04 September 2005

Revenge of the Sith (20th Century Fox, 2005)

Twenty-eight years ago, Hollywood was sent reeling. After decades of sci-fi being schlock for kiddies; or depressing dystopian futures; George Lucas brought out something new from many old ingredients. Star Wars spawned three movies; then Lucas returned to the galaxy far far away to present prequels and stitch a past to his landmark 1977 film. Revenge Of The Sith follows two movies set in the hey-day of the Galactic Republic. Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christiansen) has grown from a slave boy to brooding Jedi Knight prophesied to be the Chosen One in the battle of the light vs. dark. The Galactic Republic is in the latter stages of a galactic civil war. Anakin with his master and teacher Obi-Wan (Ewan McGregor) are part of the elite Jedi, leading waves of clone troopers to counter the separatist forces. Behind the scenes, a Sith Lord Darth Sidious (Iain McDiarmid) is manipulating both sides of the conflict. In the guise of Emperor Palpatine, he is also mentoring Anakin; fermenting a distrust of the Jedi in their star pupil. Events unfold and Anakin falls to the Dark Side. He becomes Darth Vader. He and Obi-Wan fight a pitched battle and Vader suffers the crippling, disfiguring fate that we’ve been curious to see since 1977.
This is the pay-off of the prequel trilogy, if not the whole series. Is it the best of the series? No. But it is really a strong outing. Best of all, it’s dark. At the beginning of Star Wars the Empire is in control; the Jedi are all but extinct; Vader was bested by his mentor, Obi-wan. We know that by the end of Revenge Of The Sith all of this has to be set up. We’re prepped for the bad news in an almost masochistic way. In many ways, the first two prequels were just teasers and this is what we wanted to see all along.
Where does this movie fall down? Dialogue. After the blind luck of passable dialogue in Star Wars, the words from the actors went downhill. Lucas co-wrote the other screenplays and you can tell that the comparably strong dialogue came from the likes of Lawrence Kasdan and Leigh Brackett. When Vader meets his fate, he cries, “I hate you!” to Obi-wan with the same gravity and tone that comes from a five year old denied a new matchbox car.
I think what I got from this movie were the subversive themes that background the plot like a tyrannosaurus behind a pack of raptors. When Yoda and Mace Windu (Samuel L. Jackson) talk about the prophecy that the Chosen One will bring order to Force, I thought: Why do that? There are hundreds—thousands-- of Jedi and two Sith Lords. That’s the kind of imbalance people strive to be on the winning side of. Well, they get their wish. I enjoyed the “pride goeth before a fall” aspect of the Jedi council who try to shape the fate the Republic and bristle when their absolute power is questioned. Kudos go to Jackson for presenting cool and ferocity in almost the same moment.
When you tell a fairy tale to a four year old, they’ll sometimes ask, “And then what happened? Then what happened?” You keep telling the tale and filling in the blanks. At the end of the Revenge of the Sith, I left the theatre sated. The fairy tale that happened once upon a time in a galaxy far far away is done.

Buy Revenge of the Sith on DVD

No comments: