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A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.....
Revenge of the Lucas


Brace yourselves: I declare Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith the second-best in the whole saga…almost. While there's no doubt that the Irvin Kershner-directed Empire Strikes Back is a depressing, exciting masterpiece, Sith is the "new" trilogy's crown jewel, one that almost matches the dread and whimsy of the second—I mean fifth--film.

Now, Mark Hamill was no Brando, but his "gee-whiz" attitude in A New Hope (can I please call it "Star Wars?") made up for whatever acting chops the lad lacked. Plus, he went on to voice the Joker in Batman: The Animated Series, which gives him an eternal free pass. I don't know if our Mr. Christensen has such a career in front of him—and after the near-debacle of his performance in Episode II it wasn't clear if he'd have any future at all outside of fan conventions—but he's certainly upped his stock a little with an intense, if not always convincing, performance as the doomed Anakin Skywalker—the moment Ian McDiarmid, as the decrepit Palpatine "knights" Anakin and gives him the name we all fear is a dramatic letdown – inevitable, perhaps, considering the galactic weight of such an event.

As for the rest of the film, the two sequences that bookend the action—the opening chase of Dooku and the final showdown on Mustafar—are as thrilling as they were in their original theatrical form. And it was interesting to discover the secondary action was actually more visible on the television screen—something the notoriously detail-oriented George Lucas would probably appreciate. Yoda's back-talking is still pretty annoying, and Sam Jackson still gets played, but the ability to watch the climax of the Anakin/Obi-Wan duel in super slow-mo is a guilty plus. And we get our first glimpse of Captain Antilles' ship, which, of course, is where we first meet Vader in Episode IV.


Clearly, Lucas and company have learned a lot from Peter Jackson, whose Lord of the Rings bonus documentaries are almost as comprehensive as the films themselves. The big one is the seventy-plus minute doc "Within a Minute" which gives us an in-depth look at the making of the Mustafar battle—or more correctly, the first 49 seconds of it. "Within a Minute" is almost half as long as the film itself, but it doesn't suffer for its length. If anything, I wanted to learn more about the catering, who, with a staff of twenty have to provide food for 700 people. Absent of this, the most fascinating bit of information contained in "Within a Minute" is that the toppling of the steel arm on which Anakin and Obi-Wan fight was an idea brought up by none other than Steven Spielberg.

"The Chosen One" reveals how, in Lucas's words, "Anakin becomes man in suit" and includes some of the most important scenes of the original trilogy. It's fun to see Lucas justify how Anakin, not Luke, is the one to return balance to the force. It kind of makes sense: he is Luke's father (I think I heard that somewhere) and at the end of Jedi he does kill the Emperor—a scene with eerie similarities to Mace Windu's angry demise.

Among the fifteen Web documentaries are a fascinating look at the weapons of the Star Wars universe, as well as one on Wookies—although the latter contains some re-hashed tales from Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca) that have appeared, in one form or another, on other Star Wars docs.

There are six deleted scenes, all with intros from either Lucas or producer Rick McCallum, and of these only two are really all that interesting. The first connects the dots of the opening chase scene in which General Grievous slaughters a Jedi—shocking! Second, and more importantly, we finally get Yoda arriving on Dagobah, a scene that Lucas calls unnecessary, and of which he says, "we know where he ends up." Yes, George, we do, but that doesn't mean we don't want to see it.

Final Grade: 8.5


Issue Date: November 4 - 10, 2005
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