STAR WARS: EPISODE III - REVENGE OF THE SITH directed by George Lucas, with Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Hayden Christensen, Samuel L. Jackson and Ian McDiarmid. 140 minutes. A 20th Century Fox release. Opens today (Thursday, May 19). For venues and times, see Movies, page 117. Rating: NN Rating: NN
At one point in the disappointing Revenge Of The Sith, Ewan McGregor's Obi-Wan Kenobi asks, "How did this happen? We're smarter than this."
The final, bridging movie between George Lucas's two epic Star Wars trilogies ends not with a bang but with plenty of artistic whimpering.
After the incomprehensible, offensive (remember Jar Jar Binks?) Episode I - The Phantom Menace and the better but still lightweight (remember Anakin and Padmé cavorting in the fields?) Episode II - Attack Of The Clones, Episode III ought to be a no-brainer.
Basically, we're willing to wait through all the repetitive space fights, wooden acting and Industrial Light & Magic exhibitionism for two events: the birth of heroic twins Luke and Leia and the moment when their dad, Anakin, goes to the Darth side, donning the iconic shiny black helmet, and Hayden Christensen's whiny voice gets replaced by James Earl Jones's booming bass.
These should be mythic touchstones, as resonant in their own pop-cult way as Excalibur rising from the water or Sieglinde realizing she's pregnant with Siegfried in Wagner's Ring Cycle.
Lucas does send a shiver up our collective spines as Darth Vader rises (a moment that's been spoiled by trailers), but the unemotional birth scene is shoddily set up and made ridiculous when the babies are perfunctorily parcelled out. Says Jimmy Smits as Bail Organa, Leia's future adoptive dad, "We were looking to adopt a baby girl," a clunker that gets an unintentional laugh.
Lucas is ticking items off his checklist here, getting his plot lines and characters in place so the original Star Wars film makes some sort of sense. On the design front, it's satisfying to see the familiar stark white hallways of Episode IV appear, as well as the less sophisticated ship control panels.
You could also argue that the ongoing war (sense a contemporary relevance here?) is so destructive that it's caused citizens to start constructing their world in Episode IV from scratch.
But then how to explain the hair? At one point in the new movie, we see pregnant Padmé Amidala with her tresses rolled up in bunches at the side like Princess Leia's double-donut look. Since Leia never met her mom, are we to think that cool hairstyles are genetically passed on?
Other silly details include the failure to properly introduce us to the Wookiee Chewbacca, and having C3PO say not once but twice that he's under "a lot of stress," a phrase that sounds more like a psyched-out Hollywood writer than a galactic droid.
The one unfortunate omission concerns Jango Fett, the bounty hunter who was cloned for the army in Episode II. In the earlier film, his son Boba saw him killed. He picked up his dad's head. Wouldn't it make dramatic sense for him to return in Episode III and seek some sort of vengeance? And wouldn't this have reinforced Lucas's theme of fathers and sons?
Also, the underhanded way the Jedi council deals with the dissenting Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid, in one of the film's two strong performances; the other's from McGregor) goes against the Force's philosophy.
I guess in a film where all dialogue seems to be spoken in front of a blue screen, you can't expect logic.
Maybe the word "Sith" is an anagram.