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Star Wars: Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith


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Star Wars: Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith

By Norman Wilner

Thu, Oct 27, 2005, 11:10 PM PT




STUDIO:20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

RELEASE DATE:November 1st


PRICE: $28.98

TIME: 140 minutes

DVD EXTRAS: French and Spanish audio dubs; English subtitles; audio commentary; documentary; production featurettes; deleted scenes; more production featurettes; still galleries; playable Xbox game; DVD-ROM content.

INTERNET SITE:www.starwars.com



Okay, so it's not "The Return of the King." But really, what were the odds?


"Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith" is neither as bad as we feared, nor as good as we hoped: Like poor Anakin Skywalker, it walks a wobbly line between the good and the bad sides of George Lucas' filmmaking abilities, holding out for a surprisingly long while before toppling over into -- or embracing - the dark side of the cheese.


The good stuff? Jar Jar doesn't speak. Ewan McGregor finally gets to show his action chops. And Yoda fights, but this time it doesn't look silly. (Also not silly is the Jedis' new mechanical adversary, General Grievous, even if it does have an inexplicable cough and a name only slightly less dumb than "Count Dooku.") And all the talky machinations of the first two movies finally start paying off in a series of clashes and battles that actually matter, because knowing where the characters will ultimately end up isn't the same as seeing them get there.



The bad stuff, though, sneaks through the cracks whenever it gets the opportunity. The romantic dialogue Lucas has concocted for Hayden Christensen's corruptible Anakin and Natalie Portman's winsome Amidala is even worse than it was in "Attack of the Clones" -- and you thought that wasn't possible -- and his last-minute shoehorning of 9/11 relevance into Chancellor Palpatine's takeover of the Galactic Senate is just laughable.


So even as the nine-year-old in all of us is leaning forward to watch Anakin slide headfirst into that big metal suit, thrilling at every subtle reference to events and characters from the original "Star Wars" trilogy, the grown-up in the seat with him (or her) is wincing at the way Lucas' tin ear for dialogue undermines crucial scenes that should be the most powerful he's ever put on film - including, amazingly, the unveiling of history's most infamous cyborg.


I don't think we're supposed to picture Principal Skinner inside that suit, but ... well, such is the power of the dark side.


Fox's enhanced-widescreen DVD follows the same template as the previous prequel releases: The two-disc set places the movie on its own platter, with the only supplement being an audio commentary from Lucas, producer Rick McCallum, animation director Rob Coleman and ILM effects supervisors John Knoll and Roger Guyett, while the rest of the voluminous extras are slid over to Disc Two.


And they're pretty impressive, starting with "Within a Minute," a staggeringly detailed 78-minute examination of what was required to create a 49-second snippet of the climactic lightsaber duel. Produced and directed by Tippy Bushkin, who's responsible for a lot of the Sith supplements, it's a meticulous but endlessly absorbing feature in its own right.


Two additional featurettes follow different threads: "It's All For Real" spends 11 minutes examining the film's intricate fight choreography, while "The Chosen One" lets Lucas pontificate at length -- well, for 15 minutes -- about the entire "Star Wars" series being the journey of Anakin Skywalker from child to man to villain to savior. (Sure, George. Now explain why the Emperor doesn't appear in "Episode IV.")


Want more behind-the-scenes stuff? Well, there are 15 mini-documentaries produced for the "Star Wars" web site in the lead-up to the film's release; shot in high-definition video and presented here in enhanced widescreen like little bite-sized treats, they allow you to focus more intensely on a single performance, design concept or theme. (Fans of Ewan McGregor are advised to go directly to #10, "Becoming Obi-Wan.")


The disc also includes six deleted scenes -- viewable with optional video introductions by Lucas and producer McCallum -- as well as extensive poster and still galleries, a playable level of "Star Wars Battlefront II" for those with the Xbox videogame system, a soundtrack music video, trailers and TV spots. It's as good a package as it gets. Now if they'd just do something similar for the real "Star Wars" trilogy.

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