Thursday, May 19, 2005

Revenge is Sweet

After months of anticipation, the experience of seeing Revenge of the Sith is now in the past. It lived up to my highest expectations and then some.

My cousin Mike and his girlfriend Lisa drove up to Bowling Green from the Dayton area to go see the midnight showing with Brandi and me. They got here around 7:00 or so with a surprise. Lisa had made Star Wars t-shirts for all of us, and they were very cool. Brandi and I quickly changed into our new shirts, and then the four of us went out for pizza.

After dinner and a non-related side trip, we arrived at the theater in Perrysburg around 9:30. I had purchased tickets online a couple of weeks ago, so I just had to swipe my card to retrive them from the ATM-like machine in the lobby. From there, we got in line to get into the auditorium. Opening night line-sitting is quite an experience. It's actually as much a part of the event as the film itself. It sounds goofy to outsiders, but it's actually a lot of fun to be around a bunch of like-minded people and listen to the chatter. It's also a lot of fun to see otherwise normal and straight-laced adults dressed up as Jedi, Sith lords, Wookiees, and other creatures and characters from that beloved fictional universe. Our line time passed by quickly.

They let us into the auditorium at 11:00. You know you're on your way into a Star Wars films when they check purses and bags on the way in to ensure that no photographical equipment is smuggled in. Fortunately, I was wearing jeans with deep pockets, so our candy-smuggling ability was not hampered. We had to wait in the auditorium for just over an hour before the movie started. This time was also fairly entertaining, seeing even more costumed people filing in and milling around. Eventually a local camera crew came in to interview some of the folks wearing costumes, which was pretty cool.

Eventually the theater darkened and the previews began. Each successive preview was greeted by more and more groaning from an audience full of Star Wars fans who were finally so close to their latest, freshest fix that they could feel the promise of it pulsing against their skin. When the previews ended and the familiar 20th Century Fox fanfare played, there was much rejoicing. And I do mean much. I attended midnight showings of each of the previous SW prequels, and this was by far the most boisterous crowd I've ever been a part of. It reached a crescendo when the title flashed onscreen, followed by the opening crawl, and then the crowd settled into a respectful, almost reverent silence to fully soak in every detail of the new installment.

I'm sure it's evident at this point that I liked this movie very, very much. I'm not ready to say that it's the best of the entire series, but it's definitely and by far the best of the prequel trilogy. And I say that as someone who really enjoyed Attack of the Clones. This new film was everything it needed to be. The action was fast and furious, the effects were incredible (as always), questions were answered, and the film was very, very dark. You could feel the frustration and anger as Anakin Skywalker turned toward the Dark Side of the Force and unleashed that emotion in a spate of shocking violence.

The violence, though, was very understated. Most of it was implied rather than actually shown. Yes, there was violence shown, and some of it was fairly graphic, but it wasn't nearly as bad as it could have been. It wasn't nearly as bad as it would have been if I would have made the film, for instance. That approach was sort of refreshing, actually. I'm not one who minds onscreen violence at all (a couple of my favorite movies, for example, are Braveheart and Pulp Fiction), but it's not always bad to have it take place off-camera. In this case, it allowed George Lucas to keep his film at a relatively safe PG13 rating, but it also seemed appropriate stylistically (to me, at least).

All too soon, the movie was over, setting the stage for the events that take place in Episode IV, which was made twenty-eight years ago. Yes, there were still some minor questions left unanswered, but all in all the film was extremely satisfying. It was the Star Wars experience that fans have been waiting for, myself included.

In many ways, I'm sad that it's over now. Don't get me wrong, I'll definitely see the movie in the theater again (and again, and again; I'll be fairly shocked if the number of instances stays in the single digits), but it won't be like the first time. No more buying tickets weeks in advance; no more waiting in line for hours just to get into the theater; no more hordes of Jedi storming the theater; no more midnight screenings with my cousin Mike; no more waiting in breathless anticipation to see what happens next. Unless, of course, Lucas changes his mind and decides to go ahead with another trilogy after all. As much fun as the films were, the anticipation of another one was almost as good. Yes, I'm sad to see them go. I enjoy the books, and the video games, and I'm looking forward to the television series, just isn't the same as a full-length motion picture event.

Still, I'm going to enjoy Revenge of the Sith while it's in theaters, and I recommend you do the same. If you've ever enjoyed any of the Star Wars films, I doubt this one will disappoint you. It definitely manages to capture the lightning in a bottle that they've had in their best moments. Its tone may be dark, but it's a fun movie nonetheless.

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