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John Williams’ brassy fanfare for Star Wars is a bold, recognizable piece of movie music magic full of pomp and circumstance. And as its opening notes sound for George Lucas’ final piece of his massive, mythic undertaking, it heralds a graduation of sorts.
Star Wars Episode III Revenge of the Sith has had no shortage of pomp. Myriad magazine covers and the sheer tonnage of tie-in memorabilia have seen to that. But it is the circumstances surrounding the movie that fundamentally compel.
At last, we come to the end of an often amazing 28-year ride. Although technically, with this installment revealing how a good guy can go so very bad, we really arrive at a satisfying beginning. Once out of the multiplex, you may find it hard to resist this episode’s gravitational pull, the tug exerted on you to revisit the original trilogy, which started in 1977.
Now that you understand Anakin Skywalker, it’s tempting to take a second look at his rebellious kids, Luke and Leia.
As with previous episodes, Lucas wastes no time in plunging us into the deep-space action, where the final battles of the Clone War are raging. Jedi Knights Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and prize student Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christiansen) are in the midst of a dogfight. It’s a take-no-prisoners thrill ride with R2-D2 riding shotgun on Anakin’s sleek fighter craft. The Jedi have gone to rescue Chancellor Palpatine of the Republic from separatist droid Gen. Grievous.
In the process of saving the future Emperor of the future evil Empire, Anakin loses his bearings, first with an act of non-Jedi brutality. (Lucas is not afraid to explore his own dark side when, later in the film, the once shining knight pays a visit to young Jedis in training.)
Anakin’s vulnerability has its seeds in his secret marriage to republic senator Padmé Amidala (Natalie Portman). Dogged by dreams of her death, Anakin is ripe for manipulation by the chancellor.
Star Wars Episode III Revenge of the Sith is dosed with the fast and furious things that made Lucas a legend of technical wizardry. It’s not just fighter craft darting and skimming vast surfaces or the sumptuous cityscapes and miles of intergalactic geography. Although come to think of it, the view out of Padmé’s pad does have a mesmerizing magnificence.
The prequel earns its accolades for tracing Anakin’s tragic trajectory from light to dark. Yes, this is what the prequel trilogy was supposed to do. But “Revenge” is the sole episode that presents the painful arc of Anakin’s early possibility and his ultimate betrayal.
For those of us who love a little of that old-style “Star Wars” metaphysical musing with our popcorn, Star Wars Episode III Revenge of the Sith doesn’t disappoint.
“Careful — fear of loss is a path to the dark side,” Yoda counsels Anakin. It’s a dose of green wisdom dispensed a little too late.
Anakin Skywalker’s plunge from Jedi grace, his transformation into Darth Vader, is told with compassion. (Darth, by the way, ranks No.3 on the American Film Institute’s 100 Heroes & 100 Villains list, behind Hannibal Lecter and Norman Bates.) Lucas’ sympathy for his devil is worthy of John Milton.
Power is the drug here. Palpatine’s own journey from political leader to seducer and betrayer reminds us that an absolute shot of power intoxicates absolutely.
In a website review, a fan mildly chastised “Revenge” and its creator for the movie’s seemingly overt references to U.S. involvement in Iraq.
Lucas fueled this reading with comments he made at the Cannes Film Festival, where the movie screened. “In terms of evil, one of the original concepts was how does a democracy turn itself into a dictatorship,” he was quoted as saying by CNN.com. “The parallels between what we did in Vietnam and what we’re doing in Iraq are unbelievable.”
Beyond the politics of the moment, the best of the Star Wars saga — and “Star Wars Episode III Revenge of the Sith has earned its place alongside the original trilogy in that constellation — works in the timeless way art should. It provides audiences with a vision of individuals — be they human, droid or wookie — grappling mightily with the Force. Sometimes we rise to victory. Other times, we fall.