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'Revenge Of The Sith' Is Good,But Almost Too Much For One Outing



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‘Revenge Of The Sith’ Is Good,

But Almost Too Much For One Outing

I’m a bit melancholy. Ever since Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith opened on May 19 on its way to breaking a number of box office records, I’ve been troubled by the state of things in a galaxy far, far away.

Unlike some fans who are undoubtedly pained over this movie signaling an end to filmmaker George Lucas’ big-screen Star Wars epic, however, my sadness is due to thoughts of what might have been. Yes, Revenge of the Sith is almost inarguably the best of Lucas’ three prequels to his beloved trilogy from the late ‘70s-early ‘80s. But I believe a great deal of the support audiences are granting this film has less to do with the singular quality of the movie itself than simply the relief that it’s good.

Writer-director George Lucas finally gives us the missing pieces to the puzzle of how the little tow-headed boy from Tatooine, now a heroic and powerful Jedi, becomes the ominous, black-clad villain Darth Vader. Here, in Revenge of the Sith, Lucas picks things up approximately three years after the events of the previous film and throws Jedi Knights Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) into the midst of a feverishly-staged space skirmish as they attempt to rescue Chancellor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid), who has been kidnapped by General Grievous, the vicious leader of the Droid army.

But the true battle wages within Anakin who, already conflicted over how best to use his burgeoning powers, finds himself thrown into utter turmoil as he has to juggle his loyalty to the Jedi (who grow increasingly weary of the Chancellor), his friendship with Palpatine (who heads the Galactic Senate), and his secret marriage to Padme (Natalie Portman), who reveals that she’s pregnant.

Lucas, who has been much maligned over the years for lackluster scripting, again runs into some problems with dialogue and pacing. But this time the trouble stems not so much from inability, but from the fact that he has left himself an awful lot of story to tell in order to bridge the events from this trilogy to those told in the adventures of Luke Skywalker and company in Episodes IV-VI.

There is a resonance to be found in this tragic tale, but I’m afraid that for me, most of the significance comes from the inherent attachment to Lucas’ saga that I brought with me, not from what is actually depicted onscreen. It isn’t because Lucas and his cast don’t put forth an effort – there are some worthwhile performances here, especially from the ever-game McGregor and the under-appreciated McDiarmid – but mostly because it’s a case of too little too late.

From the start of the prequels, Lucas and his minions at Industrial Light & Magic have done their best to set fans’ mouths agape with legions of new, intriguing aliens, exotic locales and action-packed battle sequences that fill the frame with almost numbing detail. Sure, it’s exciting and fantastic and occasionally breathtaking. But more and more, it’s also becoming simply an elaborate video game.

While watching Revenge of the Sith, I couldn’t help but be taken out of the reality (so to speak) of Lucas’ world because nearly every Jedi move was augmented by a CGI effect and almost all cityscapes, locales and even characters were created digitally. There was very little that seemed tactile, and thus very little to keep me grounded.

So when the stakes were raised, emotionally, in this chapter, I didn’t truly connect with the characters. I was more connecting with the Star Wars saga as a whole. It’s interesting to contrast Lucas’ prequels with Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, which used lush locales in New Zealand to help give his series a type of veracity that is lacking in the new Star Wars films.

But perhaps more importantly, Jackson, from the very beginning, devoted a lot of time to his characters so that by the third, final film, there was significant emotional investment from both the audience and the narrative. Lucas’ priorities, on the other hand, have been with creating more and more intricate and complex worlds. So when the climax arrives and resonance is sought at the end of his trilogy, it’s a long time coming, but it ends up ringing a bit hollow.

Revenge of the Sith, rated PG-13 for sci-fi violence and intense images, is certainly an entertaining film and not without its merits. It has Wookies, for goodness sake, as well as the ever-endearing Yoda, both in fine form. But as a fan, I couldn’t help but feel the weight of the whole prequel trilogy resting on these final two-plus hours… and that’s just too much burden to bear.

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