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Star Wars Episode III - The icon of Darth Vader kind of took over and the tragedy of Darth Vader got diminished

Feature by: Jack Foley

FEW could have imagined that Star Wars would become such an iconic Force in popular culture following its initial release in 1977, yet almost 30 years on the final film in the saga is set to obliterate box office records the world-over.

Revenge of the Sith (or Episode III) marks the completion of an epic journey for Star Wars creator, George Lucas, and has to rate as one of the most keenly-anticipated movie events in recent memory.

But speaking at a press conference in London on the eve of the film's UK release, Lucas maintained that he had never intended the film to be anything but a Saturday matinee-style serial.

"You never saw what came before and you never saw what came after," he explained.

"It was designed to be the tragedy of Darth Vader, which is that it starts with this monster coming through the door and throwing everybody around. Then, halfway through the movie, you realise this villain of the piece is actually a man and that the hero is his son, and in the end the villain turns into the hero inspired by his son."

Star Wars was also intended to be one movie, but had to be broken up into three because of the costs involved and the running time that would be needed.

In the process, however, Lucas' vision became altered.

"The icon of Darth Vader kind of took over, and the tragedy of Darth Vader got diminished. It was harder to see that it was actually a story about a guy who becomes redeemed," he continued.

Upon completing The Return of the Jedi [the final film in the saga and the concluding part of the initial trilogy] Lucas decided to take time out from making movies in order to concentrate on raising his children, which he did for 15 years.

"But then I began to think about the fact that the tragedy part of the thing had been lost and it would be interesting to tell the people the full story of what happened and strengthen that part of it.

"So when I returned to making films, was I going to go off and do these kind of avant-garde movies that I had intended to do, or should I take one last shot at Star Wars and maybe tell the back story so that the tragedy becomes more apparent?

"It was then that I realised that if I didn't do it then, when I was 50, then I would probably never get around to it. I thought I would regret it if I didn't do it."

The ensuing prequels have had their fair share of critics. The Phantom Menace, for instance, was almost universally derided, while Attack of the Clones didn't cope much better.

Yet Lucas always maintained that they were merely building blocks towards the prequel's eventual finale - the transformation of Anakin Skywalker into Darth Vader.

As such, Revenge of the Sith delivers the moment Star Wars fans have been waiting for - the rise of Lord Vader - and succeeds in portraying the tragedy of Anakin Skywalker in a style that contains more than a nod or three to Shakespeare.

Asked whether he was satisfied with the outcome, or would be returning to the prequels in 10 years' time to make further alterations (as he did with the original trilogy), Lucas was adamant that he was happy.

"The last three I've pretty much been able to make them the way I want. I haven't had much interference, I've spent as much as I've needed to spend to make them work, so now the whole thing is complete and it's pretty much the way I want it to be, so I'm not going to bother."

And returning to the issue of the original films in the series, he continued: "The real issue is that the first trilogy never was finished. Episode IV was really not finished. I didn't have the money, I didn't have the time, I didn't have the technology to actually finish it, and at the time I was kind of upset.

"People were going 'it's marvellous, how do you feel about it', and I was like 'I feel that it's 50 or 60% of what I wanted, I'm really disappointed, I'm really sad, it bothers me to watch it'.

"And to a minor degree, this was also true with the next two films, partially because I was financing them myself and they were more complicated. But I did those films in a special edition to kind of finish them off the way I meant them to be. If nothing else, I was stubborn, dogmatic and persistent to get the movie the way I wanted it."

Having signed off on one of the greatest film sagas of all-time, however, does Lucas now feel a sense of loss that Anakin, Luke, Darth Vader and co will no longer be a part of his everyday life?

But with a wry smile, he merely observed: "It's more like having your kids going off to college. They still come back when they need money. They'll be there for holidays.

"We're doing a TV series, I'm not really involved with it, but we're doing two of them actually. They're not about the tragedy of Darth Vader saga - one is an animated series about The Clone Wars; all the characters are in it but obviously there's not much character arc.

"And the other is a live action series but it's about minor characters in the saga. So it's still going to be around. I'm going to go off and do my thing, the world is going to go off and do theirs, or the company anyway, but it's like the comic books, or the novels, or the games that are out there, it's sort of going to have a life of its own.

"So it is sort of like sending the kids off to college, now it's on its own, it's going to be doing its own thing, but I sort of reserved the theatrical arena for this saga which, as I say, started out as a two-hour idea and turned into a 12-hour idea."

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