The final ‘Star Wars’ ― if we’re luckyFor those of us who spent too much of our childhoods in George Lucas’s fantasy world, going into one of the new “Star Wars” movies he started making in 1999 has become a ritual. The lights go down, the Lucasfilm logo appears and we share an unspoken prayer: “Maybe this one won’t be terrible.”
Then we’re disappointed again. Like the previous two, “Star Wars: Episode III ― Revenge of the Sith,” which opens in Korea next Thursday, looks and feels like a computer game with some humans attached. And the humans act as though they’d been told not to distract anyone from the special effects.
This movie ― the last one, we’re promised ― was supposed to be the tragic payoff to this misbegotten “prequel” trilogy, since it’s the one in which young Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) loses everything he loves, embraces evil, falls into lava and becomes Darth Vader, the menace on shiny black life support. Even if “Episode I” and “Episode II” were junky, unpleasant contraptions, the sheer storytelling gravity of “Episode III” would salvage everything. It would be dark and Wagnerian, and Hayden Christensen would look more like a tragic figure and less like a teenager in an itchy suit of clothes. That was what we told ourselves.
And indeed, the story moves along as though it’s actually headed somewhere. That helps. There’s less extraneous blathering about clones and trade embargos and people with names like Qui-Gon and Jar Jar. It’s pretty clear who’s who and what’s at stake, even for the non-aficionado.
But there’s no reason for the non-aficionado to care. As a filmmaker, George Lucas seems to have lost even the most basic ability to engage a viewer who isn’t already part of his fan base. With a few exceptions, no scene is much different in tone from any other scene. The only changes are in the backgrounds, as though we’d advanced to another level in the computer game.
“Star Wars” movies weren’t always like this. Part of “The Empire Strikes Back,” a quarter-century ago, was set on an ice planet, and those scenes made you feel like you were about to lose some toes to frostbite. Skin turned red and raw; when Harrison Ford sliced open a dead pack animal to use it for shelter, the foul, warm air that rose up was almost palpable. In “Revenge of the Sith,” it’s as though it hadn’t occurred to anyone that there are senses besides the visual. And the visuals are just empty digital whiz-bang.
The dialogue is absolutely abysmal (“Henceforth, you shall be known as Darth Vader,” someone actually says), and the actors aren’t allowed to smirk their way past it, the way Ford and Carrie Fisher did in the old days. (A bad-enough director, we now know, can turn even Natalie Portman, Ewan McGregor and Samuel L. Jackson into sandbags.)
The love scenes are barren, the whimsy is leaden and the tragic hero, at the height of his agony, might as well be screaming at his parents for not letting him use the car for the weekend. On the bright side, Jar Jar Binks is only onscreen for about two seconds. If you don’t know who Jar Jar Binks is, you’ve spent your leisure time more wisely than some of us.
Star Wars: Episode III ― Revenge of the Sith
Sci-fi / English, 140 min.
by David Moll