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Thursday, May 19, 2005

 

Star Wars goes to hell




If I didn't know any better, I would assume that Revenge of the Sith was ghost directed by a time-traveling Francis Ford Coppola. The movie has one foot in the Star Wars universe and the other firmly planted in The Godfather series. There's the parallel downfalls of its protagonists, a similiar, quick-cut assassination sequence and a tragic scene in an opera house.

That's not to say that Sith belongs on the same pedestal or anywhere near it. The film has the same problems as the last two entries in the space saga. Much of the dialog is terrible and several of the action sequences fall flat but, the story-line, acting and even the direction have drastically improved since the last installment. This is the movie many fans have been waiting to see for two decades and it delivers the goods, for the most part.

Not that there isn't a lot of crap that has to sifted through to get to the gold. The first twenty minutes of the film, which follows Obi Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker as they attempt to rescue Chancellor Palpatine from kidnappers, is little more than banal eye-candy. Another sequence where Obi Wan Kenobi takes the reigns of an overgrown iguana doesn't fair much better. But amidst all the cheese, Sith goes where other films in the saga fear to tread. Much of the film is bathed in shadows and many scenes would feel more at home in a film centered around Michael Corleone.

The last two prequels have been roundly trashed and maybe deservedly so but even Lucas' most ardent critics have to admire what he attempted to pull off here. Sith is a pop culture Macbeth, a Greek tragedy populated with CGI aliens and the cackling embodiment of patriotism run amuck. Regardless of its flaws and as goofy as it all is, at least Lucas swung for the fences this time around.

WARNING: heavy spoilers ahead. If you haven't seen the movie, don't highlight the text below.

If you're able to suspend your disbelief and forget about Lucas' sins of the past, there's a lot to love here. Palpatine's discussion of Sith legends in the hallucinogenic opera house. Padme and Anakin's "calm before the storm" glances across a blood-red cityscape. Mace Windu's confrontation with Palapatine. The lightsaber duel between Palpatine and Yoda in the senate chamber. Padme's line about the death of democracy. "Order 66." Anakin breaking out a Jedi chokehold on his pregnant wife. Obi Wan slicing and dicing his apprentice before leaving him for dead on the edges of a literal and metaphorical hell. The film's final shot, which perfectly ties the two trilogies together.

But, on the other hand, there's hum-hum opening sequence. Vader's two seconds of screen time. Another disappointing antagonist (General Grevious) that's easily toppled. The pointless Wookie cameos. "You're breaking my heart." Yoda's throw-away line about Quii-Gon and that god-awful nonsense with the iguana.


Many will hate Revenge of the Sith but it's their loss. Is it as good as any of the first three films? Close but not quite. Is it a better than the last two? Yes. It's a lot better? Yes. Is that alone a minor miracle? I think so. Slice 30 minutes out of Revenge of the Sith and you've got yourself a film worthy of the original trilogy.

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