Third Star Wars prequel finally delivers
By Lady Liberty
Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
*** out of ****
The Star Wars phenomenon has been such a part of American culture for so long that even non-fans are hard-pressed to find a reason not to see this movie. I don't happen to be a non-fan myself, but my appreciation for Star Wars goes nowhere near that of those who stood in line — many of them in costume — for weeks to see the movie that ties the Star Wars story together! At the same time, there was no doubt whatsoever that I'd attend the first showing of the movie that I could, and I did.
Anakin Skywalker is the Jedi knight that we all know will eventually become the powerful Sith lord, Darth Vader. But what would make an honorable man turn so thoroughly to the dark side of the Force? In the third prequel, and the sixth Star Wars movie, creator/writer/director George Lucas determined to answer those questions once and for all, and to connect the prequels with the Star Wars classic trilogy that began way back in 1977. Fans and interested theatre-goers alike should take note: The storyline told in Episode III picks up not long after the end of Episode II, so it's important to be at least familiar with what's gone before...
Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) has come a long way toward becoming a Jedi master under the tutelage of Master Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor). His maturation is somewhat rushed as the result of the ongoing clone wars, but he's thus far stood up to the pressures and has gained a reputation already as being a more-then-impressive example of the things a Jedi is and can do. That's why he and Kenobi are assigned to lead a task for to rescue the kidnapped Supreme Chancellor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid). Though the Chancellor has extended his term of office due to the war which has caused the Jedi Council some real concern, there's no way they can permit him to remain the captive of the evil cyber General Grievous! During the course of the rescue, Skywalker must fight the Sith lord, Count Dooku (Christopher Lee) who injured him severely in a previous match. This time, however, Skywalker prevails and earns the praise of his mentor, Kenobi, as well as the gratitude of the Chancellor.
Once back on the capital world, Skywalker finds himself reunited with his love, the princess Padmé Amidala (Natalie Portman). Though the couple has remained circumspect in their relationship to bow to political demands, they're not going to be able to hide the fact that Padmé is pregnant. Despite the inherent difficulties of such a situation and the ongoing war, the two are even more delighted than they are frightened by the news they're about to become parents.
While Padmé continues her political efforts as a senator from her home planet of Naboo, Skywalker finds himself raised to a position in the Jedi Council thanks to the patronage of the Chancellor. Other Council members aren't thrilled with the situation and refuse to raise him to Jedi master status, but they also determine to take advantage of Skywalker's closeness with the Chancellor. Council member and Jedi Master Mace Windu (Samuel L. Jackson) tells Skywalker they need his help to end the war; Kenobi and the venerable Yoda (voiced once again by muppet master Frank Oz) agree. The Chancellor also thinks that Skywalker should be used, but he's inclined to do so from his own perspective and toward his own ends instead.
The conflict in his assignments and his own questions of loyalty cause Skywalker to agonize over his choices. But overriding everything is his love and his concern for Padmé. None of this matters, though, to the inevitable powers that coalesce around him and demand that he make a decision once and for all. His decision proves to be one which could end the war and bring peace; which could fulfill prophecy; or which could spell doom for the Republic and the Jedi alike. We know what he chooses already. But why he chooses the way he does, and how his choices compound and ripple outward with devastating effects, are a revelation that will echo far into the future and into the lives of his yet-to-be-born children.
The script in this final chapter of Star Wars is largely trite and predictable. But the story it tells is so compelling, and that it provides the missing pieces of the puzzle we've wondered over for some 28 years, make many of the shortcomings unnoticeable, or at least forgivable. To be fair, all of the Star Wars movie scripts are written in much the same style — broad brush strokes, with a bit of a melodramatic flair — and this edition fits right in with the others. Less forgivable is the often wooden performances of the actors. We know that Portman is capable of Oscar-caliber performances (remember her stellar turn in Closer?), and Christensen is also known for some nice dramatic work. McGregor, too, has earned kudos for films such as Moulin Rouge and Big Fish. All that means that these frequently mediocre performances are almost solely the fault of the director.
One thing not lacking in Star Wars Episode III is special effects. Even if you knew nothing and cared less about the Star Wars story, the effects would be jaw-dropping. From battles in outer space to the depiction of the sprawling and overbuilt capital city; from other worlds to an underground lava pit, the effects are superlative. At times, they're actually overused. But that, too, will likely be forgiven when the settings and the action is amazingly detailed and incredibly real. The light saber fights are flawlessly choreographed and exciting to watch, a fact only enhanced by the frequent presence of 'droid soldiers and exotic alien creatures.
The bottom line where Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith is concerned is that the franchise is going out on a high note. The effect are awesome, and the story is just what we've waited to hear even though much of it is probably not what we've wanted to hear. In fact, whatever the script's other flaws, the evolution of Anakin Skywalker to Darth Vader is heart-rending and a tale well worth the telling.
POLITICAL NOTES: The political implications from Star Wars to our own world today are overwhelming in no small part thanks to some very obvious comments in the script. Mention is made of trading liberties for safety and security; "temporary" measures are touted with the full knowledge of those doing the touting that they'll actually likely be permanent. One character even paraphrases the infamous comment from President George W. Bush that "those who aren't with us are against us!" But however obvious it might have been in some instances, it was still heartbreaking to hear Padmé say, "And this is how liberty ends, with thunderous applause." Every last one of you who voted for — or who support — such as the REAL ID Act, take note: There are those of us who know exactly what your applause signals! And all of us should make a point of understanding that disloyalty to a government is treason, except when unearned or misplaced loyalty is even more so.
FAMILY SUITABILITY: Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith is rated PG-13 for "science fiction violence and some intense images." Forget the sci-fi violence, and consider some of the violence done to the humans (or human-like) characters in the movie! Some moments are horrific; many are graphic. However much they love their Skywalker action figures, this is not a movie for five year-olds. The dark nature of the story itself is also not suitable for younger children. If they can handle some pretty graphic images and deaths, however, I think the mere fact that this is Star Wars will make it tough for you to refuse your ten year-old permission to see the movie, and I'm frankly not sure that you should. There are some important lessons here well above and beyond any blood being spilled! With that information in mind, I'd recommend Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith for virtually all audiences. It's a hell of a ride if nothing else!
Lady Liberty is a graphic designer and pro-freedom activist currently residing in the Midwest. More of her writings and other political and educational information is available on her web site, Lady Liberty's Constitution Clearing House, at http://www.ladylibrty.com. E-mail Lady Liberty at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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