May 20, 2005
ROTS: Proven Wrong (well, not totally)
Star of "Return of the Sith" he is
The best things about SW3:ROTS are Yoda, Ewan McGregor, Ian McDairmid and . . . Hayden Christensen (surprisingly). I was prepared to hate the movie after George Lucas described it as a galactic "Titanic" but somehow I was pleasantly surprised to be proven wrong although not totally--the scenes between Anakin (Christensen) and Padme (Natalie Portman) SUCK!!!!!-- but otherwise, the movie is quite good. I would even say its the best of the prequel trilogy (although nothing can be worse than SW: Chapter 2-"send in the clowns"); it's not in the same league (light years away) as SW5:The Empire Strikes Back or even SW6:Return of the Jedi (which was totally destroyed by those %#@*@> ewoks but was, otherwise, a very good movie) but certainly ROTS holds its own.
The atmosphere, as predicted and pitched, is dark. The tension, for once, is sustained all throughout--which makes the scenes between Padme and Anakin stand out even more for their inspidity--and this sets the tone for the betrayal by Anakin of the Jedi and the Jedi way. This is where Christensen more than holds his own. The combination of angst, idealism and confusion is essayed very convincingly by Christensen and it becomes utterly believable that he would be swayed by the dark side. Ian McDairmid is brilliant as Palpatine; using his voice as his greatest asset, he totally makes the dark side and the siths attractive (if you could imagine the voice of the serpent in the garden of eden, it would probably be McDairmid's).
The fight scenes do not disappoint. The first scene, reminiscent of an intergalactic "Saving Private Ryan", is a long whooooaaahhhh moment as Obi Wan and Anakin go after General Grievous. The last scene, set in a lake of lava, is awesome as Obi Wan and Anakin square off.
But what I totally liked about ROTS was the pace--it does not let up. I also liked the manner Lucas managed to seamlessly tie in events and answer FAQs from "Brave New Hope" (Ch. 4), "The Empire Strikes Back" (Ch. 5) and "Return of the Jedi" (Ch. 6) without managing to make them stick out. A personal FAQ that ran through Chs. 4, 5 and 6 was answered by Lucas in ROTS--if Obi Wan was killed by Darth Vader in Ch. 4, how come Luke hears him still and how come he, together with Anakin and Yoda, show up in Ch. 6; this was explained in a classic Yoda moment not to be missed--but its so subtle that you might miss it (look for it near the end of the film; if this is your personal FAQ, you'll go--'aaahhh ok'). Also,the early edition of the TIE fighter that Darth Vader favors is seen in the film. Not to be missed is the return of the Grand Moff Tarkin (played in Ch. 4 by Peter Cushing) although played by another actor who is Cushinge's spitting image (Trivia: Lucas manages to get together two actors who, in the same generation, played Dracula--Peter Cushing [Tarkin, Ch. 4] and Christopher Lee [Count Dooku, Chs. 2, 3]).
I enjoyed the film though I'm not raving about it; and I'm glad to have been proven wrong, even if not totally. I still maintain that Lucas can't write a decent script but he directs a mean yarn and, in the end, that's what Star Wars is--a 6 chapter (thus far) yarn that spans several generations.