Revenge of the Sith
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Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

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A long time ago in 1977 a new mythology was started, like other myths the stories grew far beyond the original scope and became ingrained in our very culture. The mythology was Star Wars. Now, twenty eight years later the main part of the story has been released, Revenge of the Sith, and fans are finally brought full circle. For those out there that have been living in a spider hole in the desert the main theme here is one man’s descent into the dark, evil side of nature. How cute young Anakin Skywalker would become one of film’s most infamous villains, Darth Vader. While embracing evil has been at the center of many films, most done better than this in a literary sense, few such tales can compare for the sheer energy the digital effect of this film can provide. To best enjoy this film you really need to disengage the higher more critical centers of the brain, revert back to an awestruck ten year old and sit back.

This last installment begins some three years after the close of the Attack of the Clones. Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) is on a mission with his friend and mentor Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) to rescue Chancellor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid). The Chancellor is in the sinister clutches of the rebellious General Grievous (voice by Matthew Woods), who is still extremely strong in the martial arts despite being about 90 per cent mechanical replacement parts. There is a lot here that is reminiscent of the Solo-Skywalker rescue of the Princess in the first Star Wars; such echoes of the original films are many in this film so get used to them. The daring pair manage to sneak on Grievous’ ship, extract the Chancellor and return to the safety of the capital city on Coruscant. After over twenty minutes of initial special effects the pace slows to permit the political intrigue and interpersonal relationships to start to develop. Even though Anakin is one of the most gifted Jedi since Master Yoda (once again CGI here voiced by Frank Oz), the Jedi Council refuses to grant him the rank of Jedi Master. Anakin is naturally upset with the decision especially when the Council instructs him he is to gather information on the Chancellor. As it turns out the Chancellor wants to make Anakin into a double agent using him to spy on the inner decisions of the Council. Before he starts on his life on espionage Anakin steals away some time to visit his secret wife Senator Padmé Amidala, (Natalie Portman) who informs Anakin that she is pregnant. Anakin begins to have foreboding dreams of death, afraid that he will lose Padmé as he did his beloved mother he becomes obsessed with cheating fate and keeping his wife alive. As all the audience already knows Palpatine is actually a powerful Sith lord, Darth Sidious who is bent on turning young Anakin to become his apprentice in the dark side of the force. Anakin pulls further away from the stabilizing tutelage and friendship of Obi-Wan finally confronting his former master on a lava planet where Anakin’s body is almost lethally burnt. Only his will and great access to the force manage to keep him alive long enough to have cybernetic replacement parts installed making him the Dark Vader, the character we all love to hate. Sure, there are a lot of battles throughout the film but what everyone comes to see is that first shot of the glistening black amour of Vader bringing us back around to the start of the original film.

First, let me get the worse aspect of this film out of the way, the script. George Lucas may be a visionary who forever changed the way movies are made but his dialogue is something out of a college scriptwriting class. The love scenes between Padmé and Anakin are stiff, lacking any believable emotion. What was really needed here is something to connect the audience emotionally to the characters and provide a break in the action but what we get is the perfect time to go to the kitchen for some popcorn. Although Padmé’s lines in the more intimate scenes are lacking she does get some nice little political commentary which many have found a way to relate to the current political environment. Where the film does work is the seamless integration of the thousands of computer generated shots with the live action. The action is beyond reproach here, fast paced and more complex than anything shown before on screen. It is also satisfying in tying up the loose ends and showing how the surviving characters will move into the original film. We get to see a battle with Chewbacca’s race, the Wookies. How Padmé’s and Anakin’s twins would be separated is also disclosed as is ultimate seizure of power the Chancellor makes elevating him to the exalted position of Emperor. This is a film made by geeks for geeks and I don’t mean that in a pejorative fashion, I count myself strongly among the throngs of fans that looked forward to this film.

Hayden Christensen is a young actor still honing his skills. While he does very well in battle he just falls short of giving a believable performance in the more personal scenes. There is little chemistry between him and the actress who plays his on screen wife, Natalie Portman. I have been a fan of Portman’s talent since Leon. She is a talented actress who just did not have the proper script here to showcase her abilities. She is perfect as a strong young woman, a political leader of her people dedicated to the ideals of freedom and democracy. Ewan McGregor is excellent as Obi-Wan. He comes across as a man who believes in the system of the Jedi even though he may disagree with some of the specific decisions of the Council members. One fun piece of casting here is Samuel L. Jackson. Who’s the meanest Jedi in the galaxy? Mace. He is Shaft in space, confident and definitely not a man you mess with. Ian McDiarmid provides a classic villain with Palpatine. He can ooze charm when required but in a second can turn into a deadly foe. McDiarmid presents Palpatine as a man that is not only powerful in the dark side of the force but the almost equally dead use of political power as well.

Even though this is a flawed piece it is the best of the four films that George Lucas has directed. I am sure that there will be changes made to this film over the years of re-releasing, it was just announced that the puppet Yoda in Episode One will be redone with CGI, but as it stands now Lucas did what we expected, he gave us a film that answers the questions we have had to some twenty eight years. As previously noted the pacing is off here, due in large part to the lack of emotion in the intimate scenes. You basically sit there waiting for the exposition and dialogue to finish so you can be amazed at the action sequences. I know that you don’t go to a film like this for the talking but it does help to bring the audience into the moment when the characters are fully fleshed out human beings. The androids did a better job at acting than most of the people.

As with the other DVD releases of Star Wars films Fox did a great job here. The movie was created in digital format so the transfer to DVD is flawless. The colors are bright, well balanced and reference quality at every point. The audio is provided in Dolby 5.1 EX and will certainly be worthy of use in showing off your home theater sound system. The dynamic range here is fantastic. The sub woofer burst throughout your living room, the rear speakers are almost constantly alive and in full force. The second disc is packed with extras that will entertain most and certainly provide all the details any die hard fan craves. There are six deleted scenes, not the usual sweepings from the editor’s floor but presented in full anamorphic splendor and EX audio. Among these is a look at Yoda's arrival on Dagobah to begin his exile. With a running time of about an hour twenty is Within a Minute: The Making of Episode III going into the complexities of the production. The stunt men get their moment with the featurette ‘It's All for Real’. Anakin’s destiny is examined in ‘The Chosen One’. Add some content that started out on the web and an MTV video and you have just about a perfect DVD. You got the others, you know you are going to get this one as well so forget the flaws, order a pizza, invite some friends over and enjoy.

Posted 10/9/05

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