Director: George Lucas Cast: Ewan McGregor, Hayden Christensen, Natalie Portman, Ian McDiarmid, Samuel L.Jackson, Jimmy Smits, Frank Oz, Anthony Daniels, Christopher Lee, Kenny Baker, Keisha-Castle Hughes, Silas Carson, Bruce Spence, Temuera Morrison Duration: 140 minutes
Twenty-eight years and six 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. Probably the best installment of the prequel trilogy, we learn just how it is that a young man named Anakin Skywalker, a seemingly good person, 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 five films. There is 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. The old adage "the road to hell is paved with good intentions" certainly applies to Anakin and his fate.
Poor dialogue and wooden acting still inflict the second trilogy. The tragic dimension of Anakin's dilemma can only barely withstand lines like this from Padme: "You're a good person. Don't do this." Many dialogue scenes, brief as they are, feel awkward and unnatural. Such scenes start cold - we can almost sense the clapboard moving out of camera frame - and end with long, lingering shots of actors' blank faces. Yet in face of the epic grandeur of the film's design and action, these are mere quibbles.
Now completely at home with digital filmmaking, Lucas can blaze a pioneering path as no one else. Shooting on soundstages in Australia and Britain with additional photography in China, Thailand, Switzerland, Italy and Tunisia, Lucas thrusts viewers into pitched battles in looming caverns and giant space ships or a lightsaber duel on a river of molten lava. Combining choreographic action aesthetics that are American, Chinese and other worldly, Lucas has redefined fantasy filmmaking with Star Wars, while teaching a generation of filmmakers to accept no limitations.
Cinematographer David Tattersall makes everything match beautifully, while editors Roger Barton and Ben Burtt (the latter also credited with the ingenious sound design) propel the story ever forward. John Williams, Lucas' music collaborator through all six films, is content to rumble melodically in the background with only brief emotional swells at key moments. Trisha Biggar's costumes and all the props and makeup are delicious fun, genuinely integral parts of the storytelling. And the CG creatures are more lifelike than ever. A particular standout is a giant lizard McGregor gets to ride.
Yes, by all means, rewind!
The conclusion of the master work of his life will serve as a catharsis for George Lucas, enabling him to move forward without some figurative weight hanging around his neck. From Mr. Lucas's recent interviews, it appears he is satisfied and happy with what he has accomplished, and that he feels a tremendous sense of freedom with the Star Wars films finally being 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.
Full-length documentary produced by Lucasfilm Ltd. Two new featurettes – one exploring the prophecy of Anakin Skywalker as the Chosen One, the other providing an in-depth look at the movie’s eye-popping stunts. 15-part collection of Lucasfilm’s groundbreaking "web documentaries." And much much more...