There was a time in my life when I had watched the latest Star Wars movie multiple times in the theater. That was in the days before home video. When the first Star Wars movie came out I was in college and thought it was one of the coolest things I’d ever seen. As the original trilogy continued George Lucas managed to do what few others have done – keep a high level of quality going through all three pictures. When he announced that he was going to go back and complete the set by producing Episodes 1-3 I wondered if he could pull it off. Generally, it is agreed (I think) that the latest three episodes do not measure up to the original movies. It’s hard to compare them, though, because technology and styles have changed enough in the intervening years that it really is a different world now than it was when A New Hope was released.
The particular challenge of Episode III: Revenge of the Sith was to connect the dots between what was begun in Episodes I and II and what we new had to be in Episodes IV-VI. How do you make a film where everybody already knows the ending? I think George Lucas came pretty close to pulling it off and I think Episode III is the strongest film of the second trilogy. Sure, I have quibbles about some things. I wish Hayden Cristiansen was a little less wooden in his performance. I wish these so-called advanced civilizations would figure out how to put hand-rails on walkways over bottomless pits. But, for the most part, watching this film again on DVD this week kept me engaged and on the edge of my seat as I wondered anew exactly how we were going to get from where we were in the story (the end of Episode II) to where I knew we had to be (the beginning of Episode IV).
I find myself almost wishing that George Lucas had done with this film what Peter Jackson did and made an extended edition. It is clear that he had some additional ideas about things in the film – the plot is very complicated and some additional explanation in parts would help. The deleted scenes would be a lot of fun to see interwoven – especially when we see hints of subplots that couldn’t be developed because of time. However, these are different than Lord of the Rings and perhaps extended versions would not work as well in the Star Wars universe. Do I really need to see more of what happened to Jar-Jar Binks? I don’t think so.
Lucas has made a great DVD of a fine film. I really enjoyed my second viewing of the film – my first on the small screen – and look forward to seeing it a few more times, exploring the extras and thinking about how all the pieces fit together.