Monday, May 23, 2005

Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

A long time ago, in a Galaxy far, far away we rejoiced at the announcement that George Lucas would complete his story, by adding three prequels explaining how Darth Vader had begun. Episode I was greeted with widespread derision, and Episode II (though slightly better) did little to alleviate concern that Lucas had lost the plot, in more ways than one. Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, therefore, seemed doomed from the outset. Though sneak-peeks of Lord Vader rising in full black ensemble set hearts racing, as did the sound of the familiar heavy breathing, Hayden Christensen just did not seem capable of embodying the evil we all knew. Through clever security the story was not made available, giving no idea as to how the transformation from Jedi to Sith, man to part-machine, and good to evil was to happen.

As the introductory words appeared on the screen and the theme tune kicked in, I felt a familiar excitement and pleasure. Though I had warned myself not to expect too much, lest I suffer the disappointment of previous Episodes, the action engulfed me. From scene one of the movie, Lucas has the audience firmly back in his grip – this Episode is everything the previous two were not, and even surpasses A New Hope (dare I say it) for sheer unadulterated excitement. The political intrigue of the The Senate vs. The Jedi Council enthrals the older audience who may be fervent admirers of the originals, though could perhaps be a little above the younger fan. Anakin’s doomed love of Padmé (Natalie Portman) has a desperation and tragedy to its core that truly moves, and though we may think we know of the destiny these characters face, Lucas still manages to surprise us with the outcome. Ewan McGregor finally grasps the role of Obi-Wan and makes it his own, his anger and resentment at Anakin’s betrayal tempered by the sadness and disappointment of a man losing his best friend and brother.

The action moves faster than any previous instalments; fighter ships tousling in space, the familiar Empirical spacecraft making an appearance, droid armies, new creatures, Jedi battles and vengeful genocide, to name but a few highlights of this fast-paced pleaser. The real pleasure, however, lies in Anakin’s transformation. Without giving too much away, it has to said that Lucas has truly managed to piece this third Star Wars adventure perfectly to the fourth. Before seeing such storytelling and perfect action, I would not have thought it possible to adequately explain why Anakin Skywalker, the hope for the Jedi force, would turn so resolutely to the Dark Side. In parts One and Two, Christensen barely manages to look slightly miffed, never mind show strains of evil which would eventually overcome him – however, he performs to standard, if not sometimes above, in this, the most important of prequels.

The surprises in store for those who feel they know how the story must ‘end’ (since the closing chapters have already been told), are multiple, and the entire tale manages to feel fresh and new, however many preconceptions fans carry into the movie. A shiver is hard to avoid when Darth finally rises, as we know he must, and the famous voice of James Earl Jones groans from within the dark depths of the mask, heavily breathing the sound of doom for the Galaxy.

The undertaking of such a revered venture was massive, and some confidence was lost in Lucas with the first two instalments – certainly not helped by his returning to the original three and amending (or desecrating) classic scenes to suit his new audience. The feeling so far has been that Lucas should have left well enough alone, and this sentiment extended to his telling of Darth’s tale, once Episode I reared its childish head. However, despite some few shaky moments, Episode III finally lives up to the moniker of ‘Star Wars’, firing the imagination of the average fan with the passion of renewed enthusiasm for the series.

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