Star Wars: Episode III-Revenge of the Sith
Given all the hoopla surrounding "Star Wars: Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith," is it really too much to ask, after five previous films, nearly 30 years and untold billions of dollars, that George Lucas find someone -- anyone -- to help him write dialogue at more than an eighth-grade level? In this film, "dialogue" often consists of characters simply describing what they're doing, just in case the audience is in the throes of an epileptic seizure caused by the rapid-fire special-effects shots and too disoriented to follow the action. Examples: "Time to abandon ship!" while abandoning ship, "Kill him!" while helping to kill someone, and a "NOOOO!" moment that warps toward Simpsons parody.
Here's proof that Lucas may be one of the most successful bad writers in history. Ask yourself: What was the most memorable line in the entire "Star Wars" series? If you can even think of one, good for you, but if you think hard, the answer is obvious (and it wasn't Jake Lloyd's "Yippee!" from Episode I). It occurs in "The Empire Strikes Back." Han Solo is about to be frozen and shipped to Jabba the Hutt as Princess Leia looks on in horror. "I love you," she tells him. Han looks at her and responds: "I know." Well, that line was improvised by Harrison Ford. Lucas didn't write it. If Lucas had insisted on it being performed as written, it would have been something like: "I love you too, my darling. I'm getting frozen now!"
Lines in "Revenge of the Sith" are more typical of the Lucas oeuvre, such as when Anakin (Hayden Christensen) and Padme (Natalie Portman) play a few rounds of "I love you more; no, I love you more" until the audience is praying for the return of Jar Jar Binks. Their love is central to the arc of the entire series, and is the key pivot point that tips the entire known galaxy to the dark side, yet the chemistry is so tepid that it could have been heightened by a couple of Padme and Anakin finger puppets (undoubtedly coming soon to a Burger King near you).
As we've been warned about a billion times now, this film's a bit darker than the rest of the series. A Swiftboat Veterans for Truth press conference has less fragging, and at one point early in the film, R2D2 craps himself. We follow Anakin's journey as he's ultimately forced to choose one of two paths: Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and the path of the Jedi, or Chancellor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) and the path of the dark side. Ultimately, he chooses the dark side because it has a better health care plan. All this plays out against a political backdrop with so many eerie similarities to our own that I thought at one point Palpatine was going to invite Anakin out for freedom fries.
If George Lucas has a filmmaking philosophy, it goes something like this: drama + special effects = more drama. By this point in the series, however, audiences have pretty much seen it all, and the only way Lucas could get anyone's attention would be to crash the nitroglycerine planet directly into the enriched uranium planet. Instead, he ups the ante by showing all the effects on screen at once, distributed so evenly that it's impossible to follow the action. The effects also spill over into places where they simply don't belong, such as when Padme finally gives birth to Luke and Leia while a robot midwife hovers in the middle of the scene making some ridiculously distracting "oompah" noise. Come to think of it, "robot midwife" is an apt metaphor for the creative process that gave birth to this entire series of misguided prequels in the first place. To say that "Revenge of the Sith" is disappointing, given that some of us have invested almost 30 years of our lives in this franchise, is like saying that Catholics were a little sad when the Pope died.
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