The force is back, but for the final installment in the nearly 30-year-old ”Star Wars” saga it is the dark side that comes to dominate.
“Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith” will show young Anakin Skywalker don the black battle mask of menacing Darth Vader as he is lured to evil.
Hayden Christensen, who has the starring role, said Anakin’s personal journey from happy-go-lucky hero to concerned husband and finally treasonous soldier gave him a wide range.
“This is where you see Anakin undergo change,” the actor said, adding with a grin, “I had a lot of fun going to the dark side.”
But Anakin’s evil-doing, coupled with the fact that the most recent “Star Wars” films met with criticism from reviewers and older fans, has raised the specter that “Revenge of the Sith” may not draw the legions to box offices that the earlier movies did.
The fate of the one-time aspiring Jedi knight trained by master Obi-Wan Kenobi is already universally known, but the details of his transformation to the dark side are what fans want to know.
Director George Lucas Wednesday gave reporters their first look at “Sith.” Lucas told reporters he envisioned the first three films, which began with “Star Wars” in 1977, as rousing entertainment about the children of Anakin and Senator Padme Amidala — Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia Organa.
'A more mature look'The final three films that began with “Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace” in 1999, tell the parents’ more conflicted tale. “I knew this would be a more mature look at the story,” Lucas said.
After Anakin (Hayden Christensen) and Obi-Wan (Ewan McGregor) face down their rival Count Dooku, they learn more evil is afoot in the galactic Republic, which is taken over by Chancellor, soon-to-be-Emperor, Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid).
Skywalker is allied with Palpatine, which upsets the Jedis because they believe the chancellor is trying to grab power by controlling the Republic’s Senate. The senior member of the Jedi Council, Mace Windu, tries to undermine Palpatine, but his purposes are unclear to Anakin and equally suspicious.
These two competing forces — Palpatine and the Jedis — coupled with premonitions that Anakin’s loving wife Amidala will soon die during childbirth, weigh heavily on the young space warrior.
Overall, the five “Star Wars” movies have generated nearly $3.5 billion in global ticket sales. “Phantom Menace” raked in just under $926 million to lead the group, but 2002’s “Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones” fell to $648 million.
Calling all fansProducer Rick McCallum thinks the final film, which cost Lucas’ movie company $113 million to make, will bring out all its fans.
Audiences who grew up with the first “Star Wars” movies want to know how Darth Vader came to father their hero. Younger moviegoers crave an understanding of how their idol Anakin could be lured to the dark side.
Both groups get more light-saber duels, epic space battles and wild-looking aliens than they could imagine. “I do believe the film will satisfy both audiences,” McCallum said.
After “Revenge of the Sith,” Lucas has vowed to go back to his roots to make smaller, more artistic films although he is not saying exactly what those projects are.
“I don’t know what it is,” he said. “I’m not there yet.”
“Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith” premieres in several U.S. cities on May 12, then begins a series of European debuts starting at the Cannes film festival on May 15. It begins playing for audiences in theaters worldwide starting on May 19.