\’Episode III\’ best of prequels, far from original

“Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith” is George Lucas’ redemption film.

Both the highly anticipated “Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace” and “Star Wars: Episode II — The Attack of the Clones” did well at the box office but failed to wow critics and die-hard fans. Nothing could match what fans dreamed “Episode I” would be, waiting sixteen years for the beginning of the end to the “Star Wars” saga, but the first films also fell short in key areas, namely the acting and story line. The introduction of Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker in “Episode II” upped the bad acting even more.

It is nearly impossible to judge a film like this — the third in a series of six — on its own merits, especially given the classic status attained by the original “Star Wars.” The plot is tied to previously established story lines, so viewers know what is coming. Still, there was potential for “Episode III” to stand on its own and usher the series out with a bang. Most of the cast is back from the previous film, and a few favorites from the original trilogy make an appearance as well, most notably Chewbacca. There is even a cameo from the Millennium Falcon if you look closely.

The film picks up a few years after “Attack of the Clones.” Anakin has grown into a very powerful Jedi, yet still has not earned the trust of the Jedi council. His marriage to Padme (Natalie Portman) is still a secret, though that secrecy is threatened more each passing day by her pregnancy. After Anakin and Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) successfully defeat Count Dooku (Christopher Lee), the search for the Sith Lord becomes the Jedi Council’s top priority and Supreme Chancellor Palpatine becomes a main suspect. The film spends a majority of its time on this particular subject. Anakin becomes torn between the Jedi way and the skills promised him by Palpatine.

Though it is interesting to watch the missing pieces fall into place as the film progresses toward its climax, the movie falters a bit along the way. Everyone knows the eventual outcome — the challenge to this and the previous two films was to find an interesting way to tell the story in between. The film could have been shorter and still told the story well — perhaps even better. Lucas’s biggest problem in the first three episodes goes back to a basic rule of filmmaking — show, don’t tell. There are quite a few action-packed moments in “Revenge of the Sith,” but they seem to come in chunks. Where the original films had a faster, more exciting pace, “Episode III” and the previous films have a jarring effect that consists of fast-paced action followed by slow expository dialogue or clunky romantic scenes — it’s more a book-on-tape approach than an actual filmmaking approach. The other downfall of “Revenge of the Sith” is Lucas’s obsession with using computer graphics for every

scene. While this can provide for some incredible action sequences, it also causes the film to lose a sense of realism. There is something organic about having the characters interact with aliens in costume rather than an animated character, and the lack of any real sets leaves the film looking more like a video game at times. George Lucas has been responsible for some amazing innovations in the film industry (see Industrial Light and Magic, Pixar and Avid if you need proof) but technology should still be used to advance the story, not the other way around.

Despite the negatives, “Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith” is by far the best of the first three episodes, and it does a good job of tying them all together. Christensen’s acting is somewhat improved, and in all fairness, when compared to Mark Hamill’s acting skills, Christensen doesn’t seem all that bad. If you have already seen the previous five movies, by all means finish what you’ve started. If this is your first “Star Wars” film, save your money, buy the original trilogy and be satisfied with those.

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