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Star Wars 3: Revenge of the Sith

[This review includes spoilers. It was written right after I saw it in the theater.]

Padme: "So this is how liberty dies. With thunderous applause."

I just saw Revenge of the Sith, and I can't get it out of my head. For me, it's up there with Empire, which has always been my favorite. This one is darker than Empire. It had to be. George Lucas deserves some heavy-duty praise after all the well-deserved criticism he took for Episodes One and Two.

During Episodes One and Two, I had some distance; I enjoyed them, but I couldn't stop obsessing about what was wrong with them and they didn't stay with me. They never felt like real Star Wars to me. But not this time. I was hooked from the first moment, and stayed completely absorbed until the final credits. Lucas gave us every single moment that we needed to see, tied up every loose end, and made it riveting at the same time. No stupid pod races, no Jar Jar (well, one second of Jar Jar, which was about right). The effects were out of this world, but they were there to support the story, which was what they were supposed to do.

It wasn't a fun ride. I felt dread almost immediately, and just kept feeling it. It grew throughout, as we watched that beautiful young man lose his soul out of fear of losing his love. I was surprised that I desperately didn't want Anakin to turn into Darth Vader, all the while knowing that it was inevitable. And I cried, twice. So did Dan, which almost never happens.

Ewan McGregor and Natalie Portman are big talents that were pretty much wasted in Episodes One and Two, but their talent certainly wasn't wasted here. McGregor was terrific, clearly channeling Alec Guinness, and carrying so much of the drama. And Hayden Christensen -- it's really his movie more than anyone else's, and frankly, I thought he was awesome. My heart just bled for him. Ian McDarmid, as the Emperor, was also very good, as was pretty much everyone else. There were no bad performances, or at least I didn't notice any. The stilted Lucas dialogue was present, but it didn't bother me because this was Star Wars. It really was.

The most disturbing scene was so hard to watch that Dan actually looked away (this was his second time, my first). It was seeing Anakin dismembered and burned. Extremely graphic and very disturbing, pretty far out there for a Star Wars movie. But again, it had to be. We all knew that there wasn't much left that was human, after all. The parallel scenes of Padme's death and Anakin's rebirth as Darth Vader were exceptionally strong, too.

Anyway, I cried, and I really can't get it out of my head. Those are the two major signs of an outstanding movie, as far as I'm concerned. I even want to go see it again in the theater, and I honestly don't do that much any more. I can see the critics finding something wrong with it and they may even be right, but frankly, if people don't find this movie totally engrossing, then they probably never really liked Star Wars in the first place.

Bits and pieces:

-- How long was the break between Episodes 2 and 3? Anakin was clearly older; his face was scarred. Obi-Wan had grey at his temples.

-- Chancellor Palpatine was such a minor player in the first two episodes. His seduction of Anakin and slow transformation into the Emperor was very effective. This was not an easy part to play. Samuel L. Jackson, who looked amazingly distinguished totally bald, did a fine job portraying the ambiguity that Anakin saw in the leader of the Jedi Council.

-- They did some obvious echoes of Leia in Padme. The first time we see her, she's wearing The Hair: the cinnamon buns over the ears Princess Leia do. Then she did Leia's beige and brown look with the braid, too.

-- Again, Lucas inserted bits that set up the earlier trilogy: Chewbacca, and the Wookiee army we should have gotten in Episode 6; a brief glance of the surface of Alderan; a quick glimpse of Grand Moff Tarkin.

-- Perhaps George Lucas should have spread out some of the goodness in this film into the first two.

-- The mass slaughter of the Jedis really got to me. Darth Vader slaughtering the younglings may have been the darkest moment in all six movies.

-- Dismemberment again. Here, there were so many instances that I'm probably missing them: Count Dooku, Mace Windu, General Grevious, and of course, Darth Vader, who lost his remaining three limbs.

-- There was a lot of stuff that could be interpreted as criticism of the Bush administration, and I never get tired of that. Palpatine literally tore up the Senate during that final duel with Yoda, symbolically tearing apart democracy.

-- General Grievous was a reflection of the future Darth: gooey organics and mostly mechanical.

-- I thought the PG-13 rating was appropriate. I wouldn't take a small child to see this movie.

-- Obi-Wan got to say it again. "Oh, I have a bad feeling about this."

-- If you're considering a rewatch of the Star Wars movies, you might want to check out Samantha M. Quinn's article, How to Watch Star Wars.

Four out of four stars,

Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.

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