There's something about writer-director George Lucas' force on actors that
turns them leaden. They walk and talk, and jump and fight but when it comes
time for dialogue, a sedentary freeze takes over, more pronounced among the
Jedi, the good guys. Jimmy Smits is a holographic shell of what he is on
"West Wing," the usually dynamic Samuel L. Jackson dons a straight jacket.
Lucas shows what he's really about with his designs of worlds and David
Tattersall's photography. The detail of his panoramic city and countryside
views of alien worlds is nothing short of breathtaking, making it a must to
catch this film on a big screen. Atmospheric gold makes many interior scenes
glow with cinematic magic. Of course, the Lucas attention to detail applies
as well to space combat wherein the sheer number of fleet ships and fighters
fill a sky loaded with action and gravity defying activity.
Episode III hooks up to its sequel of 1977 as neatly as a space station
landing dock. The match up is seamless and what we've all been struggling
through episodes I and II to reach. The last act of III, dealing with the
creation of Darth Vader, is riveting movie-making and, no doubt, why this
concluding episode is being called a smash success. The gaps, and loose
threads, and general awkwardness that the last two chapters left us with are
hereby filled, producing a sort of joyful satisfaction for millions of fans.
Lucas' ability to hold onto his storyline and these images for so long is a
small wonder and a cause for celebration.
But, it's not all so praiseworthy. For example, I knew Mark Hamill and
Christensen is no Luke Skywalker. This poor lad's acting has the spark of a
zippo lighter. And why does this team of players seem like identity fillers?
Where's the excitement and panache of Han Solo (Harrison Ford), the feisty
allure of Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), the authority of Ben Obi-Wan Kenobi
(Alec Guinness)? Even the endearing characters of C-3PO and R2-D2 (Anthony
Daniels and Kenny Baker) in the original series are merely dreamy imposters
here. Sure, they are their forerunners, but need I feel so much less for
Gone is the pulsing humanity and adventurous spirit that the original
warriors made us bond to across the galactic generations. Then, the humor
was better, the stakes clearer, the Force more engaging. Only when Anakin's
ultimate destiny is decided does the series grab back its stardust. It's as
though we've emerged from a long night of groping blindness and returned to
the light of dawn.
I loved Lucas' casting of Natalie Portman as Padme, and my heart skipped a
beat at the sight of Keisha Castle-Hughes here, the next generation of movie
discoveries, as Queen of Naboo.
This satisfying wrapup takes us back to yesteryear and our first sighting of
the Skywalkers, the Jedi, and their flashy light sabers -- with the right sense
of closure. An icon of evil has, at last, been defined in a way that knows few
equals in the annals of science fiction.
This is less a structured review than a series of notes. More may be added
to the loose construct, so visit again.
The episodes of the Star Wars franchise with its respective bounties at the
boxoffice and links to the DVDs:
I. The Phantom Menace (1999), $924 M. (that's millions)
II. Attack of the Clones (2002), $649
III. Revenge of the Siths (2005)
IV. A New Hope (1977), $774
V. The Empire Strikes Back (1980), $747
VI. Return of the Jedi (1983), $728
~~ Jules Brenner