'Sith' an Uneven Walk Down the Dark Side Fabulous special effects have been George Lucas' calling card since the first Star Wars in 1977. He closes his saga with an engaging tale of Anakin Skywalker's route from fair-haired moppet to ultimate black-clad bad guy.
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'Sith' an Uneven Walk Down the Dark Side

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'Sith' an Uneven Walk Down the Dark Side

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'Sith' an Uneven Walk Down the Dark Side

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

"Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith" technically opens tomorrow, but at many theaters that really means tonight, a few seconds past midnight. "Episode III" brings the six-part "Star Wars" saga to a close roughly where the series began. The new movie already has sold some $50 million worth of advance tickets, which may render reviews irrelevant, but Bob Mondello has one anyway.

(Soundbite of "Star Wars (Main Title)")

BOB MONDELLO reporting:

The fanfare begins, and those familiar words fill the screen: `Long ago in a galaxy far, far away,' and darned if the blood doesn't start pumping a little faster. I guess I'm just hard-wired that way after 28 years. Then the next words, the ones that take us forward: `War; the Republic is crumbling under attacks by the ruthless Sith Lord, Count Dooku.' Dooku? Right.

Well, there are heroes on both sides; evil is everywhere. In a stunning move, the fiendish droid leader General Grievous--Grievous? You know, I really loved this stuff long ago in a youth that's increasingly far away, but this opening crawl made me realize just how far away it's getting. Separatist droid armies, besieged capitals, a captive chancellor. Come on, Mr. Lucas, bring on the Jedi knights.

(Soundbite of "Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith")

Mr. EWAN McGREGOR: (As Obi-Wan Kenobi) This is where the fun begins.

MONDELLO: And there they are, Obi-Wan and Anakin swooping through an opening interplanetary shoot-'em-up so digitally detailed that it makes the aerial dogfights in the original "Star Wars" look almost primitive. Fabulous effects have long been the George Lucas calling card. And even if you acknowledge that the more fabulous they get, they less they seem to have to do with anything, they are amazing.

Of course, Lucas once knew how to direct people, in "American Graffiti," for instance, whereas now he's more comfortable putting droids and Wookiees through their paces, anything basically that doesn't talk, which makes sense when you hear his dialogue.

(Soundbite of "Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith")

Mr. McGREGOR: (As Obi-Wan Kenobi) With all due respect, Master, is he not the chosen one? Is he not to destroy the Sith and bring balance to the Force?

Mr. SAMUEL L. JACKSON: (As Mace Windu) So the prophecy says.

Mr. FRANK OZ: (As Yoda) A prophecy that misread could have been.

Mr. McGREGOR: (As Obi-Wan Kenobi) He will not let me down. He never has.

Mr. OZ: (As Yoda) I hope right you are.

MONDELLO: Ah, but if right he is, then Anakin won't to the dark-side turn and leave us where would that? Lucas is rumored to have had playwright Tom Stoppard do a polish on "Episode III," but if that's true, the script doctor was as stymied by the dialogue as the performers are.

Still, who goes to "Star Wars" movies for their words or the acting? Hayden Christensen has to know that playing Anakin the pouting teen-ager isn't doing much for his rep as a thespian, but, man, has he ever learned to handle a lightsaber.

(Soundbite of "Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith"; lightsaber)

MONDELLO: You'll have heard that "Episode III" is the darkest of the "Star Wars" movies. It even has `Revenge' in the title, a word that Lucas famously softened to `Return' in 1982 for "Return of the Jedi." That was then; this is, well, long ago in a galaxy where the politics sound oddly familiar. `You're either with me or you're my enemy,' says Anakin, suggesting a real-world shift that may explain what's inspired darkness in filmmakers who were in a brighter mood in 1977. That wasn't just the year of "Star Wars," remember; it was also the year of "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," Steven Spielberg's friendly movie about aliens who drop by Earth for a visit. This summer, Spielberg's aliens in "War of the Worlds" will be joining Lucas' hero in a lunge to the dark-side.

Of course, you can't have light and redemption unless you first have darkness and a fall from grace. And let it be said that Lucas has come up with a perfectly serviceable back story to explain how his fair-haired kid from the intergalactic suburbs ends up emphysemic, dressed in black and serving a dictator.

(Soundbite of music from "Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith")

MONDELLO: This film has to turn Anakin into Darth Vader so the original trilogy can begin, and "Episode III" does the job with digital panache and a smidgen more emotional resonance than episodes I or II. This is not high praise, but, hey, the special effects are indeed special. R2 and Yoda get to kick some Imperial butt. And to the great relief of many an aging kid, including, no doubt, George Lucas himself, complete the "Star Wars" saga finally is. I'm Bob Mondello.

(Soundbite of music from "Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith")

MICHELE NORRIS (Host): You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

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