By Laurence Washington
There are two different camps when it comes to the "Star Wars" films. First, there are the baby boomers who feel anything short of the first three films will never measure up. And then there’s the younger generation who like the first three films, but feel Episodes I & II were great.
No matter what camp you’re in, "Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith" should squelch any doubters who thought Lucas couldn’t pull it all together, and satisfy the legion of "Star War" disciples foaming at the mouth to see the transformation of the "Chosen One" (Anakin Skywalker) into bad guy extraordinaire, Darth Vader.
Although Lucas manages to tie the two trilogies together rather nicely (he explains about Luke and Leia are separated at birth and how Yoda ends up on the planet Dagobah), it’s just hard to believe that it’s Hayden Christensen inside the Darth Vader gear. Lucas had to realize Christensen’s lack of screen presence when he covered his tracks by digitally masking Christensen’s face over the original Vader, David Prowse’s face in the current DVD release of "Return of the Jedi." It should also be noted that Christensen’s portrayal of Anakin Skywalker is so wooden, Pinocchio could have been cast in the part.
However, the baby shouldn’t be thrown out with the bath water. "Revenge of the Sith" is as dark, or darker than "The Empire Strikes Back," which is great news for critics who felt the earlier muppet-laden "Star Wars" flicks were too kid friendly. And although Jar Jar Binks unfortunately makes a third appearance in the film, his screen time and buffoonery is extremely curtailed and limited.
Lucas takes his time to reach the pivotal moment when Anakin embraces the Dark Side, and he carefully lays the groundwork for the tragedy to come – a young man loses the very thing he loves by holding on too tight.
The film opens with a hair-raising roller-coaster ride as Anakin (Hayden Christensen) and his mentor, Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor), rescue Supreme Chancellor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) from the evil clutches of separatist leaders General Grievous and Count Dookie (Christopher Lee). It’s no surprise to "Star Wars" fans that the evil Emperor and Palpatine are one in the same. Little do they realize that it’s all a rouse arranged by Palpatine to get Anakin primed to become his new apprentice. And that Palpatine is actually testing Anakin’s loyalty and insecurities by having the young Jedi dispatch Count Dookie in a most unjedi like fashion.
Palpatine encourages Anakin to assert himself more against Obi-Wan and the Jedi counsel who are trying to teach him patience. Anakin is a good person who wants to become a great Jedi and do good. However, he suffers from insecurities and fears caused by a reoccurring dream of losing his secret wife Padme (Natalie Portman), as he did his mother, makes him vulnerable to the Dark Side.
Palpatine convinces the gullible Anakin that the Jedis are the cause of all his fears and pain, and that the Jedi counsel is planning to take over the Republic, which has just gave him total power under the guise of intergalactic security. Palpatine is aware of Anakin’s reoccurring dream and admits that he’s a Sith Lord the sworn enemy of the Jedi. He asks Anakin to help him save the Republic, and in the process he can save Padme who will surly die at the hands of the Jedi. He punctuates his point by telling Anakin that the Dark Side will give him power over life and death.
Anakin’s loyalties begin to titer, as he tells Master Jedi Mace Windu (Samuel L. Jackson), that Palpatine is a Sith Lord. Mace Windu leads several Jedi Knights to Palpatine’s quarters to arrest him. But with Anakin’s help, he defeats them. Palpatine then orders Anakin to lead his troops into the Jedi temple and murder every Jedi including the Younglings (which is a very chilling scene). This of course sets Anakin and Obi-Wan on a savage collision course, which leaves Anakin severely maimed, and Obi-Wan fleeing into exile as Palpatine declares himself Emperor and the Republic as the Empire.
It’s been hard for Lucas to resuscitate the old Hollywood formula of larger than life villains and heroes and plug them into "a galaxy far, far, away" and make it seem new again. But let’s face it, "Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith" is the closest he’s going to come to reviving the good old days. For this baby boomer, he came pretty damn close.