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Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

  For us 30-somethings, “Star Wars” iconography looms large in our collective consciousness.   Lucas’ characters roamed our mental space; they were the roles we played in our childhood games.   This was thanks not only to the film’s massive marketing campaign (“Star Wars” ushered in the era of film as merchandising tool for toys and sundry tie-ins), but also because the characters and story captured our imaginations.  

That said, I’ve got to ask: what are the critics smoking who consider “Revenge of the Sith” to be a return to form?  

This shabby film completes the prequel trilogy which tells the story of Anakin Skywalker’s seduction by the dark side of the force and metamorphosis into Darth Vader, and Lucas clearly hopes that he’s created a tragedy to place alongside those of Shakespeare and the Greeks.   However, there’s a slight problem with his attempt to impart a bit of gravitas to his once-fun mélange of Joseph Campbell, Kurosawa, and every classic Hollywood genre in the book: his dialogue is rubbish.   We’re talking eyes-averting, makes-you-wince kind of bad.   You or me or anybody in the theatre could have come up with better dialogue than Lucas does here.   As for the frenetic action that bursts all over the frames, it is curiously non-rousing.   I suppose the special effects are pretty good, but good special effects do not a good movie make in my judgment.

I suppose Lucas should be given some credit for making “Revenge of the Sith” into an allegory on American empire and Darth Bush.   He’s fascinated by the ways in which democracies have historically become dictatorships.   It is here that the film achieves some resonance and comes up with some good lines.   As Padme Amidala (Natalie Portman) listens to the Senate cheer for Chancellor Palpatine’s bid to consolidate his power, which he justifies by pointing to the war, she comments, “So this is how liberty dies: to thunderous applause”.   I also like this exchange between Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen, a non-entity) and Obi Wan-Kenobi (Ewan McGregor, doing what he can with the material):

Anakin: “If you're not with me then you're my enemy.”
Obi Wan: “Only a Sith thinks in absolutes.”  

I’d be interested in what others thought, but for me this was pretty much all downhill after the trumpeting of that great opening theme.

- May 27, 2005  

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