Thursday, October 1, 2015

Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith


When asked about the STAR WARS prequels, writer/director George Lucas replied "One and two won't be so bad.  Three will be pretty bad".  He's speaking of the tone, not the quality of the films, of course.  And he's right.  REVENGE OF THE SITH is a necessarily grim and somber entry in the series, one featuring a surprisingly brutal third act, when Anakin Skywalker's (Hayden Christiansen) transformation into Darth Vader is complete.

We were all curious as to how Lucas would stage those concluding scenes, and whatever criticisms I spew on this blog about the prequels, I have to compliment the director on his handling of the intense closing scenes that detail the birth of Darth Vader, and the demise of Anakin.  Some critics have compared the crosscutting of the clone troopers' and Vader's massacres of Jedi commanders and Separatist leaders to the bravura final moments of the original GODFATHER, directed by Lucas' old pal Francis Coppola.  I can see it.  Lucas even had the chutzpah to feature the murder of children during these scenes.   These moments are so effective at closing this chapter of the franchise that almost all is forgiven for the missteps in EPISODES I and II and even some of the earlier moments in this one.

Anakin spends his final hours wracked with frustration, feeling betrayed by Obi-Wan (Ewan McGregor) and his wife Padmé (Natalie Portman), who is about to give birth to twins, Luke and Leia.  Premonitions of her death torture his conflicted soul as he is tempted by Chancellor Palpatine, revealed to be a Sith lord and a new mentor to the fallen young man.   The Council's decision to not rank Anakin as Jedi Master is perhaps the tipping point.  Mace Windu (Samuel L. Jackson) will intervene in perhaps his last action as a Jedi.  Yoda will swing a light saber yet again.

These events comprise the latter part of EPISODE III.  The earliest scenes are distressingly similar (in tone and execution) to the earlier prequels, with more wince inducing acting, though this time the contrast seems logical, giving those crucial final minutes an almost unbearable weight.  Lucas goes out on top, leaving the audience somewhat satisfied, providing a decent bridge to EPISODE IV.  Though the original STAR WARS film takes place some years after REVENGE OF THE SITH, leaving opportunities for much yarn spinning of the early lives of Luke Skywalker and friends.  I would've enjoyed seeing big screen treatments of their stories, of Leia's privileged upbringing on the planet Alderaan, hidden from her father.   Han Solo's likely post adolescent hijinks and petty theivery - there's a story that would amuse rabid fans.  It could be like a juvenile delinquent version of the INDIANA JONES flicks.

So by now you're aware that Lucas sold his franchise to Disney for four billion dollars, prompting them to get to work on EPISODES VII-IX.  Lucas had entertained then abandoned completing his nine film dynasty years before.  After his lackluster handling of the newer trilogy, this was perhaps a sensible thing.  But the hearts of dyed in the wool STAR WARS fans are again racing with immeasurable anticipation, stoked by the teaser trailers over the past year.  Original screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan was brought in to work on the script! John Williams again conducts! Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and Harrison Ford will reprise their iconic roles! I read that Disney discarded Lucas' original script treatments for the new films, perhaps also a good thing.

We're counting on you, J.J.  See you in December.

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