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star wars

Star Wars long ago evolved from a modest budgeted space story to verifiable billion dollar franchise, but as the well-aging series reaches 30 years young this year a new development is being brought to the attention of the common movie fan. For years Star Wars parallels to the classic Greek stories, Joseph Campbell’s definition of a hero, and to even the Bible have been constant fodder for film history classes around the globe. After all, how many high school students can identify Shakespeare over Lucas?

There’s so much to this franchise, from the classic archetype characters to the way even the most minor character inherits major rolls in the end that there’s no better way to celebrate the birth of the space opera than a Memorial Day special. The History Channel’s Star Wars: The Legacy Revealed brings this information to the non-film historian, and just like the series that inspired it, its an entertaining run around the galaxy.

Presented in the standard, clips & talking head format, The Legacy Revealed focuses on all six movies in the Star Wars saga via interviews with some of the biggest geeks in Hollywood (Kevin Smith), political figures (Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi), comedians (Stephen Colbert), and film experts as they talk about personal experiences relating to the events of Star Wars and its tragic hero who comes full circle to die a righteous death in the end. How the sins of the father transfer to the son and how the classics come alive with a lightsaber and a dash of influence from all over the globe.

For a viewer who has never experience a history lesson detailing how Star Wars can be interpreted so many different ways, the two hour program is an engaging, informative look at just how deep the saga truly goes. Whether Lucas intended for the series to really be analyzed so perfectly when he wrote out the movies, or whether or not the imagery used is mere coincidence or something bigger may never be known, but regardless of how it came to be, this franchise has spawned a rabid fan base and a plethora of analysis.

The special works incredibly well by breaking down each section with a great degree of focus and analyzes sidekicks, comic relief, the mentor, the hero, and the damsel as each one of these components, combined together, creates the classic story you may even realize you know.

As director Peter Jackson puts it in the program, “You don’t even have to ask, ‘Will it stand the test of time?’ It has and it will.” Who knows what we’ll be looking at in retrospect when Star Wars turns 60 as we zoom around in our flying cars and dream of Star Destroyers orbiting the planet. Did Lucas write our history and direct inventions and technological advancement for decades to come? We’ll find out over the next 30 years, but until then, the classic story of a hero is well embodied in the most popular space opera ever written.

Spoilers Contained Within…You Have Been Warned!

Let me just say that I’m not a big time Star Wars fan, or at least I’m not keyed into the huge mythology that has arisen since the original trilogy’s release in the late 70’s-early 80’s. I know who the characters are, who they’re suppose to be, who is who’s father; you know, the basics. So I’m going to be looking at Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith from a viewpoint of a casual Star Wars fan and a hobbyist movie critic. Get ready to send that hate mail.

Revenge of the Sith, for the unenlightened, is the culmination of the prequel trilogy started by George Lucas in 1999 with the massively disappointing, but highly profitable The Phantom Menace. The movie introduces us to a small Anakin Skywalker (Jack Lloyd) who drives in a treacherously long pod-race to win his freedom and attempt to become a Jedi Knight. We also are introduced to the fact that “The Force” is nothing more than some unique stuff inside your cells. The movie sets up the principles that would be further elaborated upon in Episode II Attack of the Clones such as Chancellor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) rising to power, Anakin (Hayden Christensen) and Padme (Natalie Portman) hooking up, and Obi-Wan (Ewan McGregor) taking on the leadership role with his new apprentice.

Episode III brings everything to a head. The Clone War is continuing, suspicions of the Chancellor continue, and the Jedi “have a bad feeling about this” entire situation, and its well-founded as they are nearly wiped out save for a lucky few thrown into exile. The film continues to build upon the rage inside Skywalker as he turns to the darkside and ends with the scene many have been waiting for, the creation of Darth Vader in the form we all know.

As a movie bridging the gap between the excellent Episode IV and the so-so Episode II, Revenge of the Sith does its job adequately. With the passing of twenty years, we can see how the Death Star would be created, Vader would become the powerful man he is in the latter episodes, and how his human side can still hold true in Return of the Jedi as he saves his son from the corrupt Emperor. For fan-boys Episode III is the fix they needed until the planned TV series begins production, but as a movie, RotS is an underwhelming affair.

The story itself, although sounding very interesting on paper, is actually pretty boring in execution. The first hour of the film is nothing more than political speeches and romantic melodrama sans the opening fight sequence and amazing visuals. When the audience settles down from the crash landing of a battlecruiser you wonder what happen to all the action. Lucas seems to cut so quickly between shots (sometimes no more than 20-30 seconds long) before he performs the trademark wipes that it’s really hard to grasp what is really going on sometimes. Even harder to understand is many of these events happen at the same time further throwing you off when you return to a scene minutes later at nearly the same exact time you cut away. These quick cuts even confuse Lucas’ script in more than a few points. Not until the culminating duel of Anakin and Obi-Wan does the movie really pick up, and that’s nearly the end.

The death of several key characters seems highly contrived. Mace Windu’s (Samuel L. Jackson) is wholly inconsistent with what we’ve seen the Jedi do in earlier movies. If Anakin can freefall through traffic and manage to save himself, even a handicapped Windu should be able to accomplish the same feat. Padme’s impending doom seems as though it was plotted over bagels on a Sunday morning with no real reason other than “she’s lost the will to live,” given. I’m sorry but that bit of shoddy storytelling just won’t fly with me, especially in such a high profile movie. Then there’s the time consistency between Padme telling Anakin she’s pregnant and actually having the babies which seems to only happen a few days apart from each other.

I’ve never considered George Lucas to be that “awesome” of a director so my expectations weren’t incredibly high for Revenge of the Sith in that aspect, so I can’t say I was disappointed. I had heard rumblings on how bad the dialog was, but I honestly didn’t hear too many bad lines. Christensen seems to have fit into the role a bit better this time and sanded away his wooden acting from Episode II. Overall the cast is put together well and gel nicely with each other but lacks the chemistry we saw between the original trilogy’s cast members.

The much publicized “creation” of Darth Vader in masked form is generally underwhelming as it’s a three minute affair of attaching prosthetic body parts and recreating the famous breathing sound along with James Earl Jones bombastic voice.

In continuing with underutilized and underdeveloped villains the hyped General Grievous is fun to watch but comical to hear when he actually decides to talk. Once he’s dispatched, along with the paycheck-collecting Christopher Lee as Count Dooku, you’ll wonder what place they ever served in the movie other than filler.

The film isn’t all bad though. From a visual stand point ILM has created the best looking movie I have ever seen. The opening space battle was just amazing with huge capital ships battling for the skies of the capital planet. Realistically you won’t find a better looking science fiction movie, digital or not. Yet, we’ve seen plenty of movies rest on the laurels of their imagery, and while Revenge of the Sith never does that, I got the felling that all the eye candy may be trying to distract you from the script.

After it was all said and done I left the theater feeling like nothing had just happened. It was almost like I sat for two and a half hours and didn’t really retain anything. It might be a combination of my lack of die-hard fanaticism and the creating of an average movie or from the fact that, being a prequel, there’s no mystery. What I do know is I had a much, much better time with Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy a few weeks ago than I did with Revenge of the Sith, but to each his own. Star Wars is a very high profile franchise and with the high expectations that were placed on Episode III, frankly I’m not surprised it failed to live up to the lineage set down by the original trilogy. If it means anything, each movie in the prequel trilogy has been better than the last, so here’s hoping the TV series can continue that trend and deliver us something a bit better produced, and more well-written.