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Moriarty Reviews EPISODE III!!

Hi, everyone. "Moriarty" here with some Rumblings From The Lab...

I come to praise STAR WARS... not to bury it.

I can’t believe I need to restate my history as a STAR WARS fan. I’ve written about it extensively here on the site over the years, yet for some reason, some people still want to categorize me as a “Lucas basher.” Hardly. George Lucas has always been, and will always be, one of the most profound influences on my creative identity, and I wouldn’t spend the energy writing about this franchise if it wasn’t close to my heart. I mean, the first contact I ever had with Harry online had to do with the SPECIAL EDITIONS. I still remember the raw emotion of seeing the first trailer for THE PHANTOM MENACE onscreen at the Village in Westwood. I still feel the sting of having been Banned From The Ranch. I’ve had complicated reactions to the prequel trilogy so far. I stand by my original review of EPISODE I, which was decidedly mixed. I also find that I’m pretty much feeling exactly the same about EPISODE II, which I enjoy. I don’t think it’s as good as any of the films from the original trilogy, but I think it’s pretty darn good. I will say that having now seen EPISODE III, I have no choice but to view the first two chapters of the trilogy in a new light. But then, isn’t that the point? We’ve finally gotten the final act in this six hour story, and it ties everything that comes before and that follows into one coherent piece in a way that marks Lucas as a genuine visionary. I understand completely that not everyone is going to like what he’s done in this film, but I think it works better than I could have even hoped, much less expected.

And, no, that doesn’t mean that I’m a “Lucas apologist,” either. As you’ll see after this film hits theaters, fans of this series don’t have a goddamn thing to apologize to anyone for.

There are three different ways I could review this: with the clinical detachment of a film viewer with no allegiance to the franchise, as a fan but without spoilers, and as a fan and with spoilers, and if I’m going to be completely honest, I have to break it down this way, because my reaction to the film is that complicated. Bear with me, and if you want, you can skip directly to the version of the review you want to read, or read all three in a row to get my full reaction, whatever works best for you:





STAR WARS EPISODE III: REVENGE OF THE SITH is a schizophrenic film, three very different movies somehow sewn into a surprisingly elegant and entertaining Frankenstein’s monster. There are some remarkable emotional highs in the film, but there are a few key moments that are handled poorly as well. Overall, George Lucas appears to have been energized by two things this time around. First, digital cinema appears to have finally reached the point where it is the tool that he’s wanted it to be since starting work on these prequels. Second, he’s finally finished with this story that he’s been telling for almost 30 years, and that realization can be felt especially in the final stretch of the film, which unfolds with a grim inevitability that packs a surprising punch. The net result is a film that should entertain mainstream audiences tremendously, and should even please the pickiest of the hardcore fans as well.

The first third of the film is the single most exciting series of set pieces in any of the prequels so far, paces more like an Indiana Jones opening than like a STAR WARS movie. This entire section of the film reminded me of exactly what made George Lucas such a powerful commercial force in the first place. Even the occasionally awkward comic flourish (mainly the lame voice work by the Super Battle Droids) can’t ruin the goodwill that this part of the film generates. The middle of the film is where the general public may find its patience tested a bit. There’s a whole lot of exposition, and once again, the least effective moments are those involving Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman and their romance. Neither of them is particularly bad in the film; it’s just a matter of not having great material to play. Things are suggested and sketched quickly, and we just have to take certain developments as an act of faith, since we don’t see the evidence onscreen. For better and for worse, this middle section of the film is quite obviously a sequel to EPISODE I and EPISODE II, complete with most of what made some people hate those films. However, Ian McDiarmid, an able supporting presence in the first two films, steps forward here and proves himself to be a formidable lead actor. Classic characters Yoda and R2-D2 are both treated very well, and Ewan McGregor seems more fully engaged here than in any of the films so far.

The final third of the film doesn’t feel like anything Lucas has made before, and it’s this stretch of the film that elevates it from a technically dazzling adventure movie to something close to greatness, a tragedy with a genuinely bleak ending that somehow manages to exhilarate even as it devastates. I think there’s going to be a lot of repeat business for the film theatrically, and I think much of that will be because of some of the enormous final action sequences. Thanks to director of photography David Tattersall, the ILM crews headed by Rob Coleman and John Knoll, and Lucas himself, you can’t help but get caught up in the sweeping nature of the storytelling even as you get lost in the astonishing hellscape where everything comes to the close that fans have waited for since 1977. And it may sounds like faint praise when I say that this film is a visual powerhouse (“Well, of course it looks good”), but it’s not. This movie is, quite simply, too sumptuous a visual feast for anyone to fully digest in one viewing.

The way the film looked projected digitally (as it was at the Village in Westwood) is nothing like film, which finally proves the point Lucas has been trying to make. He’s not trying to make digital technology look exactly like film... he’s trying to create something new. For the first time, he’s created something richer than film here, like some sort of fever-dream version of the films of Michael Powell, like Technicolor-squared. Roger Barton and Ben Burtt do masterful work as editors, and this is the first of the prequels that doesn’t feel essentially unfinished in places. Part of the reason this feels like three different films is because of the way each section has its own rhythms and crescendos, like movements of a symphony. ILM’s work is cutting-edge, but it never feels like that’s the point. The film doesn’t linger over new landscapes just to show off. It’s too busy aggressively hurtling forward through the story, and it’s nice to hear the way John Williams ties together all six films in this, his final STAR WARS score. The design team, led by Ryan Church, Erik Tiemens, and Robert Barnes, has done the same thing visually that Williams does sonically, with the way we see spaceships and costumes and sets that all tie directly into EPISODE IV.

Yet in the end, none of this would matter if Lucas had dropped the ball dramatically. People may argue about the effectiveness of certain moments, but what this film does well is humanize one of the great screen villains of all time, somehow managing to do so without robbing him of any of his menace in later films. If anything, I think the effect this is going to have on viewers who have grown up with this trilogy is going to be deeply unsettling. They’re going to be hit hard by Anakin’s fall, and it will change the way they view the original trilogy. If that’s not the ultimate sign of success for this film, then I don’t know what is.


As I was driving home from the Westwood screening, it was the middle of the afternoon, and I was on the phone, talking to a friend about trying to find some time to hang out.

”Well, STAR WARS is over, and I’ve got a Prepared Childbirth class with my wife tonight,” I said, and soon as I heard those words out loud, a wave of melancholy broke over me. Things are changing, and I think there are no two clearer markers of that for me than these.

You can’t possibly understand what it felt like for me sitting in the theater watching this film play unless you were there in 1977 for the very first film. Which isn’t to say that my experience is better than that of someone much younger... it just won’t be the same. This is the closing of a major chapter in my life, a rite of passage for fandom at large, and the thing that makes it hardest is that the film is so damned good. Lucas exhibits such confidence that it’s almost frustrating. The opening half-hour is relentlessly paced, and both Hayden and Ewan appear to have really connected with their roles. Even better, Lucas has fine-tuned his sense of humor, and fans are going to go nuts for R2-D2 during the first half-hour of the movie. This is the coolest R2’s been since EMPIRE, and it’s a pleasure to have him back. There are images in the film that connect the prequels to the original trilogy in ways I didn’t expect. I found the film quite moving as a whole, and there are moments all over the movie that gave me chills... genuine chills. If you were there in the theater in 1977, there are a few moments that imprinted upon you, moments where the score and the cinematography and the performances all came together in ways that were unarguably magical. If you saw that film with the crowds that packed the theater all summer long... and I’m not exaggerating. It’s hard to imagine for younger audiences, even if you see a blockbuster theatrically today, even during opening weekend. There was something so communal and amazing and chemical about going to see STAR WARS during, say, it’s 23rd week in theaters. In the local paper, there was the omnipresent STAR WARS ad amidst all the other movie ads, and there was a starburst in the corner of the ad saying how many weeks it had been in theaters.

It was #1, of course. It was always #1. There was no question about it being #1. There were no box-office charts running in the paper every Monday. There was no national Monday-morning-quarterback-voracious-appetite-for-numbers mentality yet. But you knew that STAR WARS was #1 because it had gone from being wildly popular movie to event to news story to phenomenon to news story again to genuine home-grown cult, and being part of that... being a STAR WARS fan... it was ours. It was the first thing I ever felt like I was in on from the ground floor. No one told me that STAR WARS was a big hit film, and I had no concept of a tentpole picture or a popcorn picture or a rollercoaster ride or any of the other current standards of the pop lexicon that simply didn’t exist at that point. STAR WARS wasn’t sold to me. It wasn’t marketed to me relentlessly. It was something that happened to me. All at once. I walked into the theater expecting I was going to see a movie, and instead, someone shot me in the head with a movie. And going back in those later weeks, it was about sharing in the joy of STAR WARS with other people who had already had that experience, and it was about taking people who somehow had missed the film so far (something that seemed more and more incomprehensible as the year wore on) and showing them how empty and pointless their lives had been before. STAR WARS was viral for those of us who saw it in 1977. It got inside you, and you had no choice but to be evangelical about it. As quickly as they could figure out how to make merchandise for it, you bought it. Not because it was an obligation. Not because you were bombarded by marketing for all the stuff. But because you wanted to have portable STAR WARS, things you could carry around that would remind you of STAR WARS during those unfortunate moments where you weren’t actually watching the film. You wanted to have STAR WARS you could replay for yourself at home (which in those days meant THE STAR WARS STORYBOOK read slowly while the soundtrack album played on the stereo). You wanted to dress in STAR WARS so that people would know as soon as they saw you, and they’d have to ask you about it, and then you’d be able to talk about it, and aside from watching the film, there was nothing better than talking about the film. Audiences didn’t just react to the film in theaters. They went crazy for it. They exploded at every joke. They would applaud after big action moments and cheer during them. They practically tore the seats out during the Death Star attack. It was part celebration when the film would play, and part pure visceral release. Every. Single. Time.

I don’t know if we’ll ever see a film happen that way again. I don’t know if we’ll ever be surprised like that as an audience again. I think the best recent example was THE SIXTH SENSE. People had no idea who the fuck M. Night Shyamalan was, and Bruce Willis and a kid had just had a fairly miserable bomb in the form of MERCURY RISING. I think an audience would rather see films without any hype, so they can feel like they’re discovering something, and that gets harder and harder to accomplish these days. REVENGE OF THE SITH arrives with more baggage that possibly any film in history. Fans have complicated ranges of reactions, so deeply divided that they’ve got names they use to label each other. “Hater.” “Apologist.” “OT Purist.” “Prequel freak.” No matter what film Lucas makes, there’s no way he’s going to please everyone who has some sort of emotional investment in STAR WARS fandom. At this point, nothing could. I’ll give Lucas credit for this... he does manage to deliver surprises in this film. I’ve seen every spoiler released everywhere on the web, and I would say that 90% of the movie remained totally unspoiled for me. There were little touches all over the film that made me feel like it was 1977 again, even as I found myself looking at something brand-new, something I couldn’t even have imagined back then.

Ian McDiarmid cuts a fascinating Satanic figure in the film, seducing Anakin to the Dark Side by using his own fear against him, playing on it, using half-truths to get Anakin so confused and emotionally off-balance that he loses track of what’s right and what’s wrong. One of the great accidents in casting history was the decision to hire McDiarmid in JEDI. He was much younger than the character, and originally, he was going to be dubbed. Lucas decided to use what he was getting on the set after a few days of shooting, realizing that McDiarmid was pretty great. For things to have timed out just right so that he could also play Palpatine in these prequels is sort of miraculous, and it’s also incredibly lucky that McDiarmid’s such a great actor. Up till now, he’s played Palpatine’s public face only in this trilogy, careful not to show all of his cards, but this film sets him free, and he’s almost perversely happy to play pure evil. Almost everyone’s turned up their performances for this film, and it’s easy to pinpoint the biggest difference. It’s a matter of stakes. Everything that happens this time matters. There’s urgency from the moment the crawl starts with a single word: “WAR!”

By the time that final duel rolls around (and that’s not a spoiler, because I’m talking about The Duel, the one we’ve waited for since the first time we saw Obi-Wan and Darth Vader cross lightsabers in A NEW HOPE), it’s incredibly emotional, and I could barely sit still. I’ve said before that expectation can be the worst thing for a film fan because it can set you up for disappointment if something doesn’t live up to the image you have in your mind. Thankfully, the last forty minutes or so of this film actually exceed the expectations I had when the film began.

Still, there’s no getting around the lingering feeling I’ve had since Thursday. The promise of more STAR WARS has been part of my life for so long that I’m almost sorry we’re finally here, on the other side of everything. Sure, we’ve all heard now about , but that’s going to focus almost entirely on minor characters. I’m sure it will be fun to see that 20 year gap between EPISODE II and EPISODE III, and I’m sure I’ll watch it and I hope I end up really enjoying it. But how much peril can anyone really be in? How high can the stakes really be? We know that the budding Rebellion can’t win during that time, and we know that most of the major players like Obi-Wan and Yoda spend that entire time in hiding. This story, the story I fell in love with, peopled with the characters I adore, is finished now. It makes sense that so many films right now are the creation of people my age. So many of us were bitten by the filmmaking bug at the same exact moment, and so many of us have grown up creating films and books and comics and games in the shadow of STAR WARS. Now that it’s done, it’s like a whole generation is being given permission to stop looking backwards and start looking to the future. If I had to use one word to sum up my overall reaction to what Lucas has accomplished with the film, it would be gratitude. I can’t imagine any real STAR WARS fan being anything less than pleased by this film, this promise finally fulfilled. I will close this part of the review by reviving a mantra from my article written the night I saw that first PHANTOM MENACE trailer, a statement that perfectly sums up the way I feel right now, my faith in the Force so fully restored:

Thank you, George. Thank you, George. Thank you, George.


Holy shit... where do I start?!

The opening shot of the film is a classic. I have trouble remembering the opening shot of ATTACK OF THE CLONES. I know I liked the way that film built to its first bomb blast, but I don’t think I’d call any of the individual shots “classics.” This film starts with a SF riff on the start of TOUCH OF EVIL, one long sustained shot that keeps going and going and going, long past when you think it will, and it just keeps getting cooler and cooler and cooler. After the crawl ends, the shot tilts down, and we find we’re looking at the underside of some huge ship. It’s silent. Two small ships come racing in, close to the hull of the much larger ship, and the camera moves in closer to those two small ships, then drops in behind them as they race along the larger ship, closer, closer, and then as they reach the far edge of the ship and turn, angling down, we see a massive battle raging just on the other side of the ship, a battle that we follow those two small ships into. We race through the laser blasts and the explosions and the debris and the other ships and more explosions and we stay close to those two ships as Anakin and Obi-Wan chatter back and forth to each other, playful banter that reminds me of the escape from the Death Star, Luke and Han trading quips while gunning down ships. By the time the shot finally ends with a close-up of Hayden sitting inside the canopy of one of the ships, it’s gone way past just being a stunt, a gimmick, a sustained long shot for the sake of it. It’s instantly absorbing, drawing you in, and at its best, REVENGE OF THE SITH does it to you over and over and over again.

Obi-Wan and Anakin crash onboard The Invisible Hand, the ship of General Grievous, the main new character introduced in this film. He’s all CGI, and anyone who watched the CLONE WARS cartoon probably thought they had a good idea of what to expect from him in this film. Wrong, wrong, wrong. You know how it was when you saw Nelvana’s version of Boba Fett in the cartoon that was part of the HOLIDAY SPECIAL, and he had all that dialogue and they played him like a total scumbag, and then you saw him in the movie a couple of months later, and he was totally different. The characterizations couldn’t be more different, and he didn’t even look exactly the same. Well, this is sort of like that. In the cartoon, he was portrayed as a Jedi-killing badass, a Terminator-like death machine. In the film, he’s more of a gutless turd, a cowardly piece of shit that will fight if cornered, but would much rather run. And personally, I really like that characterization. I’m not sure what to think of his cough or his oddball accent or his chicken walk, but I’ll see how they sit with me a second time. Or a third. Overall, I like the character. I think he’s loads of fun to watch. His chase sequence and fight with Obi-Wan later in the film is amazing and high-impact, and it ends with a crowd-pleasing beat that will bring the house down opening night.

As I said above, R2-D2 is tremendous during the sequence where Obi-Wan and Anakin try to rescue Palpatine from Grievous. He’s largely CGI during this sequence, and he does some things we’ve never seen him do before. He’s basically Herbie The Love Bug for a few minutes... and it works. It’s funny. It’s thrilling. And it’s R2-D2 kicking some ass. We all knew he could take care of himself, and here’s some proof. I think the Battle Droids would be better if they didn’t talk, but I’ve thought that since the first film. Honestly, it’s no more of an annoyance than the insipid stormtrooper dialogue in A NEW HOPE (and, no, “I hear it’s quite the thing to see” is not great writing, no matter how familiar with it and nostalgic for it you are), and R2 keeps things interesting. He’s doing his best to help Obi-Wan and Anakin by opening and closing doors and controlling elevators and more, even as he has to evade the Super Battle Droids that patrol the hangar where he’s hiding, trying to muffle the commlink that Obi-Wan gave him to hold onto. His frustration gets funnier and funnier as things get more dangerous. Who knew a robot could do a slow burn so well?

When Obi-Wan and Anakin find Palpatine and move to set him free, they are attacked by Count Dooku, played once again by Christopher Lee. He doesn’t have a huge role, but it’s a pivotal one. Anakin can’t control himself, and he ends up killing Dooku even after disarming him, pun sort of intended. It’s all handled tastefully, but it’s not a cop-out. I love the move Anakin makes to cut off Dooku’s hands, and the way he beheads Dooku is ugly and cruel. There’s no question... it’s an execution, and Palpatine eggs it on, encouraging Anakin to do it. Dooku doesn’t say a lot, but the way Lee plays it makes it obvious that Dooku expects amnesty or assistance from Palpatine to prevent his death, and before he can say anything, Anakin snips and Dooku is silenced forever. Obi-Wan doesn’t see it happen because he’s knocked out by Dooku, but later, he assumes Anakin must have done it “the right way.” Obi-Wan never takes the time to talk to Anakin about what happened... not really... and much of what occurs in the movie is because people fail to communicate or listen or pay attention to the obvious. These small breakdowns between people are the weaknesses that Palpatine exploits, the openings he uses to make all of his plans come true. People who want to draw parallels between the events of the film and specific current political happenings miss the point. Lucas has created an allegory about the way freedoms always fall, and it pays off all of the political maneuvering of the first two films in one terrifying moment as the Empire is born in the Senate Chamber. As Padme says, tears in her eyes, “This is the way democracy ends... to thunderous applause.” I’ll be honest. I think the original trilogy may have better characters and pacing, but I think the prequels have the better story overall. I like the fact that it was built as a three-act story that only fully reveals itself this time around, and I think it’s going to stand up well in the future because of how it’s built.

One of the pivotal scenes in the film is where Palpatine lays out the history of the Sith while he and Anakin are at an opera, and this will probably be the most microanalyzed exchange of dialogue in the whole film. With good reason, too. You can read this scene a variety of ways, and there are things in the performances that aren’t necessarily there in the script that color what you think is actually being said. The biggest controversy addressed (or not)? The origin of Anakin’s parentage.

I’ve already seen some pretty heated disagreements over what that scene means. I took it to be a pretty direct acknowledgement that Palpatine’s mentor, Darth Plagueis, was Anakin’s creator, something that Palpatine was aware of. After killing Plagueis, Palpatine kept an eye on Anakin, fully aware of his potential. I’ve seen other fans insist already that Palpatine is a liar and that what he says has nothing to do with Anakin’s origin. But if that’s true, then why did Shmi introduce the notion of a virgin birth in the first film? Palpatine’s story just fill in the second half of the tale, albeit in a maddeningly indirect way.

As Palpatine becomes more and more confident about his control over Anakin, he grows more brazen, and when he finally tells Anakin exactly who he is, it’s great. He knows he’s taking a risk, and sure enough, Anakin’s first reaction is outrage. He immediately runs to tell Mace Windu that Palpatine is the Sith Lord they’ve been looking for. Palpatine sees it as a calculated risk, though, because he’s given Anakin more than enough reason to turn. When it happens, it may seem sudden, but it’s not. All three films have led up to this moment, from the first time we saw little Anakin. Lucas may not be the most subtle writer, but I’d argue that he’s had a clear vision of where he was going this entire time. When Anakin cuts off Mace Windu’s hand to save Palpatine’s life, he’s making the only choice he can make. After all, Palpatine and Padme have given him far more personal connection than the Jedi ever have. They’ve shown him the love and support that his mother once did, and they’ve encouraged him even as he felt held back by the Council. When you’ve seen the other two films, it makes perfect sense for Anakin to make the choice he makes. It’s clearly the wrong choice, but it’s also inevitable. Considering how much faith the Jedi have in the prophecy about Anakin being the Chosen One, they treat him poorly, keeping him at arm’s length. By refusing to trust Anakin, they seal his fate as well as their own.

I know I criticized some of the Padme/Anakin scenes, but there’s one great silent moment between them that deserves mention. Padme’s at her apartment, worried, and Anakin’s at the Jedi Temple, considering everything Palpatine said even as Mace goes to arrest him. They each step out onto their balconies, and for a moment, it’s like they’re looking at each other across Coruscant. It’s a simple moment, but very effective.

Another sequence that carries a more profound emotional punch than I expected was the execution of Order 66, the moment where Palpatine declares the Jedi to be enemies of the Republic. All over the galaxy, we see various Jedi who we’ve come to recognize over the span of these films, all of them leading Clonetroopers into battle. The order causes all of the Clonetroopers to turn on the Jedi, and one by one, they are struck down and destroyed. It’s a perfectly shot and edited sequence, disturbing without being explicit. The same is true of Anakin’s rampage at the Jedi Temple. When he steps into a room full of younglings and ignites his lightsaber, it’s chilling. It was one thing to see him kill sandpeople in EPISODE II, but this time, he strikes down innocent children. Portman’s best scene comes on the heels of all this violence, when Obi-Wan comes to see her. She refuses to believe what Obi-Wan tells her, and their exchange at the end of the scene is terribly sad. She asks him, already knowing the answer, “You’re going to kill him, aren’t you?” Obi-Wan doesn’t answer at first. He almost leaves, but stops for a moment and says, “The child is Anakin’s, isn’t it?” This time, it’s Padme who can’t answer, but the look on her face says it all. Obi-Wan shakes his head sadly as he leaves. “Then I’m so sorry.”

Everything builds to two final showdowns which are intercut by Lucas, and it’s the most masterfully executed sequence in the film. Yoda and Palpatine clash in and around the Senate Chambers, and it’s impressively staged. I love when Yoda first walks in through a door flanked by two of those red Imperial Guards. One gesture from Yoda takes out both the guards at once, and you can’t help but root for Yoda during the entire battle. After all, Yoda’s the obvious good guy and Palpatine’s been revealed as absolute evil by this point. It’s much more difficult to know what to feel as Obi-Wan and Anakin face down on Mustafar. More than anything, you want them to talk to each other, to figure out a way not to fight. There’s nothing fun about seeing these two friends, so close they’re almost brothers, as they put all their energy into destroying one another. Once The Duel begins, there’s no turning back. I was surprised John Williams used “Duel of the Fates” for the Yoda/Sidious fight instead of the Obi-Wan/Anakin one, but Williams hits all the right beats as Lucas cuts back and forth.

When Yoda’s finally beaten, he runs for his life, and this was one of the big surprises for me. Seeing this powerful Jedi Master reduced to crawling through pipes and hiding, I was saddened. He’s like a fox being tracked by a pack of dogs, cowering and tiny, and it’s not what I expected to see. As he rides away, rescued by Bail Organa (Jimmy Smits, who makes the most of his brief screentime), he’s obviously broken by the entire experience. The end of the Duel, with Anakin lying on the shore of a river of lava, his legs severed, is absolutely the darkest moment in the entire film. Anakin is reduced to little more than a torso, but even then, he feels no fear, no regret, no remorse. He is simply rage and hate and pain. When he bursts into flame, it’s the single most graphic STAR WARS image I’ve ever seen, and you can’t help but hate Obi-Wan just a little as he turns his back on his friend, his student, and just walks away.

When Anakin is rescued by Palpatine and rebuilt as Vader, most of the scene is perfect, intercut with the birth of Luke and Leia. I’m sure that impending fatherhood made those deliveries more emotional for me to watch, but I also think there’s a brilliance to much of the intercutting. What mars the sequence are a few bizarre choices that border on the accidentally comic. What’s with that droid that tells Obi-Wan that Padme is dying of a broken heart? I half-expected Lucas to cut to a close-up of a machine that monitors her “Will To Live” just as it flatlines. It’s silly, and it would have been more effective to simply have Vader’s injuries to her combined with the demands of childbirth be too great to endure. Lucas has long mentioned how the transformation into Vader would be in the visual vocabulary of a ‘30s monster movie, but I didn’t realize how much he meant it. Two shots from the scene as they knit Anakin’s new fake legs onto him and then encase him in armor really hit me hard. The first comes as they lower the helmet towards Anakin, and for just one fleeting second, he looks around, finally afraid, as if just starting to realize what he’s done, what he’s lost. Then Lucas actually cuts to a POV as the helmet comes closer, closer, so we can look through the eyes of Vader for the very first time. When Vader finally riiiiiiiises and takes his first steps, it’s like some crazed cross between BAMBI and FRANKENSTEIN, and I like the choice. There’s something tragic and sad about this monster in its first moments of new life.

Unfortunately, another of those terrible choices mars the moment when Anakin is actually told that he killed Padme. He lets out an anguished “NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!” as the camera pulls back that is about as tonally wrong as it could possibly be, a beat so cliché that it feels like we’re watching the SIMPSONS joke version of the scene.

Have no fear, though. Lucas finishes strong. By the time Owen and Beru stand outside their home on Tatooine, clutching Baby Luke and looking into a familiar binary sunset, it’s almost too much to take. Seeing Vader take his place between the Emperor and Tarkin, seeing Obi-Wan and Yoda flee into exile, seeing Padme’s funeral, a reminder of happier days clutched in her hand, seeing R2 and C-3PO onboard that familiar white-walled ship... it’s overwhelming. The circle is indeed complete. I could list another fifty images or ideas that affected me in this film, but I’d rather save those for conversations with my friends in the weeks to come or for any specific questions you guys have in the TalkBack below. This is an amazing summer for me. There’s a great new Weezer album I can’t stop playing. John Fucking Carpenter (which should be his legal name) is directing something I wrote. My wife and I are enjoying the dramatic change to our family. And, for the first and last time in my adult life, there is an absolutely great STAR WARS film playing in theaters. It’s like the exact celebration I needed to push things over the top. It’s hard to believe something so terribly sad can make me feel so good. I guess that’s just one more way that STAR WARS is special. I hope you all enjoy it as much as I did. I hope to share it with you in theaters all summer long, some little bit of that energy from that first summer all those years ago.

Because, finally, the Force is with us all once again.

"Moriarty" out.

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