U.S. Release Date: May 19, 2005
Distributor: Fox
Director: George Lucas
Writer: George Lucas
Producer: George Lucas (Executive), Rick McCallum
Composer: John Williams
Cast: Anthony Daniels, Christopher Lee, Peter Mayhew, Ian McDiarmid, Ewan McGregor, Hayden Christensen, Natalie Portman, Samuel L. Jackson
Running Time: 2 hours and 26 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (sci-fi violence and some intense images)

The Emperor's New Clones
by Scott Holleran

The series that began with an idealistic farm boy's choice between complacency and a noble crusade, with classic Hollywood banter and conflict, ends in an orgiastic blur. Creator George Lucas made Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith, the last installment of his epic Star Wars, more like a video game than a motion picture. With 90 computer-generated minutes—20 more than Attack of the Clones—sensory overloaded Sith fizzles in a blaze of gore.

The first of two and a half hours is interminably dull. Jedi knight Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen, snug in the role) and his mentor, Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor, adding zest when he can) are locked in a dogfight with an unseen enemy, aided by a couple of droids, including Artoo Detoo, which inexplicably uses new powers. After confronting Count Dooku (Christopher Lee) and a new character, dubbed General Grievous, an automaton with human characteristics that flips, zaps and rolls, master and pupil try to rescue Chancellor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid). The action takes place in hyperdrive so don't expect a look at anything—including the sharp, soaring cityscapes—for longer than a few seconds.

As Mr. Lucas sets the trap that's been waiting to snap since Darth Vader told Luke Skywalker about his bloodlines in The Empire Strikes Back, the plot putters. Palpatine lures Skywalker to darkness, Jedi Master Mace Windu (Samuel L. Jackson) loses trust in the young Jedi, and Mrs. Skywalker, pregnant Padme (Natalie Portman), grows worried about her husband. Obi-Wan straddles the fence on all issues of importance.

Revenge of the Sith crawls to the standard Star Wars dual light saber duel and, from the birth of Luke and Leia to the Vader transformation, pieces fall into place. But watching characters with predetermined fates is not especially engaging and, with the outcome of each key event known in advance, Mr. Lucas, emphasizing Hellfire and damnation during Vader's inception, loses his grip on what's left of the story. Old lines—"It is your Destiny," "Use the Force," "I have a bad feeling about this"—are out-of-moment reminders of the other movies.

Gone is the snappy "walking carpet" tone and urgent "don't get cocky" pace; replaced by bad dialog dispatched in a low, neutral drone. Without contrast, lacking even Return of the Jedi's forest tranquility, The Phantom Menace's insistent score or Darth Maul's sense of purpose, there is not one memorable scene. A computerized planet is intended to look like Hell. It just looks fake.

Venerable names like Vader are assigned cursory origins, more like perfunctory backpedaling than progressive plotting. When a shiny Nazi-like helmet—a lacquered icon for evil—locks on Vader's wounded head, it is an afterthought, selected by no one for no apparent reason other than that it matches his black cape. While the Force has always been arbitrary, Darth Sidious' takeover conspiracy is so widespread that it renders the mystical powers of the Force meaningless. The Force, literally, is not with any of them; they do not even sense a disturbance, let alone see it coming.

No longer able to evade the drag effects of the Force's irrationality, Revenge of the Sith reveals the orthodox Jedi as a band of powerless proselytizers. While the Sith lords are equally vague, at least they act as if they stand for something. It falls to Obi-Wan Kenobi, the story's godfather, to fully enunciate the Star Wars philosophy, hissing that "only a Sith deals in absolutes," a statement which asserts an absolute. The contradiction need not make one less affectionate for the Skywalker saga, which offers elements of adventure and fantasy on a grand scale; it was there, like Darth Vader's free will, all along. But it does strip this digitized siege on the senses—that George Lucas calls Titanic in space—of the clarity that made the original picture seem like such a blast.

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