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Star Wars Episode III: Revenge Of The Sith

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Judy Thorburn

Star Wars Episode III: Revenge Of The Sith

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“STAR WARS EPISODE III THE REVENGE OF THE SITH"” – LUCAS’S TOUR DE ‘FORCE’

The completion of the Star Wars saga has finally arrived twenty-eight years after the original film debuted on movie screens and created a pop culture phenomenon. With the release of Episode III Revenge of the Sith, the Star Wars series comes full circle from the 1977 blockbuster that spawned a series of sequels and prequels.  And, yes, this closure to Lucas’s epic fantasy adventure is the best since Empire Strikes Back.  Although Return of the Sith is darkest of the series, the payoffs are more rewarding than 1999’s The Phantom Menace and 2002’s Attack of the Clones, the two prequels that laid the groundwork for what happens here.  Fans should be very happy with the way filmmaker George Lucas, the creative genius, has brought all the pieces and loose ends together in this film, the most highly anticipated movie of the year.

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Everyone who has seen the Star Wars series knows that young Jedi Anakin Skywalker becomes the evil Sith Lord Darth Vader and that his twin children are Luke and sister Princess Leia. But what we didn’t know was the how and why.  The answers are all here, although there is a few apparent weaknesses in the narrative and unfolding plot devices.

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Hayden Christensen, wooden in the first half, eventually comes through with a stronger performance as the story progresses and we see his transition into the evil Sith Lord. Even with minor problems, the culmination of this space age soap opera is, without a doubt, a near masterpiece of cinema from the man whose imagination and pioneering effort marked a revolution in filmmaking. With this installment, the last of the prequels, Lucas has gone a step further, pushing the envelope with digital CGI effects that are so visually seamless that you are genuinely absorbed into another world of a long time ago in a galaxy, far far away.

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Everything about “Revenge” is eye popping dazzling, making it a triumph of technical achievement.  The gorgeous landscapes and vistas, dramatic architecture, and sensational action sequences that include thrilling aerial dogfights, sensational light saber battles, and lots more alien life forms are all so visually amazing as to blow you away. This is indeed a drama, a tragedy at that, but you can also depend on faithful droids C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) and R2D2 (Kenny Baker) to lend some comic relief, which is in no way, a detraction.  The central focus, of course, revolves around Anakin’s journey to the dark side.

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As the screen words in the beginning tell us we are in the middle of the Clone Wars battle between the evil separatists and the crumbling Republic over control of the galaxy.  The opening sequence has Anakin (Hayden Christensen) and Owi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan MacGregor) rescuing Chancellor Palpatine from the clutches of the dastardly Count Dooku (Christopher Lee). Anakin kills Dooku, but the leader of his Droid Army, Count Grievous (a multi armed, cloak wearing, robotic creature with a hacking cough) escapes to continue the ongoing battle.

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And a battle it will be from within and without. Anakin has grown into an ambitious, gifted Jedi knight under the tutelage of friend and master Obi Wan. The Jedi Council, which serves as protector of the Republic, includes Master Yoda (originally a muppet, now completely CGI, but still voiced by Frank Oz) and Mace Windu, (Samuel L. Jackson). They think of Anakin as the Chosen One who will bring peace to the galaxy and balance to the force. But, that time has not yet come. Anakin, secretly married to the beautiful Senator Padme (Natalie Portman), returns home from his rescue mission to find that she is pregnant, a situation that threatens his standing with the council and sets the stage for his turn to the dark side after Anakin has visions in his dreams of his wife dying. Anakin now troubled by what he sees as a frightening prophesy goes to Yoda and is told to “let go of everything you fear to lose”, advice that does not sink in.

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Meanwhile Chancellor Palpatine (the epitome of evil personified superbly by British stage actor Ian MacDiarmid) who is really the insidious Sith, Lord Sidious, has gained power over the Senate, with political maneuvers that will transform the Republic into the Galactic Empire.  He offers Anakin his much-sought after rank of Master, a move that disturbs the Jedi Council who does not like the Chancellor intervening in their affairs and undermining their motions. Obi Wan, knowing something is not right, wants Anakin to spy on the Chancellor.  But Palpatine turns the tables, using Anakin’s divided loyalties to his advantage and to serve his cause. He lures Anakin to his side with deceptive promises of harnessing powers from the dark side of the Force that he would never be able to get from the Jedi, which he says include power over death, that one could only learn from a Sith.  It is Anakin’s fateful decision to turn his back on everything he knew to be good and true that sets in motion a series of events leading up to the final confrontation with Obi Wan and his physical transformation into Darth Vader.

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As a science fiction fantasy, “Revenge” can’t be beat. But it delivers even more than that.  Everyone can relate to this marvelous series which, in its entirety, encompasses the struggle of good over evil, love, father/son/family relationships, loyalties, politics (here specifically is a dig at Bush and his agenda), fall from grace and eventual redemption.

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George Lucas has said that this is definitely the last installment of Star Wars. It was a great experience.  But, we can revisit it again and again when it comes out on DVD. Even better, Lucas has stated that he will be re-releasing all six episodes in 3D digital. May the Force be with us, always. And, by George, it will!

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