Release Date:  May 19, 2005
Rating:  PG-13 (for sci-fi violence and some intense images)
Genre:   Sci-Fi/Adventure/Action/Fantasy
Run Time:   140 min.
Director:     George Lucas
Actors:    Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Hayden Christiansen, Ian McDiarmid, Samuel L. Jackson, Jimmy Smits, Frank Oz, Anthony Daniels

I remember well the summer of 1983.  I was a leader-in-training at a Christian camp high above Colorado Springs, Colorado, and we had been given an evening out.  We headed straight to the movie theatre, where we discussed what film to see.  By 6 to 1, I was outvoted.  I don’t even remember what film I lobbied for, but I do remember the film we saw – and how glad I was that the wisdom of the crowd had prevailed.  It was “Return of the Jedi,” and for the first time, I finally understood the lure of “Star Wars.”  Eventually, with the invention of the VCR (boy, do I feel old), I would also come to appreciate the other films in the series made by writer/director/creator George Lucas – “Star Wars” and its sequel, “The Empire Strikes Back.”

So it was with great dismay that I viewed Lucas’ prequels, “Phantom Menace” and “Revenge of the Clones” in 1999 and 2002.  Frankly, they may be some of the worst films ever made, particularly on this kind of budget.  The good news, however, is that when you’ve made two terrible movies in a row, you can only improve.  And fortunately, that’s just what Lucas has done with his final installment of the “Star Wars” saga.

“Revenge of the Sith” opens with a 20-minute plus sky battle between Jedi knights Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christiansen) and Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor), who are defending the galaxy against enemy Sith invaders.  They must rescue the Republic’s chancellor, Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid), who has been captured by the evil Count Dooku (Christopher Lee) and Count Grievous, a CGI droid.  Meanwhile, beloved robot R2D2 (Kenny Baker) tries to help, but instead just throws one-liners.

Anakin returns home to Senator Padme Amidala (Natalie Portman), whom he has secretly married – a move that could cost him his knighthood.  Padme announces that she is pregnant, which soon prompts nightmares in Anakin that Padme will die in childbirth.  He seeks the advice of the chancellor, who alludes to the dark side of the force, which has the power of life over death.  Meanwhile, Mace Windu (Samuel L. Jackson), who heads the Jedi council, has invited Anakin to sit among them, making Anakin the youngest to ever receive that invitation.  They have not, however, made him a Master Jedi Knight, which rankles Anakin.  So, while Anakin agrees to spy on the chancellor for the Jedis, his anger also causes him to agree to do the same for the chancellor, placing himself in a very difficult situation.  Little by little, as Anakin learns about the power he could have – power from the dark side – we see him slowly transformed into the evil character we all love to hate: Darth Vader.

In the strangest of ways, the strength of this film is that we know the ending.  We know what and who Anakin will become.  We know that he will have not one, but two children – twins who are separated at birth, named Leah and Luke.  We also know the rest of the saga, because we’ve seen it unfold, in five separate films.  But that doesn’t stop us from watching, and enjoying, this story.

There is wisdom in this film – only don’t look too closely.  On the one hand, we see the demise of Anakin Skywalker, a Jedi knight who had great potential, had he chosen to use his gifts for good.  Instead, Anakin succumbs to fear, impatience and his own desire for power, which become the source of his mighty downfall, and the rise of his evil persona.  In Anakin, we see how easily we can all be led astray, and just where that path takes us.  This storyline will provide great fodder for discussion about the moral choices we must all make, even in the most desperate of circumstances.