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  • Writer's pictureCollin Souter

eFilmcritic Archive: "Star Wars - Episode III: Revenge of the Sith" (2005)

So, how is it? It’s good. Pretty darned good, actually. Good enough to hold a firm spot alongside the coveted Original Trilogy? Kind of. While the overall quality of “Revenge of the Sith” does measure up to some of the Original Trilogy’s best moments, it feels too radically different in tone to fit in with the good natured cheer of the Episodes that follow it. The important thing is this: It’s good enough to recommend to even the most disappointed “Star Wars” fan and I should know. I used to be one.

Yet, because I knew we would be getting to the heart of the matter concerning the purpose of this new trilogy, I walked in with good spirits. This would no doubt represent the darkest of the six films. As I’m sure you all know, this Episode depicts Anakin Skywalker’s descent into the dark side that culminates in the creation of Darth Vader. My problem with the previous films have to do with someone as rich, happy-go-lucky and (as a writer) inept as Lucas actually penning something as dark and tormenting as this piece of fiction promised to be. Episodes I and II were too cute, too cloying and dramatically flat.

This movie carries some of that baggage, but mostly in its first 30-45 minutes. We still get some detail-heavy action scenes that carry little dramatic weight. We still get secondary characters who talk as though they’re in a bad Saturday morning cartoon and we still get puke-inducing love scenes between Anakin (Hayden Christiansen) and Padme (Natalie Portman). Example:

Anakin: You never looked so beautiful.

Padme: Only because I’m so in love.

Since I probably just spoiled your lunch, I’ll try not to spoil too much of the story (although it comes pre-spoiled anyway, but you knew that). The key to Annakin’s transformation lies in Supreme Chancellor Palpatine’s (Ian McDiarmid) ability to convince Anakin that the Jedi Council are up to no good. Anakin has been having premonitions about Padme’s pending death following the birth of her child and wants to do what he can to prevent the death from happening. Palpatine uses this weakness as a ploy to lure Anakin to the Dark Side. By learning its ways, Anakin can save anyone from death. But once you turn to the dark side, can you ever turn back? (That’s it in a nutshell. You already know if you want to see it, so why go further into detail?)

If George Lucas did in fact enlist the help of outside screenwriters, he should at least own up to it, but I guess that’s neither here nor there. The fact is that there have been major improvements made here, both in the screenplay and in Lucas’s direction. Early on, you’ll notice that he keeps Anakin faintly lit in dark shadows. He lets the drama linger without a word of dialogue, moments akin to Luke Skywalker’s sunset gazing in Episode IV. The lightsaber fights (lest we forget about the endless ACTION) are the best since “Empire.” Most importantly, the transformation of Anakin into Darth Vader has a believable dramatic arch.

In the future, if I were to have a “Star Wars” marathon, I would probably opt to watch the Original Trilogy first and then follow it up with “Revenge of the Sith.” I’m not sure why, but I think “Sith” works well because we already know what a cunning villain Anakin will turn out to be. This knowledge ends up adding another layer of melancholia over the whole film, one that I’m not used to associating with a “Star Wars” experience. Like Tarantino often proves, there can be something just as powerful about building up to the beginning of the story as well as the end.

I don’t acknowledge “Revenge of the Sith” as the end of all things “Star Wars.” It may be the last feature-length film to be released, but it only marks the beginning in gaining a better understanding of the series as a whole. Since “Jedi” in 1983, there has been the perception that the story of “Star Wars” is the story of Luke Skywalker. Now, we know better. With all six films finally complete, with the grand story arch in place and with many of its characters planted firmly in our hearts and minds (young and old alike), it’s quite clear that the story of “Star Wars” is actually the story of all of us.

Okay, I may have induced some wincing with that sentiment and, granted, Lucas ain’t Shakespeare, but the classic, universal themes of good vs. evil, unrequited and forbidden love, the mis-use of religion and the need to flee the nest and be your own person have made the “Star Wars” series more meaningful than just a grand step forward in cinematic technology. But now it’s time to say goodbye to the event side of “Star Wars,” sit back, take all six films in, debate the merits of each and thank God (or the Force of your choice) you’re alive to witness them. Well, okay, most of them.

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