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Force gets grisly in the final ‘Star Wars’

Parents are warned; first PG-13 rating in the series
/ Source: The Associated Press

The Force lands in theaters a bit more forcefully in the final installment of George Lucas “Star Wars” tale.

“Episode III — Revenge of the Sith” is the first “Star Wars” tale to receive a PG-13 rating. The movie was screened for reporters Tuesday night at Lucas’ Skywalker Ranch, and the PG-13 rating — “for sci-fi violence and some intense images” — is well-deserved.

The action is relentless and includes sequences more dark and disturbing than anything previously seen in the tragic Skywalker soap opera.

Young Jedi knight Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) completes his transformation into blackhearted villain Darth Vader with a bloodbath against old allies, the body count including a corridor of “youngling” corpses — Jedi children cut down by his light saber.

Anakin is left gruesomely mutilated in a death duel with former mentor Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor). His surgical reclamation as the part-flesh, part-machine Vader is chillingly juxtaposed against the bleak childbirth scene of his wife, Padme Amidala (Natalie Portman), whose twins grow up to be heroes of the original “Star Wars” trilogy, Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia.

Even cute and cuddly Jedi master Yoda takes his lumps, torched by the electroshock treatment dished out by the saga’s puppetmaster, the evil emperor (Ian McDiarmid).

The previous five “Star Wars” flicks all were rated PG, which carry the mild warning “parental guidance suggested,” and that some scenes might be unsuitable for children. The PG-13 rating carries the alert “parents strongly cautioned” that some material could be inappropriate for those younger than 13.

“We’re getting a lot of flak from parents, a lot of people saying how can you do this? My children love these movies. Why can you not let them go see it?” Lucas told The Associated Press in a recent interview. “But I have to tell a story. I’m not making these, oddly enough, to be giant, successful blockbusters. I’m making them because I’m telling a story, and I have to tell the story I intended.”

Of course, the PG-13 rating does not prohibit children under 13 from seeing the film without an adult tagging along. And while it’s not likely to make much of a dent in the movie’s certain blockbuster status, the rating could give some parents pause.

“These are pretty intense. Who should be allowed to see them should be left up to the parents, but at least they’re warned that it’s pretty intense,” Lucas said. “And obviously, that’s not a good business move.”