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Star Wars Episode III - Revenge of the Sith
Reviewed by Carla Freccero
Review Date: 5.31

Star Wars Episode III, the last star wars installment-the third episode in the seven film series-is directed once again by George Lucas, and completes the missing pieces of the story whose outcome we already know. After AO Scott's review in the New York Times it's hard to say anything more about this movie. I urge you to read it-it's fun to hear a film critic rediscover the wonder he-and we, us old folks anyway-felt when Star Wars burst on the scene in 1977. As he points out, this one makes dazzling technical effects look easy, gives us the density of the earlier ones, and delivers a coherent political message at last. And, of course, achieves new heights in bad acting and a bad script, with the exception of a few choice sound bites that delight precisely because we're talking about us this time.

It's the story of how an inter-galactic multi-cultural and democratic republic of worlds headed by a chancellor and governed by a senate becomes an empire, with the people's consents, as Padmé (Natalie Portman) says at one point, "this is how liberty dies-to thunderous applause."  There's a lot of post-911 Bush talk, from clamors about security to fantasies of empire's reach through militarization, and the film angrily-and sorrowfully-takes a stand. There's even a brave rogue senator (Jimmy Smits). I remember how we thought Star Wars was like Starbucks, bringing the demise of moviemaking as local art or whatever the filmic equivalent of the coffee shop might be. Now, when all we have is the chain, and when this film has so firmly lodged itself within that framing definition, we can appreciate what it does when it succeeds in saying something different even though it still delivers on our expectations of the same. Though I guess I'd have to say, given what we know comes after, it's still awfully optimistic. Do you think there'll be a revolution? What's missing for us, of course, are those marvelously medievalized Buddhist-warriors called the Jedi, and no, I can't say as how we have any of those around these days to help lead us out of this mess.

No matter what, nothing ruins Yoda. In this movie, though, we understand why he seems so sad later, oops, I mean earlier, oh you know what I mean, back then. And we get to see just what he's made of (I mean his skills, not his cool skin suit). We get to learn more about Luke and Leia's Mom, and we get a much juicier almost Hobbit-like portrait of the homoerotic bonds between Obi- Wan (Ewan McGregor) and Anakin (Hayden Christensen). But most of all, we get to learn how and why Anakin joins the Dark Side; though I have to say it was a disappointment. He just pouts his way over there into the loving arms of yet another daddy.

As Scott points out, it takes some guts to make a blockbuster movie where the adored hero slowly devolves into an awful villain, a movie that is sad, not happy and triumphant, even if we know that's not the end of the story. It's hard too to be the middle child and still end like an ending to the whole series, and this one does.  Though I was at times bored, not being much of a fan of endless sword, I mean light saber, play, still I found myself completely taken in, again, by the magic, if not the force.

Looking for trouble at the movies, for KUSP and the film gang, this is Carla Freccero.