Cinema Signal:

The Star Wars Trilogy
Episodes IV, V & VI
by George Lucas (and others)

. "Star Wars, Episode III: Revenge of the Sith"

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 them?

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

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  

The Soundtrack Album

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Rating: 3

You cannot compare the actors of the prequels to the original trilogy. Now you do make one gleaming insight. "It's as though we've emerged from a long night of groping blindness and returned to the light of dawn." That is what it is like to go from the fall of the Republic to the rise of the Empire, and then to its fall. That is what it is like to see the birth of a new hope.

                                                      ~~ Michael K. 

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Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman
Anakin Skywalker and Padme in a marriage that will have troubles they can't foresee

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