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Final ‘Star Wars’ film arrives on DVD

Mark Bemenderfer and Tae Andrews | Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Mark says: For a while, it seems that Christopher Lee couldn’t act without a blue screen. Returning to his role as Count Dooku from “Episode II: Attack of the Clones,” the 83-year old actor somehow manages to pull off moves that appear impossible by even a younger man’s standards.

That’s because they are.

“Star Wars Episde III: Revenge of the Sith” contains the best special effects that Hollywood has to offer, yet in the end its all mere eye-candy. When the audience sees Lee duel against much younger opponents, a sense of disbelief accompany the on-screen action. Not because Lee happens to be pretty mobile for 83, but due to his digitally rendered better self.

The movie simply feels too artificial.

When it is obvious that the audience is seeing two actors in front of a blue screen, it’s impossible to be drawn into the movie. Not that the movie itself had much going for it beyond the eye-candy. The acting is some of the worse seen in any Hollywood film in recent memory.

The actors are not entirely to blame, though, since some of the poor acting is due to the script. The poor dialogue coincides with every scene that is meant to be emotionally charged for the audience. There were several examples of this, most noticeably during every exchange between Anakin and Padme.

The story is competent, but only because it serves as a bridge from the prequels to the original trilogy. The audience learns how the Republic became the Empire, how Anakin becomes Vader and how several characters end up where they do in the galaxies.

Another culprit that might have caused bad acting can be attributed to all the blue screen effects. Not only is it hard to get into character in empty surroundings, but everything that is going on in the background tends to overshadow the drama.

The special features on the DVD are worth watching to see how LucasArts crafted the movie. The commentary track is especially valuable, as it showcases director and write George Lucas, producer Rick McCallum, animation director Rob Coleman, John Knoll and Roger Guyett. They give various insights into the production of the movie, such as how they did the starship battle over Coruscant and how they transformed Lee into a blur of motion.

The usual deleted scenes are also present for viewing pleasure – many of them showcasing a great deal of computer rendered images. Two of them should be of particular interest for fans of the series. “Grievous Slaughters a Jedi: Escape from the General” has exactly what it promises, which makes Grievous a more menacing figure as he executes a Jedi from the animated series. The second one of interest is “Exiled to Dagobah,” which is a small glimpse of Yoda’s initial time on Dagobah.

There are several other features and documentaries on the DVD, with “Within A Minute” offering the most for fans. The featurette takes a single minute from the movie, and breaks it down completely to its base parts. Highlighting all the work that went into that solitary minute takes over two hours to watch, which shows how much work is put into a special effects extravaganza.

This movie is aimed at select crowds, and for those crowds it does its job admirably. “Star Wars” fans will find in the movie the proverbial missing link, while special effects hounds will love it for the overwhelming eye-candy.

However, everyone else will find this movie to be merely average.

Tae says: Critical fans of the “Star Wars” franchise awaited the release of “Episode III: Revenge of the Sith” with baited breath. After the first two films of his prequel trilogy failed to live up to quality of the originals, would director George Lucas strike out, or would the third time be the charm?

“Episode III” is a satisfying segue between the prequels and the original three Star Wars films – while it still cannot match the exalted status of the “Holy Trinity,” Lucas manages to get enough of it right to make fans remember why they first made the jump to hyperspace a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

Quite possibly the worst travesty of “Episodes I” and “Episodes II” was their portrayal of Anakin Skywalker, AKA man who becomes Darth Vader. In Episode I, Anakin is an annoying bowl-cut little tyke who goes by the rather effeminate nickname of “Annie.” Orphan or not, the future Dark Lord of the Sith should still be more reminiscent of the gruff Daddy Warbucks than of the curly carrot-top with the penchant for breaking out into song.

The only cool thing learned about Anakin is that he was born of a vestal virgin, making him a sort of dark, twisted messianic figure. “Episode II” continued to disappoint in terms of Anakin’s characterization – Anakin is a whiny adolescent consumed by teen angst and his obsession for Padme.

In Lucas’ third installation of the prequel trilogy, gone is the mop-top child and surly adolescent, replaced by a Dark Jedi worthy of his prophecy as “the one who will bring balance to the Force.” Hayden Christensen finally delivers as the brooding, deadly Anakin Skywalker. Having grown his hair out and taking to wearing darker Jedi robes, Anakin looks like a sci-fi grunge rock star, only he is a virtuoso with a lightsaber, not a microphone.

Still, there are times when it is difficult to remember why exactly Anakin is so consumed by anger and hatred – after all, not only is he the best fighter pilot in the galaxy, but he also gets to date Natalie Portman, bringing an entirely new meaning to his title as “The Chosen One.”

True to the form of the first two installments of the prequels, the dialogue is again rocky. Listening to Lucas’ love scenes is an experience very much akin to navigating an asteroid field: you just have to weather the small debris and brace for impact from the larger clunkers.

For example, in one romantic interlude against the backdrop of the glittering Coruscant cityscape, viewers are treated to the following exchange: “You … are so beautiful. It’s only because I’m so in love. No, no, it’s because I’m so in love with you.” By the twin suns of Tatooine, that is terrible.

However, composer John Williams’ score is again breathtaking, thankfully providing a steady constant theme of excellence throughout all six “Star Wars” films. Visually, Lucas is truly in a class of his own. He has created a filmic microcosm and is more than happy to give his viewers a joyride through his artificial world.

Fans are once again treated to seeing Yoda in action, proving that the diminutive Jedi master is the most delectable green package to come in pint-sized form since Ben & Jerry’s mint chocolate chip ice cream.

The film’s ending is epic, with the mother of all lightsaber duels between Anakin and Obi-Wan, and Anakin’s Frankenstein-esque transformation into the cyborg Darth Vader. Seeing Vader’s skeletal mask again and hearing the same James Earl Jones baritone which raised hairs on the necks of audience members back in the ’70s, is more than enough to remind the viewer that, in the words of AC/DC, the Dark Lord of the Sith is back in black.