The Force Is with this DVD
In Revenge of the Sith we discover that the Republic is falling apart and has sent its star general, Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) to confront Separatists Count Dooku (Christopher Lee) and General Grievous (Matthew Wood). While the fall of the Republic is no surprise, the DVD details and special effects create an enthralling end full of -- okay a few too many fight scenes -- plenty of action including the master of all saber duels, the final one on Mustafar.
Fans have patiently waited to watch Anakin Skywalker’s metamorphosis into Darth Vader. The minutes plod to a crawl as we see him fight, get horribly injured, slowly slip into the Darth Vader mask and take a long, loud breath as the darkest evil man in the empire. Not only do the pieces of the story finally fit together, this is a tremendously chilling moment to see unfold.
Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman’s strong performances make Anakin and Padme’s romance seem heartfelt and genuine. And even as Padme questions her husband’s move to the dark side, she knows the birth of their twins, Luke and Leia, will outlast their father’s new penchant for evil and may be the answer of hope for the future of the universe.
Yoda (voiced by Frank Oz) is still Yoda -- a fun, amusing, and well-loved character who does not have much screen time in this episode, but when the little determined antagonist does appear, so do our smiles.
Once you’ve watched the feature film, you can get to the DVD itself, which took three years to make and is available in both widescreen and full Screen. There is no VHS release of Revenge of the Sith. Lucasfilm’s second full-length film shot on high-definition video has no loss of quality in the digital to DVD process. Nothing new has been added to the feature film on DISC 1. All 50 chapters include amazing special effects. The rapid intercutting of scenes and the constant 3-ring circus effect can get annoying, but the eye candy of technological advances in the graphics easily overcome any frustration. Who would think that such an action-packed adventure could be so beautiful?
The 2-DISC is loaded with over six hours of entertainment. I was particularly impressed by the way the Dolby Digital 5.1 EX Surround track with a THX Optimizer for on-screen calibration of perfect sound levels enhanced John Williams' musical score so immensely.
● Audio commentary by George Lucas. Producer Rick McCallum, animation director Rob Coleman and ILM visual effects supervisors John Knoll and Roger Guyett offer their perspectives on the three-year process of creating Episode III.
● Scene Selection
● Deleted Scenes -- George Lucas and Rick McCallum introduce six deleted scenes that include Grievous Slaughters a Jed, Seeds of Rebellion, Escape from the General, Confronting the Chancellor, A Stirring in the Senate, A Plot to Destroy the Jedi? and Exiled to Dagobah. I wish a few of these scenes had remained.
● Within a Minute -- An excellent documentary that takes a trip through the entire filmmaking process and meeting the individuals responsible for bringing the film to life. Many key scenes, such as the final saber duel on Mustafar, are actually dissected into the number of man-hours, shots, frames and artists required to complete the scene. Producer Rick McCallum explained, “George knew there were just a few pages to this scene but getting them right was extremely tough.”
● The Chosen One -- A bonus item for those who still doubt that Anakin Skywalker was destined to be Darth Vader. This featurette takes on the prophecy as Lucas connects the dots through all the episodes. The scenes of him directing Christensen are quite interesting. “He’s the pinnacle of all evil,” said Christensen about Darth Vader. “Actually putting the suit on was an incredibly powerful feeling, this beastly feeling wells up inside of you.”
● It's All for Real: The Stunts of Episode III -- A fascinating look behind the scenes of the stunts and fights involved in making this film.
● Revenge of the Sith -- Includes web documentaries that are a 15-part series originally debuting on starwars.com. Basically the series has a lot of insider stuff on how the final chapter was developed.
● A Hero Falls -- A dream-like music video with John William’s “Battle of the Heroes” track chronicling Anakin’s fall from the good side.
● Star Wars Battlefront II -- Gamers will want to check out this trailer and XBOX demo game. From any one of several different game players, it’s possible to relive Episode III’s opening space battle.
● Star Wars Empire at War Trailer -- a look at the new LucasArts PC game.
● Trailers and TV spots.
● Never-before-seen Production Gallery -- a gallery of shots (some planned, others unplanned) of Lucas and others during production.
● Easter Eggs -- fun stuff for those who like these sorts of things. You’ll love the “kitchen sink” item and the bit with Yoda getting funky. Hint -- there are tips on how to find these on the Internet
For those who believe Lucas when he said, “This is the end, it’s done!” rest assured this franchise will not die. Episode II: Attack of the Clones will be available on DVD Nov. 12, and Episode I has been reissued on DVD. Star Wars: Clone Wars, the animated adventure series on the Cartoon Network, releases Volume 2 on DVD December 6, and there’s the live-action television series about the Clone Wars coming in 2007. I guess the Force is still with us.
(Released by Twentieth Century Fox Home Video and rated “PG-13” for sci-fi violence and some intense images. Bonus items not rated.)
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Diana’s reviews of classic films are posted at http://classicfilm.about.com.