Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

Release Date: May 19, 2005

Movie of the Day for Monday, February 28, 2005
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Hate the idea of midichlorians, I do.

On the Big Board
Position Staff In Brief
11/16 Reagen Sulewski Better in the ways the other prequels were good; worse in the ways the others were bad.
22/60 Les Winan Far and away the best of the prequel trilogy. Why couldn't Lucas have gotten some writing help and only directed the action scenes (with Spielberg directing the rest)?
53/85 Kim Hollis If you just regard it as a bad B-movie and go with the fun of it, it works.
166/166 David Mumpower So long and thanks for all the Sith. PS: good riddance, you fraudulent hack.

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It's tough to be a trilogy these days. The Lord of the Rings has gone and spoiled everyone for how it should be done as far as epic tales and established a new pedestal in the geek hierarchy. Poor George Lucas, who now has to wrap up his extended toy commercial in the shadow of The Lord of the Rings' successful conquering of both the box office and the Oscars. Hope springs eternal, though, and both nostalgia and loyalty are going to continue to drive this as-yet-unsubtitled end to the second Star Wars trilogy.

In 1977, while the Age of the Blockbuster hadn't quite arrived, the gears of progress were already in motion to bring it about. Jaws had opened up eyes to how much a movie could possibly make, and also had destigmatized the "B-Movie" (As Roger Ebert often laments, the "B-Movies" are now "A-Movies" while the old "A-Movies" limp along in limited release). On Memorial Day weekend of that year, this space opera debuted, depending on how you define it, on 32 to 43 screens, a piddly amount even in that day. No one, save George Lucas and a small minority of Fox executives, knew quite what they had on their hands, hence the tiny release. Even at that, it was a hit from the start, taking in $2.1 million on those screens and nearly topping the charts in first spot on the weekend. The per screen average was an astounding $48,847, a doubly-eye-popping figure once you consider that ticket prices were then an average of $2.23.

Staying in theaters for about a year and a half, it earned about $260 million in first-run, building the House of Lucas. It not only ushered in the special-effects extravaganzas that we all know and love but also created the demand for Dolby Digital surround sound in every theater. And of course, without Star Wars, there'd be no THX standard. Later subtitled A New Hope, after various re-releases, it now stands at $460 million total and second all-time on the box office charts.

Quickly scrambling in the face of all this cash, Lucas uttered seven words that would become a cliché for directors of surprise hits the world over: "I always imagined it as a trilogy." Or in this case, a trilogy of trilogies, which was later scaled back to the six films we're going to get. 1980 brought The Empire Strikes Back (generally considered the best in the series), which surprisingly enough stayed rather small for its opening weekend at only 127 (give or take) screens, but still enough to earn it about $5 million that weekend. Lucas had the geeks in his death grip by now, though, so he could afford to do things on his terms. It failed to revitalize the Star Wars phenomenon to the same level as three years prior, but still earned a very impressive $209 million in first release, which has since increased to $290 million. It currently sits 19th in all time box office, but was in the top ten up until 1999.

Lucas ended the first trilogy in 1983 with Return of the Jedi, or "the one with the stupid Muppets". Jedi doesn't deserve quite the level of scorn heaped upon it, as if you ignore the scenes with Ewoks, it does a pretty good job of wrapping things up. Let's hope he goes back and takes notes. Bowing to reality, Jedi launched in 1,002 theaters, a hefty amount for the time but still restricted to the "premium" venues. This was enough for it to earn $23 million over Memorial Day weekend, nearly double its closest rival's opening weekend for that year. The final total was $252 million, increasing to $309 million after all was said and done. Currently it's 15th all-time.

Following the release of Jedi, Lucas retreated to Xanadu to play with his life-size Millennium Falcon (like he hasn't had one built) for approximately 14 years, leaving rabid fans to churn amongst themselves waiting for the return of their Geek Messiah. In 1997, the biggest re-release to date of the original trilogy rolled out, supposedly to test the waters on the feasibility of a new trilogy (yeah, right). Star Wars itself earned over $130 million while the other two films took substantially less, though they held their own. Notably, these releases were the now infamous Special Editions, with changes that enraged the minutia-obsessing fans by changing established canon. In retrospect, this should have been a clearer sign as to what was to come, but still a weary fan base waited in breathless anticipation.

1999 brought about the release of The Phantom Menace, which many wags were quick to redub "The Fandom Menace", a joke that proved to be altogether far too accurate. Geek power ran amok in the run-up to this film, with the de rigueur line-ups forming months in advance to create that lovely "homeless person" ambience about the theaters. Speculation ran wild as to how much this new prequel would take in at the box office; surely the record of The Lost World would fall, the reasoning went, as it was itself already two years old, and no dinosaur movie, Spielberg directed as it may be, could top The Force. Numbers thrown out ranged from $100 million to the GDP of Paraguay, and it was a foregone conclusion to many that Titanic's all-time record would fall... well, just because, OK, since no stinking romance featuring that punk DiCaprio could be allowed to hold the title.

In the end, the geeks proved to be their own undoing, with Yogi Berra's sage wisdom of "no one goes there anymore, it's too crowded" proving truer than ever. Norms didn't want to tangle with the Freaks and decided to let them have their little weekend to themselves. It did in fact take a record $28 million on that first day, but that was the highest height it would climb, earning $64.8 million over three days, a full $10 million behind the comparable period for The Lost World, leaving Nerd Nation in shock. None of this would have been too upsetting except for, well... the actual movie.

While nothing short of the Second Coming at the first screening of the film would have sufficed for some fans, what we instead got was a horrible mockery of what made the original trilogy great. George Lucas's tin ear for natural dialogue hadn't improved, which wouldn't have been a problem except for the complete lack of wit and humor that had been present before. And in place of the swash-buckling space adventure we were given... a dispute over trade, thousands of soulless effects shots, an annoying little kid and Jar Jar Binks, mayhap the most awful thing in the history of cinema. It was as if millions of geeks cried out in terror and were silenced. Lucas countered with, "Well of course I made a kid's movie!" which didn't quell the masses like you'd think inadvertently calling his key demographic immature would, accurate as it may be.

Trekking on in denial, they were able to carry the film to $431 million, which was about half of a win, bringing Star Wars films briefly to the point of occupying the number two and three spots in the all-time box office charts. It even had its thunder stolen in the same year by The Matrix, which swept all the awards that many thought this film had by birthright, leaving it the first Star Wars film without an Oscar.

Regrouping three years later for another nearly universally hated title, Attack of the Clones, Star Warsians were pacified by the promise of more action and less annoying kiddie stuff. This was true on both counts but someone clearly wasn't paying attention to the instructions when they wished on the Monkey's Paw. The kiddie stuff was replaced with an awful teen romance between a crazy stalker and the poster girl for "Women Who Make Bad Choices", shot in soft-focus. I called it at the time "the first two hour douche commercial" and I stand by that sentiment. I've seen porn actors show more range than Hayden Christensen in this film, and Natalie Portman looked horribly bored. Samuel L. Jackson and Ewan McGregor both escaped mostly unscathed, mostly because they seem to be having the most fun, and didn't have to play a sullen brat.

Opening with the same pattern as Phantom Menace, it took $30 million on opening day, followed by $80 million opening weekend. Such was Darth Lucas's bargaining power at this point that he asked for, and got, 100% of the first weekend's take. And we wonder why a small popcorn costs $4.50. Despite this higher initial turnout, a wary public kept it at arms length and it was unable to improve on Phantom Menace's take, failing to sustain Star Wars-mania at the same levels as prior to Episode I's opening. The final total was $310 million, or almost identical to Return of the Jedi's take after re-releases. Not only did Clones not win an Oscar, but this was the first Star Wars film not to be the top box office hit of its year, bested by both Spider-Man and The Two Towers.

For all this (well-deserved) ribbing, The Star Wars franchise remains one of the most successful of all time, with the five films released so far having taken in almost $3.5 billion worldwide (and untold billions in ancillaries). By comparison, the Lord of the Rings films are at about $2.8 billion and the Matrix trilogy at $1.6 billion with those two not suffering in the measure due to 25 years of ticket inflation. Star Wars fans remain among the most rabid of fanboys, having practically invented the species (though Star Trek nerds give them a fight, if you can use that word to describe something with no physical exertion involved). The potential for dramatic heft involved lends hope that this last chance at the new trilogy can be something special. Of course, there's still that solo writing credit for George Lucas.

Word about the plot is, as usual, top secret, though several things have to happen here; the death of almost all the Jedi, save Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda, Anakin Skywalker's turn to the Dark Side, and the birth of Luke and Leia and their delivery to Tataooine (which, hilariously, in a case of cross-cultural pollination, is being referred to as the "Harry Potter" scene). Everyone who should be back is back, with the only significant cast addition being BOP favorite Keisha Castle-Hughes as the newly elected Queen of Naboo (it being a Hilary Duff-ocracy, apparently). We at BOP anxiously await May of 2005, as either Lucas is going to get this right, or at the very least, this whole thing will be over with. (Reagen Sulewski/BOP)

March 25, 2004
Early rumors have a provisional title for the third Star Wars film, going by a moniker of The Creeping Fear. There's no official statement from Skywalker Ranch of course, but one thing is clear; the statements that Attack of the Clones was the worst possible title for a Star Wars film were taken seriously. Your rebuttal is taken fairly, Mr. Lucas. Say it with me, people: Rise. Of. The. Empire. Let's hope this is either an early April Fool's joke or that George comes to his senses in time. (Reagen Sulewski/BOP)

Vital statistics for Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
Main Cast Hayden Christensen, Natalie Portman, Ewan McGregor
Supporting Cast Samuel L. Jackson, Ian McDiarmid, Frank Oz, Kenny Baker, Ahmed Best, Anthony Daniels, James Earl Jones, Jay Laga'aia, Peter Mayhew, Temuera Morrison, Jimmy Smits, Keisha Castle-Hughes, John Dimaggio, Gary Oldman
Director George Lucas
Screenwriter George Lucas
Distributor Twentieth Century Fox
Trailer Click Here for Trailer
Official Site
Rating PG-13
Running Time 142 minutes
Screen Count 3,661
Talent in red has entry in The Big Picture

Comparison films for Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
Adjusted Opening
Total BO
Adjusted Total
Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones 5/17/0280.03 83.20 3161 25317.00 25317.0 310.67 323.00 3.51
Star Wars: Episode I -The Phantom Menace 5/21/9964.81 77.23 2970 21822.00 24914.9 431.07 513.70 6.01
Star Wars: SE 1/31/9735.91 47.17 2104 17067.00 21566.1 138.21 181.56 3.85
Empire Strikes Back:SE 2/21/9721.98 28.87 2111 10412.00 13156.8 67.50 88.67 3.07
Return of the Jedi:SE 3/14/9716.29 21.40 2111 7717.00 9751.3 45.41 59.65 2.79



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