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Star Wars III

SPOILER ALERT. SPOILER ALERT. There. You were warned.

My immediate review of Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith can be summed up in one word: impact. I felt the emotional impact of the story, especially the latter half. Even as I think of it today it has a bit of an affect on me. It’s hard to say if that reaction is actually due to this movie or if it was built in based on the already established episodes four through six. For the most part I think episode three was nearly impossible to botch for Lucas and it guaranteed he would leave the series somewhat redeemed regardless of the quality of episodes one and two.

Perhaps the impact is more so a factor of the sheer size of series’ various messages. For as bad as the first three episodes are, they don’t hesitate to ask large-scale questions. The movies may answer these questions poorly, if at all, but the existence of these queries adds to the shelf life and allows fans to discuss the moral ambiguities of the story’s universe. They also guarantee a widely varying response for each individual consumer; ranging from “I don’t care about the philosophy, I just want the action” to “how do the Jedi compare to Earth’s religious followers.” Indeed it still doesn’t seem clear what the ideal nature of the force is or what the force will look like when “balanced.”

Entering the theater, my mind was filled with positive reviews of the performances of Ian McDiarmid and Ewan McGregor. I can’t say that I disagree, though McDiarmid’s dramatic “head turning then eyes following slowly behind” move got a little old for my taste. Actually, I felt McGregor was possibly channeling Alec Guinness by the end of episode three. Very nice.

Yet most of all I enjoyed the redemption of Hayden Christensen as a quality actor. He has shown his chops in other movies, but in Attack of the Clones he was simply horrendous. Whether that was due to his own poor interpretation of the angsty, spoiled teenager or just horrible dialog and directing, I’m not sure. Probably both. In episode three, Christensen repeatedly shows the ability to rip through the crap dialog and pacing and get on to the meaty portions of his role.

And crappy pacing is the name of the game. While we have seen throughout episode two and three that Anakin is more than a little susceptible to selfishness, the point at which he turns to the dark side is nigh unbelievable. He has ratted out Palpatine and had very little problems with offing Dooku, yet he begs with Windu to save Palpatine’s life for Jedi reasons and snaps to the dark side immediately after Windu’s death. Immediately he begins executing Jedi with abandon. It all happened too fast in the given context. Maybe if we didn’t have a whole movie about a few weeks in his childhood (The Phantom Menace), more of his internal struggle could have been established before his turn.

Recently, in events completely unrelated to these movies, I found out that the Dutch word for father is “vader.” Darth Vader, as a name, makes complete sense in the context of the last three Star Wars movies. I have to wonder how a fan boy could explain Darth Sidius’ choice of name for the newly sithed Anakin Skywalker.

Another character that was completely hamstrung by unfortunate decisions was Yoda. His crappy dialect of English, established in the original series certainly without much thought of practicality, renders him completely unable to communicate complex thoughts. His high point remains “do or do not, there is no try.” In the prequel episodes I’m certain that phrase would have been mucked to “do or not do, try there is not.” Unquotable. So the Jedi are stuck with a completely ineffectual leader who couldn’t win a debate with George W. Bush. In a sense it makes their fall nearly inevitable and in some respects makes Anakin’s departure justifiable, if not defensible.

Finally, I find it interesting that the dark side (self-focused) has the ability to stop other people from dying and the light side (compassionate) has the ability to be immortal, albeit as a ghost. Who’s selfish now?

After pointing out some of my more critical (in every sense of the word) thoughts, I will go back to my original reaction. I was impacted by the events unfolding on screen. I have a pretty intense urge to see the movie again. I will probably watch the cartoon series bridging episodes two and three this weekend; I haven’t seen it yet. Based on all those things I don’t see how I could give a negative review of episode three.