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Movie-Hype00599 – EPISODE III

[This column presupposes you have seen REVENGE OF THE SITH. It is most likely my only movie review where it would be wise to see the movie first. Normally, I go out of my way to avoid talking about the plot, but that is impossible here.]

I have seen REVENGE OF THE SITH four times now. Gone are my nervousness and apprehension. I was able to relax and enjoy the movie. I started looking for those hundreds of little things spread throughout, waiting for us to find them. I speak of the Millennium Falcon landing in the background of one scene, perhaps with Lando Calrissian at the helm. I can’t believe I missed it earlier, but in the funeral bier Padme is made up to look pregnant, so that none would know she’d borne her offspring. (In my defense, the first three times I was usually dabbing my eyes at this point.)

I’ve yet to figure out why General Grievous was coughing, who Lucas was in his cameo, or what that opera was all about. I look forward to doing so, as well as being able to take in the jaw-dropping beauty of the backgrounds, and keeping a running count of how many times Padme changes her hair. I still relish every time that glass window breaks, and smile at a view of a young (and eerily similar-looking) Grand Moff Tarkin. I chuckle at the tie-fighter, Wedge Antilles, and the fact that C-3PO was memory wiped but not R2-D2.

[Side note: there are some who have complained that R2 displays skills in the first three installments that he no longer has by A NEW HOPE. I think the answer is in how much abuse his frame takes. Brother’s getting old! And while I’m at it, I think the more advanced technology here is for similar reasons (beyond just that Lucas can do it now). The Empire sets back progress by generations with this war and the brutal suppression of the people, and the rebels didn’t have access to much more than guerrilla war-fare.]

I’ve read reviews criticizing the opening sequences as lifeless and boring. I just want to smack these people, who are obviously trying to hate. Not only is it exciting, but it is seriously funny as well. I’ve also read reviews belittling the “obvious” imagery of the fires of Planet Mustufar as hell. Way to swat at a gnat and swallow a Bantu.

There is so much rich metaphor here. If the first three films were about fathers and sons, you could make the case that these three are about mothers and sons. Anakin’s path begins its turn toward the dark side upon the kidnapping and death of his mother. If you recall, Anakin finds his mother, who dies in his arms. Anakin then proceeds to kill everyone in the village, even the women and children; many of whom couldn’t possibly have had anything to do with taking his mother.

[Side note: Anakin confesses this to Padme, THAT HE IS A FREAKING MASS MURDERER, and instead of being repulsed, denouncing him, or even arresting him, Padme loves him all the more! This is why I would choose Padme over Leia, who is too noble for me. And can I just ask where are all the hot girls out there who’d stand by their murdering man? Why can’t I find them? But I digress.]

Anakin’s loss of his mother makes him all the more determined not to let that happen. When he discovers that Padme is pregnant, and starts having dreams of her peril, it is his Gettysburg, his pivotal moment. Helping along the way is the idiot Jedi Council dissing Anakin, and asking him to act dishonorably by spying. Top that off with Mace Windu flouting the rule of law by attempting to execute the dutifully elected Chancellor of the Senate—no matter what the charges. These things bother Anakin greatly, but of course he wouldn’t be there to see Windu’s actions in the first place if he wasn’t obsessed with Padme’s well-being.

[Side note: at some future point we simply must discuss the folly of the Jedi Council, who were not only blind to Darth Sidious’s threat, but in some cases actually helped him out; i.e., Yoda ordered the Clone army!]

Anakin’s actions toward Padme on Mustufar are especially fascinating. His pride to her is that he ended the war, brought peace to the galaxy. This suggests he still had noble intentions at this point (even though he’d already committed unspeakable evil). Anakin does jump around the truth of those Younglings with Padme by chancing the subject when she brings it up, but he tacitly acknowledges that he knows Palpatine is evil by offering to overthrow him and rule the galaxy with Padme.

[Side note: this is one strike against the lass. What kind of girl forgives murder twice (as she initially seems willing to do with the Younglings), but then balks at the idea of ruling a just universe? Perhaps I’m not objective on this, since I plan to rule the universe myself, but potential Hyperion-mates out there, take note: don’t blow this pivotal question if it ever comes up. But again, I digress.]

Anakin’s change of character is apparently enough to kill Padme. (Semironically, the Emperor tries to manipulate Vader by lying to him and saying Vader killed Padme, but in a way, he did.) As Padme draws her last breath, she claims she can still feel good in Anakin. (Of course, the last thing she remembers is him strangling her, so you can bet some militant feminist group will take issue here, but I digress.) This goodness is borne out to be true in JEDI when Vader betrays 20-some years of heart-hardening and Empire-ruling to save his son from Palpatine. Of course, redemption or not, Vader is still a mass-murderer who should be punished, but apparently the Force is good at forgiving that kind of thing.

I have so much more to say about REVENGE OF THE SITH, but this is running very long, so I’ll close (for now) with this: the first STAR WARS can be watched and enjoyed even if you never saw another installment. Lucas had grand plans even back then, but didn’t know if he would get a second chance. But by the end of EMPIRE, there is obvious “trilogism” at play, since JEDI is required to complete the story.

I think that EPISODES I, II, and III are perhaps more of a singular unit, viewed not as separate movies but three parts of the same story. There is a small loss of excitement in knowing a good deal of what is to come (after all, Padme’s not likely to give birth to a mulatto wookie and C-3PO is not likely to body-switch with Anakin and become the real Vader). But if there is a sense of inevitability, there is still plenty of mystery. And, there’s an added poignancy watching this good—if confused—kid slowly succumb to the seductive siren call of the dark side of the force. The villain who virtually everybody loved—Darth Vader—we now lament as Anakin slides into his personal hell. This is an effective tribute to just how well George Lucas knows how to tell a story.


May 22, 2005

Thanks to everyone who went with me each time
Thanks to the maker

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Dominique said...

Okay - I am surprised you didn't go into the depth of Aikan's death / Vader's birth paralleling with the births of Luke and Leuia.

I thought the entire movie was amazing. The 1st two lost my attention easily...but after watching Sith...I just wanted to run out and have a marathon of all 6 back to back.

I look forward to more.

Anonymous said...