Running Time: 146 mins.
Rated: Rated PG.
The end is nigh. Or so we've been promised. With this, the third - or the sixth, depending upon how you count - installment of the Star Wars saga, Lucas has finally brought us round to the middle of his vast epic. And here, at this end in the middle, we must leave it all behind, save for the galaxy of merchandise that will surely trail in its wake.
If you're a fan of Star Wars, one of those who dresses up and waits in line to see it at midnight on the very first day of release, then you should quit reading here. Besides, you've already seen it, probably thrice.
But if you're not a fan of Star Wars, I think you should still go see the film. However, you should do so with an understanding that it should provide an intellectual exercise in resistance, something that is worth practicing to live justly in our contemporary world.
I'll leave the "here's why' aspects related to the contemporary world aside (this is cheater's short-cut I realize, but I cannot bring myself to offer yet another critique of the apotheosis of immoral, militaristic stupidity that is the American Republican Party or the unfeeling policies that counter appropriate protection against AIDS in Africa or et cetera, et cetera), and I will focus instead on the "here's why' about seeing this film. What's most important, as far as I'm concerned, is seeing past the easy surface of things. Because to
get the point of the films, you must look beyond the superficial pro-democracy rhetoric to the underlying elements of utopian control.
These are the elements that lie beneath the dazzling visual effects (which are indeed dazzling, if not magnificent), the wooden performances and the trite, silly dialogue (in a way, it is remarkable how seemingly indifferent Lucas is to acting and writing, which many, myself included, consider key components in filmmaking). What we should be aware of is that in STAR WARS: EPISODE 3 - REVENGE OF THE SITH, as in Lucas' preceding five films, we are presented with an elaborate morality play, an antiseptic tale where both sides are bent on enforcing a moral cleansing and where the apparent divide between their views can only be crossed through stylized death-matches.
On the canvas of this galaxy far, far away, Lucas paints a civilization without intimacy, or appetite. And we have to assume it is more than the mere preservation ofhis PG-13 rating that keeps out any hint of sex, or blood, or profanity, because none of the messy details of lived existence ever enter a Star War's scene. The interiors are always neat and obsessively ordered. They gleam in an artificial light. Outside, the battles are brutal, but bloodless. Violence of the worst sort is neatly hidden away. And all the while, our heroes parade along with a vast sense of importance neatly glossing over a reality where there is no discernable meaning. This galaxy is a Puritan ideal. A clean, disinfected world where truth is obvious and even the storm-troopers wear shiny white.
In a scene where the evil Sith Lord, Palpatine (Ian McDiarmond) steals away democracy with a rhetorical promise of glory and security, the gathering of Senators cheers enthusiastically. Meanwhile, Padmé (Natalie Portman) laments, "This is how liberty dies - to thunderous applause.' If only it were so. Liberty dies in silence. And you'll miss its passing, if you cannot find a way to pay attention.
Harden Grace, a US citizen, is an Associate of the Australian Catholic Film Office.