This is it. The buck stops here.
Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith closes the book forever.
So says George Lucas, Master of the Universe and creator of the legendary Star Wars film franchise.
Based on the last two installments (The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones), that declaration wouldn’t have hurt my feelings. But something interesting happened when I screened Revenge of the Sith.
I felt the slightest, but most distinct tinge of regret. Just a smidgeon of sorrow that there won’t be anymore Star Wars movies.
And another first: It’s been years since I’ve seen the original trilogy, and haven’t felt the motivation to go back and look at it. Until now.
By golly, he did it. In the eleventh hour, with his final installment, he finally crafted something compelling enough to want to come back to. Yes, it’s true: Lucas has left behind unintentional humor and bad acting. It’s really a shame it had to happen at the end. But I’ll still take it. Late is always better than never.
Hayden Christensen is the most notable improvement. His stiff and unresponsive acting bogged down Episode II, but it works well for his Anakin Skywalker in Episode III. As he morphs to the dark side, inching ever closer to his new identity, his hollow eyes and apathetic voice work ever more effectively in portraying an evil character.
Anakin is plagued by dreams that he will lose his young bride and mother-to-be Padme (Natalie Portman) in childbirth.
Frighteningly dependent on her companionship for survival, Anakin becomes closer to his new mentor, Chancellor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid).
The Jedi Council and Obi Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor), Anakin’s closest friend, suspect growing corruption in Palpatine’s sphere, and are reluctant to give too much power to the increasingly prideful Anakin. The long Clone Wars are coming to an end, and Obi-Wan is assigned by the Republic to topple the rest of the Separatists, including the dangerous Count Dooku and General Grievous.
Palpatine plays on Anakin’s fears of losing Padme to enlist help in turning the Republic into the Galactic Empire, urging Anakin to turn to the dark side to save his loved ones.
Only the dark forces can save her, he says. Anakin’s desperation, however, begins to turn him against the very wife he is trying to save. Thus begins Anakin’s dark and ugly spiral into the identity of Darth Vader.
Pristine special effects and an ominously dark tone make this nearly 2 1/2 hour film feel shorter than it should. Lucas tones down the “fashion show” feel of the first two installments, putting Portman in lovely but more understated costumes, and letting her vulnerability as a young expectant mother shine through. It’s more about the characters, less about the violence; more about the story, and less about the effects.
Christensen looks better than he has ever looked. Something about those dark eyes makes his impossibly pretty features mature into something angrily seductive. It was a long-shot, making Hayden Christensen into a believable bad boy.
It was all a long shot. How could this work, after two disappointments? How could Lucas redeem himself after Jar Jar Binks? How could he have possibly gotten away with all that bad writing? How did he think he was going to pass off pretty-boy Christensen as Darth Vader?
I didn’t see Lucas’ vision at first. It was like he was keeping us on the outside of what was really going on in his mind; what he really saw these first three episodes as; perhaps afraid of letting his true talent burst forth in another set of movies. But finally, we see what his true vision was. He’s let us in.
And I’m going to rent the original trilogy this weekend.
Opens today. Rated PG-13, for sci-fi violence and some intense images. Running time: 2 hours, 26 minutes