Monday, May 23, 2005

The Sith have spoken

Okay, this may seem like a mindless post on a site intended to give a snip of reality, but let's face it - for 28 years Star Wars has been a part of my reality.

No, I don't believe I'm a long lost Jedi, nor do I eat sleep and breathe all things Star Warsian. But the saga that started for me when I was 14 has enchanted me for most of my adult life and its language has had influence not just on pop culture, but on culture in general.

I won't get into recaps of the previous films, or go off on my diatribe about how I think George Lucas has ruined my memory and enjoyment of the original films by not releasing a theatrical release version of them (instead releasing only his new "edited" versions which contain edits that should have remained on the editing room floor). I want only to focus on one thing: the Revenge of the Sith.

Yes, it's overly filled with special effects and action sequences, with simple and wooden dialog, and with overly complex subplots. But unlike Episodes I and II, it's pulled of here with a glimpse of what made The Empire Strikes Back such a wonderful movie. There is character development here, and whether or not you believe Hayden Christiansen has improved as a believable actor (I personally think he has) he at least shows a range of emotions and an inner conflict worthy of what we now know as the easily frustrated and manipulated Darth Vader.

This movie changes the nature of 28 years of my belief about Vader - and it is that change that makes the film particularly enjoyable to me. The fact that it was possible in this single film to erase my perception of Vader as an all powerful evil mastermind who embraced the dark side of the force willingly (and make the change seem reasonable) is a testament to the storytelling in Sith. It is definitely leaps and bounds beyond Phantom and Clones.

The film also paints Obi-Wan and many other Jedi as not completely without flaw - a trait we're not presented with in any other film. While there is still a line between good and bad, it is reasonable to see how a tormented and misguided youth can be manipulated into losing his ability to tell the difference.

It is also a textbook case of doing the wrong thing for the right reason. If Anakin's fatal flaws are simply that he has ambition and that he has allowed himself to fall in love - and desperately wants to protect the life of that person - then he is in fact the most "normal" human portrayed in the film. He truly becomes the sympathetic figure and not the character you believed he would be - the one you want to hate.

So I don't plan on giving more away, but suffice it to say that Revenge of the Sith was a pleasant surprise. Yes, I wanted to like it anyway - I just didn't think I'd like it enough that I'm still thinking about it, and am genuinely happy about it - as if it made some cosmic sense in this one piece of my life that's been lingering there since that first day in 1977 when I was introduced to Vader, Han and Luke. I understand now, and I'll never be able to watch any of the other 5 films again in the same way. The knowledge gained from Sith has truly changed - and completed - the entire saga.

I guess I really do care after all...



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