Picture from Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith
Overall A-

In this third (dare we say final?) episode of the mother of all movie franchises, George Lucas is faced with a daunting task of tying up all the lose story threads. The big question everyone wants answered is: How does Anakin (Hayden Christensen) end up in that villainous black suit?

Violence D+
Sexual Content A-
Profanity A
Substance Use A

Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith

Beware the dark side...

The time for cloning around is over. In stark contrast to Episode II -- Attack of the Clones, this third (dare we say final?) episode of the mother of all movie franchises pulls its characters through the story faster than a lightsaber can chop carrots. Faced with a daunting jumble of strings to tie up, Lucas doesn't waste any time. Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) faces the beginnings of his inevitable moral undoing early in the first act after the Jedi Council holds back on giving him the full privileges he feels he deserves.

His buddy, Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor), counsels him to be patient, but the whisperings of the dark side are in his ears. Could Chancellor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) be giving subtle utterance to such blasphemies? Or is the helpful official truly an understanding political figure who is justifiably concerned about the intermingling of state and Jedi religion?

These questions, and many more, bring the script of Episode III into the light of reality far more than any of the five other films. With less focus on the battlefield, we spend more time at home with Anakin and Padme (Natalie Portman), who are faced with the news of an unexpected delivery (at least unexpected for them... there isn't a soul in the audience who isn't aware the stork has been circling in a holding pattern for some time now). And we're there for the painful introduction of the next infant generation in a birthing sequence.

Dealing with the consequences of choice is what this movie is all about - for George Lucas, the creator of this universe, as well as for his characters. Having written himself into a corner with the success of the films he made over two decades ago, he now needs to portray circumstances convincing enough to account for the behavior of his famous villains. The situation has both positive and negative implications. On the one side, it has forced Lucas to write what is definitely the best script of the three latest installments. Now ranking with the original series, this movie has more dialogue and focuses on only a handful of characters, which allows for rounding out of personalities. Anakin Skywalker's deliberation over what is good versus what is evil is especially enlightening.

But, on the "dark side," this is the first Star Wars production to receive a PG-13 rating (the other five are PG), and rightly so. There are no pod races here, and Jar-Jar is demoted to a cameo. Instead, after watching this film, you'll never see a lightsaber as a "toy" again. Arms, hands, legs, and heads are cut and cauterized throughout the movie. While there is little evidence these humans bleed, the sanitized swashbuckling is explicit enough to consider leaving the under-ten crowd at home. Even more gruesome is when a character, whose legs have been sliced off, is left to burn alive beside a river of lava.

Was it necessary to pull Star Wars into a level of violence similar to the intensity of Lord of the Rings? I'll take the easy way out and let you answer that question. One thing is for certain though-- fans will be glued to the screen for all 140 minutes.

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