End of the great space opera
George Lucas's "Star Wars" began as a simple story but the saga ends on a more complex and darker note.
FOR AN INTERGALACTIC FIX: The final trilogy of prequels, "The Revenge of the Sith," has some eye-popping special effects.
It was a space opera to beat all soaps, a brand that created a cult of fervent loyalists, a fairy tale in space, a story of a farm boy who lights out to find his destiny it was "Star Wars." As the bars of John Williams' rousing score reached a crescendo, one was immersed in the happenings long ago in a remote galaxy.
"Star Wars" was released in 1977 followed by "The Empire Strikes Back" (1979) and "The Return of the Jedi" (1982).
What director George Lucas had begun as a simple story about a man redeemed by his children, spawned a multi-billion dollar industry.
Social scientists can hold forth on significance of the films, the making of myths and its relation to our subconscious, how we relate to the movie's universal themes of triumph of good over evil, the love story, the terrible secret, the hero with a fatal flaw and the bildungsroman. The bottom line, however is, the films were incredibly good fun.
The film was a cheerful cocktail of adventure, romance and mind-bending special effects tempered with generous doses of awe and wonder. The story for those who came in very, very late is about Luke Skywalker who realises he is actually a Jedi Knight and with the feisty princess Leia and a rogue pilot Han Solo (Harrison Ford was propelled to superstardom with the role) set about defeating the Imperial forces led by Darth Vader.
Through the trilogy, Skywalker discovers Leia is his twin and Darth Vader is his father, Anakin Skywalker, who was seduced by the dark side and lost his soul, his face and voice in the process.
After a silence of 17 years on May 19, 1999, George Lucas unveiled "Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace," the first of a trilogy of prequels. The trilogy was set in the time before the "Star Wars" movies and would tell Anakin Skywalker's story - his rise as a Jedi Knight and his fall from grace and conversion to Darth Vader - the story arc was promising and there seemed every chance of taking off on yet another ride of a lifetime.
With the edgy Ewan McGregor playing the Jedi master Obi Wan-Kenobi, and an ensemble star cast including Liam Neeson and Samuel L. Jackson, the film was greeted with an unprecedented hysteria and people camped forever outside theatres to get their intergalactic fix.
"... Phantom Menace" rode on a wave of expectation and used technology creatively to fashion extraordinary worlds of water, sand and air. The film was a beauty to behold even though it was rather self-conscious of its place in collective unconscious. The humour that was an integral part of the earlier trilogy was replaced with a kind of pseudo-portentousness that would have been funny if it were not so irritating. And Jar Jar Binks was easily the most irritating being in the entire universe.
Then came the largely forgettable "Attack of the Clones" (2002) where Anakin is a sulky rebellious teenager (played with stone-faced inertness by Hayden Christensen). The film was shot exclusively on the digital format and made for rather grainy images.
And even if one forgot all that techno stuff and decided to concentrate on the story - one was stuck with a lifeless love story between Anakin and princess Padme Amidala (Natalie Portman) compounded by wooden acting.
The movie had gotten so effects-heavy that most of the time the actors were acting in front of a blue screen with computer generated images being added on later. The beasts were more fantastic and so were the backdrops and armies but they looked incredibly sterile and lifeless.
The final prequel, "The Revenge of the Sith," which opens today, chronicles Anakin's fall and transformation into the venomous Vader The film also shows the birth of Leia and Luke thus tying the two trilogies together. The film, which the Time Magazine has called "darker, scarier, better," is the first to cross the PG-barrier.
While "Sith" has been compared to "Empire Strikes Back" (everyone's favourite "Star Wars" film), with five light sabre duels (including one featuring the lovable, wise Yoda) and the return of Chewbacca (Han Solo's furry ewok sidekick), there is also a feeling of relief that the saga is finally finished.
Lucas insists the third trilogy, episodes VII, VIII and IX, was mainly a media invention. So as the music swells up one last time you could indulge in big time nostalgia and some eye-popping special effects courtesy Industrial Light and Magic. May the force be with you!
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