Saturday, May 21, 2005

Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

Warning: Spoilers

Finally, so the saga ends. RotS was definitely better than The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones and although that's not saying much, it wasn't a bad movie either. For years now, all of us Star Wars fans have been waiting to see how Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen, wooden as usual, but surprisingly, looking better than when I last saw him), the boy/man with so much emotion for other people, turns to the Dark Side, and we weren't disappointed. Don't get me wrong. The same problems which have plagued George Lucas's other Star Wars films recur here: incredibly bad dialogue*, terribly unconvincing love scenes and a tendency to go overboard on the special effects.

But still, this movie is emotionally gripping and wrenching in a way the other movies save for The Empire Strikes Back weren't. This movie is dark, as it rightly should be. As an illustration, when Order 66 is given for the Shock Troopers (clone soldiers from the previous episodes) to exterminate the Jedi, they do so quickly without any qualms. We witness scene after scene of Jedi being shot in the back by the people they were fighting beside. And when Anakin enters the Jedi Temple under orders from Chancellor Palpatine / Darth Sidious (brilliantly acted by Ian McDiarmid) to eliminate the Jedi there, he enters the Council Room to find all the young children hiding. When they see Anakin, they ask, "What should we do, Master Anakin?" only to met with a cold Anakin firing up his lightsabre. The next time we see the children is when Yoda is searching through the corpses on the floor.

The action scenes are done very well with my two favourite fighting scenes being that of Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and General Grievous (four arms, four lightsabres) and the climactic battle scene between Obi-Wan and Anakin. I truly started to believe in Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan during the former. In the previous episodes, I've been incredibly disappointed at his lack of strength as a Jedi even though there could have been no doubting his moral character. In this movie, he kicked ass; his attitude was perfect and his clipped delivery just spot-on. From his bold, almost-mischevious manner in engaging General Grievous in battle right in front of all of Grievous's droids to his telling Yoda that they need to get back to the Jedi Temple and disable the coded message leading all Jedi into a trap in spite of the almost-certain death that faces them to his telling Anakin that he has failed him... he is Obi-Wan now, just as much as Sir Alec Guinness is.

That being said, I do have some quibbles. While I do appreciate that there are many loose ends for Lucas to tie up in the final instalment of the saga, but there were some which felt rather rushed. For instance, I don't understand how Anakin's turn to the Dark Side occurs so rapidly. It's almost as if it happened in a manner of days, or even hours the moment Darth Sidious makes him his apprentice. One moment he is appalled at having caused Mace Windu's (Samuel L. Jackson) death, the next, he's coldly walking into the Jedi Temple and exterminating the young Jedi trainees. I mean, yes, I understand that Anakin resents the Jedi at times. I mean, I would too if I were constantly being told that I've to let go of all my emotions and stop caring for people, but nevertheless, there is nothing of material significance that looks like it could possibly have triggered Anakin's incredible betrayal of the Jedi, most especially Obi-Wan, the man he purports to care about. For instance, I didn't comprehend why he was infuriated at being denied the title of Jedi Master despite being allowed to sit on the Council. It's obvious no one his age or with his experience has ever been accorded the privilege of a Council position, so why would he be so angry over not getting the title?

RotS being the prequel that it is, there is nothing that the audience doesn't expect... except perhaps the comical element as provided by R2D2 during the first 20 or so minutes when Anakin and Obi-Wan are on a mission to rescue Chancellor Palpatine from General Grievous. I never would've expected R2D2 to be able to eliminate two droid soldiers the way he did ("My eye!", oil spurting, one quick thrust of his jets and voooom! Droid flambé anyone?) and I cracked up when he zapped the droid telling him not to move (response: "Ow!" followed by the droid kicking him over).

Best moments: Other than the ones already mentioned... I always feel like cheering whenever I hear the Star Wars Fanfare. It's easily my favourite piece of music from the entire series and has been ever since I was little. And at the end, when the black plastic helmet is snapped onto Anakin's deformed face and we hear the oh-so-familiar breathing... I was so happy, I could have applauded right there and then in the cinema.

At the end of it all, I do feel a real sense of sadness... not because of the way RotS ended, but because it's the end of an era. There's nothing more we can or should expect and the only thing that we can do now is to revisit the old movies and view them over and over. Hmmm. That's not a bad thing actually. I haven't watched Episodes IV to VI in a few years now. And maybe, to pass the time, I'll take up fencing. What I would give to participate in a lightsabre battle.

*My vote for worst dialogue would be:
Anakin: You are so beautiful.
Padmé (Natalie Portman): That's because I'm so in love with you.
Anakin: No, because I'm in love with you.
Padmé: Are you saying love has blinded you?!

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