Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi and Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker in 20th Century Fox's Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith - 2005
George Lucas is Darth Vader. Yeah, I said it. You want proof? In the seventies, a hero emerged on the Hollywood scene. He was young, brash - an idealist, and the movies he made spread his fame across the galaxy (presumably. The world, at least.) But the young director became arrogant. In the name of good, he began twisting his creations, adding to them, warping them irreparably. Despite a great outcry among fans he continued his tinkering, always seeking greater profits and then, at the turn of the century, a Phantom Menace arose, and the director was lost behind a dark mask of ambitious, yet incompetent filmmaking. "There is still good in him," came the quiet, yet insistent entreaty, and now, at the darkest moment of the story, our hero finally regains the strength to shake off the evil that has held sway and, though it means the death of the saga, restore order and balance to the Star Wars galaxy. Sound familiar?
I will admit, I am a huge nerd. Maybe not big enough for Triumph the Insult Dog to take a bite of, but easily nerdy enough to have seen Episode III - Revenge of the Sith twice already, once at the midnight screening on Wednesday night. Granted, I didn't arrive at 2:00 in the afternoon, as did some of my students, though I was secretly jealous of their commitment to such nerdy pursuits. I got to the theater around 10:30 P.M., having purchased my ticket weeks in advance. It's a good thing I did, because the theater had sold out two of the three auditoriums (rigging a single print to show in two theaters simultaneously was an ingenious solution to the extreme demand for tickets to this show, though probably not entirely kosher with Lucasfilm. Keep it under your hat.) When I arrived, the party was in full swing. In fact, it had almost swung out of control, and the manager was on the verge of jettisoning the rowdy crowd of lightsaber-wielding Jedi and Sith. Luckily there was a coach on hand to smooth things over, and the throng semi-settled down for the interminable hour-and-a-half wait. We passed the time by calling out random Star Wars trivia, relating our memories of the original trilogy (OT, in the parlance of nerds), and occasionally shouting at Paul to fire up his authentic $100 replica Anakin Lightsaber that makes the whooshing noises when you swing it. It was great feeling; to be completely insulated by people who were just as geeky as you. Star Wars love is a pure love, that knows no racial, gender, or age boundaries. Everyone in that theater had the same hushed reverence at the sight of the Lucasfilm logo, the same lump in the throat at Anakin's eventual fall, and the same electric feeling at Vader's rise. One guy I heard talking to his friend summed it up best. "This is the nerdiest thing I've ever done. And I love it!!"
You might wonder why I'm spending so much time on the theater and so little on the film itself. Well, for one, if you don't already know what this film's about, you probably haven't been paying attention to either the last two films, or to Lucas' advertising onslaught that includes everything from Pepsi to Burger King to The O.C. And for another, in some ways, the event is more important than the film itself. The story, in broad strokes, tells of the tail end of the Clone Wars and of the destruction of the Republic in favor of the Galactic Empire. The movie is what it is, but the buzz surrounding it gives it even greater weight. It is the chance for all of us who remember the OT fondly to regain that feeling. It's the place where the excitement and joy that have been sorely missed in the last two outings can be palpably felt. And it's the last chance for Lucas to gain some buy in from an age group who, from their experience with Episodes I and II, can't figure out what the rest of us are so excited about.
The movie is good. Most of my being wants to shout out "great!!" but I'm trying to be somewhat reserved. After all, I, and most other critics, said The Phantom Menace was great, but just try to watch any part of it that doesn't include Darth Maul now. And I, and fewer critics, said Attack of the Clones was great, but have you listened to the dialogue between Amidala and Anakin? Dear Lord. So, Revenge of the Sith is just good.... and it's awesome! The writing is definitely better, though nothing to write home about, but Lucas' depiction of Anakin's final fall from grace is dark, scary, sad, beautiful, and thrilling. Everything we hoped it would be. Will it remain so in repeat viewings? I think so. I know nothing will allow me to recreate the excitement of being surrounded by like-minded acolytes, but I think George has finally come around and given us something with even a smidgen of the permanence of his original achievement. The circle is complete, and our hero, in depicting the ultimate power of the dark side of the Force, has finally escaped its grasp. Grade: A-
Revenge of the Sith is rated PG-13 for fairly intense and scary violence.
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