Last stand of Star Wars expected to be a box office blast

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The Independent Culture

It may not have the critics reaching for the superlatives that greeted the first Star Wars movie 28 years ago, but as Natalie Portman and Samuel L Jackson arrived for the premiere of Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith in Cannes last night, there was palpable excitement among the festival crowd.

It may not have the critics reaching for the superlatives that greeted the first Star Wars movie 28 years ago, but as Natalie Portman and Samuel L Jackson arrived for the premiere of Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith in Cannes last night, there was palpable excitement among the festival crowd.

The official release of the sixth and final instalment of George Lucas's sci-fi saga saw the director sail into Cannes on Queen Mary 2 to follow Ken Loach, Gregory Peck and Jeanne Moreau in receiving the "trophy of the festival".

An accolade from a festival that has returned to tradition this year in being resolutely arthouse will no doubt please the creator of Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda, even though the film was not chosen for competition and is therefore not in the running for the Palme d'Or.

More significantly, early indications suggest the film is a vast improvement on the first two episodes of this second Star Wars three-pack, and should easily surpass the $647m box office take of the last instalment, Attack of the Clones.

Screen International's John Hazelton said: "While it may not recapture the youthful drive of the original Star Wars trilogy, Revenge ... is considerably more satisfying than the disappointing episodes I and II and provides the series with the kind of finale that some fans had almost lost hope of seeing."

Todd McCarthy, of Variety, the film industry bible, said the film had ironed out most of the problems of its two predecessors and returned with most of its original power. "Stratospheric BO [box office] is a given," he said.

Lucas shrugged off criticism of the earlier episodes, saying: "I see it all as one movie and I don't pay much attention to whether people like one chapter or another." Fans over the age of 25 had liked the first three films and the under-25s "fanatically adored" the later trilogy, he said. "The devotion from each group is pretty much equal."

Lucas wrote the films when Richard Nixon was President of America and he was asking himself how a democracy had turned itself over to a dictator. Critics today have drawn parallels between the story of a power-crazed ruler waging war on his neighbours and President George Bush.

Lucas said: "I was writing it at the time of the Vietnam War but the parallels between Vietnam and what we are doing in Iraq now are unbelievable."

The original deal to make Star Wars was struck at Cannes in 1971, "so I think it's very fitting that the final episode should be shown here", he said.

The Star Wars bandwagon rolls into London today when The Revenge of the Sith receives its British premiere in Leicester Square.

Lucas will join the celebrations, which include back-to-back screenings of all six episodes, culminating in the premiere. Tickets to the event went on sale last month. They sold out in five minutes.

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