Artist: Movie ReviewTitle: Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith (Film)Rating: 4 StarsReviewed by: Edwardo Jackson
BIASES: late 20s black male; frustrated screenwriter who favors
action, comedy, and glossy, big budget movies over indie flicks,
kiddie flicks, and weepy Merchant Ivory fare
I got the Millennium Falcon for Christmas when I was seven. We all know how this is going to end. Let’s just get right to it.
All out war has engulfed the Galactic Republic as the fabled Clone
Wars are in full swing. After a somewhat failed rescue mission,
Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and his once Jedi apprentice Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) are brought from the frontlines to deal with the
ever-complicating politics of the Galactic Senate, which is vainly fending off the rebellious separatists. As the lines between right and wrong become as blurred as loyalties and alliances, Anakin, fueled by those all-too familiar vices of fear, jealousy, and power while being goaded on by the slippery Chancellor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid), begins his inevitable slide toward the Dark Side and a very chic black helmet.
A lot darker than Episodes I & II (although it would not take much), Revenge of the Sith is a welcome, if not fitting goodbye for the most popular movie franchise of all-time. Lush with seamless technical achievement that would be a blatant crime if not rewarded at Oscar time for special effects, Episode III is as conflicted however entertainingly as its ill-fated protagonist Darth Vader. A director with the most enviable final cut in film financing history, Lucas indulges himself almost to the point of recklessness with extended lightsaber duels, aerial dogfights, and pontifications on the power of The Force. Fine by me. As much a fixture of the Star Wars legacy as Boba Fett (sadly missing in this one), John Williams has again created a grand, imperial score that plays sans interruption throughout. Fine by me I own the soundtrack. And the greatest weakness of the Lucas-penned prequels the script is on full display with dialogue so wooden it makes Pinocchio a real boy. Fine by me if I want Shakespeare, I’ll go see a play. To revel in the last episode of a childhood tradition, however, I’ll go see Revenge of the Sith again.
And this movie does bear repeat viewing. Where it excels on the human
level is in its epic, internal battle of good versus evil. Whereas the
original trilogy was pretty straightforward about where the lines were
drawn even when “Luke, I am your father” type stunts threatened
to rub them out Episode III engages in an interesting dialogue
about basic human reactions to power, justice, and fear. Say what you
want about the dialogue, but that George Lucas can sure tell a tale,
weaving complex politics brazenly amongst basic talk of good and evil.
Anakin turning to the Dark Side is rendered patently believable,
especially in the defense of those that he loves. Palpatine’s agenda
to usurp power from the Senate is as shadowy as the nature of politics
itself. It’s within that moral ambiguity inherent in government
“All who gain power are afraid to lose it” that Lucas explores his most pertinent themes. While Lucas’ simplistic, obvious dialogue hammers home his points with all the subtlety of an “American Idol” contestant, it helps to be steeped in the finer points of the franchise’s politics to get the most out of this plot.
Helping him achieve his vision is the solid Ian McDiarmid, relishing
his twisted role as the eventual Emperor with a lovably hammy lower register both evil and, well, more evil. His careful psychological manipulation of Anakin’s greatest fears make his Chancellor Palpatine the wiliest Star Wars character of all. Natalie Portman doesn’t have much to do but be the secret wife of Skywalker, and Samuel L. Jackson is just living the dream as Yoda’s ace boon Jedi Master Mace Windu. Christensen, a Canadian actor of formidable talent in the ridiculously underseen Shattered Glass, finally graduates from whiny, impetuous teenager (Episode II) to badass Jedi adult.
It has been suggested that Lucas was making a political, anti-Bush statement with Revenge of the Sith. It has also been widely speculated that Lucas, in the early ’70s, wrote the original Star Wars as a reaction to the growing spectre of American imperialism in the quagmire that was the Vietnam War. Although one could easily draw inferences from this movie with the current role of American military theory of the current administration (“This war represents a failure to listen”), Lucas has merely created another installment in a classic
cinematic allegory for the ages. Any similarities to persons living or deceased are strictly coincidental (wink, wink) or the confessions of a nation’s guilty conscience.
Edwardo Jackson (ReelReviewz@aol.com) is an author and LA-based screenwriter, visit his website at www.edwardojackson.com