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Star Wars Episode III: The Revenge of the Sith

The End of the Beginning

Pop cultural crazes come and go. Most people of a certain age, excluding VH1 commentators with weirdly eidetic memories, don't remember what they were doing in 1977 much less that year's biggest movies (hint, they include: Saturday Night Fever, Annie Hall & Close Encounters of the Third Kind). Stars Wars came out nearly thirty years ago and fans today, ranging from middle-aged men (who could recite every line from Empire Strikes Back verbatim) and college students to kids whose parents hadn't yet met in 1977, are still mesmerized. Then again, the Star Wars series isn't your average cinematic fad; it's the blockbuster of all blockbusters and is as relevant today as it was decades ago.

Despite the lack of thundering applause for Episodes I and II, anticipation for Episode III was strong. Indeed, Star Wars Episode III: The Revenge of the Sith is the best of the prequels and a poignant end to an epic story. It is here where you witness Anakin's Skywalker's final demise into Darth Vader, the dark lord who reigned supreme over the cultural landscape from the late seventies well into the eighties.

Anakin (Hayden Christensen) and Padmé (Natalie Portman) are still continuing on with their illicit marriage, sneaking off for secret kisses in the shadows. But an unexpected pregnancy throws the balance off, so to speak. In all honesty, every single scene with these two is akin to having someone run their fingernails across a chalkboard. When Padmé tells Anakin of her "news", the ensuing dialogue side swipes you; it takes a momentary reality check to make sure you are indeed watching The Revenge of the Sith rather than an after-school special on teenage pregnancy. Furthermore, Padmé wins the award for being the worst wife -- ever. Instead of actually listening and truly supporting Anakin, who's obviously about to have a nervous breakdown, she blathers on about herself and feeds him stiff lines with all the heart of a generic greeting card.

It goes without saying that this new Anakin has some serious stress-related issues. Besides having a hormonal secret wife, the Jedi Council is giving him slack for his buddy-buddy relationship with Senator Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) and Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) is constantly criticizing him, as would a semi-abusive father. Obi-Wan needs to give up the Good Cop-Bad Cop routine and just give this kid a freakin' compliment. A little therapy would have done a world of good for Anakin; who knew he was only one hug away from falling into total darkness?

His psychological conflict is what carries the film while his relationship with his mentors (Obi-Wan/ Senator Palpatine) is at its heart. You learn that Anakin/Darth Vader isn't necessarily a bad person but a good person gone wrong. The nebulous, gray area, to which you can relate, is what makes this film so haunting, mainly because you can empathize. Lucas delves into this complicated character and creates a satisfying as well as believable representation of how a cute little eight-year can deteriorate into an evil dictator. The strength of The Revenge of the Sith is its characters. It's got the budget of a huge studio mammoth but the soul of an indie flick (serious, moving & sorrowful).

It needs to be said that this film is also pretty funny. At times, it has an almost campy humor that provides a welcome getaway from the mostly dark plot. Of course, R2-D2 (Kenny Baker one of the only actors, besides Anthony Daniels as C-3PO, to star in all six films) is the source of a lot of this humor. You can't help but to crack a smile at his endearing little squeaks and indignant beeps.

Even if the chemistry (or lack thereof) between Anakin and Padmé makes you want to cringe, especially when compared to that of Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher, there are two sequences that make sitting through painfully dry love scenes worthwhile. Both the dazzling opening sequence and another involving all the Jedis, are worth the entire film put together, plus or minus a few scenes.

Fans: you now know why. You now know how. You now know what must have been going through his plastic head when Darth Vader uttered the words: "I am you father." You now know why Yoda might have seemed a tad bitter in Empire Strikes Back. You now know the source of Obi-Wan's immense guilt. Everything will make sense.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars