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IN SHORT: Evil Triumphant. Body parts fly. Not for single digit kidlets. [Rated PG-13 for sci-fi violence and some intense images. 147 minutes]
That written, IF you have a six or seven or eight year old kidlet who has been been making you crazy since all the tapes/DVD episodes he and/or she has been so cool that seeing Episode III is a please please please please please please (you know the deal) Event, Cranky insists that parental units watch the film first. Solo. You know your kids better than we do. We also know that this "final" episode of Star Wars is about as review proof as any movie can get. We stood two hours on line. Planted in the theater. Opened our eyes wide and waited for the return of all the gosh wow whoopee fan feelings that we felt nearly thirty years back. Considering that the entire universe knows how this particular episode winds up, the big trick is whether or not the audience is sucked in deep enough to be affected when everything hits the fan. The answer? Close enough for us.
How close enough depends on when you started The Saga. For those of us who began with what is now called A New Hope, we doubt that anything will top Episodes 4 and 5 -- at least for everyone we know. We've had almost thirty years to fantasize the events of Anakin Skywalker's fall and transformation into the second most evil man in the Galaxy. Imagination will almost always triumph over any image on the screen. The events of Episode Three are fully in line with Episodes One and Two. If that's where you started the Saga, you're good to go. If you've been in it for the long haul, well, it's Star Wars. Gotta see it.
The Revenge of the Sith is by far the best of the second set of three. Writer/Director George Lucas keeps everything moving so quickly that we suspect that a couple of return visits to our local theater will be necessary to see what we may have missed (or, based on our gut feeling, what may be missing). Neither was he lying when he described this episode as much "darker" than the others. When Lucas fills the screen with action, Episode Three fairly sings. When he has to stop for exposition, the story stutters just a little. Just a little. The pace and the stunning digital scenarios more than make up for it. And even with the end a foregone conclusion, Lucas manages to sneak enough surprises into his film that we'll keep our lips sealed as much as possible.
A lot of Episode III's story has to do with the politics of the existing Republic. That sometimes gets in the way of all the lightsabre battles and cosmic slaughter we've been waiting for, for years. What the Sith are hasn't been touched on much since Episode One so a passing mention would have been useful. At the basic level, though, Sith = Bad and Jedi = Good.
Star Wars Episode III: The Revenge of the Sith perfectly sets up what us old folks refer to as the "first" trilogy, though its dependence on elements of the first two episodes gets in the way towards its finale. This didn't happen with episodes 4 - 6 and may be the only stumbling block in our analysis. Only once in the ten years of writing this site have we ever compared to Source Material (which includes books, television shows, previous movies in a series and so on) but we may have to as we get into the nitty gritty. Which begins like this . . .
The Clone Wars continue to rage in the Galactic Republic. Jedi Knights Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan MacGregor) and Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) battle Separatist forces loyal to the evil Count Dooku (Christopher Lee), who has kidnapped Chancellor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid). Palpatine is a supreme mucky muck of the galactic Republic with his own secret agenda that will deploy before this episode is done. While Anakin sees only the weak, helpless old man that the Chancellor pretends to be, in reality Palpatine is as nasty a character as can be. A breathtaking battle culminates in a one on one fight between Anakin and the four armed General Grievous (Matthew Wood). At the urging of the Chancellor, Anakin takes Dooku out of the picture in a way that his Jedi Training does not approve of.
Do not to bring a six year old to Star Wars Episode III.
The repercussions are major: Palpatine asks that Skywalker be appointed to the Jedi Council as his "representative." The Council leader, Supreme Jedi Knight and Jedi Master Mace Windu (Samuel L. Jackson) does not like the appointment of Skywalker nor trust the actions of the Chancellor. Both he and Palpatine will seek to play Skywalker as a pawn, both asking that Skywalker spy on the other side, straining loyalties already stretched by the fact that Skywalker is trying to hide a secret marriage, to Senator Padmé Amidala (Natalie Portman), from both sides. That will prove difficult since Padmé discovers that she is pregnant.
Even worse, Skywalker is denied the title of Jedi Master upon his appointment to the Jedi Council. This disrespect makes him feel like a second class Jedi. That makes him angry. Anger, as we all know, leads to the Dark Side. As well, Anakin has been tormented by nightmares about trouble with Padmé's forthcoming childbirth. Fear leads to the Dark Side, too, if you can quote the circuitous route defined by Yoda (Frank Oz) in The Empire Strikes Back <g>. A Sith Lord called Darth Sidious -- if we have to tell you, you shouldn't be starting with an episode numbered "three" -- suggests that the Dark Side offers more power than the Jedi teach, the implication being that Anakin can save Padmé -- and the turning is accomplished with far more subtlety than we expected.
There's a major rip snorter of a light sabre battle that pushes Anakin's button and starts taking the Jedi Way out of the picture. With the fall to the Dark Side comes a new name for young Skywalker, "Darth Vader" (eventually voiced by James Earl Jones). That pretty much covers all the bases until the inevitable Master versus Student battle to end all battles (which, basically, shows up in some Good versus Evil form in each of the Episodes). Again, Do Not to bring a six year old to Star Wars Episode III.
R2-D2 (Kenny Baker), C3-P0 (Anthony Daniels) and Yoda (voice of Frank Oz) all return to the dance while long time fans will delight to [our] first glimpse of Kashyyk, home world of the Wookies. Yes, Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) shows in this episode but so does Jar Jar Binks (Ahmed Best), but neither has much to do (and the two seconds of dialog-less Jar Jar is more than enough).
We will offer up two more warnings both involving battles you may not want your six year old watching. The first involves a scene depicting the destruction of the Jedi Temple and those within. The second, set on the volcanic planet Mustafar, is the inevitable Anakin versus Obi-Wan duel to the metaphorical death. We thank Lucas for keeping most of the first off screen. The second works just fine from his long shot -- and because we haven't spent much time in the last thirty years trying to imagine it.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Star Wars Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith, he would have paid . . .
It's an unimportant rating since, even if you hated Episodes One and Two, you know darn well you've got to see The Fall. Star Wars Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith is about as review proof as any movie can get. Important to the next trilogy are appearances by Senator Bail Organa of Alderaan (Jimmy Smits), Owen Lars (Joel Edgerton) and his wife Beru (Bonnie Piesse)
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