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|Though flawed, Sith saved
an ailing series
Star Wars, Episode III:
Revenge of the Sith (2005)
Director: George Lucas
By JIM CAROLUS
STATIC and FEEDBACK staff writer
Talking about the first two Star Wars prequels with
fans of the series is a lot like discussing recent Star
Trek movies with that series’ respective fan base –
except that with Star Wars, you actually feel bad
informing them that their lifelong obsession is
letting them down. It is, after all, a lot easier (and
more fun) to rub salt in a fan boy’s wounds after
listening to him drop names like Scott Bakula and
But these recent Star Wars films make me sad, they
really do. The first of the prequels, The Phantom
Menace, did a great job at recapturing the “feel” of
the original trilogy but was almost unforgivably
saddled with bad dialogue, childish humor, an
unnecessarily contrived plot and “something else”
that I’ve spent the last 6 years trying to put out of my
mind. I’ll let you guess that last one. Still, Darth
Maul and the Ben Hur 2000 Pod Racing scenes
were cool as hell, and I had high expectations for the rest of the trilogy.
Then came Attack of the Clones. This is the one that really rubbed me the wrong way. Although its final 45
minutes really succeeded in an “everything but the kitchen sink” kind of way, I got an ominous sense that this
was no longer the Star Wars of my youth – the one that made me fall in love with movies. It was less childish
than TPM, but also less Star Wars. At times, it felt like an intergalactic Lord of the Rings knockoff, at others a
computer-crazed Gladiator. Yoda’s much-ballyhooed light saber duel was dreadful computer-generated pap, the
settings in the film’s first hour looked like they belonged in Luc Besson’s The Fifth Element, and the bad
dialogue from TPM got worse – especially during those damn love scenes. Anakin’s slaughter of the Tuskan
Raiders was particularly disappointing, as was his wimpy dialogue delivery during the pivotal scene that
followed. I found myself thinking…this is it? This is what I’ve been waiting 15 years for?
Early in AotC, Obi-Wan tells a cigarette merchant (cigarettes are called “Death Sticks,” isn’t that clever?) “You
want to go home and re-think your life.” I couldn’t have agreed more; as soon as I got home, I started the
process with a stiff drink and a “Death Bowl.” Star Wars was over.
But I no longer smoke cigarettes, and Lucas had nothing to do with it.
So now, here we are, apparently staring down the barrel of Lucas’s ego-inflated blaster once again. I was not
primed for a positive experience. In fact, things looked so dire after I saw the discouraging trailer that I briefly
(and unwisely) considered not even seeing this last film.
In short, what a mistake that would have been – almost as bad as Lucas’s half-assed decision to END the
trilogy here instead of BEGINNNING it here. Yes, George, I know, “That’s the story…you can’t change the story.”
Why, because of a few silly tie-in volumes (that Lucas didn’t even write) and some comic books? Give me a
break. This is Star Wars, “mythology of the mind” be damned. We wanted old-fashioned fear, wonder, and
excitement in ALL THREE prequels, not just the climax. But rest assured, we do get it in the climax, in spades. In
fact, this film comes dangerously close to sensory overload...
...and character underload (one character in particular). Frankly, this generally satisfying film nevertheless feels
rushed in many places, draggy in others. Wait until you see the Emperor “christen” Anakin with the Darth Vader
moniker, it's outrageously anti-climactic and seriously underwhelming.
But my biggest gripe is that the picture’s ending comes on way too quickly. We had to sit through 2 hours of
bratty Jake Lloyd as “young Anakin” for heaven’s sake, couldn’t we have had Darth Vader onscreen for a little
more than five minutes? Couldn’t he at least have unleashed his insidious powers a little more provocatively
than simply crushing a few I.V. bags before stumbling around and yelling “Nooooooooooo!”? Yes George, its
Frankenstein, we get it. And you’re Citizen Kane looking for Rosebud and only finding the seat.
For the love of God, Vader is on this film’s posters! He’s hawking candy and soda! He has toys in every store
begging to be purchased! We needed more of him in this motion picture.
Not to beat a dead horse, but this film was nearly 30 years in the making! We needed more Vader.
Additionally, several events towards the end of the film feel far too laboriously paced to be emotionally rewarding
(if the Republic is crumbling, why must Obi-Wan and Yoda continue to talk so slooooowly?) and Lucas loves
cutting away from magnificent battle sequences to bring us unwanted scenes of a strung-out Natalie Portman
combing her hair (seriously, it looks like she gains, loses, and gains about 10 pounds during the movie…get
And yet, despite all this, and for the first time in this series, I felt the magic.
It’s there, all right.
It’s there in that incredible first half hour, with Lucas displaying such a mastery of special effects that we almost
immediately wish he would rethink his decision to end the series here. It’s there in General Grievous, an alien-
cyborg hybrid who is the best Star Wars villain since Darth Maul. It’s there in Yoda (for the first time successfully
depicted as the Kurosawa throwback that Lucas intended), whose use of the light saber is shown here with
grace and beauty rather than the silly clowning displayed in AotC. It’s there in Lucas’ breathtaking use of varied
landscapes that surprise us with their imagination (why didn’t we visit these worlds SOONER?). Most especially,
it’s there in Ian McDiarmid’s WONDERFUL dual performance as both Chancellor Palpatine and the Emperor
we’ve come to know from the “original” trilogy. Even Samuel L. Jackson (for the first time in the series) seems to
This one’s a keeper, flaws be damned.
So, now that we can view the entire tapestry Lucas has woven for us, what have we learned? And where does
Revenge of the Sith fit in the larger scheme of the Saga?