A long time ago in a galaxy far far away…
It was really 1977 and as close as your neighborhood theatre. Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Darth Vader, and Princess Leia captured our imaginations and have never let go. Star Wars has become nothing less than a modern mythology. No one can deny that George Lucas changed how we see films forever. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Star Wars fan or even watch science fiction as a whole. Movie making changed in 1977. Lucas continues to shape the industry with the f/x empire he built on Star Wars.
We were told early on during the original trilogy that there were really 6 parts to the story. We were actually seeing the middle third. Twenty years after the original film, Lucas decided to revisit his Galaxy far, far away and give us the first trilogy. How many times can you disappoint your fan base with self-congratulatory triteness and still keep them camping out for days to see your next film? George Lucas has proven the answer is at least two. Episode 1: The Phantom Menace was simply a horrid affair. Lucas tells us, of course it was. That’s exactly how I planned it. Episode 2: Attack of the Clones was moderately better but still fell short of most expectations.
Finally pisode III: Revenge of the Sith, or as some fans have called it: Episode III: The Apology. While this is far from a great film, it does remind us why we loved this universe so much to begin with. Who can argue that these are some of the most beautiful effects we’ve ever seen. Lucas uses film like a painter uses a canvas or sculptor his block of stone. The problem is the effects are often so overwhelming that the details tend to blur and get lost. Too many scenes speak more to “Look what I can do” rather than “Look how I can accentuate a wonderful story”. The actors, with a few exceptions, are atrocious. The dialogue is abysmal at its best. The best actors and characters are underused. Christopher Lee and Samuel Jackson deserved far more screen time. Still, this film rises above the previous two in ways beyond description.
Most important to Star Wars fans: Does the film bring us comfortably into A New Hope? The advertisement campaign promises that all of our questions will be answered. Most of mine were. Some of the answers were cheats. (Wiping the droids’ memories. Now why didn’t I think of that?). Most were quite satisfying. The transformation of Skywalker into Darth Vader was worth waiting for. In the end, perhaps Star Wars is really about epic battles and good vs. evil and nothing more. If that be the case, this movie satisfies. Still, I can’t help feeling we all believed there was just a little something more to it than that.
It is hard to tell a story when the audience pretty much knows how it’s all going to turn out. Apollo 13 showed it can be done well. Revenge of the Sith treads gingerly on the backs of expectations. We all knew who Anakin was going to become from Episode I. Sith fittingly brings closure to a franchise that will continue to leave us with bittersweet memories.
Anakin Skywalker (Christensen) has matured and grown stronger in the force under the mentorship of the wise Obi-Wan (McGregor) He is growing increasingly impatient with a Jedi Council that, he believes, does not respect his power and importance. Filled with dreams of impending doom for his secret bride, Padme (Portman), he is seduced to the Dark Side of the Force by ambitious Chancellor Palpatine (McDiarmid). The Chancellor has manipulated galactic events to destroy the Jedi and a thousand years of democracy. Skywalker becomes a powerful pawn in the creation of an evil empire. Slowly Jedi Skywalker is becoming the evil Darth Vader.
This Dolby Digital Surround 5.1 EX track is magnificent. It shouldn’t come as any surprise that the man who brought us THX would deliver a phenomenal soundtrack. The use of surrounds is aggressive. Your ears will be under constant barrage of swooping space ships and thunderous explosions. The static of each light saber singes the hair on your head with each swoop. The action on your subs is enough to rival the hip hoppiest rumble car in your neighborhood. Most impressive is that not a word of dialogue is lost in this massive symphony of sound. Separation is nearly perfect at every turn. John Williams’ by now familiar score is placed exactly where it should be. At times it bursts upon us as a glorious fanfare, while other times it lurks just beneath the surface warning us we are about to encounter evil.
Lucas brings along a few of his f/x production team for the film’s commentary track. OK, so none of these guys can capture your attention quite like their work, but you will gain some insights known only to the fan base. The real trouble is that the film is so busy I caught myself ignoring the track and rewinding a bit to hear something again, only to find it wasn’t really worth the trouble.
Revenge of the Sith is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. Expectations were high for this film completely created in the digital realm. This is one of those cases where the DVD is as good if not superior to the standard theatre print (unless you saw it at a digital theatre). As a result of the digital production there are no marks or blemishes of any kind evident on this transfer. Colors are as vivid as the DVD format is likely capable of displaying. The blacks of space deliver wonderful depth and stand in stark contrast to a wide palette of both bright and drab colors. Explosions burst upon your monitor with stunning clarity and realism. The only minor complaint I have is that the picture is so clear that some of the CG elements appear too obvious. Watching CG versions of Christopher Lee doing somersaults while dueling is a little ridiculous at times. Perhaps a little blur would actually add to the realism.
This is a 2 disc set. The first disc contains the feature and aforementioned commentary track. Most of the extras are contained on disc 2.
- “Deleted Scenes”: There are 6 scenes in total. Most of the cut sequences deal with a sub-plot involving Senator Organa and talks he is having with a resistance movement. They are in various degrees of production. The best of the offered scenes is that of Yoda arriving on Dagobah. You have the choice to view short introductions to each.
- “Within A Minute: The Making Of Episode III”: An interesting concept. A short segment of the film, the duel between Obi-Wan and Anakin on Mastafar is examined in the most incredible detail yet offered. We’re talking over an hour explaining a less than one minute of film time. If you really want great detail, this is the feature you’ve been waiting for. There must be thirty people involved with just this short segment.
- “It’s All For Real”: Stunts often get overlooked on such an f/x heavy film. The extras are no exception. Less than 15 minutes on some quite extraordinary stunt work. Unfortunately most of this “real” feature deals with what else? f/x.
- “The Chosen One”: In case you just crawled out from under a rock and don’t understand what this whole mess is about, this is the extra for you. Think of this as an FBI profiler segment on Darth Vader. What makes Vader tick? Why is he so… Evil? Now you’ll know.
- “Web Documentaries” For at least a year Lucas was placing little 5 minute features on the film’s website. There were 15 and all are included here. These little snippets cover pretty much every aspect of the film.
- Let’s not forget the by now standard still galleries, production notes, and trailers, all available here. There is also a good collection of promo material such as posters and spots for the Battlefront II video game.
The menus are a bit more entertaining than standard fare. You’ll find there is a random element to the background and planet shots, so it can actually look different each time you play the disc.
We all know that Revenge Of The Sith is not really the end. In addition to more animated features, a live action television show is already being worked out. A standard theme for this trilogy has been the corruption of power. Who knows that better than Lucas himself? One of my favorite South Park episodes finds the boys attempting to steal the master print for Raiders Of The Lost Ark to keep Lucas from changing it. While Cartman and friends saved the Raiders film, I’m afraid Star Wars is still considered a work in progress. Lucas argues they are his films and he has a right to change them. I can’t really argue that point, except to say don’t they in some way belong to the collective Us? Hasn’t Lucas turned some of that ownership over to the public by releasing them as a public spectacle? I guess what bothers me is that if not for my trusty laserdiscs it just would not be possible for me to watch the Star Wars as it was when I fell in love with it as a 15 year old boy. Up next? Lucas plans to release all 6 films using a new 3-D process he’s developed. While I am eager to see these films in 3-D he also promises more changes and “upgrades” to the original trilogy. I don’t know about you, but “I’ve got a bad feeling about this”.