A Review by Noah Antwiler
I'm the only one left. Before, I had a group of friends eager to go with me. They skipped work and school, and even cleared out their schedule to go several times that day. That never happened. Disappointed, disheartened, disillusioned, they drove home. Some were angry, as I was. Some were in denial, citing unrealistic expectations and overly-critical audiences. And the rest shrug and respond with the blasé summary, "It was okay." The second movie had promise; we were finally getting to an actual war. The action was ramping up. The stakes were higher. We were finally getting to the wars of Star Wars. The group who went with me was about a quarter of its previous size, and we went wearing grimaces of poor expectations, like one anticipating the removal of wisdom teeth. Already jaded, we watched in a mournful silence the one-dimensional utility-only dialogue, the pervasive and invasive special effects, the ruination of established characters, and some of the worst acting known in science fiction since Johnny Mnemonic. Some were devastated once again. Some weren't surprised. Some remained in denial. And others conceded, "It was better than the first. It was okay."
Now it's only me. I'm it. My own brother-- who will watch anything-- refused to go. My other friends have patently declined to ever pay to see the movie. It's not out of any protest or organized boycott; I think you can see the futility in such a gesture. George Lucas has so much money I like to imagine he has a Money Bank like Scrooge McDuck, doing the backstroke through $100 bills he earned from the sales of action figures alone. It's not a protest, it's not a mark of honor to refuse. It's not a rallying call or some martyring "I am Spartacus" cry. It's just...over for them. They're DONE. They just can't take it any more. They're not even able to steel themselves to ride out this crummy trilogy as it crashes down in flames, like they said they would at first. Their hearts are broken, and apathy beats disappointment. Episode 3 could be the best movie ever, and I could even tell them that. And you know what? They STILL wouldn't go. That's how ruined the series is. That's how ruined BOTH series are. You can't even go watch the original trilogy anymore, not without being forced to pay for those damnable special editions. The editions that splice Jabba the Hutt crudely into Episode 4, and where Greedo still manages to get his shot off first. The editions that change Boba Fett's voice to some Kiwi motherfucker's instead of the cold, mercenary voice we fell in love with. The editions that dropkick the old Anakin Skywalker out of the film and replace his ghostly apparition with the most unwelcome Hayden Christensen.
These are the editions that will endure into the future. These terrible, altered movies will be the only way they'll be preserved, unless you're one of the few that managed to salvage the untouched movies on VHS tape. Not only has George Lucas ruined the new movies, he's managed to go back and kill what love we've had for the old ones. Can the man not stand back and just let his artistry endure as it is? Must he give in to weakness and continually retouch his work in some Sisyphusian attempt to perfect it? Why does he not realize that he's doing harm, not good?
My bitching is, for the most part, falling on deaf ears. The movie will still make a zillion dollars, which most will equate with the creation of a successful film. This just isn't true, as the Star Wars name has a certain built-in fanbase to it. You could make a tape of George Lucas receiving a golden shower while sodomizing himself with a prop lightsaber, call it Star Wars: Fuck the Fans, and it would still make $60 million in the opening weekend. Good or bad, kids will want to go, older fans will be delusional enough to wander in, and critics like me will pay just to watch the train wreck and gripe about it afterwards.
I walked into the theater already very pissed off at Star Wars. I wasn't fuming at the prequels, or psyching myself up to go into the movie with a bad attitude. On the contrary, my initial impressions were that Episode 3 would prove to be quite good. I was pissed off because C-3PO was on my box of Cheez-Its. Yoda was trying to take my Mountain Dew. Darth Vader was having a staring contest with the fucking Burger King, and shilling Sith M&Ms on the side. R2-D2's on my Pepsi. I'm drinking out of R2-D2's head. I can't turn around without seeing Star Wars plastered on anything and everything edible, on all 3 major gaming platforms and wired on XBox Live. I haven't seen promotional madness like this since Batman hit theatres. And there has never been a series of movies so toyetic as the Star Wars prequels. Hey, there's nothing wrong with being capitalistic. But doesn't it drive you nuts to think the only real reason there's a Droid Army, a General Grievous, Wookiees and Jedi starfighters around is so we can market them as action figures? Am I really so cynical as to see cold marketing figures in every creative decision made in these movies now?
I guess so. I don't like being this angry at the movies. No, honestly, I really don't. And just to prove it, I'll say this up front: Revenge of the Sith is, in fact, the best of the 3 prequels. That's a damn low bar, and it doesn't say much, so I'll even go further than that. I was even entertained by this movie. Was it a good movie? Definitely not. But for the first time in a LONG time, its heart was in the right place. The action was ratcheted up, there was actual tension, there was a war going on, and the stakes were high. The action sequences are undeniably awesome, and some scenes will endear themselves as classics among the fans, even myself. From a purely shallow standpoint, I can easily lean back, drool into my popcorn, and watch the laser sword fighting like a good boy and be entertained by all the kung-fu and flashing lights. But there's nothing to it here. It's all flash and flair, all CG and robots and toys, and blue screens. There's no depth here. The dialogue is ham-fisted and brutish, the plot unsurprising and is only a clothesline to string together protected battle sequences, and the acting is still truly horrible. Stifled by Lucas' inept direction, the only drama found here is in the climactic final duel, when the actors finally, FINALLY, break out of their shells. Production values can buy kickass action sequences (and they have), but they can't buy drama.
The theater was about 70% full. Most were smart enough to avoid the front seven rows and subsequently avoided the massive chiropractic nightmare that would have certainly ensued. Despite the PG-13 warning (oooooh scary!) and the rumors of intense violence, there's not a parent around dissuaded from bringing their brats along. And so the majority of the audience was costumed dorks and those without costumes with their kids. Those in costume did not have kids, because people who dress like Tusken Raiders do not get laid.
I was seated at the end of the row in a nice spot in the theater with a row of 4 year-olds as far to my left as I could see. Consequently, I could never settle down to watch a damn minute of the film in peace, because I was being constantly interrupted by middle-aged morons brushing their asses in my face as they escorted their kids to the bathroom. And as soon as they got back, their second kid decided that he needed to piss, too. And so the journey of parenting enters its vicious cycle, demonstrating that kids have a bladder capacity the size of a shotglass, drink sodas twice the size of their heads, and consequently manage to hold their pee for approximately 4 minutes. Revenge of the Sith is about two and a half hours long, so you have to figure most kids have to tinkle...what, two, three times? There were a dozen of them in my row, so my movie going experience was of a science-fiction film intercut with more ass than a frat initiation. GOD I hate movie audiences. I hate kids.
Time to answer the burning question. You know which one. Does the Gungan bite the dust? Is it slow? Is it painful? Is it messy and deliciously drawn out over the entire movie while a psychotic dentist keeps asking "Is it safe?"
Nope. Jar Jar's screen time is reduced to a net total of 4 seconds-- which in itself is a blessing, but definitely not the payoff fans worldwide were screaming for. It just seems strange that his character is virtually ignored given his significance in the last two films. I can't believe I'm complaining about it, but what can I say? I wanted the floppy bastard to suffer. Badly.
The opening crawl of the movie is finally exciting! "War!" it says as the first word! War! HUNH! Good God y'all! What is it good for? I have to admit, the crawl is awesome this time around, with phrases like "Evil is everywhere" all over it. Evidently, the Droid Army is kicking tail around the galaxy, and their military genius, General Grievous, has abducted Chancellor Palpatine. His last name is Grievous. Oddly, his first name is Dave. Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin "Little Orphan Annie" Skywalker are chosen to board Dave Grievous' star cruiser, kick ass, and save the Chancellor. The Republic stages an attack on the fleet to cover the Jedi insertion, and so the movie's first scene pans down on a cataclysmic space battle full of CG that costs more than I'd make in a thousand years. It's at this point that Playstation controllers sprung from the back of everyone's seats and we got to collectively control the video game ahead of us.
The droids deploy an impressive array of obstacles and enemies to bar the Jedis' progress, including robot spaceships, tracking missiles, and little teeny cute robots called "Buzz-droids" that latch onto Obi-Wan's starfighter and start tearing it up with their cutesy wutsey wittle claws. Obi-Wan's all "Oh snap!" and starts freaking out because he can't get rid of the droids all over his ride. But Anakain's all "Chill cuz", and starts shooting Obi-Wan's ship like an idiot. Obi's a little pissed off that Anakin's still pretty stupid after all these years of mentoring, and angrily tells Anakin to do something else. Here's a tip, Jedi Master Jackass, USE THE FORCE to rip the little bastards off your ship. Anyway, Anakin finally grinds his wing against the other ship, scraping the droids off. Obi-Wan makes a mental node to charge Anakin for this shit when he calls Maaco. "Best star pilot in the galaxy" my ass, Ben!
The Jedi make a crash landing on the hangar bay of Grievous' flagship, ninja leap out of their cockpits, and start chopping the crap out of everything that beeps and moves. The talking battle droids that need binoculars to see are even more annoying than they were before, because they groan in agony, say stupid things, and even develop sassy attitudes (One in particular delivers something to an ungrateful Grievous and quips with a catty "You're welcome").
"I sense Count Dooku!" Anakin declares. I sense a stupid damn name for a villain. R2-D2 follows along and gets relegated to hotwiring all the electronics and elevators that the Jedi need. The two Jedi start charging down the corridors, cleaving their way to the elevators, and eventually bumble directly into an ambush, where a half-dozen droids have them dead-to-rights at gunpoint. Incredibly, instead of shooting them dead where they stand, the droids stand there dumbly while the Jedi spin around and decapitate the lot of them. What the hell just happened? You're telling me that droids missed the opportunity to just waste them? I really can't take this. This is the fearsome threat that has the Republic on the defensive?
R2 has to work overtime to keep the Jedi in safety, by opening doors and operating lifts, and in a silly breach of continuity, the little astromech droid moves faster and more smoothly than he ever did before (he's entirely CG). Two large droids come to investigate all the racket that R2 and his communicator are making, forcing R2 to hide amidst some crates. The droids, despite the insane noise that R2 was making, eventually shrug and decide it's not worth their effort to investigate the cacophony on the other side of the flight deck. What, are you kidding me? The DROIDS-- the programmed killing machines-- hear a noise, look over, decide it's nothing, say "Ah forget about it" and go about their business? Get bent, George. Eventually, however, the droids get wise to R2 when he's flushed from cover, and attack him. R2 poops a spray of oil all over the attacking droids, deploys his leg rockets, and sets the oil ablaze, immolating the two droids into a melted heap of slag. I'm warning you, movie, you're already pissing me off. Don't make me flip you off.
The Jedi finally reach the chamber where Palpatine is being held, and are immediately confronted by Saruman the Sith. "You won't get away this time, Dooku!" Kenobi declares. I really don't mean to harp on about this whole "Dooku' thing, but it really undermines anything heroic or badass you might want to say when you tack on the rather undignified word 'Dooku' on the end of the sentence.
"I'm here to chew bubblegum and kick ass, Dooku!"
"Dooku....Dooku...come out and playyyyy-haaayyyyyy!"
"My name is Neo, Dooku."
"Remember when I said I'd kill you last, Dooku? I LIED."
Considering how badly they got their asses handed to them the last time, Anakin and Kenobi decide (rather unfairly, in my opinion) to double-team Dooky. But Count Douchebag is up to the task, and handily outduels the two cheating Jedi. He Force-shoves Kenobi kidneys-first into a steel rail, and pins him to the floor beneath some heavy machinery. Obi-Wan's down for the count, leaving Anakin to duel Little Deuce Coupe alone. God help us. But surprisingly, it looks like Annie's picked up some new moves since his days as a total pussy, and manages to (literally) disarm DooDoo. Palpatine gruffly orders Anakin to waste Dookie Howser where he stands, but Anakin waffles on the issue. He seems to remember reading "decapitating a completely helpless opponent who has yielded is wrong" somewhere in the front half of the Jedi Handbook. But the chancellor is insistent, so Anakin essentially shrugs and lops Count Dookula's head off. Very strange scene going on here.
Palpatine: KILL HIM!!
Anakin: *whines* But...but...isn't that wrong?
Palpatine: Shut yer cake-hole! Waste his ass!
Anakin: Okay. *SHLORCK*
When the chancellor orders Anakin to kill him, Dooku gives Palpatine a priceless "Hey, what the fuck!" look over to the camera and is halfway through shouting "I thought we was homies, you asshole!" when Anakin offs him. Interestingly, Dooku does not explode in a rush of dark side energies like every other Sith lord I've seen. Continuity! Paging continuity, please report to the script. I caught you napping, George! Can't slip anything past me.
Anakin goes over to check on Obi-Wan. Palpatine tells him not to bother, but Anakin drones out woodenly "His fate will be the same as ours." Man, this dialogue sucks bantha balls. Obi-Wan finally wakes up after a while, and acts like a dope about what happened, and seems surprisingly lucid for a guy who was knocked cold, and probably should have a broken hip, ribs, and should be pissing blood from the beating he took. Not to mention that anyone who's been beaten into unconsciousness is likely to be in serious medical peril, and needs help immediately. He would certainly be in no condition to resume the escape as if he'd never been hurt. Meanwhile, the ship is taking quite a beating from the battle outside, and it starts falling towards the planet, twisting and tumbling awkwardly about its axes. The group starts slipping and falling as the ship twists around, even clinging tenuously to a doorway as the hallway pitches down beneath them.
I don't really know why this happens. When did "down" become an absolute direction in space? They're not close enough to the planet for gravity to have its full influence on them, and if the ship had artificial gravity, "down" should always be relative to the floor, regardless of how the ship is oriented. So why, then, are they always falling downward relative to the planet?
General Grievous finally gets wise to the Jedi's presence, corrects the artificial gravity somehow, and captures all three in a "ray shield" along with R2-D2. Grievous looks whipped and is selling the effects of some off-camera beat-down (with Mace Windu, I'm told) by wheezing, coughing, and looking achy all over. I'm not really sure why a giant cyborg should be wheezing and out of breath, but hey, maybe he's not a very good cyborg.
Come to think of it, why do the droid ships have breathable atmospheres at all? They have no living crews, Grievous can live quite happily in the vacuum of space (as we later see), and accommodating a human prisoner is a rare-- nay, freak occurrence that wouldn't necessitate a full shipwide life support system with heat and air.
Grievous confronts them and takes away their lightsabers, gloating over his latest conquest. If he had a brain in his witless metal skull, he'd blast them dead on the spot. But unfortunately, he's afflicted with the ego common to all Bond villains and jawjacks with the heroes endlessly until they escape. On Anakin's signal, Artoo overloads himself and turns into a giant Roman candle or something, allowing the heroes the distraction to pull all of the collected lightsabers back towards themselves with the Force! Okay, I admit, that's pretty slick and is much more in the realm of believability when it comes to Artoo's capabilities as a droid (unlike the booster rockets). Grievous is, of course, stunned that the two JEDI KNIGHTS he's captured would do something so devious as to pull their weapons back with the Force. It's only...you know...THE ONE TRICK THEY'RE KNOWN FOR!!!
Great Zarquon, Grievous is one dumb son of a bitch. He jumps out the window into space, latches onto the outside hull, jumps back into the ship, gets into an escape pod, and fires them all off at once, hoping that the Jedi will go down with the ship once it's destroyed by the Republic. The ship is getting thoroughly trashed by a sudden broadside attack from a Republic battleship, and starts to break up. Obi-Wan asks Anakin if he has any idea how to fly a Droid Army cruiser, and Anakin's all "Yeah asshole, they teach us that in our sophomore year." They decide to land the capital ship on the planet surface, like there's nothing stupid about that idea. Palpatine's battling back the urge to roll his eyes, because as rescue plans go, this one sucks. The cruiser screams through the atmosphere of the planet, breaks in half, and roars through the air downward, almost completely ablaze. Aerial firefighting ships spray the ship down with flame retardant (damn, they're fast, aren't they?), and Anakin has the incredible good fortune to crash land the ship on a conveniently barren flat strip of runway just wide and long enough to fit a humongous military ship. The odds boggle my mind.
Kenobi and Anakin are given a heroes welcome back on Coruscant for their daring rescue. Obi-Wan manages to bluff his way out of the festivities on the excuse he doesn't really dig the whole political scene, and he wants Anakin to revel in the glory he's earned. I like to think he's ditching Anakin's whiny ass so he can go back to the Jedi temple and impress all the hot Jedi chicks with the story. Screw Annie, he's thinking, he can get my sloppy seconds when I'm done with that hot Twi'lek bitch.
What? Just because Obi-Wan's a Jedi master he can't get tail? Let me tell you something, ladies, Kenobi will bring on the Force, if you know what I mean. They call him Big Ben. Yoda says that size matters not, but he ain't talked to the Obi-Ho Train. Oh yeah. You know it. Meanwhile, Anakin throws a party at the Jedi Temple to celebrate his victory. Now is the time on Star Wars when we dance.
Actually, Anakin sneaks off to get some action with Padme. They're still trying to keep their relationship a secret, but Anakin's been away for a while and he's got the urge for a little Natalie Nookie. To his great surprise, Padme reveals that she's preggers, and Anakin looks like he's been slapped in the face with a trout. "This is the happiest moment in my life," he says in his best imitation of a 2x4. Excuse me.
LIAR!!! LIAR!!! LIAR!!!
I still wonder how Padme and Anakin have managed to keep their marriage a complete secret. This problem is compounded with the fact that Padme is quite obviously a pregnosaur. Wouldn't the press have a field day with this juicy little bit of gossip? Wouldn't there be someone reporting on one of the more controversial political figures in the Senate? Anakin and Padme basically live together, and nobody thinks that odd? Nobody's taking pictures of them? Obi-Wan's completely ignorant of this? They make out in public. I just wonder where the "fourth estate" is in all of this intrigue.
I know, I know, I'm thinking. Stop it.
Meanwhile, General Grievous is coordinating his attack plan with Darth Sidious over a holocom. A CG robot talking to a hologram. Do we even need actors anymore in this movie? Am I just watching a cartoon now?
Anakin is plagued by visions of Padme's death in his dreams, similar to the ones that occurred when he sensed that his mother was in danger. Even though Anakin emotes like a pile of lumber, Padme senses that something's wrong and questions him about it. I find it interesting that she sleeps in pearls with her hair permed and arranged perfectly. Must be cushy being a former queen voted out of office. The dialogue and acting are so bad in these romantic scenes, all I can do is mourn the fact that I won't ever get to see Natalie Portman's boobs from the movie Closer.
Anakin needs some indecipherable fortune cookie wisdom, so he consults Master Yoda on the matter. Of course, he can't blab about the fact he's nailing Padme froggy-style, because they'd kick him out of the Jedi order. So his approach is evasive and half-baked, sort of like when you're trying to question a doctor about a sexual dysfunction you think you might have, but you're trying to be coy about it. "Uh yeah, this friend of mine's been having this itching. Down there. And uh...my friend...says it burns when I pee-- HE pees. When my friend pees. And I think there's a rash. He showed me. My friend I mean. Not that we do that a lot...ever actually. I'm not gay." Anyway, Anakin's scared he's going to lose Padme.
"Fear of loss, a path to the Dark Side is!" Yoda intones gravely. What ISN'T a path to the Dark Side with you, Yoda? This whole Jedi thing sucks, man. You might not notice this, but Frank Oz's voice is wildly inconsistent when he does his Yoda voice between movies. It really sticks out for me.
Palpatine's been rather impressed with how weak-willed and witless Anakin is, combined with his ability to kill like an obedient dog when scolded, so he starts kissing up. He appoints Anakin his representative on the Jedi Council, an act which torques the other Jedi masters off to no end. None of them really like Anakin because he's porking Padme, and he's generally irritating. Anakin's fired up over the news, because if he sits on the Jedi Council, he gets promoted to the rank of master. Only Mace Windu's a jerk about it. He lets Anakin sit in on the meetings, but makes it crystal clear that to the rest of the council, Anakin's still a punkass n00b, not l33t j3d1 like Mace is. He refuses to promote him to master, like that's what you really want to do with the most powerful Jedi in the room with anger management problems that you DON'T want to fall to the Dark Side: alienate him from the rest of the Jedi, bitch slap him down socially in front of everyone, and make him immediately hostile towards everyone in authority. Brilliant move, Mace, you twit. Palpatine doesn't even need any help twisting this kid to the Dark Side if you're gonna be such a such an asshat about all this.
Anakin fumes in the corner, plotting bloody revenge on Mace while Yoda continues on with the war briefing. More than any other movie previously, something weird has happened to Yoda. Before, his speech patterns were quirky and endearing. He had this cute little way of switching around subjects and predicates every once in a while, and it made him sound wise and inscrutable. But the script took his normal speech and turned the knob up to 10 on the Insanity Factor. Now, every single sentence he utters is inverted. It's almost impossible to decipher what he's saying. "The outlying systems, they must sweep." "Go, I will." "Good relations with the wookiees, I have." It's ceased to be a personality quirk, and has actually become a pattern of speech that would take a conscious effort to maintain, and a lot of effort to mentally restructure sentences to fit the pattern. It's really infuriating how inconsistent the dialogue is.
After the council session, Anakin still can't believe what a dickhead Mace is. Obi-Wan tries to console him briefly, but pulls him aside to tell him of a secret mission appointed for him by the rest of the council. They want Anakin to spy on Chancellor Palpatine since they figure he's had complete control over the military for a decade or so, and he seems to have no intention of releasing the reins of power...well, there's a chance he miiiiiiiight be somewhat naughty. Never mind that such an action is treasonous and not the way Jedi are supposed to do things, they're asking Anakin to narc on his friend. Anakin protests, but Kenobi summarily tells him to be a good boy and do as he's told. Good doggy. It's been plainly obvious to me that the Jedi Council has been stagnant and corrupt from the first movie, and could do with a little genocide to clear the air, and Anakin's finally starting to get that message.
Mace, Yoda, and Kenobi take a ride on the bus together, and discuss Anakin's rather impulsive behavior. Not that I'd be one to side with Mr. Whiny, but you guys are humiliating him with your menial tasks, your disrespect, your cliquish rejection of him from your old boys' club, and the fact you never invite him to go golfing with the other Jedi masters. The guy's got feelings, you know. Mace has doubts that Anakin is Sith bait, but Kenobi naively spouts off his nonsense that Anakin's a part of the prophecy of immaculate conception that he will bring balance to the Force.
Okay guys, I know I've shouted about this before. But think about this. Just for a second. Count the number of Jedi in the galaxy. Good. Big number, yeah? Now count the number of Sith. One, maybe two? Now how do you balance this equation? One of two ways: decrease the number of Jedi, or increase the number of Sith. And guess what, NEITHER OPTION WORKS OUT TO YOUR BENEFIT!! COME ON, Jedi. You guys are supposed to be the wisest, most conscientious dudes in the galaxy. This is NOT that hard to figure out. Seriously Yoda, what is WRONG with you? As soon as Jake Lloyd walked into the council chamber, you should have leapt out of your beanbag chair, fired up your lightsaber, and chopped him into crinkle fries. I'm supposed to entrust the safety of the universe to a group of people this stupid? Where can I sign up for the Sith magazine?
As I said, Obi-Wan supports his apprentice a hundred percent. Yoda sighs and says "I hope right, you are." Please Yoda, I'm begging you, just shut up.
Meanwhile, Anakin goes home and argues with Padme in front of one of the most obvious blue screens in history.
Anakin runs off to see Palpie, who's taking in a show at the theatre. It's some really weird show, too, involving gigantic amorphous blobs of goo with lights floating around in side them while bad Kitaro music plays. It's all about as entertaining as watching a screen saver for an hour, and I have no idea who would pay to see such a thing when there's a live act at Jabba's palace that kicks all kinds of butt. Palpie goes for the soft touch by telling Anakin he thinks that the Jedi Council is corrupt (duh), and that they're really no different from the Sith, other than the Sith prefer dark clothes and badass nicknames. He relates a parable of a former Sith lord, Darth Plagueis, a man who could influence the midichlorians to create and restore life and to save the lives of others.
George, my friend, you've gone and said the bad word. The M-word. I thought we talked about this.
Anyway, that's all Anakin really needs to hear. Palpie relates the story to the Jedi's greed for power, just like everyone else's-- but Anakin's only interested in the "restoring life" part. He wants to learn that power to save Padme from her imminent death. Palpie seals the deal by telling him that it's nothing he can be taught from a Jedi. "And don't try Googling it," he says, "It's not listed." Palpatine tries to relate another story about the much less-successful Sith lord, Darth Herpes, but Anakin runs off to the Jedi Council before he can get started. It's probably better he didn't go into how Darth Herpes died, anyway.
For no reason whatsoever, the movie heads to the planet Kashyyyk, homeworld of the wookiees. Yoda lands with an army of clone troopers to combat the droids that have established a foothold in the area, and starts to prepare the local wookiees for war. Why are the droids here? Why do they feel the need to capture an arboreal planet full of 8-foot tall primitive monkeys. No offense to the wookiees, but I really don't think they've got much that can harm their intergalactic fleet, nor do they have anything worth capturing. In reality, all of this is a slim excuse to crowbar Chewbacca into the plot. For reasons beyond my comprehension, Chewie's good friends with Yoda because, as he says, "Good relations with the wookiees, I have." Good relations with the wookiees? Do you routinely go joyriding to backwater planets to make friends with furry savages who haven't discovered space travel yet? Knowing Yoda, maybe.
The wookiees work themselves into a frenzy, and soon enough, the droid army attacks! The clone troopers demonstrate their complete lack of ability to hit anything, but it's okay because the droid army appears to have severe myopia too. The wookiees fare better, and shout "It's clobberin' time" in Shyriiwook as they go whacking the droids with their clubs. The droids bring in vehicles, but the wookiees counter with the return of the dreaded battle tactic of swinging onto them on vines while giving a nasal Tarzan yell. That's right, once again we're reminded of the Tarzan howl that made every last one of us cringe in Return of the Jedi.
Obi-Wan is tracking down General Grievous in the meantime, under the dubious rationale that if he can kill Grievous, the droids will pack up and go home. I don't know why they think assassinating one guy will end the war, but hey, it'll all end in a sword fight so who am I to complain? Eventually, he finds the planet he needs and sends his astromech droid back alone to go get backup. Then he rides a ridiculously bad-looking CG lizard creature through the city to chase Grievous down. Where did this thing come from? Did he rent it at the Hertz counter? Did it come complete with saddle? And why is it trained to respond to Obi-Wan's whistled commands? And how in the hell does he know how to ride the thing anyway?
Kenobi parks the lizard and sneaks into the building where Grievous is holed up with the other leaders of the Separatist faction. He's surrounded by dozens and dozens of battle droids and flanked by elite bodyguard droids, and in a complete cerebral failure, Obi-Wan thinks it's a good idea to somersault dead into the center of the droid mob like Errol Flynn and give a cheery "Hello!" So he does. The crack team of battle droids respond immediately to the threat and jackhammer him with blaster rifles so badly, they could bury what's left of his smoking corpse in a matchbox. Actually, the droids blandly point their guns at him, but for some reason don't waste him where he stands.
"Kill him, you witless fools!" Grievous yells, so the droids splatter the hapless Jedi all over the buffet table.
Sorry, I lied there, too. Grievous instead calls off the entire droid contingent, declaring that this time around, he's going to kill Obi-Wan in a straight-up one-on-one fight.
ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME? What does Dave care who kills this guy? What does he possibly have to prove? It's not like the droid army gives a damn, nor the Separatist leaders if they watch this dick-waving contest. Just have the guy KILLED! What is it with Dave and his adherence to the Bond Villain Code? UGH! Dave whips out a set of four lightsabers, one for each arm, and battles him from one side of the planet to the other. Kenobi at first seems to be at a real disadvantage, but surprisingly slaps Grievous around like a 12-foot tall redheaded stepchild. Despite Grievous' surprisingly cool strategy of lightsaber combat, Obi-Wan lops off two of his arms, driving the General to retreat. Kenobi saddles up on his trained magic riding lizard and gives chase.
Kenobi finally corners Dave, but has lost his lightsaber in the chase. Obi-Wan's not much against Dave in a fistfight, but he manages to pry open some armored panels on Dave's torso, revealing his gizzards! Hey! I didn't know Grievous had meaty bits in him. Obi Wan scoops up a blaster rifle and shoots him right in the weak spot.
"So uncivilized!" Kenobi grins. Aw come on, dude, you can come up with a better line than that. What about "Looks like he got a bad case of heartburn" or "That acid reflux is a killer" or "YOU LIKE THAT? HUH?? OH YEAH!! YOU LIKE THAT BITCH? I'M A JEDI! KING KONG GOT NOTHIN' ON ME! AUUUUGGGH!"
Back on Coruscant, Mace Windu is the only Jedi around who's finally starting to smell a serious rat in Chancellor Palpatine. An infuriating twist. If Anakin can sense Dooku through an entire starship, Vader can sense Kenobi on the Death Star, why can the greatest Jedi masters of all time not be able to sense the most evil son of a bitch in the galaxy sitting across the desk from them? Mace tells Anakin to go report on the status of the war to Palpatine, and report back on his reaction. The Jedi want to see whether or not Palpie will give up his emergency powers when this is all over. Mace is still being a first-class clod to him, and Anakin wanders off muttering something about setting the building on fire.
Palpatine finally comes out of the closet and confesses to being a Sith lord, sensing that it's now or never to make his last grab at the ultimate power (radar!). The two circle around each other with intense expressions, looking as if they're about to tango if only John Williams would play something spicy and seductive. Anakin's knee-jerk reaction is to waste Palpatine right there, but if you know anything about Annie, you know he doesn't have the balls. Oh, he whips it out, but he doesn't know how to use it. Instead, Annie runs off to tell the rest of the Jedi Council. Mace is outraged at the news and collects a posse of 3 other Jedi to go bring him in in an oddly thuggish fashion. He's gonna call a coupla hard pipe hittin' brothas go to work on the homes with a pair o' pliers and a blowtorch. Anakin wants to go, but Mace still continues to embarrass him and makes him go sit timeout in the council chamber.
Anakin does this, and within the span of a few seconds, the weather goes from daylight to full nighttime. Oops! Anakin finally can't take Windu's crap anymore and gets into his ship to chase after the group that's arresting Palpatine. Mace and his buddies confront Palpie in his chambers, and I'm glad he's about to die, because I really can't stand the Windu character anymore. Mace Windu is one of the worst characters in the series, and I hate to say it because I love the guy, but Samuel L. Jackson turns in one of the worst performances of the prequel trilogy here. Jackson is a superlative actor, but my issue is with his casting in this role. Samuel Jackson is a very passionate actor. His greatness comes from his ability to exude the raw emotions of anger, menace, and the threat of a violent ass-kicking in every action that he does. His acting is usually infused with emotion to such a degree, he's often shouting. Mace Windu is supposed to be a very serene man, in control of his emotions. A man nothing like Jackson is accustomed to playing. The problem is, you can't take a guy like Sam Jackson, and rob him of the tools that make him such a good actor. I keep expecting Mace to spontaneously shoot a clone trooper in the face while he's talking to Palpatine and say "Oh I'm sorry, did I break your concentration?" It's like watching Denis Leary try to play Gandhi.
"All right, mothafucka!" Mace shouts, "Get your narrow ass up against the wall and assume the position!" Actually, he just says "You're under arrest, Chancellor." Yawn.
Palpatine isn't impressed (neither am I) and whips out a quickdraw lightsaber from his sleeve. Cool! He rushes forward snakily and catches the Jedi off-guard, killing 3 of the masters with humiliating ease. Mace Windu looks out of his depth, but they don't call him the BMF for nothing. After a fantastic duel, Mace surprises me by knocking Sidious' lightsaber out the window and leaving him looking helpless. Anakin rushes in late, as finding a parking spot on Coruscant is a real hassle. Mace wants to kill Sidious and carve him up into crouton-sized pieces. Even the dunce Anakin has a problem with this, but Mace thinks he's too dangerous to let live to face trial because he's got so much power. He owns the Senate, the courts, and the largest chain of Starbucks in the galaxy (Come on, you had to figure Starbucks is run by an evil mastermind). I still question how virtuous these Jedi are really supposed to be if Mace Windu sees no real problem with eradicating his enemies out of convenience.
Sidious forces the issue by suddenly blasting Mace with a liberal dose of Force Lightning. Mace continues to surprise me, however, by standing his ground against the brutal assault, and even resisting it! The two are locked in a battle of wills, one that Mace seems to be winning (because he's the BMF). Palpie's starting to sweat here, begging Anakin to make the save. Palpie's putting everything he's got into the Force Lightning, and for some reason the exertion makes his flesh all pasty and lumpy. It rots his teeth and the Dark Side seems to hold him in a corner and slap him with the Ugly Stick until he can't move any more. This is the best explanation I can come up with to justify why Palpatine all of a sudden becomes a grody, fleshy dude. It all seems like Lucas is making this up as he goes along.
Anakin seems torn for a moment, but then he realizes it's a choice between the guy who's been a jerk to him for years and turned him down for the promotion, and the chance to keep banging Natalie Portman. So Annie finally grows a pair. He chops Mace's arm off and Palpie blasts him out the Windu. I mean, window.
Mace: "I just got killed by two of the whitest fools in the galaxy! Damn!"
Palpatine has now evolved from a genuinely menacing Rasputin-like mentor into a leering, over-the-top parody of himself. The overacting here is so thick I'm gonna need a snow shovel to dig myself out. Sidious cackles and growls, trying so hard to be the most evil guy around, he just comes off seeming kind of silly and fun to be around. Anakin's completely whipped and swears allegiance to Sidious as long as it gives him the chance to save Padme. Neither Hayden Christensen or the script are good enough to convey the real weight this scene is supposed to have. It all seems rushed and arbitrary, as if Anakin only joins the Dark Side because the plot demands that it happen NOW. It doesn't help that Christensen has all the emotive properties of a flat tire, but not even Kenneth Branagh could elevate this drek. Not that I would compare this to Shakespeare.
Palpie declares that the Jedi are rebellious insurgents, and are now officially enemies of the state, along with Jar Jar Binks, Limp Bizkit, and Osama Bin Laden as a part of the Sith Axis of Annoying. "Once more, the Sith will rule the galaxy!" Sidious croons! "And then, the WORLD!" Er, well...okay, I made that up. He decides that Skywalker's been disrespected with the name "Annie" for too long, and thinks of something more likely to put fear in the hearts of men. So he names him Darth Bono. But Anakin doesn't like that one, and he doesn't really want to wear sunglasses all the time, so they go with Darth Vader instead. Luckily, Palpatine foregoes the usual Sith knighting ritual of whacking prospective members on the shoulders with a lightsaber like they did in medieval times. It's a tradition that was fun in the past, but tends to be considered hazing nowadays, and the third-degree burns are a real bummer. Sidious also mandates that the Jedi are too dangerous to live, so he tells Vader to go to the Jedi Temple with some clone troopers to do a sweep-and-clear. Surprisingly, Anakin doesn't so much as bat an eye at the prospect of murdering unsuspecting women, children, and other Jedi by the dozens. Is this bad scripting or bad acting? You decide!
Sidious gets on the phone and orders pizza, then transmits a galaxy-wide order to all the clone troopers everywhere to execute "Order 66." This activates some kind of sleeper program in all of the clones, and they go about shooting all the Jedi with them in the back. They even kill the hot green Twi'lek Jedi with the cute ass, much to my chagrin. Obi-Wan finds a surprising reception waiting for him at his ship, when the clone troopers nearly incinerate him with a cannon, and he falls into the ocean. Yoda's the only one to escape the trap, because he's ninja smooth. He senses the two clone troopers coming up behind him, and effortlessly decapitates them with one fluid iajutsu strike!
Darth Vader storms the Jedi Temple and comes across the Younglings. A particularly cute one says in an adorable cockney accent "Wut we gowna do?" like Oliver Twist going back up to the counter and asking "Please sir, ah won sum moah!" Vader fires up his lightsaber and chops them into sashimi. What a guy.
Obi-Wan manages to escape his assassination attempt, of course, by using his handy Sharper Image underwater breather device to swim away from the clone troopers. MAN that thing is handy, isn't it? Yoda decides that it's time for him to make tracks since it appears that the shit has officially hit the galactic fan. Chewbacca gives him a piggyback ride into the forest, where an escape pod is waiting. And just where in the hell did that come from? SINCE F-ING WHEN? Is it a naturally-occurring escape pod plant that grows wild in the forests of Kashyyyk? Yoda looks back to his faithful wookiee companions. "Goodbye, Chewbacca! Miss you, I will." Why is Chewbacca here? Anyone? Help me.
Anakin goes back to see Padme and explains that the Jedi are rebelling against the Republic. Natalie Portman has the emotional range of a traffic light in this scene, and expresses mild disbelief at the news that the Jedi are threatening to take over. Anakin tells her not to worry (although she lacks the capacity to emote "worried"), and he's going over to end the war once and for all. He's on orders from Sidious that he's to go kill the leaders of the Separatist movement, along with that frigging annoying Trade Federation twerp, Nute Gunray. Slowly, inexorably, Portman manages to contort her face into sadness, but she can't hold the emotion long, so the camera quickly cuts away.
Obi-Wan and Yoda hook up back on the familiar consular ship from A New Hope with Senator Bail Organa. Evidently, the Jedi Temple is broadcasting a distress beacon, requesting all Jedi hightail it back home ASAP, and to bring a dish to pass. Yoda left all his Tupperware at home, and Obi-Wan smells a trap. Yoda "hmmmms" in consternation and says "Suggest dismantling the coded signal, do you?" Jesus. Even though it's quite clearly an ambush, the two Jedi gleefully walk straight into it. They hack their way through a group of troopers and storm the ruined Jedi Temple, finding the aftermath of Vader's slaughter. They realize that some of them were killed by a lightsaber, and soon discover from the security videos that it was Anakin. Obi-Wan decides to go to the computer room and change that distress signal into one warning the Jedi away from Coruscant. Wise move, Kenobi. He tinkers with the computers for a while, and eventually, one of the machines changes color.
"For the clones to discover the recalibration, a long time it will take!" Yoda says. Dear lord, are you serious with this nonsense? Yoda, dude, just talk normal for a change. You're really overdoing it. And yeah, the brain-dead clones won't notice the one obviously green machine in a room full of bright blue machines. Idiot.
Palpatine has decided that enough is enough, and it's time for him to officially assume power. He holds a meeting of the Republic Senate. "The attempt on my life has left me scarred and disfigured!" he snarls in his EEEEEVIL voice. "It's inexplicably made me lumpy, given me gingivitis, and has added 75% more bass and reverb to my voice! And they also forced me to wear yellow contact lenses!" He appoints himself Emperor, to a standing ovation from the entire Senate.
Palpatine: I think I'll strip you of all your political power and impose a dictatorship on you!
Crowd: Yayyyyy! Democracy is overrated! Yayyyy!
Padme looks on from her skybox. Or at least I think it's Padme. With the complete lack of screen presence there, she might as well be a cardboard standee from Spencer's Gifts. The worst line in the movie is awarded to Natalie Portman, as she struggles to out-act a roll of linoleum: "So this is how liberty dies, with thunderous applause."
Just to prove to you how bad Natalie Portman is in this movie, and how bad the dialogue is, I'll tell you what happened next. And I swear on my mother that this true. A kid in the front row of the theater projectile vomited all over himself, the floor, the seats, and the nearby people. The sound of this kid blowing chunks filled the theater to the collective horror of all present, and a dread feeling crept over the room as we anticipated the oncoming putrid stench soon to come. There I sat, vomit pooling on the floor not thirty feet from me, the stank air thick with the smell of regurgitated Spaghetti-Os, watching some of the worst acting I've ever seen. I just wanted you to know that for two reasons: (1) the effect this movie is apparently having on the weaker-willed, and (2) so you know this isn't just another gratuitous puke picture. Hah!
Okay, maybe just a little bit.
Obi-Wan heads over to Padme's pad and tells her that Anakin is a raving psychopathic murderer.
"He's Robert Blake?" she says incredulously.
"No, he's a Sith lord!"
Padme doesn't really believe Obi-Wan about this whole Sith Bad thing. Maybe you should have brought the video tape of him turning the preschool into an abattoir, dumbass.
Meantime, Anakin lands on the volcanic lava planet where all the Separatist leaders are chilling out. So to speak. It's gettin' hot in here, so take off all yo robes! You can tell that Anakin's evil because he's taken to scowling and wearing a hood.
Padme skedaddle after Anakin, dragging Artoo behind. Obi-Wan in a rather ingenious move hides out in the bathroom, hitching a ride in her spacecraft. Sure enough, she unwittingly leads Kenobi straight to Anakin. Of course, now that he's joined the Dark Side, Anakin is nuttier than elephant shit, and he's already expounding his ambitions to whack Palpatine and rule the galaxy himself. Portman and Christensen's acting here is worse than the shows I used to put on with my Star Wars action figures as a kid, where Slave 1 would routinely land on C-3PO for no apparent reason while Han Solo traded shots with Ewoks. And Han always won. Anyway, Anakin outlines his whole wicked plan, and Obi-Wan (standing at the top of the ship's ramp) overhears everything.
Anakin's outraged that Padme appears to have brought Obi-Wan here, because Sith lords are notorious for being jealous and having trust issues. He gets so mad, he Force Chokes Padme out. Padme struggles against the invisible grip, and Kenobi shouts "Let her go!" like there's any chance Vader is going to listen to him. He probably should have just done a running dropkick off the top of that ramp, but I'm inclined to violence most of the time. Obi-Wan finally interjects himself and gets up in Vader's grille. "Whassup?" Anakin fronts. "Whassup with YOU?" counters Obi-Wan. "Kick yo ass!" is the riposte.
"If you're not with me," Vader sneers, "you're my enemy." And the political subtext crashes all over the audience like a falling piano.
Actually, I doubt it's an intentional indictment of the Bush policy on terror. There's a difference between a built-in message, and drawing your own conclusions from the movie and topical subjects of the day. Besides, you're crediting George Lucas with the ability to include complex symbolism and even satire in his script. Do you really think he's smart enough to do that?
Anyway, Obi-Wan doesn't care much for that "with me or against me" rationale. "Only Sith deal with absolutes!" he shouts.
Really? Only Sith do that? I don't remember Yoda talking about a Gray Side to the Force. Seems to me that most of Jedi dogma is drawn along very clear demarcations. Light Side/Dark Side, Jedi/Sith, Stuffing/Potatoes, Tastes-Great/Less-Filling, Control/Passion, Selfishness/Selflessness, Regular or Decaf. Then again, we are talking about a religion centered on midichlorians.
Vader's had enough of Obi-Wan's preaching, and they rumble in an absolutely incredible fight sequence that will no doubt go down in history as perhaps one of the best scenes of any of the movies. The choreography and score are top-notch here. The two hammer each other all over the installation with the lava roaring all about them. Anakin catches Kenobi's throat with his hand and starts to choke him out with wrist muscles exercised to superhuman levels from his many, many years of wanking off. Actually it's his mechanical hand, but I still bet he chokes the wampa with it. The planet is going absolutely apocalyptic around them, for reasons unknown. It's as if the planet itself knows that it should spark off the volcanic Armageddon to be dramatically appropriate to the script. The installation starts collapsing around them, and the two warriors find themselves battling on very tenuous ground, surrounded on all sides by spraying lava. It gets so insane on the planet, I was actually wondering why they both didn't call a bit of a timeout to find someplace a little more stable to finish the fight.
Back on Coruscant, Yoda takes it upon himself to put an end to Darth Sidious personally, Charles Bronson style. He storms into the throne room, bitchslaps the two royal guardsmen into the wall with the Force, and tells Sidious to come get him some. Sidious shrugs, stands up, and puts enough voltage into the Muppet to jumpstart a Star Destroyer. Yoda rockets backwards into the wall and crumples in a burlap heap. Sidious gloats over his apparent victory, and instead of dropping the People's Elbow on Yoda like he ought to, he sasses long enough for Yoda to get his bearings and whip out that lightsaber of his. Yoda and Palpie have themselves a donnybrook all over the Senate chamber; another grandiose and fantastic battle ranging the entire length of the sweeping spectacle of the Senate. Palpie realizes he can't take Yoda in a swordfight, because Yoda's too ninja. So he starts hurling those huge hovercars from all over the room at Yoda. Yoda goes on the defensive, doing all he can to dodge the mechanical mayhem. Palpatine really looks like he's enjoying himself, and the whole time the battle's taking place, he's laughing his wrinkly ass off. Being a Sith lord is way more fun than you'd think! Eventually, he gets on an even footing with Palpie once more and they lock themselves in a battle of wills, struggling over control of Force Lightning. To my shock, Yoda LOSES the struggle and gets hurled sickeningly to the floor far below.
Injured and defeated, Yoda crawls off to hide, muttering "Too old for this shit, I am." He decides (rather oddly) that he has failed and he will go into exile. Why wouldn't he just make a new lightsaber and help the Rebellion lead the struggle against the Emperor? He gets beaten in one close fight, and he decides to go into retirement? Some Jedi master you are.
Can someone explain to me now why, in the span of twenty years, Yoda goes from being the ultimate ninja master with a lightsaber to utterly decrepit and physically useless? And if Palpatine is also able to fight on a level close to Yoda's, why should the passage of years make him completely unable to resist Vader plucking him up over his head like a child in Return of the Jedi and tossing him into the abyss?
Vader and Obi-Wan are still clubbing each other back on the lava planet, only now, the building they were in has collapsed. Now they're battling atop a river of lava, balanced precariously on metal platforms and flying droids with flat heads that are appropriate for videogame platforming fun. Obi-Wan leaps onto a high outcropping of rock, because he's smart enough to get the hell away from the LAVA. Anakin stares laser beams at Obi-Wan and readies to attack, but Kenobi tries to warn him off. "I have the higher ground!" he shouts! But Vader isn't hearing it. He super-leaps up in the air and runs straight into Obi-Wan's upward arcing strike, cleaving both his legs and his arm off in one flawless stroke! Three limbs in ONE shot! DAAAAAAAMN!! And the bummer of it is, nobody's ever gonna believe this when Obi-Wan tells them!
I even have to compliment the acting here at last. FINALLY there's some real emotion here as a tortured Obi-Wan howls "You were the Chosen One!!" while Anakin croaks in impotent rage at his feet. It's great stuff. Then I'm horrified to see that instead of taking Anakin back with him for treatment, or even putting him out of his misery, he lets the lava rise and watches as Anakin fries to a crisp in front of him! Oh my GOD! I can't believe what I'm seeing here. I thought...I thought you were friends! I thought you were a Jedi! A good guy! You just watched while a helpless man cooked, and then left him for dead! Jesus!!
Obi-JERK Kenobi leaves the planet with Padme, who appears to be dying. The medical droid solemnly approaches Kenobi and Senator Organa and says that there's nothing physically wrong with her, but she's dying anyway. "She's lots the will to live," the droid surmises. What the hell? Here's a tip, you dumb metal shit, maybe it's the crushed trachea. This movie is REALLY pissing me off now. But I guess Lucas wants us to roll with the notion that Padme is dying of sadness, so let's just go with that for now. Then why in the FUCK is Padme smiling the whole time as she sees her newborn twins??? One of the most special, beautiful, happy moments of her life, no doubt, and she doesn't seem the least bit brokenhearted. There are a thousand ways we could have killed Padme off, and Lucas went with sadness? So much for Leia knowing anything about her "real mother," huh? Suck it, George.
Elsewhere, Palpatine has found Darth Vader (who's not quite dead) and has some surgeons fit him with some new clothes. And arms and legs. And lungs. And firewire ports. Vader staggers to his new metal feet, and asks in James Earl Jones' trademark voice where Padme is. Palpatine gets an "uhhhh" look on his face, then improvises that in his rage, he accidentally killed her. Anakin protests that he remembers not doing that, but seeing as how he's still a complete dope, eventually takes Palpatine's line of B.S. hook, line, and sinker. Vader looks up to the sky and screams "NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!" issuing unintentional laughs from me. I had no idea this was coming, and it just sounded completely hilarious that Vader would have a Shatner moment like this.
Jones' delivery of the line is terrible, but I think it's more that a scream is completely out of character for Darth Vader (the guy in the black suit we know from the original trilogy). Vader has a lot of rage, but it's not the overt SCREAMING type of rage. He seethes, he threatens, he's bold and blunt. And even when he loses control of himself and lashes out in violence, his voice remains relatively calm and cold. Even when Vader is vulnerable before Luke ("It is...too late for me...") he doesn't give in to tortured screams of internal torment. I know that we're talking about a character who has just lost the love of his life, but...I don't know. It doesn't sound right coming through that mask.
And so we come to the end of the movie. Obi-Wan, Yoda, and Bail Organa meet up to decide what to do with the Skywalker twins. Obi-Wan decides he'll take Luke to the Skywalker family on Tatooine, Organa will take Leia back home to Alderaan, the droids get their memories wiped, and they tell Yoda to go piss off in a swamp somewhere. Yoda pulls Kenobi aside first, and tells him that he knows of a way to cheat death, in a way. He says that his old master, Qui-Gon Jinn has mastered the technique of living on in an incorporeal form, and he offers to teach this technique to Obi-Wan. And yet we don't see a single solitary second of Liam Neeson! What a rip!!
Okay, so let's run this down. Yoda knows how to become a shimmering blue ghost, Obi-Wan knows how to become a shimmering blue ghost. So who taught Anakin?
Vader goes through a lengthy process of rehab. The shocker of the movie comes when I see a guest cameo by a guy who looks exactly like Peter Cushing in the role of (soon to be) Grand Moff Tarkin! How cool is that?? Now is the time on Star Wars when we dance!
All images blatantly stolen from a terrific RottenTomatoes Photoshop contest. Unfortunately I don't have the creators' names, so if you'd like to take credit for your work, e-mail me and I'll make sure your work is recognized.