'Fear of loss is a path to the dark side' Yoda
As the Republic is threatened by separatists and the Jedi Council tries to sniff out Sith presence, Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor, "Big Fish") and his student Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen, "Shattered Glass") are sent to rescue Supreme Chancellor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid, "Sleepy Hollow") who has been kidnapped by droid leader General Grievous (voice of supervising sound editor Matthew Wood). Anakin's powers appear stronger than those of his master, but his Jedi resolve is unsteady and made more so by the influence of the treacherous Senate leader, who uses Anakin's fear of losing his wife Padmé (Natalie Portman, "Closer") to sway his powers to the dark side for "Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith."
For his last "Star Wars" outing, writer/director George Lucas has been promising a darker film and Hayden Christensen's critical vindication. He delivers on the first promise. "Revenge of the Sith" is easily the best of Lucas's second trilogy, yet its very reason for existence - the transformation of a Jedi Knight into a Sith Lord whose name ranks among the greatest movie villains of all time - is the hole in this film's heart. In two scenes which should have been the high points of "Revenge of the Sith" - Anakin's going over to the dark side and his emergence as Darth Vader - Lucas's writing is at its lamest and Christensen isn't up to the task of providing any emotional weight. What we do have is one of "Attack of the Clones's" greatest pleasures - Yoda (Frank Oz, voice of "Miss Piggy") with his spunk up - as well as the surprisingly kickass R2D2 (Kenny Baker), Ewan McGregor finally getting into his character and great makeup and special effects.
Although the opening scroll provides enough verbiage to make one believe we're in for a whole bunch more of "Attack of the Clones" political yammering, the story here is simple enough even for non-afficionados to follow. Anakin is still the petulant young pup he's been all along, plus he's burdened with a premonitory dream of his secret wife Padmé dying in childbirth. Palpatine, the Sith Lord the Jedi have been trying to identify, explains to young Skywalker that in order to do his job, he must understand both the light and dark sides and that there was once a great Sith who had the power to keep people from death. This tidbit and the slight Anakin feels over not being made a Jedi master is apparently all it takes to tip him over to the baddies. Far more shocking is witnessing Commander Cody (Temuera Morrison, "Once Were Warriors") execute order 66 at Palpatine's bidding, turning and firing upon the Obi-Wan he was just conversing with and becoming who we know as Jango Fett.
Only McGregor shows any real acting chops among the recognizably human cast. He's introduced with a real nice bit of action, somersaulting out of a moving pod with light sabre at the ready. McGregor conveys the creeping unease Obi-wan feels about Anakin but refuses to believe and the determination needed to vanquish his former friend. McDiarmid is certainly sinister, but he's handicapped by Lucas's writing which makes his seduction of Anakin all too transparent. Portman's first seen with the infamous cinnamon buns on the side of her head and spends the film waiting anxiously in her ultra modern apartment in a series of changing hairstyles and costumes as her belly grows larger. She also contributes to one of the most unnatural looking childbirth scenes in movie history. Peter Mayhew returns as the beloved Chewbacca, along with a whole new batch of wookies, but they're disappointingly relegated to background with little purpose in the plot. Frank Oz actually takes Yoda's backward speak and gives it some essential gravity, a solid vocal performance.
But Christensen is simply awful. After killing Mace Windu (Samuel L. Jackson, "Coach Carter") to protect Lord Sidious (Palpatine), he sits down and blankly utters 'What have I done?' Three seconds later, in an equally monotone voice, he's spouting allegiance to the Sith. THIS is the big leap into the void? And after his still-living torso is recouped by Sidious, made into the form of Vader and informed his beloved Padmé is dead after all, Christensen lurches from his upraised pallet like Frankenstein's monster and delivers the wimpiest 'NOOOooooo!' imaginable. If only.
Still, the movie around the central non-drama is almost always engaging, from R2's brilliant offing of two clone troopers, to the showdown between Yoda and Sidious in the empty Senate hall. Obi-wan's delivery of baby Luke to Tatooine where his aunt and uncle await against the famous two-sunned horizon is sure to leave you at least a little bit verklempt.
Well, it is finally over. Almost 30 years ago we were overwhelmed by the high tech thrills of the first Star Wars” film. Since that hallowed time the world has met with varying levels of success (or, not) with the two sequels and, now, with three prequels. The story comes full circle and we finally get to see the creation of Darth Vader and the birth of Luke and Leia in “Star Wars Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith.”
Here’s a challenge to the average movie-goer (fan boys of “Star Wars” franchise do not count): tell me what Episode 2” was about. And don’t go onto IMDB or Google to get a synopsis, either. That’s cheating.
Give up? Me, too. For the life of me, I cannot remember what the middle prequel was about. I don’t know whether this is due to a mental block or that it was just so bad. Probably both. As such, I was less than thrilled with the prospect of yet another yawner with “Revenge of the Sith.” But, I had hopes.
For one thing, we were finally going to get the payoff of seeing Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen, continuing his whining, annoying performance from Episode 2”) make the final transition – hooray! – into our beloved Darth Vader. It is almost worth the two-plus hours just for this. Then, there was the fleeting promise that one of my favorite Star Wars characters, Chewbacca, would make a return appearance. This part is, unfortunately, not worth the price of admission as his return is brief and we only get one or two of his Wookie roars.
I always thought that George Lucas did the smart thing with “Episodes 5 & 6” by turning over helming duties to Irvin Kershner and Richard Marquand, respectively. He still kept the writing choirs (unfortunately, especially for his terrible dialog) but had the sense to give the helm to other directors. Then came the near mind-numbing “Episodes 1 & 2.” I cringe when I think of Jake Lloyd painfully miscast as young Anakin and, need I say more, Jar Jar Binks. Both of which were in “Episode 1.” “Episode 2,” though, took the prize for numbing the mind and my prompted my aforementioned challenge.
As expected in “Episode 3,” there is more of the same in the F/X department with futuristic cities buzzed by all manner of space ship. You also get Yoda (voice of Frank Oz), still one of the great visual effects in movies. Whining laser swords clash with their memorable electronic twang in the many fights between the Jedi and those given in to Dark Side. (Which brings me to an editorial note: why do you have to work so hard, in Lucas’s universe, to become a Jedi knight but can become a Sith Lord with a bad thought? Yeah, I know the arguments but which one would you choose? I know which way I would go but I just so happen to look good in black.)
There are the preambles that foretell the future coming back around, 30 years later, to “Star Wars” with the X- and Tie-fighters shown in earlier forms, the beginnings of the Death Star and the coming of powerful Darth Sidious (Ian McDiarmid). It’s all kind of like comfort food as “Episode 3” finally brings you back “to a galaxy far, far away” that we first met nearly three decades ago.
The vast cast of characters is, as usual, hampered by the stilted dialogue that is so typical of George Lucas. Ewan McGregor has finally captured the charm, even if just a little bit, that Alec Guiness gave to Obi-Wan Kenobi in “Star Wars.” The rest – including Samuel L. Jackson, Christopher Lee, Natalie Portman, Anthony Daniels (reprising C3PO) and Jimmy Smits – are given nothing to do but go through their respective motions. Hayden Christensen is wooden, at best, as Anakin. From the sheer volume of F/X shots it is obvious that much of the action is in front of blue screen, and it shows.
The special F/X are, as expected, top-of-the-line, most of which we’ve seen from Lucas before but with one or two new things. (Check it out when Obi-Wan has to ride an other-worldly “steed” into combat.) The fans won’t be disappointed (they are such an easy lot) and Lucas’s detractors (like me) will give him some slack. I give it a B-.
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