Starring Ewan McGregor, Hayden Christensen, Natalie Portman, Ian McDiarmid, Samuel L. Jackson, Frank Oz, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Peter Mayhew, Ahmed Best, Jimmy Smits, Christpher Lee and Boba Fett
Directed by George Lucas
I know how you feel, I thought as I watched Anakin Skywalker struggle against the tempation to turn to the Dark Side. I feel it, too. Luckily for the family of five seated behind Laura and me, I am stronger than Anakin was. I was able to find patience within me and resist the siren call. I did not take the easier, more seductive path. Lucky for them I was able to calm the molten hot rage building inside me, rage fueled by the jostling of the back of my chair, popcorn thrown at the back of my head, and the general unruliness of the children. In the final moments of Revenge of the Sith, I was a paragon of restraint as behind me an argument over whether someone did or did not have to use the restroom completely distracted me from the scene laid out before me, in which Yoda was imparting some final bit of wisdom upon Obi-Wan Kenobi. A lesser man would have taken up his weapon and struck them down with all of his hatred. It is fortunate for them, then, that I am not a lesser man.
Revenge of the Sith isn't about a man who triumphs over temptation, but one who succumbs to it. Anakin Skywalker's ultimate triumph over anger, fear and hatred is another story, one that is old and familiar. The story of his downfall has — until now — been merely speculation built on vague references. But is the latter worthy of the former?
(Caution: Spoilers follow.)
Despite the fact that George Lucas has repeatedly beaten my inner fanboy like piñata at a birthday party, I still take my place in line every time he releases something new. I did it for The Phantom Menace, I did it again for Attack of the Clones, and today I've forked over still more of my money for the DVD release of the "original" Star Wars trilogy.
It all started with Greedo. The slimy Rodian has always been a troublemaker, but the extent of his ability to vex wasn't evident until the Special Edition in 1997. Suddenly, his trigger finger was slightly more itchy, and it was this that began (though we didn't yet realize it) Lucas' descent into madness. Not content to take this plunge alone, the man opted to drag my beloved trilogy along with him.
Perhaps we should have seen it even earlier. Perhaps even in 1983, when we first witnessed this exchange on Endor's forest moon:
LEIA: Luke, don't talk that way! You have a power I ... I don't understand... and could never have.
LUKE: You're wrong, Leia. You have that power, too. In time you'll learn to use it as I have. The Force is strong in my family. My father has it. I have it, and ... my sister has it... Yes. It's you, Leia.
LEIA: I know. Somehow ... I've always known.
If that wasn't warning enough, the following scene with Leia and Han should have driven it home. But I was ten, then. It wasn't until later that I recognized just how bad the acting in those two scenes was, and I wrote it off as a fluke.
Then came The Phantom Menace. I had convinced myself in the year leading up to its release that cute little Jake Lloyd could act. I had assured myself that the prequel would manage to capture the magic of the originals ... magic that I still see when I watch them today. I did such a good job that I talked myself into a year of denial after Episode I was released. I saw it in the theater three times, not recognizing that each consecutive viewing chipped away at the fine, delicate and oh-so-fragile construct of faith I'd created. Then, I bought the DVD and it all crumbled, the shards of my deception repeatedly lacerating my psyche like a shower of razor blades.
Still, I saw Attack of the Clones on opening day. By now, though, the veil had been lifted. I watched in horror as Lucas' pawns played out his demented game. Anakin and Amidala were like zombies, loving one another not because of any magnetism or attraction, but because their wicked houngan master commanded them to. When the characters opened their mouths, it was as though they spoke the words of a crazed abductor, pasting words and letters cut from a newspaper onto the script. Special effects were at one turn impressive and another dismal. Each passing moment saw Lucas grind his bootheel viciously into the small of my inner fanboy's back. My disillusionment was complete, utter, and irreversible. Or so I thought.
In days gone by, I shook my fist with impotent ire when Mr. Lucas declared that the original trilogy would not be made available on DVD until after the prequels were complete. Then my heart was lit with a piercing ray of hope when he announced that the trilogy would, in fact, be available much sooner. I longed to see each frame of The Three rendered in flawless, digital brilliance. The promise of this buoyed my faith once more, faith I had thought crushed and broken, lying in ruins beneath a sea of injustice and callous disregard.
I remain forever weak and easily manipulated. George rings the bell of promise and my mouth is filled to overflowing with the saliva of blind, eager hope. I kneel before him in humble supplication to his will, and once more taste the bitter steel toe of his boot as he delivers yet another punishing blow. Rumors trickle in, whispers of changes beyond those made in the Special Edition. Greedo will forever shoot first. The ghostly visage of Sebastian Shaw's Anakin Skywalker will be replaced with that of Hayden Christensen. Boba Fett's voice has been redubbed by Temuera Morrison. In the name of continuity, of course.
Lucas argues that the completed saga will be more cohesive with these changes in place. A fair assertion, but would it be so difficult to include the "alternative version" of the original trilogy? These three films, six hours all told, have integrated themselves so thoroughly into my life over the past twenty-seven years that I daresay I'd not be myself were their influence somehow expurgated. This statement is not mere hyperbole, it is reality. It is also an inescapable fact that there are those whose lives have been even more influenced by the phenomenon that is Star Wars than my own. It is at once sad and reassuring to recognize this, for whatever the length and depth of my own fandom, I am comforted to know that I am—at the very least—not as bad as that guy.
In the end, I will always do as I have done today. I curse myself under my breath as I lay my money down and take this latest offering from Lucas and his band of rogues. The attraction of experiencing these three movies in DVD format far outweighs the disappointment I feel in witnessing further changes to what I feel ought not have been so sullied in the first place.
You win, George Lucas. I have taken yet another step on the path to the Dark Side.
With the release of Star Wars in 1977, George Lucas captured the heart and the imagination of the world. After 22 years, Lucas began the slow and difficult process of returning both with the release of Episode I: The Phantom Menace in 1999.
"I guess it was about 1995 or so when I decided that I'd held onto these things long enough," Lucas admitted recently during an interview at Skywalker Ranch in Nicasio, California. "So I'm giving them back."
The process has been more involved than Lucas anticipated. "I thought the first prequel would do the trick. Jar Jar Binks. Jake Lloyd. I was sure that would be the end of it."
The world, it seems, is not so eager for the freedom Lucas offers. "I was sure the second one would finish the job," he said. "Hayden Christensen is the perfect choice to free the world's captive heart. I hadn't counted on Ewan McGregor, though. He's exactly what everyone envisioned a young Obi-Wan Kenobi would be like." McGregor's portrayal of the Jedi Knight is, some say, the string that ties the prequels to the original trilogy.
McGregor's acting ability isn't the only thing that has stymied Lucas' attempt. "The boys over at ILM did one heck of a job with the Yoda/Dooku..." Lucas chuckled. "Come on. Dooku. My kid made that up. That's funny. Anyway, the whole lightsaber battle was much better than I anticipated. I thought that one would be the ultimate imagination liberator. Boy, was I wrong."
"Fans of Star Wars are simply too used to this type of captivity," says noted psychologist Bernard Shenck. "It happens all the time in hostage situations. The victims begin to sympathize with and even love their captors. That's exactly what's going on here. And it's been going on for over twenty years. Those behavior patterns are extremely difficult to break."
Avid Star Wars fan Elmer Gibbin reinforces Shenck's theory. "Lucas is going to blow us all away with Episode III," Gibbin insists. "He'll wrap everything up nicely. The showdown between Anakin (Christensen) and Obi-Wan (McGregor) is going to be awesome!" Gibbin continued with his glowing predictions for another twenty minutes until asked about midi-chlorians, at which point he became withdrawn and hostile.
Shenck predicts that Lucas may have a bumpy road ahead of him. "If he's not able to completely release the world's heart and imagination from captivity with the third prequel, he may have to make sequels to the original trilogy."
"No," says Lucas. "That simply will not happen. Once Episode III: Invasion of the Return of the Revenge of the Son of the Phantom Clone wraps up, I'm finished."
When asked about rumors that Steven Spielberg would be directing the sequels, Lucas shook his head emphatically. "Absolutely not. Steven is a great friend, but I have to be honest: he's the sort of director that would re-capture all the hearts and imaginations I've worked so hard to set free over the past few years. I can't risk that."