After three of the most wildly popular films of all time and two of the most loathed, George Lucas has finished his work on the theatrical “Star Wars” films. Fans will debate for years whether or not the prequel trilogy tarnished not only the “Star Wars” name, but also Lucas’s own legacy. But now that the final chapter is playing across the country, “Star Wars” fans can breathe a bit easier.

Film Reviews
“Fear the power of the Sith … fear the power of my mullet.” (Courtesy of 20th Century Fox)

That said, “Revenge of the Sith” is not the best movie in the series, but it recaptures the magic that was absent from the previous prequels. In other words: It doesn’t completely suck. From the beautiful computer-generated imagery that permeates the film to the breathtaking light-saber duels, this feels like a “Star Wars” movie again.

The younger generation that never got a chance to experience the originals on the big screen (excluding the “Special Edition” re-releases in 1997) can finally experience that visceral moment in the theater.

“Revenge of the Sith” provides the transitional chapter between the two trilogies. It’s fittingly violent, earning the series’ first-ever PG-13 rating to mirror the dark transformation of Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen, “Shattered Glass”) from an idealistic young Jedi into the villainous Sith lord Darth Vader.

The plot picks up a few years after the events of “Attack of the Clones” and throws viewers right into the action. After all the political diatribes and ramblings about midichlorians, Lucas finally remembers what his fans really want: action. Unfortunately, he’s still unable to completely throw the plodding themes away, and the film suffers greatly from these moments of “deep” political thought.

The rhetoric is laid on thick in the film’s dialogue (“Either you’re with me, or you’re my enemy”), but it’s not clear whether or not Lucas intends his film to be a comment on the current political landscape. Either way, it makes the movie lag and is often cringe-worthy, but it merely mires down “Revenge of the Sith” instead of crippling it.

Worse yet, there is no chemistry between Christensen’s Skywalker and Natalie Portman’s (“Closer”) Padme. Every time the two appear on screen together, the film loses gas. The melodramatic romantic dialogue doesn’t help, either. This relationship is pivotal in Anakin’s fall from grace, yet it never feels remotely believable. In fact, most of the dialogue in the movie sounds like a seven-year-old fan playing with his action figures and creating conversation between the toys on the fly.

Still, Ewan McGregor (“Big Fish”) manages to instill the cast with some much-needed acting prowess. And although he does little more than channeling the late Alec Guinness, McGregor’s Obi-Wan Kenobi epitomizes the Jedi and provides the necessary foil for Anakin.

But “Revenge of the Sith” rises above the poor writing and cardboard performances to deliver hungry thrills and spectacle. Everyone going to see the movie knows how it’s going to end, but they can still enjoy the ride. And no film in the series has been as action-packed as this one. The special effects have finally caught up to Lucas’s vision, and the viewer becomes immersed in dazzling locales and futuristic technologies. The fiery finale on the lava planet, an evocative visualization of hell, perfectly encapsulates “Episode III” as powerful eye candy.

Constant light-saber battles and stark visuals should be more than enough to draw in even the most casual “Star Wars” fan, yet “Revenge of the Sith” delivers beyond just those simple promises. It offers a storyline that’s more complex than the simple black-and-white, good-versus-evil tale of the original. While it’s not completely successful in creating a conflicted and tortured fallen hero, Anakin’s descent into the Dark Side is still difficult to watch for any ardent fan. Here is a man who every viewer knows becomes the embodiment of evil, yet his transformation creates the tragedy that Lucas so desperately wanted to display.

And so it ends — at least until the eventual digitally re-mastered re-releases of the prequels hit the big screen. Fans who have stuck with this disappointing second trilogy will be rewarded with a film that reminds them exactly why they fell in love with “Star Wars” in the first place. If this is truly where the saga ends, then “Star Wars” will maintain its place as a series that transcended its cinematic medium to become a part of the American consciousness.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

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