Now you well knew I'd be at the Box Office as soon as humanly possible for this one, right? Yep, 12:01 AM, Thursday Morning, May 19, 2005, arriving virtually spoiler free and ready to be wowed by the promise that had been building for twenty-eight years. And now that the cycle is complete, I'm sad only that I don't have a new Star Wars film to look forward to. The wait was torture, but knowing this is it is as sad as the Dark Side itself!
But then, I'm a fan of all the films, and in any scenario in which someone criticized Lucas and his new/ old fashioned trilogy, I simply stated what Lucas had already made clear: "This is a series", or more aptly, a "Serial"! Lucas has been making his Saturday Matinee tributes, peppered with Japanese Samurai Lore, Campbell heroes and pan-national mythologies for decades now and has blended all of this into a epically legendary whole! And he's finally completed his episodic epic, on his own terms. One can no more dismiss any part of this great, great saga than one could judge the entire Republic Pictures Captain Marvel serial by watching episode 7!
I promise no spoilers in this review, and rabidly deflected any hints of spoilers from every source! However, let's face it, if you haven't gleaned that this is the Chapter in which Anakin Skywalker becomes Darth Vader, you've probably been living on Dagobah! It's how all this happens that is so engrossing, action packed, deep, and sometimes, quite, quite hard to watch! If seeing Opie turn into Hitler isn't hint enough of the darkness of this film, let me tell you, the true fruition of how the best star pilot in the galaxy, the cunning warrior and the good friend becomes the betrayer and murderer Darth Vader, isn't a story for a three year old's bed time, and it can be hard to take for any fan or newbie alike.
The classic Star Wars moments are in here like Prego as Anakin (Hayden Christensen) as friend and foe crosses the vast reaches of the Galaxy in battle with enemies like the worse than soap-scum General Grievous (voice of Matthew Wood), the deadly Darth Tyranus (Christopher Lee), the duplicitous Nute Gunray (Silas Carson) and most of all... himself. And, after an opening salvo that puts even the best Star Wars movies back on the shelf, the film expands ever larger to the outer rim, as familiar worlds are introduced and beloved characters like Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), Senator Bail Organa (Jimmy Smits), C-3PO (Anthony Daniels), R2-D2 (Kenny Baker) and Mace Windu (Samuel L. Jackson who does not go out like "some punk")! And that doesn't even mention the surprise Wars stars of the future, like Governor Tarkin (Farscape's excellent Wayne Pygram) and Mon Mothma (Genevieve O'Reilly) and those killer cameos by Temuera "Jango Fett" Morrison, Jeremy "Boba Fett" Bulloch, Keisha "Whale Rider" Castle-Hughes (as the new Queen of Naboo) and, believe it or not, George Lucas himself, along with his kids (in various scenes)! Look closely and keep those optical sensors peeled, O my droid brothers, and you'll even see the Millennium Falcon in possibly the sweetest cameo of all!
They're all pivotal as are all the locations and sequences seen here! However, the main story here is the final seduction of our boy Ani at the hands of Ian McDiarmid's Supreme Chancellor Palpatine whose slow and steady tightening of his grip causes the water to boil before the intergalactic froggies know it's even lukewarm! His incredible genesis between the kindly old "Uncle" Anakin comes to trust and the hideous Darth Sidious he really is proves that Ian McDiarmid was the perfect choice for this role, lo those twenty-odd years ago. As Palpatine flip-flops (like a true politician) from persona to persona, sometimes at the drop of a cloak, it's almost impossible not to feel for poor Anakin Skywalker. With Anakin's good intentions always at the forefront it's easy, and frightening, to see how he was seduced by the dark side along with the rest of the galaxy... and there's no amount of goodness from Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor), who loves Anakin like a brother or poor pregnant Padmé (Natalie Portman) that can do a bit of good about it. Between McGregor's excellent swashbuckling and dead on Alec Guinness impersonation and Portman's palpable portrayal of the ultimate abused wife, it's nearly impossible not to find someone to feel for in this tear jerker!
It's Jedi Master Yoda who practically steals the show here with the positively explosive animation and the familiar backward voice of Frank Oz. Never has a CGI character had so much... character! The balance between thoughtful sage and fierce warrior is a joy to see, and folks, if you thought Episode II's lightsaber duel with Count Dooku was incredible, then... seen nothin' yet... you ain't! Yes, Yes! Seek Yoda!
It all pans out to something truly wonderful, yet sad and frightening in the last reel that perfectly sets the next chapter in motion. Make no mistake, this is a beautiful movie in the effects and the execution, nearly flawless in its look, but this is also a very violent films with a long string of horrible murders and executions that take place all over the galaxy, and as the characters we've grown to love over the years meet their end, it's a tear jerker. Hey, even compared to the other Star Wars films there are one hell of a lot of arms being chopped off in this movie! It's PG-13 for a reason, and not the same tone (how could it be) as the movie dear mom and dad took the three year old me to see back in 1977! But kids, it's not all bleak depression, and you'll be happy to note that a certain double bundle of joy ends our new old fashioned prequel with... well... a new hope!
Does Lucas answer all the questions? All he was inclined to, yes, and more than you might be prepared to know in some areas! Some of the other secrets can be hashed out in your own mind, the pages of the Expanded Universe, and the promised Star Wars TV show (which starts production in 2006)! Is there still any comic book-ish dialogue? A little. This is a Saturday Morning Matinee. Is some of the acting over the top? Some. This is a Saturday Morning Matinee. Does Lucas throw in homages to classic horror, adventure and science fiction? Yes! This is a Saturday Morning Matinee! Your Uncle George loves you, but behold, this isn't Star Trek or Alien, this is his movie in six parts done on George's own terms with his own flair, and what you see on screen is intentionally there! Let me repeat this: George Lucas is an Independent Film Maker. Don't hold the fact that he's the most successful independent film maker in the history of Studio Insults against him! He makes what he wants, and this man says Viva Le Georgie! Thanks, George, for letting us play in your sandbox one last time!
Five Stars out of Five for Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith! Coming from the fan who saw the original A New Hope in the theatre at age 3, stood in long lines before Fandango.com and the Movie Phone guy for The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi and braved fat geeks and gamers in crowds the size of the Death Star to see The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones (all without even ONCE dressing up, thank you), I can honestly tell you, this is the most fitting end to one of the greatest Americana Artifacts on film! I'm only sad that it's finally over, and the Emperor has already won! Sigh! Ah, well! I should move on to the rest of my life now, at long last. In fact, my wife and I are trying to get pregnant. We're, uh... we're hoping for twins! See you in the next dark, duplicitous reel, and MAY THE FORCE BE WITH YOU!
But click here and see the power of a great review, The Force Beckons you!
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