It’s finally, (finally!) over. Or at least until Lucas wants to buy another town and turn it into his office and decides that he can squeeze out VII, VIII, and IX.
The final segment of the tepid and wooden prequel trilogy lands. To say that it is the best of these recent three is like saying that Curly was the smartest of the Three Stooges. True, but insignificant. The first two were abysmal, plastic, and downright boring (I think I fell asleep three times in the second one). Thankfully, Sith is significantly better. For the record, the almost surreally banal dialogue and stilted acting are still center stage, as are the overly digitized landscapes and corny felt outfits.
But something is different from the previous two. It’s actually entertaining for nearly all of its 140 minutes. In addition (and far more importantly), Sith is the first film of the prequels to contain the heft and myth of the originals.
Everyone will naturally cut Lucas a lot of slack, because we are so curious to see him connect this last installment to A New Hope. How he does is both clever and unconvincing. Anakin’s (Hayden Christensen) descent to the dark side is highly dubious. Maybe it’s the arid romance between Padmé (Natalie Portman) and Anakin, maybe it’s the illogic of Anakin’s fury at the Jedi Council, but his decisions seem very obviously the seat-of-the-pants plot points of the screenwriter than actually passions. Nevertheless, how the whole clone war comes to an end and the empire rises is occasionally nifty. I particularly liked little connections, like Yoda saying: “Good relations with Wookies have I.” (Perfect.)
The best parts of the movie have neither words nor people in them. Lucas’s greatest talent is the creation of worlds and environments, and with his new digital wizardry, the planets, ships, and creatures are more outlandish and imaginative (if not as convincing as in the originals) than ever. As far as acting goes, only Ewan McGregor with his elegance and aplomb registers. His Obi-Won is the only animated character in the entire play, and watching him and then the great Alec Guinness in A New Hope is a chief pleasure of the series.
In the end there is little to say. The series is complete in a fairly clunky connect-the-dots fashion. We all see it because Lucas owns our hearts for some reason that I will never fathom, but the massive blemish on the series is Lucas’s ego. Boldly going it alone, writing and directing these first three, Lucas has dismantled his early dream. Yes, it’s thrilling to see how it all got there, but I would have preferred the mystery instead of three films of cool light-saber fights interspersed between dialogue like “Hold me like you did back on Naboo.”