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With Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith, George Lucas manages to redeem his slipping reputation. Not that he necessarily needed (nor wanted) redemption, but as the creator of what's been universally tagged the greatest Science Fiction story ever told, it's great to see him end on a high note. Episode III not only recaptures the magic and grand scope of the original trilogy, but it also props up Episodes I and II a bit, and puts a shine back on the entire galactic saga.

Episode III falls way short of what we'd call a masterpiece. Poor acting, amateurish dialogue, and sloppy special effects run rampant throughout the film, ultimately wreaking more havoc than the Siths themselves. But critics and detractors must observe Episode III in context with its slot in cinematic history, and resist the temptation to judge the film solely on its own individual filmmaking elements (which are terrible, by the way). I might have been saying the same thing even if it weren't as good as it is, but after watching the Star Wars empire fall back into the dark vacuum of space with Episodes I and II, let's all stand up and give George Lucas a big round of applause for Episode III - and then ask him to stop making movies. Sure he has earned everything he stands to gain with III, but outside of the nurturing biosphere of the Star Wars oeuvre, he doesn't stand a chance. Things like acting, casting, and direction clearly mean nothing to him and today's demanding movie audiences will send him crawling back to a dark closet in his office on Skywalker Ranch. He's lucky that a legion of fans were willing to wait nearly thirty years for the saga to end, however, if it weren't a part of the space epic, this one would debut in the number three slot behind Monster-in-Law and Kicking and Screaming.

Episode III is by far the darkest and most tragic of the Star Wars films, and the first to garner a PG-13 rating. But what would you expect from the installment that finally reveals the story behind Anakin's jones for the dark side. We learn through the signature opening crawl that all out war has erupted between the Republic, led by Chancellor Palpatine (Ian Mc Diarmad), and the sinister Separatists under the direction of Count Dooku (Christopher Lee). Secretly aligned with the separatists, Palpatine has staged his own kidnapping and it's up to Obi-Wan (Ewan McGregor) and Anakin (Hayden Christensen) to rescue him. All the while, the wheezing, coughing, cgi-generated General Grievous leads the deadly droid army towards mechanized destruction of all things good.

Meanwhile, a more important battle is being waged - the battle for the allegiance of Anakin Skywalker. Sensing Anakin's frustration with the Jedi Council and his never-ending love for Padme (Natalie Portman), Chancellor Palpatine uses Anakin's divided loyalties to lure him closer and closer to the dark side.

Anakin's destructive transformation forms the heart of the tale, thereby bridging the gap between Episodes II and IV and finally filling us in on what went so horribly awry. Lucas appropriately focuses a significant chunk of the movie to this end, ignoring the alluring siren call of hour-long pod races and dull senate chamber meetings, and finally tells us how and why Anakin becomes Darth Vader. We've always seen a bit of instability in Anakin, beginning with his rage directed at his mother's killers, and his arc towards the dark side of the force is handled perfectly by Lucas here. He pulls genuine emotion from the audience and Christensen's character really resonates with our feelings (despite the best efforts of Christensen to annul this resonance with his abysmal performance). The film takes us back to the wild-eyed adoration that we remember from the original. But what we've always felt about George Lucas still holds true - he's a masterful storyteller, but a flawed filmmaker. Star Wars: Episode III works in spite of George Lucas.


DVD Details:

Screen formats: Anamorphic Widescreen - 2.35:1

Subtitles: English, Spanish, French; Closed Captioned

Language and Sound: English: Dolby Digital 5.1; Spanish: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo; French: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo

Other Features: Color; interactive menus; scene access; trailer; audio commentary; deleted scenes; featurettes; documentaries; trailers; music video.

* Commentary: Full-length feature commentary with George Lucas, McCallum, effects supervisors John Knoll and Roger Guyett, and animation director Rob Coleman.
* Featurettes:
o Within a Minute - 80-minute making-of documentary that focuses on the 49-second action sequence between Obi-Wan and Anakin. Hosted by producer Rick McCallum
o It's All for Real - 11-minute look at the various stunts used during the film hosted by swordmaster/stunt coordinator Nick Gillard.
o The Chosen One - 15-minute piece that covers the story of Anakin's transformation into Darth Vader.
o Web Documentary: Making-of type documentary that covers such aspects of making the film as props, old film making techniques vs. new, characters, etc.
* Deleted Scenes: 6 scenes that didn't make the final.
* Still Gallery: 75 photos plus a tour behind the scenes.
* TV spots and trailer: 3 different theater promos
o Nostalgia
o Epic
o A Hero Falls - Music video
* Game Trailer - Battlefront II
* One-Sheet Posters - 20 U.S. and International posters = Seven Outdoor Print Campaign posters

Number of discs: - 2 - Keepcase packaging.