When Sith Happens

I never meant it to happen. But a darkened room, comfortable seats, full stomach, and endless movie previews knocked me to sleep before the latest “Star Wars” even started. I was nudged awake when the Star Wars theme blared. As I yawned repeatedly, fighting sleep, I hoped that the movie better be an invigorating caffeine-like experience and prevent me from going to the dark side, so to speak.

The movie begins with Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) trying to rescue the kidnapped Chancellor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) from the clutches of Count Dooku (Christopher Lee). From here, the movie transports us to Coruscant, where the Senate is so weary of the Separatist droid army’s threat that they’re prepared to hand over the power to Emperor Palpatine (tsk tsk). Back at the Jedi Council, Anakin (whom Palpatine requested to be his personal bodyguard) is denied of his Jedi Masters. The Council is wary of Palpatine and still senses confusion residing within Anakin, which confuses Anakin even more. Anakin knows he has proven himself to be one of the finest Jedis. He is hurt by the antagonism, as if his allegiance is irrelevant. This is when the snaky Palpatine prey on Anakin’s wounded ego, slowly luring him to step into the dark side. And on top of all these stressful dealings, Anakin finds out his wife Padme (Natalie Portman) is pregnant.

All of this set-up is fine and dandy, but not enough to keep me from being sleepy. These scenes are on par with the two previous so-and-so movie installments. Nothing new. I was surprised to find the lightsaber fights to be so boring, even though they’re more blindingly bright than usual. When Jedis are fighting the powerless droids, you can see the un-special effect of actors working against a blue or green screen. They’re swinging everywhere, slicing the enemies like air. And when it is person-to-person combat, the endless fights look like mechanical exercises. Most of the time, there is no sense of fear or danger. They might as well play Pat-a-cake.

But then the movie picked up and I sat up. The story absolutely turns the moment Anakin makes a definitive march to the Dark Side. Even though it’s expected, it’s an absolute stunner because the wallop of emotion involved is surprising. Hayden Christensen handles the transformation with an aching balance of heartbreak and frustrated anger. Once his destiny is sealed, we watch in breathtaking alarm the inevitable events toppling like dominoes in a row. No matter how embarrassingly cheesy George Lucas writes his dialogue, he overcomes it by his ability to orchestrate a tragic space opera in a Shakespearean fashion.

You don’t have to be hard-core Star Wars fan to truly love this movie. I went to a matinee showing without having crammed for Star Wars history. The last “Star Wars” movie I saw was “Attack of the Clones” when it was shown in the theaters. And I haven’t seen the original “Star Wars” in years. But “Revenge of the Sith” is wonderful in the way it peppers hints on what is about to happen in Episode 4. Remembering what happened is like finding out something precious you didn’t even know you lost. Plus, when you witness George Lucas tying the two trilogies together, it is so much bigger than expected. You realize the whole series is about Anakin/Darth Vader – one of the most iconic villains. “Revenge of the Sith” is such a pivotal part of the saga that you will never watch Episodes 4 through 6 the same way again.

Grade: A-