delivers a number of the lines with just the right amount of feeling to really irk you.

For example, after Anakin kills Dooku, he congradulates Anakin and casually says, "Kill him" with just the right amount of cheerfulness to make you do a double take.

Also stealing the show again is Yoda. Every scene he is in is great. His final battle with Darth Sidious ends up being the real impressive moment and almost upstages the final battle between Anakin and Obi-Wan in which it is intercut with.

This is also probably the best Obi-Wan performance by Ewan McGregor. He shows so much more emotion this time around that you can't help but notice the difference. McGregor plays him with a lot of humor early on, then with a lot of anger and regret towards the end.

Natalie Portman is also pretty good as Padmé. In the first half of the film her performance is not that great because she's stuck only doing romantic dialogue with Anakin. However, as the film gets darker and darker, she's able to do a little bit more...namely crying. And she does it well.

The same pretty much goes for Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker. He's in top form when he's in action, brooding for the camera, or raging. In Revenge of the Sith there's a lot of that as you would expect.

I should also note that Jimmy Smits gets a lot more to do as Senator Bail Organa this time around. He's kind of the Wedge Antilles on Revenge of the Sith in that he's a secondary character that plays a key heroic role in the events while staying out of the spotlight.

The editing in the film is particularly noteworthy towards the end. As Padme takes her dying breaths, it is intercut with Vader taking his first infamous breath. In fact, as the Darth Vader mask first appeared on screen at the end, it was the first time I really felt the prequels connect with the classic trilogy. (On a side note, we get to see inside of Vader's helmet and we see what he sees from the inside.)

Subsequent scenes where Luke and Leia appear as infants also help really connect the stories and were really emotional for me. Over 25 years of story all finally came together.

Unfortunately, there's no real standout action scene in this movie like there were in the previous prequels. TPM had the final battle with Darth Maul which was a showstopper. AOTC had Yoda and Count Dooku battling it out. ROTS didn't really have one moment that stood out better than the other. None of them were jaw-droppers, but none of them were bad either.

The movie opens with a good space battle. The opening scene is this great shot following the Jedi Starfighters as they weave in an out of the battle over Coruscant. It's technically amazing and beautifully orchestrated, but it certainly doesn't take away the crown of Best Space Battle from Return of the Jedi. The lightsaber battles between Anakin and Count Dooku and Palpatine and Sidious were all pretty good, but not stunning. In my opinion the battle between Obi-Wan and Grievous was better (though short). When Grievous pops out his four lightsabers and starts to battle, it is quite stunning. The ensuing chase between Grievous' wheel bike and the Boga ended up being very cool.

Of the ROTS action scenes, I had a few favorites. First up, I liked the Jedi Purge. You see the action go from planet to planet and the Jedi being mercilessly surprised and mowed down. The combination of action, effects, and cool worlds made it memorable.

As previously mentioned, the battle between Yoda and Sidious was spectacular. It's an epic battle filled with lightsabers, lightning, and Senate pods hurtled with the Force. I really enjoyed it.

Finally, there's the big duel between Obi-Wan and Anakin. It was very cool, but my expectations were pretty high. It felt a little anti-climactic up until the final shocking move. (Oddly, a number of people coming out of the theater didn't realize that Obi-Wan cut off Anakin's legs and remaining arm.)EDITOR'S NOTE: HOW COULD THEY NOT REALIZE THAT?

The effects are pretty much excellent across the board. In the previous prequels there were shots here and there where you could really say, "Man, that looks terrible". Nothing like that was noticeable to me in ROTS. All the ships, aliens, and worlds looked good to me.

I will say Temuera Morrison's head on to of CG clonetrooper bodies didn't always look natural, but it's forgivable.

I haven't been crazy about John Williams' work in this movie, but his score did stand out in a few key scenes. The opening space battle had some great war drums that instantly set the tone of the film. There is some great creepy music during the beginning of the Jedi Purge that shows things are really beginning their downward spiral for our heroes. Some eerie droning during the opera scene is also unsettling and is a great accompaniment to the revelations about the Sith.

There are a few Easter Eggs here and there in the movie. Look for a cameo by a blue faced George Lucas during the opera scene. You can also see his son, Jett Lucas, mowed down by clonetroopers during the Jedi Purge. The Millennium Falcon is also very visible as Anakin, Obi-Wan, and Palpatine return from the crash site. Look for cameos by the mouse droids, too. Also listen for mention of Expanded Universe character Quinlan Vos among some of Obi-Wan's dialogue.EDITOR'S NOTE: REALLY?

I mentioned at the beginning that I spoiled myself silly before seeing this movie. I don't think it hurt me at all while viewing the film. In fact, I think I had an advantage over other audience members because I found myself better able to understand some of the more confusing moments of the film. I also had a little more background on the characters and situations which helped considerably. And even knowing the entire plot, there were still a couple of surprises for me. The whole opening scene with Obi-Wan, R2, and Anakin on Greivous' ship is different than either the novels or comics depict. EDITOR'S NOTE: I WILL ENJOY SEEING IT A SECOND, THIRD, ETC TIME WITH FORE-KNOWLEDGE. TO PICK UP NUANCES AND OTHER ASPECTS. AND AS I AM READING THE BOOK, I CAN HAVE ALL THE BACKGROUND INFO AND INTERNAL DIALOGUES THEN.


Now taking off my fan hat and putting on my parent hat, I have to mention the PG-13 material in the film. To be quite honest, I expected it to be a lot more intense than it ended up being. I think if you let your child watch Attack of the Clones and LOTR: Return of the King, then there's nothing in this movie that's more intense than in those. Anakin is shown preparing to kill Jedi children in the Temple, but the scene is switched away quickly like it was in Attack of the Clones before he killed the Sand People women and children. You see heads and arms lopped off at other moments in the film, but the camera doesn't linger on it any more than it did in Attack of the Clones. Padme is shown being Force choked, but it is rather quick and almost glossed over. (Anakin and Obi-Wan have a conversation over her body before starting their battle.) The most intense thing in the movie is Anakin literally getting set on fire and burning alive. This probably clinched the PG-13 rating. His hair is burned away and his skin is cooked. It goes by quickly, but you're going to have to judge for yourself if your kid can handle it. Padme also does a lot of screaming and crying while delivering the twins and that could upset kids.

Oddly, I also think a scene where Palpatine gets his wrinkled, evil face is quite disturbing and could give small kids nightmares.

In the end, I recommend screening it first without your kids, then deciding based on that if they can handle it. Personally, I think I'm going to take my young kids now and take them out of the theater during the parts that could potentially scare them. It wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be.Overall, I think George Lucas has learned from his previous mistakes on the other films. While this is by no means a perfect movie, I think it will please fans.

What Didn't Work:Revenge of the Sith does have its problems. First and foremost, it's a little hard to buy Anakin's turn to the Dark Side. He does so very abruptly. He goes from being a loyal Jedi to mowing down Jedi children within a few hours.

Admittedly Lucas had to turn him within the short running time of the film, but it didn't seem like a natural progression in the movie. It needed more time to develop.

I was also disappointed with Padme's final fate. Lucas tries to get across that she dies of a broken heart rather than by being choked by Darth Vader, but it's hard to buy. No matter how you cut it, Anakin kills his wife. Yet despite proof that he murdered children, destroyed the Jedi Temple, and choked her, Padme still insists there's good within him. Really? Where? It's certainly not apparent in the movie.EDITOR'S NOTE: OF COURSE THERE'S STILL GOOD IN HIM. THAT'S PARTLY WHY HIS FALL SEEMS SO ABRUPT AND CONFUSING. BECAUSE HE HAS STRADDLED THAT FENCE HIS WHOLE LIFE. BY THE TIME HE GETS TO EP4 HE HAS SWALLOWED MOST OF HIS HUMANITY, BUT AT THIS POINT, AT THE END OF 3, THERE IS NO REASON TO THINK THAT HE ISN'T STILL A BARREL OF CONTRADICTIONS. THAT'S A LARGE PART OF THE TRAGEDY.

There were also a few moments where I cringed at the pure cheese.

For example, Chewbacca reprises his "Tarzan yell" from Return of the Jedi. I didn't think that was such a high point that it needed to be relived. Also, when Darth Vader breaks free from the operating table, he does so in a clumsy manner like Frankenstein. It was terribly awkward. The ensuing, "Noooooo!" by James Earl Jones is also a surprisingly weak.

Also noteworthy is the fact that the Kashyyyk battle is extremely short. The whole battle is on the screen less than a couple of minutes.


I also felt that Yoda gave up battling Sidious way too easily. It would have been more logical to have seen him stay on Coruscant and wage a guerilla war against Palpatine. Oh well.

The movie also leaves a lot of questions unanswered. Why does Leia remember her mother? (I'm sure it's something to do with the Force, but this is never mentioned.) Yoda also casually mentions that the ghost of Qui-Gon is still around and will train Obi-Wan how to be a ghost, too. Really? When did he learn this? EDITOR'S NOTE: DUH. WHAT KIND OF DWEEB ARE YOU SCOTT? WHEN QUI GON YELLS "ANAKIN, NO!" AS ANAKIN IS KILLING THE SAND PEOPLE IN AOTC. YODA IS MEDITATING, AND WE SEE YODA AND HEAR QUI GON. IT IS CLEARLY LIAM NEEESON'S VOICE.It's almost a passing mention in the movie, yet it is fairly significant.

Grievous is also shown coughing a lot, but it is never explained why. (You have to watch the Clone Wars Cartoon Volume II to see that.)

The Bottom Line:Revenge of the Sith is probably one of the best of the prequels and it should satisfy fans who were unhappy with the first two.

Brian's Episode III

Brian from the TFN Staff got a change to see Episode III and sends in this SPOILER-FILLED review. At the end of the article he'll also review the entire saga and tell you where he feels Revenge fits in:

Critiquing anything is a subjective endeavor, dependant on one’s personal experiences. So before I give you my opinion I feel the need to qualify it for you. I saw the first Star Wars when I was three years old. It started a life long passion in film, which lead me to earn a degree in film production and pursue a career in the entertainment industry.

Needless to say Star Wars is important to me. However, given my education I now look at the series from both a nostalgic perspective and a critical one. I’ve included mini-reviews of the previous five Star Wars films at the end of the review to illustrate how I think Episode III measures up.


Let’s not waste time; this is by far the best film of prequel trilogy! I enjoyed only the original Star Wars and Empire Strikes Back more than Revenge of The Sith.

The movie is a truly an overwhelming experience packed full of almost every critical moment that fans have been clamoring to see since Darth Vader’s true identity was revealed in Empire.

Having said that, Episode III suffers from many of the same problems of the previous films, an over reliance on computer generated effects, a weak romantic plot line, and a few wooden performances. However, none of it overly distracted from my enjoyment of the film.

The narrative thrust of the saga is behind this installment, these are events you want to see play out and I challenge any fan of the saga not to get a chill as the story threads come together. Regardless of what you think of this film watching it is a truly sad experience. The decades of anticipation is over, this is it the last Star Wars film. I recommend re-watching Episodes I and II before going to see this film. Personally, I can’t wait to now re-watch IV, V, and VI with this new context. I can think of scenes in all three films that will now have new meaning. Of course, it’ll also be a bit strange to watch Vader and Obi-Wan fight in a confined hallway as old men and half droids after seeing them leap all over the place in this film.


BTW, I recommend you don’t read what follows until after you see the film. Form your own judgments and than read what follows to see if you agree with me.


Where to begin? The opening battle is beyond words! The opening shot, a long tracking shot following Obi-Wan and Anakin’s fighters through a space battle, will take your breath away in its scope and length of time on screen. Hayden Christensen and Ewan McGregor give magnificent performances in these scenes, really punctuating the bond between these two characters. This is old school Star Wars with great action and fun banter.

What is stunning in this film is the amount of things going on in the story. Lucas has done an excellent job in crafting Anakin’s fall. You really feel the pressures mount on him as he is forced into a position of power and than pulled in multiple directions as those he trusts most pull him apart. It might just be my long connection to the saga, but I found myself cheering for Anakin and hoping that what I knew was going to happen didn’t.

I don’t want to give a negative connotation to the overall story, because I thought it was great, however, the last fifteen minutes or so do feel like Lucas had a check list of required scenes sitting next to his trade mark yellow notepad as he was writing the script, checking off required connecting points one by one, still for the most part it all works.

While not bad enough to be included with the bad, I do think fans will be disappointed with the appearance of the Wookies. We never get a chance to see them really cut loose. Their primary role is to give Yoda a place to go when all hell breaks loose back in the Senate.

The same is also true of Obi-Wan’s quest to take down General Grevious. For obvious reasons they can’t be around to advise Anakin as Sidious’ plan come to fruition.

Of course, what you really want to know is how is the final lightsaber fight? I’d say 80% fantastic. The choreography is amazingly fast. What really adds to the scene is the strength of what sets it off; Obi-Wan and Anakin’s ideological conversation before igniting their blades works surprisingly well.

Finally, a thought on the music, the score is largely derivative of the other films, as it needs to be. Over the course of the film the themes of the prequels, like Duel of Fates slowly give way to familiar pieces like Leia’s theme. The music is a necessary link connecting the stories. Those anticipating a fresh batch of bombastic themes will be disappointed. The new music for the film is understandingly somber, underscoring the tragedy which is unfolding.


I bet you’re wonder about the other 20% of the end lightsaber fight. Well this where Lucas’ over reliance on CGI becomes an issue. Cartoony shots of Anakin and Obi-Wan dueling on bits of junk floating in a stream of lava threaten to wreck the tone of the events taking place. This will bother some more than others.

What was truly disappointing is the performance of Natalie Portman. I think she’s a marvelous actor, if you have any doubt see Closer, she’s stealer! However, aside from one good scene in the senate, Lucas gives her little to do in this film but watch events transpire from her apartment. She basically only gets to react to people telling her second hand what is going on in the plot. This weakens a once strong character. The problem culminates with her death. She dies for no reason other than the fact that she can’t emotionally bear Anakin’s betrayal and gives up after birthing Luke and Leia. It struck me as extremely out of character for this former Queen to simply let go and abandon her children to an evil Empire. Obviously, she needed to die for this film to connect with Episode IV and as a writer Lucas seemed unwilling to go for the truly dark choice, which would have seen Anakin actually kill her rather than momentarily strangling her. I place the blame for her performance on how Lucas wrote and directed the character.

There are also a couple of overall plot issues raised that aren’t fleshed out enough. Like why hide Luke with his family on Tatooine with the name Skywalker? I mean I’ve heard of hide in plain sight but come on! Those wanting to know why Leia remembers her mother in Return of The Jedi while Luke doesn’t will still be wondering. It seems clear that the memory she is referring to is actually of Bail Organa’s wife not Padme, which I think will confuse general audience members.

Lucas has long hinted that there is more to the fact that Obi-Wan and Yoda’s bodies disappear after they die and that they are able to communicate through the force after their death. Well, Yoda begins to have this conversation with Obi-Wan, saying that he has been in communication with Qui-Gon, however, there is no elaboration on the topic. Unfortunately, this leaves us with only half an answer to the issue. I hope they expand this scene in the novelization, I’m going to start it shortly.


There is really isn’t a lot of ugly. Again my problems rest with the computer effects. What particularly comes to mind are the unmasked Clone Troopers, their bodies are CG with actor Terimo Morison imposed on top. 90% of the time it looks awful and I really found it distracting.Also, bad is CGI baby Luke and Leia and Vader screaming, “No!”



As I said at the start, critiquing anything is subjective, to help you personally gauge if my opinions about Episode III are relevant to you, here’s how I rank the other films. You never know, you may want to disregard my Episode III review if you disagree with how I view the other films. As critical as I’m about to get, remember I am a fan. I enjoy these film immensely, flaws and all.

From strongest to weakest…“Episode 4: A New Hope” This film and “Empire” are my favorites, I can never pick one. While the dialog can be cheesy, the actors deliver it just right. The characters are engaging. The pace of the film is perfect; a touch slow by today’s standards, but that gives it the feel of an epic in the vein of a David Lean or Akira Kurowswa film. The tone of the movie, at least the pre-special edition cut, is great. While we are in a fictional universe the characters, their problems, and their emotions feel real and relevant. Lucas’ experience as a documentary filmmaker helps enormously; it’s often as if these events are playing out for real and a documentary crew just happened to capture them. Never more beautifully illustrated than in the end space battle.“Episode 5: The Empire Strikes Back” Darker than its predecessor, “Empire” moves at a faster pace and the characters all resonate with greater depth. Lawrence Ksadan’s screenplay and Irvin Kershner’s direction are flawless. What stands out about the film is it hints at the larger Star Wars universe without giving away many of the details. Yoda is truly a magical creation. Luke’s first confrontation with Vader is better than anyone could have hoped for after watching the first film. The scope of the ice battle and the asteroid sequence is still breath taking and the Han and Leia romance is handled beautifully.“Episode 3: Revenge of The Sith” See the above review“Episode 2: Attack of The Clones” A flawed film to be sure but what works, works well. Obi-Wan’s storyline and confrontation with Jango Fett, the battle sequence and the end are highlights of the whole saga. Alas, the love story between Anakin and Padme is written and directed so poorly it’s embarrassing. I’m not a Lucas basher. I’m a great admirer of his work on Star Wars, American Graffiti and THX-1138 but he just missed the mark with this plot thread; otherwise, I think this film is fantastic.“Episode 6: Return of The Jedi” I almost placed this ahead of “Clones” purely based on the nostalgic factor but honestly this is a weak film and it gets weaker every time I watch it. Director Richard Marquand was in way over his head. That’s not to say the film doesn’t have some stand out moments; the Sarlac battle, the end space battle, and Luke’s confrontation with Vader are all terrific. However, the fact that it takes 20 minutes for a real person to appear on screen is a strange choice for the last film in the series. Also, the narrative degenerates too often into long exposition scenes like the Dagobah sequence or Luke and Leia in the Ewok village. Kasdan’s dialog and the overall charm of characters go along way in rescuing the film from being a disaster. Also, while the space battle is cool, the concept of a second Death Star is too repetitive to be interesting. I do feel that seeing Revenge of The Sith will strength this film. EDITOR'S NOTE: I HAPPEN TO LIKE ROTJ A LOT. BUT I AGREE THAT SEEING IT AGAIN SOON, AFTER SEEING ROTS, IS GOING TO BOOST ROTJ, WHEREVER YOU PLACE IT IN THE RANKINGS. Still, its unfortunate the series had to end this way. “Episode I: The Phantom Menace” Similarly, its unfortunate the series had to start this way. Like all the films, what works, works! The lightsaber fight at the end especially! I’ve also always liked the goodbye scene between Anakin and his mom. However, the flaws far outweigh the strengths. The film has a strange cartoonish vibe not present in the rest of the series. There are obvious missed opportunities to develop Anakin’s connection to the force during the podrace and the end space battle. Also, valuable time is wasted setting up plot threads like midi-clorians and the prophecy of the chosen one. While they are interesting elements, the fact they are never referred to in Episodes IV-VI, make them seem highly irrelevant. For me these missteps have always far overshadowed minor problems like Jar Jar Binks.



In 1977 it was simply Star Wars. Barely 12 months later a revised opening crawl tantalized: Episode IV: A New Hope. Four?! Playground myth maintained that creator George Lucas had the entire epic saga sketched out on a yellow legal pad…Only last month, Lucas, now 61, told an audience of fans what has been increasingly obvious since 1999. The Phantom Menace contained just 20 percent of this original outline’s first three episodes, ditto Clones; the picnics and pod races, George confessed, were “padding.” Lucas may have numerically bound himself to three full prequels long ago but for fans the truly essential material amounted to one story, an origin story that still has a 60 percent remainder: Vader’s story.

In other words, Episode III is the chosen one.

Mercifully, Revenge Of The Sith is (deep sigh) light-years ahead of the turgid Menace and the undercooked Clones. Not only does the gym-toned action tick every box on the fanboy Xmas list - five lightsaber battles no less - and the long promised darkness truly earn its 12A certificate (dead Jedi younglings, indeed) but practically all of the most trenchant bitchings have been addressed: the digital flora and fauna has real weight and substance, any romance is rushed through and blinkin’ Binks doesn’t get a look in.

There’s even some acting worth writing home about. McDiarmid’s delicious hamming steals the show but both McGregor and the much-maligned Christensen finally look comfortable in their heavy Jedi garb, bantering like buddies before cursing like brothers when it all goes to hell.

Above all, there’s an easy confidence in the storytelling that was almost entirely absent in the earlier episodes.

Sith’s most unambiguous joy is watching Lucas and his design team retrofit their galaxy.

Often there seems to be no escape as the mismatched trilogies crunch together, but a deft aside or throwaway motif always gets us out of the compacter.

Perhaps more surprisingly, Lucas reveals his Palpatine-like masterplan just in time to claim contemporary relevance with Bush’s America.

And yet, best not get carried away. If you were somehow expecting Episode III to do more than dress in the clothes of Episode IV, your faith in the Force is sadly mistaken. Sith’s 60 percent of Anakin’s story is the meatiest section but it is told in largely the same manner as the first 40: clunky 1930s adventure serial meets stiff-backed Greek tragedy. If the sole credited screenwriter categorises dialogue as a “sound effect”, as Lucas does, you must expect his mythic heroes to occasionally sound like action figures operated by 10 year olds.

For long-time disbelievers Sith’s fair share of lines that go clank offer nothing more than an opportunity to dust down Harrison Ford’s “You can type this shit…” chestnut. For eternal apologists however, each critical moment that fails to convince is gonna sting. Because Sith is it folks, the Last Chance Saloon; this is where the myths get set in stone. Episode III is within touching distance of IV - if Lucas fucks up the birth of Vader, big black ‘ain’t ever going to be the same.It’s under this kind of unimaginable examination - perhaps the most severe scrutiny ever inflicted on a popcorn peddler - that Sith comes up agonisingly short. As it goes, Vader’s birth is a truly beautiful thing, but then he speaks… And, oh, never mind. Our advice is go, feast your eyeballs, try not to take it too seriously; Sith is hardly worth starting a religion over, but one last good movie does go some way to justifying the worldwide cult most of us grew up with. Hell, it might even help the worst-afflicted finally move on...

For fans who have kept the faith despite repeated knocks Sith offers a serious and lasting salve. If, however, you felt the Force fade a long time ago this is an elastoplast that won’t survive the week. Yet, unlike its truly divisive predecessors, future generations will not pass over the superior Episode III lightly: Star Wars really does begin here.FOUR OUT OF FIVE STARS.

Colin Kennedy Issue 192 May 2005 EMPIRE MAGAZINE


Behind Darth's mask
Neva Chonin
Sunday, May 15, 2005

Every epic tale of gods and monsters needs a good fire. Wagner ended his Ring Cycle in flames. "Lord of the Rings" led its hobbit heroes into the inferno of Mount Doom. "Apocalypse Now" ignited an entire jungle. Fire is an innately dramatic element: It signifies passion and greed and every human foible; both tainted and pure, it's as adept at cleansing heroes as it is consuming tragic anti-heroes.

In the case of "Star Wars: Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith," fire also burns bridges. When the final installment of George Lucas' space opera arrives in theaters Thursday, it closes a chapter that's spanned 28 years, two generations and countless evolutions in filmmaking. And it goes out, as magical things often do, in a blaze of flames and smoke.

(Caution: Spoilers ahead.)

Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader swan-dives from a state of grace into his own private Gotterdammerung. Luke and Leia Skywalker are born as just about everyone else dies. Jedi masters Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) go into exile to await the second trilogy, and a republic crumbles into totalitarianism while its citizens cheer.

From its gargantuan scale to its huge themes, "Revenge of the Sith" is the stuff of myth, and like most myths, it operates on multiple levels. The personal dovetails with the political, with Darth-to-be Anakin's fall both initiating and reflecting the collapse of the Republic and the rise of the Empire. His sparring with his future Sith master, Emperor Palpatine/Darth Sidious, works as a play-by-play document of power's corroding influence.

"This film is about individual freedom and how easily we can let it slip away if we're not careful," says Ian McDiarmid, whose alter-ego Palpatine plays Sith serpent in the Jedi Garden of Eden. "It just so happens to channel into the zeitgeist. I was amazed to see it the other morning and realize what a politically relevant movie it is. It has a strong moral center, and it says things we can't hear often enough at the moment. They're said indirectly and through implication, which is how art works."

Palpatine invites Anakin to a Faustian dance. Anakin curtsies. Doom ensues. Young Skywalker's metamorphosis into Darth Vader culminates with his humanity being literally and metaphorically destroyed in a sea of lava, with the fallen Jedi spitting defiance and fury even as he burns.

During an interview at Lucas' Skywalker Ranch in Marin, Christensen calls that pivotal scene "grueling, but afterward, when they call cut and you go in to have the prosthetics taken off, you feel fulfilled. It's amazing how emotionally involved you are in this film, watching the relationship between Anakin and Obi-Wan fall apart, watching them fight and then that end result. It's tragic. As Anakin makes that final transition into Darth Vader, it informs the original trilogy and changes the character. He becomes a much more pathetic figure." EDITOR'S NOTE: YEP.

Name-checking a Nine Inch Nails album, Christensen characterizes Anakin's journey as a "Downward Spiral," adding, "It was a joy and a privilege to be able to play him at that time in his life. He's very conflicted and confused and being pulled in different directions. Palpatine is picking up on some of his frustrations and his wants and needs, playing the puppeteer. Anakin devolves to an extent that I can't imagine most characters doing."

He admits being surprised at the emotions stirred up by donning Vader's iconic death mask. "I don't really know how to describe the way it made me feel," he says. "The putting on of the costume, layer by layer, piece by piece -- I got a strong sense of what it would be like to have something imposed on you. I definitely felt imprisoned in Darth Vader, which is appropriate because that's the way that Anakin felt, but I wasn't expecting it."

Conversely, McDiarmid spent most of the film wearing a symbolic mask -- the benign façade Palpatine/Sidious uses to achieve his political ends before finally revealing his true, Sithian face (it's no accident that "Sidious" rhymes with "hideous"). If Anakin views his ruined body as a prison, Palpatine sees his own grotesque physique as a liberation.

"George once said, when we were doing 'Phantom Menace,' 'You should think of your eyes as his contact lenses,' " says McDiarmid. "Theatrically, it's an interesting notion that the character you're playing is actually wearing a mask, and that mask is my human face." EDITOR'S NOTE: I THINK THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT. WHEN YOU'RE FIRST WATCHING THE FILM, YOU GET THE IDEA THAT THE USE OF FORCE LIGHTNING IS WHAT CAUSES PALPATINE/SIDIOUS TO GO UGLY. BUT IT WASN'T UNTIL READING AN INTERVIEW WITH MCDIARMID THAT I REALIZED HE IS JUST REVEALING HIS TRUE FACE AND TAKING OFF HIS MASK AT THAT POINT IN THE STORY. AS SOON AS ANAKIN FALLS, SIDIOUS HAS NO MORE NEED FOR PALPATINE.

Beauty versus ugliness, Jedi versus Sith. Myths and operas both deal in opposing archetypes, and the "Star Wars" universe has no room for moral relativism or ambiguity.

"I don't want to say 'Star Wars' isn't about subtlety, because I think there's a definite undercurrent of subtext in terms of politics and Anakin's seduction to the dark side," Christensen says. "But it is about explaining things in black and white, good and evil."

Despite that limiting moral architecture, the actors in "Revenge of the Sith" have been given more room for expression than in the two earlier prequels. It might be a black-and-white universe, but for the story to work, Anakin must be shown sliding through a gray zone on his way to darkness.

"Everyone was given a chance to act with each other in this movie," says McDiarmid, "and it's very much about Palpatine's direct contact with this impressionable and emotional young man. What was exciting was working with Hayden, eye to eye, so we could play the game my character was playing."

Lucas describes "Revenge of the Sith" as more "a character study" than a traditional narrative. "There's the basic 'this is who the people are, this is where they came from, here's some exposition on how the Republic got to be where it is,' but it's not an actual dramatic plot."

In many ways, "Star Wars" never followed narrative convention. The original trilogy, Lucas says during a roundtable interview at his compound, began in part as an experiment in myth-making. "I wondered if the psychological motifs that existed in mythology around the world were still valid, if the emotion connection is still the same. I think the experiment was extremely successful. I think emotionally we haven't changed very much in the last 3,000 years. Our deep-seated feelings and the need to know how things work in terms of our families and our place in society is exactly the same. That's why people relate to it."

Now that the six-part experiment is drawing to a close, most participants say they're looking forward to exploring their craft on a smaller scale. McGregor and Natalie Portman -- who plays Anakin's blighted lady love, Padme -- will sail on their starry way. McDiarmid, an award-winning British stage actor, will return to live theater. Christensen, who started his own production company five years ago when he was 19, is planning a film to be directed by "Star Wars" fight choreographer Nick Gillard.

"I've gotten a huge kick out of it," says Christensen of his "Star Wars" experience. "And now that I've had the opportunity of working in a film that has such a mass presence, I feel comfortable going off and doing smaller fare."

For his part, Lucas, the man alternately reviled and credited for pushing cinema into the special-effects age, plans to concentrate on making his "own little personal, artsy, nonlinear movies."

"It's great that I crossed the finish line," he says. "That's always the challenge when you do something that goes over 10 years -- you just hope that you'll be able to finish it and the world doesn't end. I'm happy that the puzzle is complete, and that people will now see it as a six-part story and not a bunch of individual movies. I'm looking forward to going on and doing other things with my life."

Lucas figures it's only a matter of time before another mythmaking auteur steps in to fill the pop-epic gap left by "Star Wars." EDITOR'S NOTE: BUT THIS ONE IS THE MYTH FOR MY GENERATION. NONE THAT COME AFTER WILL HAVE THE SAME IMPACT ON ME AND MINE.

"These things do come along from time to time, when somebody somehow captures the imagination of the culture."

But he'd also like to think that the universal themes explored in his saga will help it endure. "I would like to think of it as something that will last after I'm gone," he admits. "The psychological core of this has been tested for thousands of years, so I have a feeling it will sustain that."

Whether "Star Wars" lives on as a cultural artifact or burns out like a weary inferno, its circle, as Darth Vader would say, is now complete. This time next year, we'll have to find some other cinematic myth to obsess over. We will, of course. The finding is half the fun.


** (out of four) EDITOR'S NOTE: 2 OUR OF 4? EEK.


It's not quite as bad as Episode I or Episode II, which is to say that it's not uniquely bad, just run-of-the-mill bad. The dialogue, ghost-written by Tom Stoppard, isn't always unspeakable, and the performances of Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman aren't nearly as wooden as they were the last time around. (Well, Christensen's isn't, anyway.)

This lack of cheese presents its own set of problems, however, as Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith (hereafter Episode III) is a lot like watching paint dry, with the manic light shows coming off at best as some slack particulate hustle.

The picture's action sequences are chaotic, for sure, but just because everything is moving doesn't mean it's exciting, too. Though George Lucas may be a pretty good technician, he's still not a good director, and the pacing of Episode III is mortally, if predictably, off. Perhaps there's comfort in consistency.

For the unenlightened few, Anakin (Christensen), Jedi apprentice to Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor), is a powerful warrior/mystic saddled with a prophecy that says that he will restore balance to "The Force." Given that these films begin with the balance of power squarely on the "light" side, what with the sombre Jedi Council acting as the galaxy's peacekeepers, shouldn't someone somewhere along the way have wondered what benefit there could be to "balancing" such benevolence with an equal portion of malevolence? EDITOR'S NOTE: EVEN WHEN SNARK IS ANNOYING AND TOO CYNICAL BY HALF FOR ITS OWN GOOD, YOU HAVE TO ADMIRE IT WHEN IT ASKS A GOOD QUESTION.

Turns out that the way Anakin will fulfill his destiny is by slaughtering almost all of the Jedi Knights--which is to say that he kills a handful of them and the "clones" of the second film's title finish the job.

Along the way, Lucas continues to make his original trilogy of Star Wars films anachronistic by rendering lines like Ben's "Nobody's called me that since long before you were born" from A New Hope or Leia's gauzy, romantic memory of her mother in Return of the Jedi obsolete and destined for revision the next time Lucas decides to digitally mutate his babies.

What breaks my heart the most is that the one person in every conversation with the least respect for the legacy of this celluloid mythology appears to be Lucas himself: he's the one, after all, who doesn't seem to have been paying attention.

Thanks to the perfunctory ease with which many of the film's conflicts are resolved, Lucas' sixth foray into his galaxy far, far away feels like the universe's biggest anti-climax. The Jedis are remarkably easy to kill (grand fiend Count Dooku, likewise), and without anything like a human centre (or villain) in the picture, it's amazing how little it matters that the settings are indeed spectacular. With a trio we actually care about, a desert in Tunisia or an arctic glacier can become exotic locales fraught with peril and possibility, but here, millions of dollars worth of top-of-the-line CPUs working overtime to stretch the virtual landscape produce busy flatware for a flavourless stew.

Charges that the acting was equally bad in the original trilogy are as easy to dispel as popping A New Hope in for a spin: the humour was never forced with Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, and Carrie Fisher; the humour is never intentional for Christensen, Portman, and McGregor.

Though the conversations between Anakin and wife Padmé (Portman) no longer suggest high school composition class, the sentiments remain as trite and airless as a 19th century chamber drama. Just like, in fact, when you consider that once it's revealed to Padmé that Anakin has turned to the Dark Side, Padmé, despite the genocidal evidence of the second film, protests the impossibility that her lover is capable of such a thing before collapsing in a quasi-Victorian faint that leads, eventually, to her wilting death from a Bronte/Austen "woman's" ailment. Lucas' attitudes towards women are as antiquated as his attitudes towards minorities, the sad product of being sequestered away in his Skywalker Xanadu with fawning yes-men as his only reality filters. EDITOR'S NOTE: OUCH OUCH OUCH. I'M ALL FOR STRONG WOMEN'S ROLES, AND AM AMONG THE FIRST TO COMPLAIN WHEN WOMEN ARE SHORT-CHANGED IN FILMS. NOT SURE WHY PADME DYING OF A BROKEN HEART DOESN'T BOTHER ME. MAYBE BECAUSE IT SEEMS ALMOST AN ACT OF STRENGTH, MORE THAN WEAKNESS. A REFLECTION OF THE STRENGTH OF HER PASSIONS AND HER BEING GOVERNED SO COMPLETELY BY HER HEART. (WHERE HER DAUGHTER WILL HAVE TO LEARN TO GIVE HERSELF OVER TO THE WILL OF HER HEART).



The film includes another sequence in congress (C-Span: Episode III) where the evil senator Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) declares himself the emperor of the freshly-minted empire; another badly-disjointed narrative that sends characters hopping from planet to planet for God knows what reason; and several more extended, deadening conversations in which Palpatine and Anakin talk really slowly and quietly about absolutely nothing. EDITOR'S NOTE: IF YOU DON'T GET IT, YOU DON'T GET IT. BUT DON'T PRETEND IT'S THE FILM'S FAULT.

Sprinkled in there is finally a motivation that makes a little bit of sense in the promise that the Dark Side might allow Anakin to shield Padmé from pain. Frankenstein, in other words, rears its thematic head here and later when the newly-created Darth Vader jerks off his gurney to ask after Padmé (just like the world's baritonest little girl) before throwing his hands up to the heavens in melodrama's favourite "NOOOOOOOO" aspect.

In the picture's defense, besides there being only a couple of mute Jar Jar Binks sightings, Episode III is so remorselessly violent that it begins to resemble a zombie movie by the time Anakin's fate is decided. Yet the multiple beheadings and rampant de-limbings have a curiously antiseptic flavour--they're neither set up properly nor executed with any kind of weight. (Whoops, there goes me arm!)

Compare any one of the picture's maimings--especially the fate of Mace Windu (Samuel Jackson, badly miscast)--to the still-powerful, nightmarish lead up to Luke's disfiguration in The Empire Strikes Back and consider how far the franchise has fallen.

But what truly drives a stake into the heart of the thing is the hypocrisy and anger of the film.

Every single Jedi Knight, at the moment of their greatest crisis, betrays that which they most believe in by succumbing to rage and vengeance. Instead of bringing Palpatine to trial, Windu decides to go vigilante and collect the old guy's head, while Obi-Wan turns his back on Anakin as he endures unimaginable--and graphic--torment.

I grew up thinking it was noble and good to walk the "light" path, and I wonder what this new generation Lucas is targeting will grow up to believe. First Lucas turns The Force into a blood condition (though he's thankfully abandoned the "virgin birth" idea from Episode IEDITOR'S NOTE: HAS HE? IF THIS GUY HAD BEEN PAYING ATTENTION DURING THE CONVERSATION AT THE OPERA, HE MIGHT HAVE HEARD PALPATINE ALLUDE TO THAT PREVIOUS SITH LORD'S ABILITY TO NOT ONLY STAVE OFF DEATH, BUT ALSO TO INFLUENCE THE MIDI-CHLORIANS TO CREATE LIFE.), now he turns the Jedis into dishonourable thugs with loose philosophies, thereby softening Anakin's descent into "evil."

The only joy left in the film is a brief (and useless, and puzzling: "Miss you, I will, Chewbacca," says Yoda--what are they, lovers?) cameo from Chewbacca and the births of Luke and Leia, a scene unfortunately made silly by Portman and one of the more unfortunate robot lines in the sextology.

But in the end, I don't know if it's the product of being forcefully disillusioned for two films or that Lucas is simply that poor a director, but save a couple of bridging moments old-school fans such as myself can't help but get all a-tingle over, the only gestures Lucas seems to elicit anymore are deep sighs and weary shrugs.

The magic died a long time ago, see, and Episode III is just the death twitch.-Walter Chaw
© Film Freak Central; This review may not be reprinted, in whole or in part, without the express consent of its author. EDITOR'S NOTE: HA HA. POSTING IT ANYWAY.

Be afraid of the dark


If you're still awed by the visual wonders of the "Star Wars" serial and can't wait for this latest installment, then good for you.

Most of us tired of the darned thing about two episodes back.

And while this final prequel sews up lots of loose ends that tugged at the skirts of George Lucas' sprawling space melodrama, it's still a demonstration of technological triumph over good acting and cinematic drama.

If you like a full screen of outer-space fantasy, you'll thrill to the images Lucas flings against the wall. In every scene not dominated by real actors, "Episode III" is just darned sumptuous.

In the early episodes, the intergalactic dogfights among spacecraft were too often played with blank skies in the background. In this episode, the blank skies become sparkling tapestries of stars, satellites and meteoric space clutter, with each set-piece battle featuring its own special kind of eye candy.

Ah, but when this melodrama gets around to human relations, you can almost hear the inspiration thud to the floor. Lucas gives us humans about every 10 minutes or so, and if the characters didn't have great costumes (or weren't exotically animatronic), you could enjoy them more with eyes closed.

Perhaps the last episode, "Attack of the Clones," had the most stilted dialogue of all, but this one isn't much better. By this episode's end, you'll have had gracious plenty of exchanges like "What's wrong?" "I cannot say." "But you must." And so on.

It helps that our hero this age is Hayden Christiansen, who begins as Anakin Skywalker and, in a transformation by fire that earns this flick its PG-13 rating, becomes Darth Vader.That's pretty cool, except for the anguish he endures and shares with his conflicted wife, Padme (Natalie Portman).

When it comes to emotional power, the backdrops aren't the only contrived aspects to their scenes together.Lucas has always contended he envisioned the series as an homage to mid-century Saturday morning movie serials. Unfortunately, his demands on actors have remained just as static and stilted as those cliffhangers were.

He adds the burden of excessive exposition, thus giving us far too many pairs of talking heads explaining either the previous or the upcoming action.Thus, real-life actors Jimmy Smits (Sen. Bail Organa), Samuel L. Jackson (Mace Windu) and Ian McDiarmid (Supreme Chancellor Palpatine) look far less mobile than animatronic Yoda and even a CG-propelled Christopher Lee as Count Dooku.

Aside from Christiansen, who gets all the really good scenes, only Ewan McGregor, as the young Obi-Wan Kenobi, could hold his own against, say, Han Solo.

Curiously, because of the richness of the visuals and the sprawl of characters created in earlier features, there's a feeling that Lucas has spare subplots that he might have excised from even this final installment. Ah, but that's what's saved for the DVD and other goodies intended for you fans who can't get enough.EDITOR'S NOTE: HERE'S HOPING!!! (OR FROM CYNICS MOUTHS TO FANS EARS?)For the rest of us, enough, already.

Review: Lucas Gets Sweet Revenge With Powerful 'Sith'
Tim Lammers, Web Staff Editor
After underwhelming fans and taking a battering from critics with his first two prequels, "Star Wars" creator George Lucas can finally breath a sigh of relief: The Force is strong with "Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith."

With "Sith," Anakin Skywalkers' -- and Lucas' -- journey to the Dark Side is complete. For fans inspired by his original trilogy, it will spark the same sort of enthusiasm you had after seeing those films for the first time. Thought-provoking and entertaining, "Sith" is not overshadowed by its special effects (which are as dazzling as ever), is not bogged down by agitating characters, and, most importantly, it delivers on the Big Moment: The long-anticipated transformation of Anakin (Hayden Christensen) into Darth Vader (which, when all is said and done, ranks as one of the best sequences in the entire saga).

No, "Sith" is not a perfect movie, but it's far better than "The Phantom Menace" (which I personally liked, but could see how it annoyed some people) and "Attack of the Clones" (which I was sorely disappointed in). In comparison to the films in the original trilogy, it's on par with the ominous tone of "The Empire Strikes Back," the favorite of many "Star Wars" fans. That's not to say it's better than "A New Hope" or "Return of the Jedi" -- but it certainly packs as much emotional punch.

The interesting thing about "Revenge of the Sith" is, unless, you've been sleeping under a rock for the past 28 years, you already know how it ends.

But "Revenge of the Sith" isn't so much about how the film ends, but how it gets there and why. By the time the movie is over, Lucas masterfully sets the stage for the classic trilogy that began in 1977. The great thing is, those classics, which never outlasted their welcome in the first place, have an entire new meaning now. EDITOR'S NOTE: EXACTLY!

"Revenge of the Sith" finds the saga near the end of the Clone Wars against the Separatists from the Republic, which began at the end of "Episode II." Anakin, and his Jedi master, Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor), meanwhile, have a daunting task of their own to complete. A powerful droid named Gen. Grievous (voiced by Matthew Wood) has kidnapped Supreme Chancellor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) and it's up the to the Jedi duo to save him.

And while Anakin and Obi-Wan prevail, the battle is hardly won. Palpatine requests that the Jedi Council install Anakin as his personal bodyguard, which makes Jedi Masters Yoda (voiced by Frank Oz) and Mace Windu (Samuel L. Jackson) suspicious. Anakin's in a quandary, because both Palpatine and the Jedi want him to spy on each other; Palpatine appears to have the edge because he offers Anakin the means to become a Sith lord, which would give him far greater power than any of his Jedi counterparts.

To complicate matters, Anakin and Sen. Padme Amidala (Natalie Portman) not only continue to hide their forbidden love and marriage from everyone, but Amidala reveals to her husband that she is pregnant, raising his anxiety level to the breaking point.

Knowing Anakin fears losing the ones he loves, Palpatine manipulates the powerful Jedi to the point where he will use unthinkable measures to protect Padme -- thus beginning his journey to the Dark Side of The Force.

Perhaps the single biggest reason "Sith" succeeds over the first two prequels is that Lucas breaks with the formula of his previous "Star Wars" films. The story structure is somewhat different (climactic battles come in unlikely places) and arbitrary -- and annoying -- characters like the goofy Jar-Jar Binks have their roles minimized.

But Jar-Jar isn't the only one with screen time. C-3PO (Anthony Daniels), an otherwise lovable character offering comic relief in the other films, who got caught up in an annoying sequence with a battle droid near the conclusion of "Episode II," has also taken a back seat. Sure, there are laughs in "Revenge of the Sith," if not all unintentional. But these are not "so bad it's good" laughs, they're laughs inspired by the actions of Yoda, who, kicking more butt than he did in "Episode II," will make you howl with delight.

With the lack of intended comic relief, "Revenge of the Sith" is far-less kid-friendly than any of the other "Star Wars" movies, and that didn't happen by mistake. It's the first in the saga to be given a PG-13 rating (the other five were PG), mainly for it's violent imagery. And there's no question the scenes (one is explicit while the other is implied -- which come during Anakin's fall from grace and his transformation into Darth Vader) have merited the rating. If concerned parents need a yardstick to measure the film against, then they'll be happy to know that there's far less violence than what you got in the "Lord of the Rings" movies.

Still, apart from an appearance by Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) and his fellow Wookies, there's hardly anything warm and fuzzy about the movie. In fact, not only does Lucas stage an operatic lightsaber battle sequence on the volcanic planet of Mustafar which plunges Anakin, effectively, into the metaphorical depths of hell -- he weaves in some Shakespearean elements for good measure.

Such tragic drama makes for a much better and interesting "Star Wars" tale, giving the actors a bit more opportunity to strut their stuff. Better yet, the story of Anakin's fall as a whole is so powerful that even the film's strained dialogue can't hurt it.

Thankfully, McGregor, Portman, Jackson and Christensen (who gives off an unsettling "disturbed" vibe as the fallen Jedi) are gifted enough actors to rise above the script's shortcomings. McDiarmid makes the best of the bad guy role not only with his skin-crawling manipulation of Anakin, but by fully realizing his role as a politician with a secret agenda (the film, if only by coincidence, offers timely political commentary about our current state of affairs).
The great thing about "Revenge of the Sith" is that, despite the dark tone, you'll still likely emerge from the film energized. It has a message of hope attached to it, hence the subtitle "A New Hope" for "Episode IV." Sure, we all know how the saga eventually ends, but that doesn't matter. There's a reason we keep revisiting that "galaxy far, far away" -- it's about hope. And the thought of living in galaxy where good prevails over evil is one ideal that we should never stop hoping for.

Review: Force Is Strong in Last 'Wars'


All those "Star Wars" geeks, who've been waiting for weeks outside movie theaters with their Yoda sleeping bags and their homemade lightsabers, finally have a film that's worthy of their perseverance.

The Force is strong with "Episode III - Revenge of the Sith," the sixth and final piece in George Lucas' galactic saga, which represents a welcome return to the ideas and the spirit that made his original "Star Wars" a pop-culture juggernaut 28 years ago.

The circle is now complete, as Lucas' characters are fond of saying, and much of the film's joy comes from watching these familiar names and events fall into place.

It is enormously satisfying to see young Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) teeter along the edge that separates good and evil, and to see what finally pushes the would-be Chosen One over to the dark side of the Force.

It's a wonderful, small discovery when Anakin receives the name Darth Vader once he finally swears his allegiance to Chancellor Palpatine, who reveals himself here as Darth Sidious, a Sith master and the eventual evil Emperor. (And all the other words that ooze from Ian McDiarmid's mouth leave you feeling so slimy, you'll want to take a shower afterward.)

But the moment we've all been waiting for is one that simply must be experienced in a packed theater: when the mask goes on and the helmet comes down and Anakin takes his first raspy breath as Darth Vader in all his dark, gleaming glory. (You won't hear anyone else breathing, it's such an absorbing sight.)

The iconography is powerful to behold, especially when compared to the horrendously disappointing Episodes I and II. In retrospect, the first two "Star Wars" prequels seem even more useless, with their stilted dialogue and their numbing, CGI-infused clone battles.

Lucas wisely has placed the emphasis this time on elaborate lightsaber duels - between Anakin and mentor Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) against the Sith lord Count Dooku (Christopher Lee), and ultimately between Anakin and Obi-Wan themselves. Some of the biggest thrills come from tiny Yoda, the Jedi master who's at the height of his powers here. He does as much damage with a well-chosen, structurally inverted phrase or the subtlest wrinkle of his round, green face as he does with a swing of his lightsaber. (And Yoda has mad skills.)

Lucas' writing still clangs, though, especially during the exchanges between Anakin and his secret bride, Senator Padme Amidala (Natalie Portman), who announces in Episode III that she's pregnant (with twins we've come to know as Luke and Leia in Episode IV, the original "Star Wars").

"You are so beautiful," Anakin dreamily tells Padme as she brushes her dark, flowing locks on a balcony in the moonlight.

"Only because I'm so in love," Padme coos back to him.

Thankfully, Lucas also didn't saddle her with the heavy headgear and distracting dresses she wore in Episodes I and II, or else she would barely be able to get up and move about the galaxy.
That love for Padme, though, is partly the inspiration for Anakin's conversion. Not to give too much away, but he becomes convinced that Padme is in danger, and the only way to save her is through the powers that come with dark-side membership.

He's actually just being manipulated by Palpatine/Darth Sidious, who wants to turn the Galactic Republic into his own Empire and sees him as a malleable apprentice, especially at a time when Anakin isn't getting the respect and authority he craves from the Jedi Council.

"Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose," Yoda warns Anakin, but it's too late - and we know it's too late, and that built-in expectation is much of what makes "Revenge of the Sith" so riveting.

It's also a visually wondrous film, though. Lucas uses the digital technology to far greater advantage than he did in the first two prequels, which too often had the glossy, detached look of a video game. Crisp daylight streams through the floor-to-ceiling windows of Padme's apartment, and the cityscapes consist of silvery skyscrapers and golden sunsets. Even Chewbacca and his Wookiee buddies look lifelike as they scamper in battle across the beaches and jungles of the planet Kashyyyk.

Clearly, this is Lucas' war protest movie - Obi-Wan shoots a character down with a gun once his lightsaber is knocked away from him, and afterward sniffs, "So uncivilized." But it's also, at its core, a soap opera. It always has been. Think of Darth Vader telling Luke Skywalker, "I am your father," during the heat of battle in "The Empire Strikes Back."

Episode III features fast-paced parallel editing between two staples of daytime TV: a childbirth and a complicated operation.

But despite its drama and darkness, Lucas gives us some light moments, too. He slips in a glimpse of the much-maligned Jar Jar Binks at the very end, and although the big, goofy Gungan doesn't say anything, his presence alone feels like Lucas' last little dig at the naysayers - and a reminder with this final farewell that, nearly 30 years later, he's still doing it his way.

"Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith," a Twentieth Century Fox release, is rated PG-13 for sci-fi violence and some intense images. Running time: 142 minutes. Three and a half stars out of four.

Rating 'Revenge': MSN Movies Takes on 'Episode III'
The MSN Movies team got together on MSN Messenger to discuss "Star Wars, Episode III: Revenge of the Sith" after viewing the press screening.

The team is made up of:David Seno, lead producer, MoviesDave McCoy, managing editor, MoviesDish Diva, celebrity events producer

Here is our conversation (WARNING: Contains Spoilers):
David Seno says: So, let's not bury the lead: What did you guys think of "Revenge of the Sith"?

Dish Diva says: I can't remember the last time I saw a movie like this. There are no words.
Seno: Is that a good thing or a bad thing?
Dave McCoy says: Uh, sure there are words. So, the good news is I thought it was easily the best film of the "new" "Star Wars" films. The bad news is it's still a pretty bad movie.

Diva: Why bad?
McCoy: I'll get to that in a bit

Diva: I thought this was the best "Star Wars" film to date.
McCoy: Here are the things I liked ... First 30 minutes. Perhaps the most exciting in "Star Wars" history.

Diva: For sure.
Diva: Yeah, I agree

Diva: This whole conversation probably deserves one big spoiler alert.
McCoy: The sequence in which the Jedi are taken out, in "Godfather"-style, was impressive. I really thought that worked emotionally

Diva: Yoda showed the little green guy can really kick some Sith butt.
McCoy: Yeah, but he did that in the last film. So the novelty wore off for me

McCoy: And all around, the action sequences, especially the saber duels, were tighter. But I heard Spielberg helped out with those, so it figures

Diva: What did you guys think of the Anakin and Obi-wan duel?
McCoy: Those were solid. Lava. Nice touch. But that's all of the good stuff I have.

McCoy: Let's go back Diva. Tell me why you think it's the best of the series. That's a HUGE statement
Diva: Yeah, I do think it's the best out of all of them.
Seno: I liked the movie a lot. I think it's the third best in the series (after Episodes IV and V)

McCoy: OK, I agree with Seno... but you know, that's not saying much, man
Seno: You better, I'm your boss :)

Diva: "Why," you ask? Strong storyline, good character development, extraordinary effects (clearly George and his team pulled out every effect they could)...

Diva: I also quite liked the development of the relationship between Obi-wan and Anakin. There was some humor there which I liked.

McCoy: OK, I'd like to address character development, if I could
Diva: Please do.

McCoy: And then, afterwards, I'll trash the acting and the writing
Seno: I had two big fears ...
and only one them came true. First, I was afraid of all the CG, but I thought the movie was pretty seamless. Second, I was terrified of the Christensen/ Portman scenes... unfortunately, that was a well-founded fear

Seno: Poor Nat, she was hung out to dry by the script
Diva: Yeah, I agree with you on the Anakin/Padme scenes. They seemed awkward together.

McCoy: OK, wait ... first on Portman and Christensen. The scenes with Anakin and Padme were either laugh-out-loud bad or enough to make me cover my face in embarrassment. I literally felt BAD for Natalie Portman. From "Closer" to this drivel? Poor girl.

Seno: She had NOTHING to work with
McCoy: They are BRUTAL scenes ... and there are, what, 7 or 8 of them?

Diva: She didn't have much to do but hang out in her spacepad.
McCoy: Exactly ... and cry ... and get in touch with her feelings. Though, apparently, everyone in the "Star Wars" universe is supposed to "search their feelings" For what? Character motivation? Better lines?

Diva: The Anakin/Padme scenes will drive the true mega "Star Wars" fans nuts. They will be interminably long to them. I found myself studying her hair during the scenes with them together.

McCoy: The acting, across the board, is horrendous. And outside of Christensen, who is as interesting and convincing as a piece of wood, you can't blame the actors. Portman, McGregor, Jackson have all done solid work in other films. The blame is on Lucas, for a) writing embarrassing dialogue that not even Olivier could read convincingly and b) spending more time with his gadgets than his actors ... or his typewriter.

Diva: Let's step back for a second. How big of a Star Wars fan are you, McCoy? I mean did you see all of them on the day they opened?

McCoy: Yes. I had the action figures. I have the bed sheets... still
Seno: LOL
Diva: How's that lunch box doing?
McCoy: I loved them as a kid. I still love Ep. IV and V; "Return of the Jedi" has problems, but I like it. Hated Ep.I
and, though Ep. II was better, it still sucked

McCoy: Look, when R2-D2 gives the best performance in the film, we're in trouble, folks
Diva: Ya know, I really liked R2-D2. He had some great scenes, didn't he?
McCoy: Me too... he/it/whatever was great

Diva: Strange that he showed emotions better than some of the actors.
Seno: The dude can jump and fly now, but in Episode IV, he needs a crane to be put in the Luke's X-Wing. As far as continuity errors go, if that's the worst thing that happens, I guess Lucas did OK.

McCoy: I enjoyed Yoda too. Gotta love his grammar
Seno: Getting back to the dialogue/gadgets comment, couldn't you say the same thing about "Star Wars"? Mark Hamill? I mean, c'mon... EDITOR'S NOTE: BADMOUTHING LUKE? THE HECK WITH YOU IGNORAMI.

McCoy: Yeah, but the structure of the first two was great. And the romance between Leia and Solo felt genuine. The writing was better. There was humor. It still works.
Seno: That's true... the Han/Leia romance didn't seem as forced as Anakin/Padme

McCoy: But, yeah, watch the scene where Hamill learns that Vader is his father. It's brutal. Embarrassing
McCoy: "That's impossible!!!"
Diva: Watching the movie it was hard for me to believe that the love each of them had for each other was so strong that it drove them to their destruction.

McCoy: Exactly!
McCoy: I dug the darkness of this film (beheadings, guys flying through space, etc)...
Diva: Total guy film.
McCoy: Wait, how is it a "total guy film" but you, a woman, loved it more than us?

Diva: Well, I did love it, but it has the the guy elements. It has the violence, light sabers, adventure in space...
Diva: Though (no spoiler here, it's been leaked already) the scene where the younglings are killed is pretty rough. At least they didn't show it.

McCoy: Unfortunately, no, they didn't.
McCoy: So, here's the real problem with "Episode III": It's designed as a Shakespearean tragedy. We already know going into the theater what the conclusion of the drama will be... it's going to be ugly. Othello will kill his wife. Romeo and Juliet will commit suicide. And Anakin will lose his soul and become Darth Vader.

McCoy: So, the biggest challenge for Lucas was getting his audience to care about his characters before the tragic ending.
Seno: Ah, caring for the characters. That's my biggest problem with Episodes I, II and III. I didn't like Anakin... I just wanted to slap him around.

McCoy: Right
McCoy: For this film to work, we have to feel for Anakin and his dilemmas and what he's going through. There need to be scenes that grab us emotionally, so that when he crosses over to the Dark Side, it's painful. Personally, I didn't care about ANY of these characters, and Lucas is such a bad writer that he gives us little to stir our emotion, other than a few cool action sequences.

McCoy: And again, it doesn't help that Christensen's performance is so wooden. I just don't believe Anakin's change to the Dark Side. It just doesn't work. Just because someone films half of your face in shadows doesn't make you dark

Diva: Ha!
McCoy: Basically, this is a tragedy without any passion. It's a string of events that lead very nicely into the original "Star Wars." It answers questions, but it's not the grand achievement that can stand on its own that Lucas wanted ... or has been promoting.

Diva: What did you guys think about the way this film connected the episodes together?
Seno: Lucas nailed it.
McCoy: I thought the end was beautiful. The tie-ins are terrific. It bumps right up against "Episode IV."

McCoy: Here's the thing: After the first 30 minutes, I was calling for a time out. I was exhausted. I was like, "Slow down! Please!"

Diva: Yeah, that first 30 minutes were mind blowing.
McCoy: I was in the fourth row. I felt like I was flying those first 10 minutes
McCoy: But, sadly, when characters started talking ... I was like "No, wait! Speed up! Speed up!"
Diva: I found myself throughout the film thinking, "Oh, so THAT'S where it came from." (The whole how does Anakin go from being hot to Darth Vader)

McCoy: Those quiet moments need to hold the film together, as in "Star Wars" (scenes between Ben and Luke) or "Empire Strikes Back" (Han and Leia)... but here they don't.

Seno: The special effects are really, truly amazing
McCoy: Yeah, the F/X are amazing. But "Star Wars" is about more than that. The effects in parts 4 and 5 aren't great. And there isn't a ton of action. It's the relationships that carry those films.

Seno: At the time, though, the effects of IV and V were mind-bending.
Seno: "Star Wars" took me to another world. It was the first time film to do that for me (I wasn't old enough to see "2001.")
McCoy: Yes, but the storyline was tighter. Well, at least this one wasn't about trade embargos, like Ep. I.

McCoy: Woohoooo! Trade embargos! That's drama!
McCoy: Also, I give props to Lucas for keeping the critter count to a minimum. It's more toned down than Episode I, for sure

Seno: OK, so bottom line... McCoy, do you recommend the movie?
McCoy: To fans, yes. Like I said, it's better than the other two. To others, no.
Diva: Seno, would you?
Seno: Absolutely. I had a blast.
Seno: OK, final thoughts time...

Dave McCoy: Here's my final thought: Personally, I hope this is not only the last "Star Wars" film, but the last we ever hear of George Lucas. He's now made more bad films than good. He has nothing left to offer. Back to the ranch, George. Take a screenwriting class.

David Seno: My final thought ... Lucas didn't screw this one up. That doesn't sound like a ringing endorsement, but all signs pointed to this movie blowing chunks. Not only does it do a nice job tying the series together, it stands alone as an outstanding summer movie.

Dish Diva: Final thought: I loved it. I already bought tickets to a screening next weekend. Go see it. EDITOR'S NOTE: TYPICAL. THE CHICK IS THE ONLY ONE WHO'S ON-THE-BALL. (TEEHEE).

Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith" Movie Review

by Jim Pappas
28 years and 6 films later, George Lucas’s grand vision set “a long time ago, in a galaxy far far away” ends with “Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith.”

Easily the best installment of the prequel trilogy, we learn just how it is that a young man named Anakin Skywalker, a seemingly good man, can and does become the Sith Lord known as Darth Vader.

And Lucas lets us see how this transformation takes place with both plausibility and verve in this wonderful and sometimes startling film.

Picking up immediately after the events depicted in the animated series “Star Wars: Clone Wars,” “Revenge of the Sith” gives us a real sense of closure to everything we’ve seen happen in the other 5 films. I had a tangible feeling of a circle being drawn, with the final arc being added to complete it here.

And after seeing this, I wanted to rush home and watch the original trilogy again, just to see how Anakin is redeemed after his fall from grace.

For, you see, the Star Wars saga is really the story of Anakin’s life, from childhood unto death, and it is only after seeing "Revenge” that it becomes crystal clear that this was Mr. Lucas’s intention all along.

In some regards the Star Wars saga is about all of us, how our imperfections can lead us astray, but also how, no matter to what depths we may fall, there is always a way for us to climb back up out of the darkness and find the light again.

It is also about power, how it corrupts and how dangerous it really is for any of us to have too much of it. That is the real seduction of the dark side, and with or without “the force” any one of us can be turned away from the light, because to walk in that light is much harder than surrendering to our most base desires. It is easier to hate than it is to love, and we see glaring examples of that every day in our newspapers, on our TV news shows, and even while we are driving in our cars.

Episode III begins with Anakin (Hayden Christensen) and Obi Wan (Ewan McGregor) attempting a rescue of the kidnapped Chancellor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid, in fine form here), taken from Coruscant by a new character, General Grievious (introduced to us in the aforementioned “Clone Wars” series, and voiced here by Matthew Wood).

Flying in small one man fighters, the two Jedi fight their way onto the ship were Palpatine is held, and with appropriate derring-do, manage to spirit the Chancellor away to safety back on the home planet of the Republic.

It is after this rescue that Anakin’s fall begins, as Palpatine anoints him a hero and the goodness inside of Anakin begins to be suppressed by the lure of the quick and easy path offered by the dark side.

Sometimes it is our best intentions that lead us astray, and so it is with Anakin. He begins having nightmares about the death of his wife, Padme (Natalie Portman), who he learns is pregnant, and it is his overwhelming desire to ensure her survival that causes him to seek out powers that are available only through learning about the dark side of the force.

Palpatine tells Anakin a story about a dead Sith Lord who was able to keep death away from people by application of a dark side force power, and an intrigued Anakin begins to resent his Jedi training, training that places necessary constraints on his abilities.

What finally causes Anakin to fall completely under the spell cast by Palpatine, is that he becomes convinced the Jedi order wants to take control of the Republic by overthrowing the Chancellor and the Senate.

Again, another good intention that actually helps to turn a good man into a bad one. There is an old adage: “the road to hell is paved with good intentions,” and that saying certainly applies to Anakin and his fate.

George Lucas shows tremendous growth as a writer and as a director with this film, and I believe that the conclusion of the master work of his life will serve as a catharsis for him, enabling him to move forward without some figurative weight hanging around his neck. I got a very real sense from this movie that Mr. Lucas is satisfied and happy with what he has accomplished, and that he feels a tremendous sense of freedom now that the Star Wars films are finally completed.

It was announced recently that there are plans for both live action and animated TV shows based on the Star Wars universe, and I would be willing to bet that Mr. Lucas couldn’t be happier to do them.

And I, for one, couldn’t be happier to watch them when they do air.

George Lucas has finally embraced his own vision, and he is now free to enjoy his creation fully, and so are we.

“Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith” opens nationwide on May 19th, and a warning to parents: this film contains some elements that are really not suitable for young children. I believe they would be frightened and confused by some of it. However, I know it is going to be difficult for any parent to keep their kids from wanting to see this, so just be aware that there are some disturbing elements, and you should be mindful of them.Overall Rating: A+

Star Wars Ends On A Very High Note
Kenny Herzog 05/06/2005 12:35 pm

The final installment in one of cinema’s most storied sagas is the movie everyone has been waiting for. From the guy in accounting who dresses up as Boba Fett on weekends, to Gen Xers who once had a passing affinity for the films––everyone is going to enjoy Star Wars: Episode III (except little kids, who are going to get seriously freaked out, but we'll get to that later).

Paired up against any contemporary action film, it is simply incomparable––a ravishing achievement in visual and audio prowess, dark suspense tempered by good-natured humor, and wild action sequences that will hypnotize children and make cynical adults downright giddy.

Placed alongside the rest of George Lucas’ profitable enterprise, it’s by far better than the two preceding it, and arguably a better film than Return of the Jedi.

The familiar hollowed-out, yellow-outlined Star Wars logo that appears among the stars is followed by the vertically scrolling text that brings goose bumps along with bringing you up to speed: Count Dooku and a nasty Jedi killer named General Grievous have kidnapped Chancellor Palpatine, and Anakin and Obi-Wan are en route to save the day. War still rages, the Republic is on the brink of turmoil, and Anakin’s knocked Padme up with Luke and Leia.

What you see next is arguably the best opening scene of any Star Wars movie, as you're thrown face first into a raging space battle that morphs into a killer lightsaber duel.

From the frenetic opening, which is lightened up by R2D2 throwing gasoline on two driods and setting them on fire, it slows down to show Anakin (now a member of the Jedi Council, though spurned by not being dubbed a Master) falling under Palpatine’s spell. The reason he is tempted to dabble in the Dark Side is believable (though medichlorians are mentioned).

To say much more would spoil the fun, although you can safely assume that friends become foes, hell breaks loose and dangerous new alliances threaten the balance of democracy.

Political and religious allegory are abound, and while it’s easy and tempting to draw parallels between the circumstances in Revenge of the Sith and President Bush’s decisions regarding the Iraq war, it’s equally possible that Lucas was dealing in less specific, inherently universal metaphors.

Either way, the script is at its strongest when delving into Palpatine’s political machinations and the ethical (and not at all clear-cut) dilemma facing Anakin as he chooses between the Buddhist-like ways of the Jedi and the immediate gratification of the Dark Side’s powers. Yoda is downright cold when he suggests Anakin should detach himself from his love for Padme if he wants to be a true Jedi.

The point should also be made that Yoda looks slightly less ridiculous in his CGI form, though as in Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones, he is still stripped of the wrinkled personality he possessed in the initial trilogy. But you will still cheer when he grimaces and grasps his light saber, and laugh riotously when he deflects Palpatine’s guards into a wall with a literal flick of the wrist.

Overall, the overabundance of computer-animation is no longer an unwelcome eyesore. This is what Star Wars is now (and like it or not, what Lucas always wanted it to be), and acceptance is the first step toward unabashed enjoyment, even if you sometimes feel like you’re watching a part cartoon, part live-action feature. If it really seeps into your nerves, just think about all the other CGI-loaded crap out there and feel fortunate to be in the presence of a film that at least does it with a larger purpose than saving production time.

The computerized sheen is also offset by the gritty violence that frequently permeates the film, and lives up to its PG-13 rating. Hands and heads are sliced off with light sabers left and right. And though there’s no actual bloodshed, the scene in which Anakin burns alive, necessitating his famous black garb, is shockingly gruesome. Parental caution aside, this should be a welcome surprise for diehard fans eager to see The Empire Strikes Back’s more sinister tone reemerge.

So yes, the dialogue is often bad enough in spots (especially during anything involving Natalie Portman) that it occasionally threatens to undermine the whole operation. There’s one scene in particular where Anakin, now in full Darth Vader costume, has a moment of emotional outpouring so trite and over-the-top you begin to wonder if the penalty for crew members second-guessing Lucas’ lines was death by firing squad.

Take that stuff with a grain of salt though, and you’ll primarily be treated to a satisfying sequel/prequel that creates fantastic, seamless closure on a timeless story, and redeems what many thought to be an irrevocably tainted franchise.

Star Wars comes to a violent end in masterful climax

By John Hiscock

The story began long, long ago - almost 30 years ago, in fact - in a galaxy far, far away. Since then, it has transformed the film industry, reinvented the science fiction genre and made its creator a multi-billionaire.

But now George Lucas has decided that the Star Wars saga has run its course -and he brings it to an end with the much-anticipated final episode, Star Wars: Episode III Revenge Of The Sith.

The fans who have been camping out for weeks in front of cinemas across America will not be disappointed. Lucas has created an eminently satisfying, albeit surprisingly violent, final instalment that brings the story back full circle to the first film.

It contains all the ingredients that fans have come to expect: aerial dog-fights, swirling light-sabres, Jedi battles, evil droids -and it packs an emotional wallop.

The first Star Wars trilogy, which no studio wanted to finance, told the story of Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia, twins who fight the evil Emperor and his servant Darth Vader for control of their distant galaxy.

Then, after a 16-year break, Lucas created a "prequel" trilogy about the twins' father, Anakin Skywalker, a Jedi warrior who had fallen from grace and become Darth Vader.

The first two prequels, Episode I The Phantom Menace and Episode II Attack of the Clones, were disappointments - the first featuring the goofy Jar Jar Binks and the second notable for the wooden acting of Hayden Christensen as the young Anakin Skywalker.

Now, with Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith, Lucas has come up with a masterly conclusion to the complex tale of treachery, heroism and intrigue, although it is considerably darker than anything previously seen in the Skywalker soap opera.

In one scene, Jedi children - "younglings" - are massacred in the temple by Anakin Skywalker (Christensen), who has turned to the Dark Side. Later, Anakin himself is burned and horribly mutilated in a climactic duel with his former mentor Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor). Even the cute and cuddly Yoda has to suffer: he is torched and left smouldering by the malevolent Darth Sidious.

Revenge of The Sith begins with a space battle over the planet of Coruscant between the Jedi-led Republic and the Separatist droid army -created by Count Dooku (Christopher Lee) and led by a new, computer-generated character, General Grievous.

This battle sets in motion a series of events that lead to a moment of truth for Anakin, whose dual life as a Jedi Knight and secret husband of Padme always threatened to catch up with him.
There is no surprise in the fate of Anakin Skywalker because it has been well documented in previous films that he goes over to the Dark Side and becomes the evil Darth Vader; but there is subtlety and unexpected poignancy in how this is achieved -through the insidious treachery of Chancellor Palpatine, marvellously played by Ian McDiarmid.

Faced with a choice between losing the love of his life, Senator Padme Amidala (Natalie Portman), and giving up his soul to gain the power to save her, Anakin sacrifices his character, his integrity and his very being for love.

Some familiar characters are back for a final appearance: the Wookie Chewbacca, everyone's favourite carpet, is visited by Yoda on his home planet of Kashyyk, where a major battle against a droid army takes place. The reviled Jar Jar Binks makes a brief appearance, too, but thankfully does not speak. The comedy robot team of R2-D2 and C-3PO are on hand to provide some laughs.

The acting from the human cast is superior to previous films, with a mature Hayden Christensen switching from hero to psychopath with apparent ease and Ewan McGregor appearing more comfortable with his occasionally trite dialogue.

Despite the sense of doom that enshrouds the final quarter of the film, Lucas manages to conclude it on a relatively high note.

The grim climax - in which Anakin meets his dreadful destiny, the fragile Republic is destroyed and Obi-Wan Kenobi is forced into hiding - is tempered by cries of hope. These come from Anakin's twins, Luke and Leia - whose birth is juxtaposed with scenes of Anakin's surgical reclamation as the part-flesh, part-machine Darth Vader -and we can rejoice in the message that the children will grow up to save the day.

The last words of the film - "What? Oh, no!" - are spoken by Anthony Daniels who, as C-3PO, is not only the sole actor to have appeared in all the Star Wars films but also had the opening words in the first one. It is a fitting finale to a saga that has enraptured a generation. EDITOR'S NOTE: I DIDN'T EVEN THINK OF THE PARALLEL ABOUT C3P0 HAVING THE FINAL LINE. GOOSEBUMPS!


Jedi MasterfulIn 'Revenge of the Sith,' George Lucas pulls off a cataclysmic 'Star Wars' masterpiece.

By Michael SragowSun Movie Critic
Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith is a pop masterpiece. George Lucas has done the near-impossible. He's kept his gloriously hyperbolic space fantasy so idiosyncratic and so personal that even its failings become expressive. EDITOR'S NOTE: VERY INTERESTING SPIN. NEAT!

From the first word -- "War!" -- Lucas plunges viewers into spectacular upheavals of men, women and aliens, cyborgs and droids, and then into a political maelstrom that's elating in its pertinence and audacity.

Lucas dares to hinge it all on a love story: something still outside his writing-directing grasp. Yet with the help of composer John Williams, who contributes his best romantic-epic score, and Hayden Christensen (Anakin Skywalker) and Natalie Portman (his secret wife, Padme), who compensate for lack of chemistry with conviction, the effort becomes moving. As their love falls apart, it becomes progressively more persuasive.

With his own restless hordes waiting to see how he'll resolve his prequel trilogy, the writer-director finishes off the personal story and the political one with magisterial swiftness and intricacy. He pushes the orchestrated chaos of his underrated Episode II, Attack of the Clones to a new level of authority.

When he sends Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and Anakin hurtling in their Jedi Starfighters toward the vicious robots of the Separatists, he gives their heroic weaving among particle beams and shredded metal a you-are-there excitement.

Unless tracing the coils of Star Wars mythology is your thing, you don't need to prepare for this film to make sense of it -- but if it is your thing you'll find the film a double pleasure, because Lucas doesn't cheat.

The whole movie is about the difficulty of steering a true course when a galaxy is in turbulence.

The Separatists say they're fighting against the corruption of the Republic. The Jedi fight to save the Republic, though they know it is corrupt.

Their immediate goal is to rescue Chancellor Palpatine (the splendidly duplicitous Ian McDiarmid), and they don't trust him.

As the movie goes on, motives mix and goals get confused even among the Republic's top officers. So you witness with understanding as well as horror the desire for certainty that transforms the Republic into an evil Empire.

With electric clarity, Revenge of the Sith brings to the fore the manic-depressive swings between apprehension and exhilaration that previously surfaced in The Empire Strikes Back and always lay beneath both trilogies' upbeat swashbuckling.

This film pushes adolescent entertainment to the brink of maturity.

Lucas, a filmmaker to his bones, externalizes everything. The Dark and Light sides of the Force -- the universal power source that only Jedi and their evil opposites the Sith can tap into -- wrestle before your eyes in spectrum-bursting hues and in action that frays the corners of the screen.

As he showed in Shattered Glass, Christensen is one resourceful actor; as Anakin he brews his own aura of arrogance and insecurity with flashing melancholy and lightning physicality. He's an intergalactic James Dean. And Lucas surrounds him with an aptly volatile atmosphere. Obi-Wan and Anakin navigate through legions of "vulture droids" that are part-scavenger, part-predator, disabling Starfighters as they feast on them. The squeaky little droid R2-D2 becomes a wily, valiant fighter, comically sly amid mortal danger -- secure in his cache of lethal gizmos."There are heroes on both sides," Lucas takes pains to say in the opening crawl.

That includes characters like robot buzzards and R2-D2, who combine mechanical and animal traits.

It's the cyborg creations, part man, part droid, that are irredeemably and indelibly creepy. They convey a timeless message: We trade our humanity for survival at the risk of losing our souls.

The new arch-villain, the Separatists' General Grievous, an armored creature with four arms and organic eyes and guts, harrowingly prefigures Anakin's human remnant encased in Darth Vader's black metal. Anakin's climactic metamorphosis into Vader achieves horror-show perfection. It ranks with the emergence of other sorry monsters such as Frankenstein.

How and why that transformation occurs is the core of Revenge of the Sith. Anakin's passion for Padme proves to be his tragic flaw. Skywalker's fear of Padme's death, which he sees in a prophetic vision, reflects his emotional greed and irrational urge for control. It makes him vulnerable to the Dark Side and to the manipulations of Chancellor Palpatine, his friend.

Palpatine takes on ever-more dictatorial powers, promising peace and stability to the Republic (and to Anakin, the power to save Padme). In effect Palpatine says he will destroy the Republic to save it -- and in the shrinking circle of Jedi and uncorrupted Senators like Padme and Jimmy Smits' stalwart Bail Organa, only Anakin accepts his word.

A string of "relationship" movies has turned "letting go" into a pathetic cliche. Lucas renews the phrase's meaning when Yoda, the Jedi Master of Masters, advises Anakin to "let go" and ties his hope of cheating Padme's death to hubris and blind need. As voiced by Frank Oz and given form by Rob Coleman's animation team, Yoda delivers equal amounts of adrenaline and enlightenment. In his bull's-eye focus and fleet agility -- and the way he runs his hand across his skull -- he echoes the great Takashi Shimura in Kurosawa's The Seven Samurai.

Lucas wrings comedy as well as thrills from Yoda's combination of serenity and potency. Yoda embodies the Force in balance.

So does Lucas' moviemaking, which has an engulfing confidence, whether he's staging the crash landing of a mammoth half-destroyed space vessel or choreographing a bout worthy of Kurosawa's samurai with Jedi bearing lightsabers.

The movie's sky-high lift comes from its virtuoso kinetics and from the way Obi-Wan's alertness and sensitivity and Anakin's arrogance shape the combat.

McGregor's foreshadowing of Alec Guinness' wry, sagacious older Obi-Wan ranks with De Niro's portrayal of Brando's Don Corleone as a young man in The Godfather Part II. McGregor is superb. He gives Obi-Wan's concern for Padme a loving overlay that provides fuel for Anakin/Darth Vader's jealousy.

Vader's cold execution of his foes acquires the weight and tragic pull of Michael Corleone eliminating his rivals in The Godfather. Lucas earns the comparison with his mulish integrity, his delight in the materials of moviemaking, and his willingness to take his moral concepts to the limit. At its best, Revenge of the Sith reaches that plateau where pop is art. EDITOR'S NOTE: YES IT DOES. THANK YOU, UNCLE GEORGE!


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