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Revenge of the Sith (***)
Directed by George Lucas
Written by George Lucas
Revenge of the Sith
Principal Cast
Ewan McGregor -- Obi-Wan Kenobi
Natalie Portman -- Padmé
Hayden Christensen -- Anakin Skywalker
Ian McDiarmid -- Supreme Chancellor Palpatine
Samuel L. Jackson -- Mace Windu
Jimmy Smits -- Senator Bail Organa
Frank Oz -- Yoda (voice)
Anthony Daniels -- C-3PO
Christopher Lee -- Count Dooku
Keisha Castle-Hughes -- Queen of Naboo
Silas Carson -- Ki-Adi-Mundi & Nute Gunray
Jay Laga'aia -- Captain Typho
Bruce Spence -- Tion Medon
Wayne Pygram -- Governor Tarkin
Temuera Morrison -- Commander Cody
Ratings
Ratings are based on Rick's four star system.
One star - the commercials are more entertaining than the viewing.
Two stars - watch if you have nothing better to do.
Three stars - good solid entertainment.
Four stars - you never dreamed viewing could be this good.
Past Feature Reviews
A review by Rick Norwood

The last of the Star Wars movies is, sadly, also the least. It is certainly one of the most spectacular films ever made. But while it is often beautiful, it is never joyous; often exciting but never thrilling.

I love The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones. Why did I only like Revenge of the Sith? My first impulse is to say, not enough Jar Jar. I suppress my inclination toward the facetious, and offer a serious answer.

I write this review under the assumption that you have already seen the film. I'm not giving away any major spoilers -- A New Hope does that -- but I do talk about the plot. So, see the movie first. You won't have any trouble finding seats -- and just watch the critical reception change when it fails to reverse the current trend to stay away from movies.

Online, the buzz has changed to a hiss. I find it very sad to hear people in their twenties and thirties trash Star Wars and Star Trek. Oh, yes, we liked those childish things when we were little, but now we've discovered girls. My friends, just wait until you've been married a few years. You will discover, in the words of Rudyard Kipling, "A woman is only a woman, but a good cigar is a smoke."

Revenge of the Sith is one light-saber battle after another. I know it is supposed to be dark, but if I want dark, I'll watch Sin City. In many ways Revenge is too dark -- the hero murders cute little kids. But by modern standards, it is not dark enough. He does it off stage, and the kids are awkwardly called "younglings" as if to soften what he has done. George Lucas still has the sensibilities of an awkward teen. He shows us limbs being lopped off, in the grand Star Wars tradition, but he blushes and covers up the difference between the boy baby and the girl baby, as if he has never changed a diaper, or is afraid that his viewers haven't.

But the big problem with Revenge of the Sith lies at its center and all the stuff around the edges could be either enjoyed or forgiven if the center held. George Lucas is a great action-adventure writer and director, one of the greatest. But he has no idea how to tell the story of how a young man turns bad. One minute, Anakin Skywalker is a very moral guy, shocked by the Emperor's plans. The next minute he's murdering kids without batting an eyelash. Yes, I know, he has killed kids before. But then the motive was a lot stronger -- their parents had just murdered his mother. Here, it is as if the change from good to evil occurs with the flip of a switch.

George Lucas does not seem to know anything about evil. He has led a charmed life. The Emperor is evil. But why? In what way? Does he lust for power? Does he cheat at cards? We never know. Even in the old westerns, where you could tell the good guys from the bad guys because of the color of the hat they wore, the bad guys were bad for a reason -- usually because of greed or lust. But the Emperor is evil because he is evil, and motiveless evil is not interesting.

Everyone is the hero of their own story. Even Darkseid, the Jack Kirby comic book character on whom Darth Vader is based, was a hero in his own eyes. Revenge of the Sith was billed as the story of a good person who turns bad. But Anakin is an action figure who puts on a black cape. We are told that Anakin turns to the dark side because he loves Amandala, but almost immediately he forgets all about her. There is a hint that he lusts for power, but we never see that. In the final analysis, the reason he turns to evil is that in A New Hope he is evil. Predestination.

After the crucial change from Anakin to Vader, the movie picks up a little steam. I particularly like the lizard that Obi-Wan rides, who is homage to lizards playing dinosaurs in the Flash Gordon serials and a hundred other grade B films from the thirties through the fifties.

Near the end, there is another important moment that rings false, when Obi-Wan fails to deliver the coup de grace. When the plot depends on a character acting out of character, there is something wrong with the plot.

The ending itself is satisfying, mainly because it reminds up that the most wonderful part of the story is yet to come.

Revenge of the Sith has gotten good reviews. USA Today said it is the best of the Star Wars movies, and then gave it 3 stars, which is to damn it with faint praise. Have they forgotten how good the first Star Wars was? A number of reviewers liked the film because they found a resemblance between Emperor Palpatine and George Bush. They wish! Bush is not evil, just loyal to his social class. There is none of that in Palpatine. If Palpatine is anybody, he is Augustus Caesar. A long, long time ago is 2000 years, and the galaxy far far away is Rome. And, yes, the Roman senate applauded when Augustus became Emperor. They made him a god.

The big question now is, in what order do you show Star Wars to your kids, and at what age? If Anakin's transformation to evil were handled better, it might be a good idea to start them with The Phantom Menace, and let Darth Vader come as a total surprise. As it is, I recommend showing them A New Hope when they are eight, The Empire Strikes Back when they are nine, Return of the Jedi when they are ten, and then let them watch the other three whenever they want. But don't let them watch the other three first.

Copyright © 2005 Rick Norwood

Rick Norwood is a mathematician and writer whose small press publishing house, Manuscript Press, has published books by Hal Clement, R.A. Lafferty, and Hal Foster. He is also the editor of Comics Revue Monthly, which publishes such classic comic strips as Flash Gordon, Sky Masters, Modesty Blaise, Tarzan, Odd Bodkins, Casey Ruggles, The Phantom, Gasoline Alley, Krazy Kat, Alley Oop, Little Orphan Annie, Barnaby, Buz Sawyer, and Steve Canyon.


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