ISSUE #8 FEB 06

Nishan Fuard

Star Wars Revenge Of The Sith

13th June 2005
Movie Poster reviewer: Nishan Fuard
directed by: George Lucas
written by: George Lucas
starring: Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Hayden Christensen
genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Sci-Fi
released: 16th May 2005

Thatís it. Itís all over. After generating more wealth than some Third World countries, the Star Wars saga has gone full circle and reached an end. But of course not ĎThe Endí.

Over the years itís been a mixture of fun, fetishism (plastic, of course) and, more recently, frustration. However, after so much Jedi-like devotion, I think itís time to hang up my dressing gown and stop pretending my torch is a lightsaber.

The latest additions to the Star Wars series have all been approached with expectations, preconceptions and doubts. My own feelings towards the arrival of Episode III verged on the doubtful because even after two films I thought there was too much story left to tell. Could all the answers be packed into one mind-blowing episode? Also, would the film bond with the all-important fourth episode (where the story began for most of us)?

It seems strange that itís the story that should now preoccupy my mind when it comes to Star Wars. The truth is that I actually found the story in the new films more interesting than the fairytale of the earlier ones. Sadly, the latest episodes are not as well told or acted and are lacking a sense of adventure but they do show evidence of George Lucas finally realising his vision. There seems to be a move from Saturday morning serial to grand space opera.

Itís a shame then that Revenge of the Sith comes across as the equivalent of fancy paper and a big red bow to wrap, detract from and hide the perceived disappointments of the preceding episodes.

In Sith the Clone Wars are still raging on. The leader of the enemy forces, the warrior droid General Grievous, is proving to be a cunning foe by kidnapping Chancellor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) to force a victory. The Jedi decide to take decisive action and dispatch Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) to eliminate Grievous.

Meanwhile, Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) is frustrated at the Jedi Councilís indifference to him. He also begins to fear for his pregnant wife, Padme (Natalie Portman), and discovers that even his abilities might not help protect her. Eventually, twisted by love, jealousy and frustration Anakin seeks strength in the darker, forbidden side of the Force.

Those chafed by the plodding pace of the new films will no doubt greet the all-out action in Sith with cheers. Within minutes of the filmís opening we experience the chaos of the Clone Wars; see Jedis kick metal ass; and witness a return match between Anakin and Count Dooku (Christopher Lee, who sadly has little screen time).

Yet this change of pace does nothing for the story. Certain events seem to occur because they simply must rather than through any credible and considered storytelling.

Anakinís turn to the Dark Side is one example. In one short scene he manages to uphold Jedi ethics yet moments later be christened Darth Vader. Quick and seductive the Dark Side may be, but thereís still a definite sense that the narrative has been rushed.

Another sticking point is General Grievous. Although no Jar Jar Binks this computer-generated character although technically superb is sheer pantomime. With a hunchbacked stance, hacking cough and a mangled accent he minces across screen complete with cloak to swirl and lift over his shoulders. Worse is that he serves no real purpose in the film other than to instigate some action sequences. Introducing him in the first or second episode might have given him some substance beyond the illusion of CGI.

In terms of acting itís no surprise that things havenít improved from the last two films. As a Sith apprentice Anakin is portrayed as a grimacing young man wearing a hood, which would be enough to get him banned from shopping malls, but I was expecting something a little moreÖevil from the Dark Side. McGregor sports more beard and less mullet but itís still hard to imagine him morphing into Alec Guinness at least not without some top notch special effects.

So is Sith worse than Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones? No, itís a better film. However, I still think the former has the best lightsaber duel and certainly the strongest new character in Qui-Gon Jinn. Nevertheless there a few highlights in Episode III. The special effects are incredible and work far better than in the two previous films and Yoda is as entertaining as ever. Also noteworthy is the juxtaposition of two births: Vader in all his mechanical glory and that of his son, who will eventually save him.

For Sith, Lucas tried to cram in a lot his own feelings which would explain the echoes of the recent Iraq War (Anakin even borrows rhetoric from George W Bush) in the political powerplay of Palpatine and the ensuing destruction. Itís unfortunate that his skills as a writer make his intentions come across as clumsy and sometimes amateurish. Saying that, Lucas has finally completed what he set out to do back in the 1970s and that is an achievement worth celebrating.