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Tonight was a big night for me. It seems that things have come full circle. In 1977, I remember going to the I-85 Twin Drive-In with my mother and sister in my mom's mammoth 1973 Malibu Classic station wagon. We backed into the spot and popped the hatchback. The entire back of the car was filled with pillows, and the three of us sat and watched a movie that changed me to the core. I saw Star Wars four times that summer, and have been a fan ever since. I had the trading cards (blue, red AND yellow). I had a crush on Carrie Fisher. I couldn't decide if I wanted to be Luke Skywalker or Han Solo more. I still have my shirt from back then, though it now will barely wrap around my leg.
Tonight, I brought my new family with me to see the final installment of the Star Wars films. We met at the theater, and the atmosphere was charged. Everywhere were men and women my age with their children, children who could never know what the film had meant to my generation. Though the previous two films just didn't do it for me, I found that I was actually eager for this. Would George Lucas actually step up to the plate and make this into a film that is an appropriate lead-in to the ones on which I grew up?
More on that. Now: PREVIEWS!
First off, Stripes (special edition) is coming to DVD. Trust me, this is an important development. Aside from one of the better comedies ever made, there are also cast interviews, a making-of featurette and all kinds of other goodies. This one's going on the Christmas list.
The Longest Yard is coming. We all know that. It actually looks like it will be a good time. I'm glad to see that Adam Sandler found a spot in this for Rob Schneider, like usual.
The Fantastic Four - I know that it's not staying true to the comic. I know that I'm not a huge fan of the casting. I'm still looking forward to this one, since I've been waiting for it for more than a decade.
Mr. & Mrs. Smith - I'll probably have to get this as a rental for my boys, but I'm not going to shell out money to see it in a theater. Besides, I think that I already know the plot just from the previews.
Wedding Crashers with Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson. Looks dumb and funny. The day that they make a movie out of my old tactic of picking up women at funerals, I'll know that I've lived too long.
The Chronicles of Narnia - I didn't know that Disney was making this into a film. I don't know whether or not they'll actually attempt to get the message of the books across, but it certainly looks like a winner. I don't even like Disney, and I'm going to see this one. It just looks good, especially from a new father's point of view.
Batman Begins - Yeah, c'mon! I've been waiting for this for a long time. It looks to be a return to the Batman I grew up with, rather than the one with nipples. It's not exactly Year One with Joe Cool, but Tim Burton has already burned that bridge for us. I'm hoping that this one can atone for the last few.
The previews were over. The crowd was rumbling quietly. Some kid in the center section had a Darth Vader voice changer, causing a ripple of chuckles throughout the crowd. Suddenly, the logo for 20th Century Fox came on the screen, and the crowd erupted into applause. The company music blared, and cheers joined the applause. When the first strain of John Williams' magnificent score hit me, I swear - no lie - I got a tear in my eye. It's not that the movie meant that much. It's just a movie. I don't know what it was, except for the full circle aspect of things. Here I was, 28 years later, with a wife and children of my own. When the preface began to roll up the screen, the entrancement began and I was set.
As you probably know, Revenge of the Sith had certain things that it had to do. Anakin Skywalker had to turn to the Dark Side and become Darth Vader. The extermination of the Jedi had to begin. Chancellor Palpatine had to become the Emperor. Padme (I thought it was supposed to be Amidala!) had to have twins by Anakin. Could they pull it off?
The answer, I'm relieved to say, is YES. This film actually had the excitement of the first two (ROTJ doesn't count). It was not as well scripted, I think, and lacked some finesse, but it actually made me glad to be a part of the opening day crowd.
Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan showed some character development, finally. We began to see some emotional depth when he realized what was going on with his student. Also, his beard is beginning to look more like that of Sir Alec Guinness. Hayden Christensen is finally failing to suck completely as an actor. His role as Anakin in this gives one the feeling that 1) he's been taking acting lessons, and 2) the part was finally written to accomodate his range as an actor. Natalie Portman as Padme was so-so, but showing more emotion than in the previous two films combined. The real treasure of this film was Ian McDiarmid as Palpatine. We see him as he shuttles back and forth between his roles as Sidious and Palpatine, and finally as Emperor. The man does a masterful job of becoming evil incarnate, right before our eyes.
The plot is less important than the way in which it is carried out. This film is dark - seriously dark - and actually gave me the heebie jeebies at points. It is PG-13 because it is NOT for little ones. There is a lot of death, a lot of hatred, and. . . just a lot more than you're exposed to in the other films in the franchise.
As a prequel, it does a good job. Right off, we're treated to early versions of the Star Destroyers, A-wing and TIE fighters, X-wings, stormtroopers, and what eventually becomes Luke's lightsaber. We get to see exactly how powerful the Jedi are, in a way that we don't see in the other films. We're treated to massive battles that are reminiscent of naval battles of old, when massive ships blast away at each other while passing abeam. We get to see Wookiees and droids and Tatooine and Kashyyyk. In looking forward to the films that are in my past, Episode Three does an admirable job of letting us know exactly how the stage was set.
It's not perfect. Lucas still can't direct people well, so he relies a lot on action. There's still some silliness with droids. Some of the actors don't do well. All in all, though, this film came as a welcome relief. It's better than the previous two, it does a good job of setting the stage, and was gripping to watch. I would recommend it to any fan who isn't sure. I'll see it again, probably a few times. It was a suitable ending to a saga that began when I was four years old.
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