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January 23, 2023

Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith, or Lucas says, "Made you look!"

By Bernie and Sand Pilarski

PG-13

Sand said:

Nearly thirty years ago, I slumped, stunned into the uncomfortable seat of the Miller Movie Theater in Lewistown, Pennsylvania. The movie was over; I had seen wonders beyond my imaginings. A giant star cruiser had groaned slowly across the sky, making me want to crawl under my seat. Creepy little guys with glowing eyes tottered menacingly around the desert. A smuggling vessel with the wonderfully hokey name The Millenium Falcon peeled out of the Mos Eisley Spaceport, power source glowing like a nuclear reaction! Aliens spoke incomprehensible languages, yet still seemed to have common ground in music. A dopey kid had an impossible dream; a crabby princess needed rescued; a sleazy space-tramp turned into an unlikely hero. The villain was tall, dark, and hissing. Wow.

Prior to the first Star Wars movie, spaceships were always round and smooth and traveled by string across the screen with firecracker sparklers for propulsion. Interiors of ships were made of cardboard, and alien planets always looked like a certain lot outside of Los Angeles. Aliens looked human, or they looked like crash dummies with clay features added. George Lucas transformed the way audiences saw the universe in films.

Today I sweated in my recliner-stadium-seating style seat at the Galaxy Theater in Riverbank, California, gripping the arms of the chair as heroes and villains battled at the edges of precipitous drops on window ledges and over volcanic rivers. There was no mystery, no questions like, "But who was Luke's father and how did he die?" or "Why the heck would a Jedi Master like Obi-Wan Kenobi be hanging around the desert of Tatooine?" -- we know the answers to those questions. I knew who was the bad guy and who was the good guy, and finally, finally, after all these many years, Lucas was willing to tell us how it all came about that the story "started."

Hayden Christensen played Anakin Skywalker, still delivering his lines as though he was painfully constipated, and gosh, he should only take time to wash his hair once in a while. His love, Padme, now pregnant and wearing exquisite maternity gowns, could have expressed more if only she had been given more lines to say. Okay, that's all I had to complain about. Ewan Mc Gregor was every bit as scrumptious an Obi-Wan Kenobi as Sir Alec Guinness was. Jimmy Smits was cute as a button, of course, as Senator Organa. Yoda, as usual, kicked ass.

Costuming was magnificent, as it has been in all three prequel Star Wars movies, and set design lavish, with visions of towering cities and bustling activity. Kind of makes you realize what a hole Mos Eisley was in the original movie. Questions that I had for years were answered: how did Obi-Wan get Luke's father's lightsaber? Why was Darth Vader so tall? What happened to all the Jedi Knights?

I liked it. I liked the cycle being brought back to the beginning again. Anger and hatred were portrayed as powerful forces, which they are, but hope and the future were presented as the result of love and sacrifice and willingness to see beyond one's own self.

When I first saw the old enemies, Obi-Wan and Darth Vader, I was just twenty-three years old. Kind of funny, seeing them in this movie, so young and vital, when I'm now the one who is old. How amazing, to experience a lifetime of storytelling in cinema.

Most cool. Did I mention that Yoda really kicked ass?

Bernie said:

In 1977, my young bride and I walked into an old movie theater in a small town in a state far, far away to see a bit of film fantasy called Star Wars. After being lulled with the hokey chorus of letters trailing off into the galaxy, we were suddenly run over by the future. As an Imperial battle cruiser began to rumble onto the screen and grow and grow and grow, we both realized that what were seeing was revolutionary -- movie making was changed forever. Oh yeah, and there was a cute story to go along with the effects.

Nearly thirty years later, Sand and I walked into another movie theater to see a bit of film fantasy called Star Wars. This one is also entitled The Revenge of the Sith to help the viewer differentiate it from the other five Star Wars movies, and this time we went ostensibly to say good-bye to the universe that director George Lucas has created. As was intended all along, this episode completes the "prequel" story arch begun in the previous two movies and deposits us at the beginning of the 1977 movie.

Do I recommend the film? Highly. Is it a good movie? That's a more difficult question to answer. There are some givens about any Star Wars movie. The first given is special effects. Lucas stunned the industry with the first movie, and has been a driving force in the industry since, setting new standards in sound, effects, and most recently, digital technology. The Revenge of the Sith is no exception. There is no one in the industry that has the combination of technical skill and artistry as Lucas. Sith is another visual stunner. Each frame is so jammed with incredible detail that it's like looking at the Sergeant Pepper's album jacket -- there are countless opportunities to find nuanced clues of Paul's alleged death.

The second given is that things blow up. This is, after all, the Star Wars saga. Once again, The Revenge of the Sith is no exception. The movie opens in the middle of a battle, and the fighting and blowing things up doesn't stop until the end (except for an occasional minute or two here and there for the obligatory story telling parts).

The third given is that no one will be given an Oscar for acting. The 1977 original had a cast of fairly unknown actors and Alec Guinness. Guinness' presence was needed to ensure that the film would not be considered an animated feature.The Revenge of the Sith has a number of actors whose names are widely recognized -- Jimmy Smits, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman and Samuel Jackson. Hayden Christensen stars as Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader. I have to believe that after watching themselves in this film, they might all wish they were once again unknown actors. Although Lucas' technical skills seem like they may have been learned from an advanced alien race, his vision of acting seems to be straight out of Gerry Anderson's Supercar.

The real surprise of the movie actually came when I went to the restroom afterwards. As I stood washing my hands, I glanced at my reflection in the mirror. Time has changed me. The difference in the image in the mirror compared to how I appeared in 1977 was no less radical than the transformation of Anakin Skywalker into Darth Vader. The world I live in now is only slightly less alien than Lucas' universe, and we are no less threatened by the "dark side of the Force." (But take heart, elections are only three years away.)

George Lucas has managed to produce six spectacularly successful films over a thirty year span, and the last is as intriguing as the first: technically cutting edge, visually stunning, stories that are enjoyable, and characters that are like family. You can criticize Star Wars as being shallow, and it may be, but it is nearly thirty years wide. In a universe where most marriages don't last that long, I would say that was a stunning accomplishment.

Article © Bernie and Sand Pilarski. All rights reserved.
Published on 2005-05-23
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