Monday, May 23

Strike Three

Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) cackles his way to power in Revenge of the Sith.

I really wanted this, the final Star Wars prequel, to be great. No, not even great. I just wanted it to be at least good. I mean, I’ve always maintained that the first two Episodes were misses that left the SW fan in me wanting. Surely, the finale, the crescendo, the climax of this saga of tragic destiny would at the very least be the best of this controversial trilogy. Was it?


Episode III: Revenge of the Sith has young Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) being seduced into the Dark Side of the Force by the now-revealed Sith Lord, Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid). Amidst the final moments of the Sith-orchestrated and manipulated Clone Wars, the Master of the Dark Side turns Anakin into his new apprentice and instrument to eradicate the Jedi Order and take control of the galaxy.
We all know the story; In his quest to save his secret wife Padme (Natalie Portman) from a premonition of death, Anakin turns to the one sympathetic ear and voice- that of Palpatine, who promises that the Dark Side holds the secret of Immortality. Once he has his new apprentice, the new Emperor enacts Order 66, a silent command ingrained in every clone trooper’s programming. Throughout the galaxy, Jedi are slaughtered by the very troops they’ve led all these years in the war. Obi Wan and Yoda, seemingly the only survivors, make one last try to stop the Sith from totally sweeping the board clean.

Of course, we all know that they inevitably fail, evil triumphs and everything goes to sith, er shit, in the end. Though there is of course hope in the form of twin infants, born to eventually become the retro-heroes of the retro future Star Wars movies.

Despite knowing all this, most of us probably still go into the theater expecting a great time, with tons of eye candy CG battles to go ga-ga over, drama to make us gasp and tragedy to make us want to stick in those original Star Wars trilogy dvds into the player to continue the saga and have a happy ever after.

Alas, I have to sadly say that watching Episode III was not all that.

What could have been the best of the three prequel chapters is marred by even more of the trilogy’s painful dialogue, a dragging middle and yet again, inadequate acting on the part of the lead and a plethora of unintentionally-funny moments. I’ve never seen a movie with so many horrible, irritating sound effects and bad selection of voices in all my life. Sure, Star Wars has always had the weird alien accents and funny droid voices- but here, it’s all horribly overdone to the point of fingers-on-blackboard excruciation.
The bad streak continues throughout the film, with wooden lines and clich├ęd dialogue spouting from almost everyone’s mouth from beginning to end. In fact, the dialogue was so bad that four of our group of six left the theater without finishing the movie!
Anyway… Vin and I were the only ones brave enough to sit through to the end, since we’re both suckers for eye candy. We had to bear through the silliness. Sigh.

Most painful spots…

Grievous showing off his four lightsabres then getting easily disarmed after a few seconds. Why is real-life Grievous nowhere near as KICK-ASS as his cartoon incarnation?

The whole drawn-out landing scene after Dooku (Christopher Lee) gets his should have just been cut entirely from the film.

Palpatine showing his true, grotesque prune face and thereafter going through what seems to be an endless amount of belching, groaning, wheezing and voice changing. Well, he overacted in Return of the Jedi…. He’s just being consistent…

Yoda using the force to throw Palpatine backward- the Sith Lord falls over his table, legs flailing so awkwardly it seemed like a scene from some amateur fan film.

Every scene between Anakin and Padme with dialogue.

Vader going “NOOOOOOOOO!!!” as the camera zooms out…

Lots more.

Were there good scenes? Well, the Jedi massacre was kinda neat, and it sort of reminded me of massacre scenes from The Godfather.

The juxtaposition of Vader’s reconstruction and the birth of the twins was a good touch.

Anakin going extra-crispy!

So… How do I find Episode III compared to the first two prequels? Phantom Menace still reeks as the absolute worst. Revenge of the Sith ends up only being slightly better than Episode II. And of course, the Clone Wars cartoons kick the asses of ALL these prequel films. Seriously.

Of course, there is still a lot of CG-enhanced action that's worth seeing- lots of cool space battles and pitched fights between Separatist Droids and Clone troops; The final Grievous-Obi Wan fight was pretty cool, and the dual-finale duels between The Emperor and Yoda/Anakin and Obi Wan were the highlights of the film. Palpatine makes a creepily cool and menacing fighter, which makes me kinda sad that he didn't take up a lightsabre in Return of the Jedi.

Of the performers, Ewan McGregor rises head and shoulders above pretty much everyone… at least I do see Alec Guiness in his performance, and that’s good. Ian McDiarmid is cackly and evil and over-the-top evil... which is fine. Christopher Lee and Jimmy Smits make the most out of their relatively tiny appearances in the film. Again, the point of controversy will be without a doubt Hayden Christensen, on whose performance much of the film's validity will revolve. For me, he probably gives it his all, but he just comes out as a mumbly frustrated brat. If that's what Lucas wanted, well, good for him.

Of course, SW geeks can freak out at the loads of in-jokes and little details... yeah, Chewbacca is in there, as is a young Grand Moff Tarkin and the Blockade Runner from the original Star Wars… these little touches are not enough to save this clunky, heavy-handed finale however. Darn, it could have been so much better. Oh well.

What an end to such a beloved franchise. On the one positive note, watching it DID make me want to break out the original trilogy films.

OH! And I was able to touch and handle an O2 XDA II Mini at the funky-smelling Globe Hub at The Podium. That was nice.


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