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The force is with the fans

George Lucas is back with his final prequel to the Star Wars saga. And fans in the city can't wait to catch the first show on the first day tomorrow, reports ANAND SANKAR

PHOTO: Reuters

THE TRANSFORMATION: Anakin Skywalker becomes the sinister Darth Vader in the Revenge of the Sith.

The end of the saga (or at least the prequel to it) is here. In just about 24 hours from now, the last Star Wars movie to be produced, Episode III — The Revenge of the Sith, will be screened throughout the country. Star Wars, the tale, came to a conclusion quite some time ago, but Episode III marks the end of its box office journey.

For those not familiar with Star Wars, it is a saga spread over six episodes. The last three chronological episodes were actually released first and the first three released as prequels later. The original story by George Lucas had no room for the prequels, but commercial compulsions forced the creation.

Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope was released in 1977 (at the time, it was just called Star Wars.). This, along with Episode V — The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Episode VI — Return of the Jedi (1983) tell the tale of young Jedi knight Luke Skywalker's (Mark Hamill) battle with the dark side called the Sith, led by the evil Emperor and Darth Vader. This intense personal combat is set in the midst of an intergalactic battle between the evil empire and the rebel alliance. Luke is assisted in his efforts by Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), the wookie Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), and his two robot flunkeys R2D2 and C-3PO.

The prequels to the above three movies, Episode I — The Phantom Menace (1999), Episode II — Attack of the Clones (2002) are about the growth of Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) as a Jedi paduan (student).

Episode III — The Revenge of the Sith meanwhile, features the transformation of Anakin from a young Jedi prodigy to the evil Darth Vader. It is the bloody climax where Anakin finally puts on the feared armoured mask of Darth Vader. This results in the break-up of the 1,000-year-old galactic republic, leading to the rise of the evil empire.

All the Star Wars movies are best known for setting the benchmark when it comes to special effects. While the first three movies used miniature models and camera gimmicks, the last three used the most advanced computer-generated graphics available. Star Wars was also the first Hollywood movie to use Dolby Stereo way back in 1977. At a time when the industry was not paying much attention to sound, this move revolutionised the movie-going experience.

What sets Star Wars apart from other Hollywood films is the massive legion of fans that worship the series around the globe. In fact, during a recent population census in the U.K., 390,000 people put down their religion as Jedi. And even Bangalore is no stranger to this phenomenon. Meet Ashwin Prasad, an engineering student who tried building his own light sabre after watching the Return of the Jedi! "My father took me to watch my first Star Wars movie when I was just a kid. I came home and tried building a light sabre with a torch and plastic wrappers. But more importantly, the movie taught me the power of ideas and made me believe that there is good in everything. I am just waiting to go check out the new release," he says.

Like Ashwin, Suresh, an insurance consultant, was wowed by the special effects and the aliens in the movies. His favourite is Jabba the Hut, the notorious don of the galactic underworld. "Jabba has to probably be the most complex puppet ever made. It must have taken some ingenuity to control all those limbs. My other favourites are Chewbacca, the wookie and Admiral Ackbar, the salmon-coloured Mon Calamari," he says.

Such has been the frenzy to catch the last prequel that fans abroad have been paying as much as $500 for a ticket. In one incident, a group queuing up for tickets to the premiere at the Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood refused to believe when informed it was the wrong theatre, seeing instead a conspiracy by rival fans wanting to jump the queue.

Fanatical they are, but the fans are sharply divided over the issue of which is better — the original series or the prequels. "I think the original ones are better because they were simply original," says Suresh. "But the prequels add continuity to the series," argues Sudarshan, an engineering student.

Even George Lucas seems to have given up on this debate. "They are always at each other's throats about it," he told a press conference at the ongoing Cannes Film Festival. "The over-25s are loyal to the first three films and the under-25s adore the two prequels. But it is the older ones that are in control of the media."

Though the big screen future of Star Wars is over, it is going to now be remade as an elaborate TV series, Lucas announced. But for this tale, the screen size does not matter; it is the Force that will keep it alive for a very long time to come.

* * *

Star Wars timeline

Episode IV — A New Hope (1977)
Episode V — The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
Episode VI — Return of the Jedi (1983)
Episode I — The Phantom Menace (1999)
Episode II — Attack of the Clones (2002)
Episode III — The Revenge of the Sith (2005)

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