SAN DIEGO The final ''Star Wars'' prequel is just ''Episode III'' no more. Lucasfilm announced its new title Saturday: ''Revenge of the Sith.''
The movie, set for release in May 2005, will link the prequels with the original ''Star Wars'' trilogy by showing how Luke Skywalker's father, Anakin, went from a sweet-natured slave boy to the galaxy-crushing villain Darth Vader.
The Sith is the evil sect that corrupts Anakin (played by Hayden Christensen) by drawing him into the dark side of the Force, the cosmic power that balances the universe. Lucasfilm announced the new title at the annual Comic-Con International, the annual gathering of tens of thousands of sci-fi and superhero fans.
It was a risky move some of the notoriously fickle ''Star Wars'' admirers initially bristled at previous prequel titles ''The Phantom Menace'' and ''Attack of the Clones.''
''Star Wars'' creator and filmmaker George Lucas did not attend the event, but sent fan relations chief Steve Sansweet in his place.
Sansweet announced the title by pulling off a baseball jersey to reveal a black T-shirt emblazoned with ''Revenge of the Sith.''
''For some time now, the naming of a new 'Star Wars' movie has taken on some special meaning among core fans who love to take part in guessing games and speculation before a title is announced,'' Sansweet told nearly 6,500 convention attendees. ''And then (they) engage in debate once it is ... so let the debate begin.''
Minutes later, a sampling of audience members dressed as Jedis, stormtroopers and other ''Star Wars'' characters showed they approved.
''I thought it was great, I loved it," said Barren Wright, 35, a graphic designer from Modesto who was dressed as the green-armored bounty hunter Boba Fett. ''This takes it back to the classic trilogy, It's a smart move by Lucasfilm to tie it all together since the logo and everything is identical to 'Return of the Jedi.'''
Wright said the symmetry between the titles reflects the story lines. Anyone who has seen the original ''Star Wars'' from 1977 knows that the good guys that is the Jedi would be wiped out by Darth Vader in ''Episode III'' just as Vader and his evil Empire were toppled in 1983's ''Return of the Jedi.''
In addition to the title, Lucasfilm also sent concept artist Ryan Church to show off drawings of a Wookie tree civilization from ''Episode III'' and played footage of Christensen's climactic light-saber duel minus all the special effects with co-star Ewan McGregor, who plays Obi-Wan Kenobi.
''Return of the Jedi'' was originally to be titled ''Revenge of the Jedi.'' Some advance promotional material even featured that title, but Lucas changed it later in production.
''This time, George tells us he's going to keep 'Revenge' in the title,'' Sansweet said.
He had one other announcement for fans: ''Revenge of the Sith'' T-shirts would go on sale inside Comic-Con's main hall in five minutes.
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