Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

It’s impossible to review Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith as just another movie. Twenty-eight years in the making, three sequels and two prequels later, countless billions at the box office and enough merchandising to choke a Wookie, the Star Wars franchise is more an event than just 140 minutes of film.

Perhaps more than any other film franchise, Star Wars revolutionized the way people experienced movies. Upon its release in 1977, Star Wars and its follow-ups The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi became phenomenon. Remember, Star Wars was released in a theatrical galaxy a long time ago when movies didn’t open at a theater near you. Star Wars was one of the last platform blockbusters, films which slowly rolled out in limited engagements. Because Star Wars was an event, fans didn’t mind waiting in long lines to experience George Lucas’ intergalactic space opera.

Revenge of the Sith opened last week on over 9,000 screens, making it impossible to miss. Lucas and his galaxy of characters have mined every last merchandising opportunity, hawking everything from burgers to candy. Unless you just crawled out from under a lava rock on the planet Mustafar, Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith is the cultural marker of its time, a visually dazzling, emotionally sweeping and frequently gripping conclusion to an era.

Utilizing state of the art digital photography and visual effects, Lucas and his team of movie magicians accomplish the impossible. They seamlessly evoke the spirit and simplicity of the original into a larger than life canvas filled with spectacular imagery that pushes the boundaries of film. Riding a current of political upheaval is an honest, heartbreaking love story whose outcome was preordained in Star Wars. We know going into Episode III the love which binds Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) and his queen Padme (Natalie Portman) will also be their undoing, but not before Padme reveals she is carrying their twins (Luke and Leia).

Although larger in scale, Episode III is more direct in its storytelling. Lucas mixes romance, politics, betrayal, all common themes in mythology, to his advantage, revealing key plot points and setting up pivotal story arcs. Lucas wraps up loose ends and kick starts new beginnings without showing all his cards. There’s just enough intrigue and mystery to keep audiences coming back for more.

Based on audience reaction, they’ll be back. In order for Episode III to evolve into the 1977 world we know as Star Wars, Lucas is forced to juggle numerous story threads. While there are no blink and you’ll miss them moments, Episode III does require you make a genuine investment in the characters. The stakes are higher, the losses insurmountable, and the wins even more heroic. Familiar faces from the past come into play for the first time, helping bridge the gap between the Episode III and IV: A New Hope.

The actors are no longer as wooden as some of the dialogue, having matured with their roles. Christensen is past the I’m the luckiest guy in the world stage and has developed into a believably tortured soul. No longer Mr. Nice Guy, Anakin’s transformation from Jedi into Darth Vader is the films calling card, and Lucas plays it our for all it’s worth. Even though we already know the outcome, watching Christensen’s interior struggle between good and evil is truly terrifying.

So is the final battle that sets the stage for Anakin to become the notorious Vader, an extended, all-stops-out duel to the death on a lava planet. You literally hold your breath as the battle unfolds, one close call after another, each one leading to the inevitable. The fact Lucas can still engage us in the result shows just how much he and we care about these characters.

It would be pointless to make this a checklist of favorite scenes, or lay out the plot point by point. Lucas spent too much time and effort to make this an event which has to be experienced. This review is here only to remind you Lucas got it right. With so much on his plate it would have been easy to overlook or shortchange certain aspects of the story, yet when all is said and done you leave satisfied, even fulfilled.

Sith! Boom! Rah!The Force Is With Star Wars Finale

Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

Hayden Christensen, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman. Ian McDiarmid, Samuel L. Jackson, Jimmy Smits, Frank Oz, Christopher Lee, Anthony Daniels, Keisha Castle-Hughes. Directed by George Lucas. Rated PG-13. 140 Minutes.

Larsen Rating: $9.00

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