Review: Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith

Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith,' opening Wednesday, May 18, 2005, is a tragic love story about loss, mortality, and inexorable destiny.

Anakin's Confusion Grows

In the final installment of George Lucas's trilogy chronicling the origins of Darth Vader, Anakin Skywalker's (Hayden Christensen) confusion brought on by the growing discord between his obligations to the Jedi order, his loyalty to the Republic, and his love for Padme (Natalie Portman) prompt him to seek guidance from his friend and mentor Supreme Chancellor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid). Palpatine suggests to Anakin that the teachings of the Jedi may be limiting Anakin's curiosity and ambition.

Supreme Chancellor Palpatine

For Anakin to explore fully his inner conflict between his compassion and his lust for power, Lucas needed to forgo some of his more prosaic dialogue. In fact, some of the most intriguing moments in 'Sith' may be when Lucas deviates from his 'I've got a bad feeling about this' brand of writing in favor of what may be some of the most insightful, seductive dialogue he has yet written for a Star Wars film. In one pivotal scene, Chancellor Palpatine urges Anakin to trust his passions, surrender to his confusion, and open his mind to the ways of the Dark Side. Palpatine's connection to Anakin seems more deliberate than incidental, more personal and perhaps more vital to his quest for ultimate power. He bewitches Anakin with the promise of life and, in so doing, seals young Skywalker's fate.

George Lucas

This kind of passionate writing may be a first for Lucas, whose scripts are marked by their banal dialogue and pedestrian narratives. In his autobiography, Sir Alec Guinness, who originated the role of Obi-Wan Kenobi in the first trilogy, describes his distaste for having to utter what he termed 'ropey' dialogue. Other Star Wars actors were more frank: 'You type this shit,' Harrison Ford once bemoaned, 'but you sure can't say it.' With the exception of Palpatine's clever seduction, 'Sith' is no real departure from Lucas's preoccupation with overstated dialogue and moralizing discourse. But 'Sith' may differentiate itself in another way altogether. Where the heroes of Lucas's first trilogy drew strength from their loss - the death of Obi-Wan, the destruction of Alderaan, the death of Yoda - the tale of Anakin Skywalker affords Lucas the opportunity to explore the dysfunction of facing loss without faith. Ultimately, Anakin's fear of loss results in a self-fulfilling prophecy that leaves young Skywalker disaffected, disenchanted, and alone in his quest for dominance.

Anakin Must Choose

'Sith' offers some especially disturbing moments, which earned the film a landmark PG-13 rating - a first for a 'Star Wars' film. The film raises questions about the crippling power of fear that are uncharacteristically dark for a franchise built on a younger demographic. While Anakin's journey from slave-boy to Sith Lord is familiar, a pale re-telling of the adventures of Luke Skywalker and marked by many of the same adversities, its aesthetic reflects a darker, heavier tone. And while we know Anakin's destiny, this somehow does not diminish some of the film's more unsettling moments.

Old Friends

While Anakin's fear of loss spurs his moral decline and provides a captivating premise, Lucas is justifiably confident that no matter how effective he is in executing it, his film will fill an important void in popular culture. There are few surprises in this film - Lucas is simply connecting the dots here - but the public's anticipation of a film that chronicles Anakin's final betrayal before being subsumed by Darth Vader reveals something striking, if not disquieting, about ourselves. There will be those who applaud the sallow-eyed Vader, and there will be those quixotic idealists who, despite the inevitability of fate, will hold out in hope of some alternate destiny for Anakin.

'Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith' opens nationwide at 12:01am on May 18, 2005. Visit www.starwars.com for more details about where to purchase tickets' and for all things Star Wars.

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