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III - Revenge of the Sith
(Hollywood remake or sequel, or film based on a comic book, book, play or video game # 24, since January 1st, 2005. Click for full list of Hollywood's lack of original ideas.)
Review written by: Alex Sandell
This review is full of spoilers. It's not as bad as some, but I wouldn't recommend reading it until AFTER you've watched the film (just bookmark this page)! Have you checked out the great Star Wars' memories, interesting Star Wars' stories and Revenge of the Sith box-office predictions that Juicy readers have sent in at the Star Wars' Memories page?
The first 20 minutes of Revenge of the Sith is one of the most exciting things you'll ever see projected onto a screen. It rivals the booby-trapped cave intro. to Raiders of the Lost Ark. It beats the infamous skinny-dipping opening scene that scared an entire nation out of the water and back onto the beach in the original Jaws. It even makes the spectacular opening sequences in The Empire Strikes Back and The Return of the Jedi pale in comparison. If you're not laughing, clapping and having the time of your life during this scene, you're a corpse pumped full of Valium, whisky and Xanax.
We chuckle as R2 fumbles with his mic, trying to muffle the sounds of a panicked Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor), in hopes of preventing the pair of Super Battle Droids within earshot from overhearing Obi's desperate cries for help (similar to the "they're dying, R2" scene in A New Hope, only better). We cheer over the elevator antics performed by our Jedi friends, and whoop and holler when little R2 finally gets mad and takes on the two Battle Droids single-handedly. We are shocked when the gasping, wheezing, sniffling General Grievous shows his might, along with his cowardice (this man-bot knows how to make an exit!). And, with the audience hardly noticing, Lucas manages to move the plot further ahead in twenty minutes than many filmmakers do in an hour.
During all of the action we're introduced to a handful of new characters, including Episode III's most talked about baddy, the aforementioned General Grievous -- simultaneously the most vicious and timid villain in history. In this action-packed opening, Anakin takes his first major step toward the Dark Side of the Force by chopping off Count Dooku's (Christopher Lee -- who hasn't been fairing well in the openings to his last couple of films) head. For true Star Wars' fans, the symbolism is powerful -- Anakin is holding both a red and a blue saber. It is here, with both blades in hand, that he could go either way, but he falls victim to the manipulative words of Chancellor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) and begins his rapid decent down the path to the Dark Side. All of this -- and much, much more -- in less than 20 minutes.
Both figuratively and literally, George Lucas is just getting started!
After the intro. to end all intros, George gives us a bit of a scare when the cornball romantic dialogue that bogged down Attack of the Clones returns between Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) and Padmé (Natalie Portman). The words of love are so cheesy, the two could be lustfully whispering the word "Velveeta" to one another, and the film would be none the worse for it. Harrison Ford and Carrie Fischer got it right, during their romantic interludes in The Empire Strikes Back. They took their clunky dialogue and somehow made lines such as, "I'd just as soon kiss a wookie" seem nearly profound.
To his credit, Hayden Christensen has suddenly learned how to act and can sell the audience on even the most hackneyed lines Lucas was able to write him. Unfortunately, the same can't be said for Natalie Portman. Even more than in Attack of the Clones, beautiful Natalie seems to be going through the motions for a paycheck. Maybe she thinks she's "above" the event movie to end all event movies. She's a Golden Globe nominated actress now. Enough of these silly stories about lightsabers, Wookies and the Force. Good luck in that sequel to Closer, Nat. (Then again, maybe she was just having a bad day at the office.)
Lucky for Natalie and luckier yet for the audience, Portman's role is small. Her character of Padmé is the driving force of the film, but she's talked about more than she's seen. It all starts when Anakin has a nightmare, similar to the one he had of his mother dying in Attack of the Clones. This time it's his wife passing away, apparently during childbirth. The nightmares are so similar, they give him sweaty man breasts and erect nipples.
Nipply Anakin mid-nightmare in
Attack of the Clones
Anakin awaking from
nightmare in Revenge of the Sith
If this is how George likes to film nightmares -- why not let Padmé have one, just for nips and kicks? This is the first PG-13 rated Star Wars' film, it could have been done. Anyway, my hormones have started writing this review, rather than my head -- let me quickly pleasure myself over the thought of the gorgeous Natalie Portman topless and get back to the matter at hand.
Okay, much better. Now, where was I? Oh yes, the dreams. Anakin, feeling like a piece of Poodoo over the loss of his mother, swears he won't let it happen again. He's still convinced he will be the first Jedi to conquer death. He's determined that the first death he conquers will be his beloved Padmé's.
Never one to miss an opportunity to exploit an individual's emotions, Chancellor Palpatine lets Anakin know -- while attending some sort of event featuring what looks like a gigantic bubble created by a Super Size Bubble Wand, with purple sperm cells dancing within -- that he once knew of a Sith Lord able to manipulate Midicholrians to the point where he could create new life with them and also prevent death.
Anakin, no longer interested in the giant bubble filled with purple sperm, wants to know more. Can this trick be taught to a Jedi? Palpatine makes it clear that one must embrace the Dark and Light side of the Force to fully understand this power. In the name of love, Anakin moves further down the path to the Dark Side of the Force.
A lot of people didn't give George credit when he came up with the Midicholorian thing in The Phantom Menace. They said it took the mysticism away from the Force and made "Star Wars" feel more like "Star Trek" (I can imagine the 23 "Trekkies" left in the world cursing at me in the Klingon language, right now). I was never that bothered by Anakin's "Midicholorian Count" being "higher than Master Yoda's," but I could see why it upset certain fans.
The other thing that made legions of fanboys froth at the mouth like a goose head stuffed with half-a-dozen monkey butts plugged with Club Soda and Alka-Seltzer was the fact that The Phantom Menace seemed to indicate that Anakin was immaculately conceived. He had no father. His mother simply became pregnant and raised the boy.
In one fell swoop, Lucas reveals to us that he had a plan all along. No, Anakin isn't the sci-fi version of Christ. It turns out his mother was essentially raped, through the manipulation of Midicholorians by Darth Sidious (also played by Ian McDiarmid) and, it turns out that the Midicholorians aren't the equivalent of Star Trek's Valdore Type Romulan Artificial Singularity Warp Reactor. Like every section of this episodic space opera lurking under the title banner of "Star Wars," it is just another simple way of telling a grand story. Either that, or Palpatine is just making the whole thing up to bring Anakin over to the Dark Side.
Lucas warned his fans not to jump the gun too quickly (like he apparently warned digital Han, in the Special Edition version of A New Hope) -- that it would all be worked out by the time they were able to see Episode III, but many didn't listen. They ran off and pretended to be The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy fans, instead ("it's just so quirky and it made me giggle frequently -- like an apple wine cooler," they claimed). Hopefully they're willing to give George one last chance and see that the galaxy created in the prequels has, by Revenge of the Sith, turned into the one they fell in love with during the original trilogy -- minus the Ewoks.
The Ewoks aren't the only cutesy things removed from Sith. Jar Jar is seen but not heard (outside of a single line, muffled somewhere off in the background). Even C-3PO's comic relief of a character is kicked down about 5 notches. It's obvious Lucas had one thing in mind when making Episode III, and that was to make it as uncompromising and as dark as he possibly could. And he succeeded splendidly (or perhaps "dismally," as the case may be).
The film is, at times, painful to watch. The audience will shed tears as often as they will grant applause. When Mace Windu (Samuel L. Jackson) -- about to rid the world of the future evil Emperor, once and for all -- is stopped by a conflicted Anakin Skywalker, only to be killed by Palpatine, I turned to my brother and said, "That's horrible. That's terrible." I was shocked at how dark Lucas was willing to go with the film.
Until this point, it was hard not to feel sympathy over Skywalker's mental tug-of-war. The audience rooted for him to help Master Windu -- even though they knew he was past the point of no return. His need to sort his feelings caused him to create a black-and-white vacuum he could hide within. At one point he paraphrases George W. Bush, announcing to Obi-Wan, "you're either with me or against me." Obi-Wan responds by saying that only Sith think in absolutes like that.
Finally having the apprentice he's desired from the beginning, Darth Sidious contacts the Clonetroopers and commands them to perform "order 66." Order 66 is the murder of all remaining Jedi. Watching one Jedi after another being slaughtered is far more difficult than one would imagine. It isn't all gloom and doom, as Yoda figures out what's going on and slashes his way through his potential clone-killers. With a little help from Chewbacca & friends, Yoda wins the day and Chewie picks the small green hero up and places him on his back and walks him to his space shuttle.
It's a moving moment and also provides the slightest of comic relief, when Chewbacca and a fellow Wookie have a chat with one-another. Also, I can't help but take this moment to mention that the Wookies make a slightly distorted version of the "Tarzan Call" (which caused much controversy in Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi). It's as though Lucas was saying, "fuck you guys, this is the sound they make when swinging on conveniently placed vines!"
And then the sickest shit I've ever seen in a PG-13 film happens, when Anakin strikes down Jedi "Younglings" (a group of children appearing to be 5-10 years old). "There are too many of them, Master Anakin," a child says to the former Jedi, referring to the baddies. "We don't know what to do." Anakin lights up his blue saber and the scene cuts. Later we see all the children on the floor, murdered.
In the original trilogy, Darth Vader had been the mysterious bad guy, dressed in black. He could have been yanked out of any generic Western. But the prequels -- especially Revenge of the Sith -- have shown him as truly evil, and far from generic. You'll never look at Vader the same way again. Just like you'll never quite view the other 5 Star Wars' films in the same way as you did, years (or months, or days) ago.
Episode III is dark enough to cast a shadow over everything Star Wars. Does it destroy the series? Absolutely not -- it breathes new life into it. It gives it a sense of realism that no science-fiction film saga has ever had. Lucas has successfully shown that Anakin didn't turn to the Dark Side to take over the galaxy, but because of the loss of a mother and the love of a woman. With each swipe of the saber the director lets us see the pain in Anakin's eyes. Most stunning of all may be the sight of Darth Vader (named by Sidious) shedding a tear after mercilessly taking dozens of lives.
Lucas contrasts Skywalker/Vader's hellish scenes with lighter moments featuring Obi-Wan. Kenobi's battle with General Grievous is exciting to the point of being uncomfortably arousing, for an action fan. Grievous rolls down rocks and hills in what looks like a metal tire. Obi-Wan chases him on some sort of lizard creature. The CG effects are unmatched. Grievous looks so real, it's actually scary. The beast Obi-Wan is riding is ten times more realistic than the monsters he fought with and rode on in the arena during Attack of the Clones.
The final battle between Grievous and Kenobi is without compare. Kenobi opens the robotic chest of the General and sees what looks like a beating human heart. Knowing his weak spot, Obi-Wan shoots his blaster ("how uncivilized") into the human heart until the malicious man/machine crumbles and dies. This continues Lucas's ongoing theme in the Star Wars' saga of man vs. machine, with man claiming victory, nearly every time (because machine sucks big Dewback dick).
I feel like I should leave something for you to watch for yourself, spoiler-free (although I've noticed most Star Wars' fans have been begging for spoilers). There is one hell of a Lightsaber battle between Anakin and Obi-Wan toward the end of the film, and Anakin's not treated very kindly by the lava. Yoda and the Emperor get into about the coolest battle ever, if you don't think about playing Frisbee while watching it. Yoda's emotional destruction after suffering his first defeat is crushing. Luke and Leia being named can't help but be moving, if you're a fan of the original trilogy. And the rest I'll save for you to lay eyes upon yourself!
Revenge of the Sith is the film I became a critic to review! Making right any of the wrongs fans may have found in Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace and/or Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones, Lucas creates the best movie to be unleashed onto an unsuspecting public in 25 years! Not since Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back has a motion-picture been this monumental and awe-inspiring. It's impossible not to immediately fall in love with nearly every element of Revenge of the Sith! It's a cinematic masterpiece that will be forever remembered as one of the best movies ever made. "Classic" isn't kind enough a word for this gem. And all the gushing in the world wouldn't come close to doing it justice.
See it for yourself. Then see it again ... at least five times.
Agree? Disagree? Have questions? Comments? Email this critic at firstname.lastname@example.org. And if you're a "basher," please read my OPEN LETTER TO PREQUEL BASHERS before emailing. Thanks!
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