A caveat: I grew up watching Star Wars. My dad took me to see Star Wars Part 1 (now Part 4) in Metro theatre, Kolkata in 1980 and ever since then I have been a junkie. In 1981 when my dad was a visiting professor at Cornell and I was going to school in Ithaca, I got further sucked up into the Star Wars ethos buying almost 20 action figures and watching the next installments of the epic and fighting with my schoolmates of whether C3PO was cooler or R2D2. Hell I even saw the cartoon spinoff—the Ewoks whose title song went :
We are the E E E E E Ewoks, one happy happy family.
So as you can see I find it very difficult to objectively evaluate a Star Wars movie. For someone who even liked the silly cartoon show based on the Ewoks, it’s only natural that I love all the movies of the series.
The critics unequivocally hated the “Phantom Menace”. Ok it was a bit boring and protracted but the final deathmatch between Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan on one side and the “most-evil-looking-character-ever” Darth Maul was a classic. The place where Obi-Wan and Darth Maul stand on opposite sides of the force-field sizing each other up waiting for Darth Maul to flick the switch and get that split second advantage—-just gives me the willies to even think of it.
Some people actually liked “Attack of the Clones”. I loved it. Granted the romantic scenes were embarrassingly cheesy, Christensen’s acting was wooden and laughable—-but who cares a rat’s ass about dialogues and acting in a Star Wars flick ? It’s all about the vision and execution—–and “Attack of the Clones” was all about that. My moment of the movie is when Yoda, in an uncharacteristically badass mood, barges in on a marauding Count Dooku, and the lightsaber from the left holster flies into his right hand. A little touch….. of magic.
And so, like a wide-eyed kid, I went to see the last Star Wars movie—the Revenge of the Sith. I was like a believer going to service at the temple—not the rational, hypercritical viewer I usually am. I knew Iwas going to be easily satisfied—all I wanted to see is how Lucas would seamlessly integrate the two trilogies. If he did a half decent job at that, I would have got my money’s worth. So did I ?
You bet I did. “Revenge of the Sith” is a masterpiece. It ties up all the loose ends and brings the Star Wars saga to an explosive conclusion. Yet it is so much more —-a tragedy of galactic proportions, breath-taking in its pace , mind boggling in its technical brilliance, epic in its scope and unusually adept in its performances.
Anakin Skywalker’s character, which had seemed to be cartoonish and petulant in the preceding movies , no small measure due to Christensen’s limitations comes into its own in RS. Christensen is also vastly improved in his repertoire and does an admirable job reflecting the deeply troubled Jedi knight. George Lucas spends considerable effort on character-development and Skywalker’s decent into hellish madness is well-justified, smooth and believable.
In Phantom Menace, we see the child Skywalker with a fascination for fixing things. However as he grows older, he still clings onto the belief that all things may be fixed and fate can always be changed. All it needs is more power. While such a simple logic may work in the workshop, it rarely does in the real world or even in the CGI world of Star Wars.
When Skywalker gets premonitions of his wife Padme dying, he wants to rectify the situation despite the fact that he knows it is inevitable. In comes Chancellor Palpatine/Darth Sidious, the false prophet, who promises to give Skywalker the power to fix anything he wants—-a power the Jedi order can never give him. Neither can the Sith but that Skywalker discovers too late—3 films too late to be exact. He need not have waited for so long—the monologue of Palpatine deliciously hints at the falseness of his claim but Anakin, like Macbeth listening to the wicked witches, takes his words at face value and does not grasp the subtext.
What’s remarkable about RS is that the CGI never supplants the story—something the previous 2 installments cannot claim. As a result, the enduring moments of the movie are those of human drama, tragedy, sacrifice and death. Whether it be the sequence where the Chancellor is cleverly corrupting the vulnerable Skywalker by preying on his insecurities or Obi-Wan anguishing over his ruined dream or Yoda plaintively accepting defeat and exile—the beauty comes from the character interaction, acting and expressions — aspects of moviemaking that Lucas is notorious for neglecting in his work.
For me however the best scene of the movie is not any of the breathtaking battle set-pieces or the epic battle between Vader and Skywalker or Darth Sidious and Yoda. It is a scene where Anakin and Padme are in their apartment with the sunlight washing them in golden hues. They stand separate, there is no dialogue (mercifully) and Anakin tries to come to terms with Padme’s impending death. Despite the sun and the beauty of the scene, the sense of impending doom is overpowering—you don’t need to have a Jedi master’s instinct to know that there is no saving Anakin from now on.
George Lucas has also been not known for subtlety—there are several heavy-handed touches in this movie too but this wordless exchange between the doomed protagonists was the highlight of the movie for me.
In conclusion, go watch Revenge of the Sith NOW. Cancel meetings, dates, a visit to the dentist, or an oil-change appointment.
Instead feel the hum of the lightsabers, the metallic breathing of Vader, the rousing score by John Williams and a tear or two on your cheek.
Star Wars—take a bow. You are now officially part of pop culture folklore.
May the Force be with you.
Read this review of RS which I liked very much and am totally shaking my head in agreement to.