On Sunday, the world's most successful film series drew to a close with the official launch of the sixth and final Star Wars movie.

 

In one of the most eagerly awaited and widely hyped film releases in years, George Lucas's Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith had a glittering red carpet premiere in Cannes, complete with Darth Vader and Stormtrooper look-alikes.

 

Director Lucas was accompanied by his cast of stars, having received an award from the Cannes Film Festival earlier in the day on board the luxury liner Queen Mary 2, which docked off the Riviera resort especially for the occasion.


Cinematic milestone


Even though Sith, which cost $115 million to make, is not in competition in Cannes, all other events were forgotten as the famed waterfront ground to a halt to mark a cinematic milestone.

Hayden Christensen (Anakin),
Portman (Amidala) and Lucas


Hundreds of screaming fans surged to touch hands with Lucas and Natalie Portman, who plays Padme Amidala in the second trilogy.

The day was one of emotion, as well as glamour, with more than a few tears shed by the  audiences who watched the film.

 

After an early press screening in the packed Grand Theatre Lumiere, fans and journalists cheered and clapped, some expressing surprise at the darkness of the portrayal of Anakin Skywalker's transformation into Darth Vader.

 
It is over

The odd grisly scene means the film received a PG-13 US rating, which may dissuade some parents from taking pre-teens, probably the only obstacle to the film becoming a smash hit. 

One reporter said he felt "empty" after seeing the film. Because it was bad? "No, because it is over"

 

For many Star Wars fans, it was a sad farewell to a series, which pushed the boundaries of cinematic special effects and sound.

 

One reporter said he felt "empty" after seeing the film. Because it was bad? "No, because it is over."

 

Early reviews have been generally positive, arguing that with Sith, Lucas redeems himself somewhat after two previous episodes which were critical, although not commercial, flops.

 

Variety said Sith was "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".

Generation gap

 

Lucas told reporters he was not too concerned by the negative reaction to Episodes I and II of the prequel trilogy.

Star Wars Episode III cost
$115 million to make

 

"We've discovered in the last few years ... that we have two fan bases," he said. "One is over 25 and one is under 25.

 

"The films that those people (over-25s) don't like, which is the first two, actually are very fanatically adored by the under-25-year-olds."

 

Sith explains how Jedi Knight Skywalker is tempted over to the Dark Side of the mystical force. In one of the film's most powerful scenes, Skywalker is rebuilt from a limbless, burning man barely alive to the towering, black-caped Vader.

 

In Cannes, applause broke out when he took his first, sinister breaths through the respirator, taking people back to 1977 when Vader first towered over audiences.

 

Actor Samuel L Jackson, who plays Mace Windu in the most recent trilogy, said Sith would change the way we viewed Vader.

Die-hard fans

"Now we know how he got to this particular place, so he seems more the tragic figure than an evil figure now," he said in Cannes.

 

Die-hard British fans paid $464
for an all-day showing

Die-hard British fans paid up to $464 per ticket to attend an all-day showing on Monday of the six episodes back-to-back.

The 501st UK Garrison of Stormtroopers will be there to open the doors at a central London cinema from 6am.

 

Some critics will be happy to see the back of Star Wars, which, they feel, commercialised cinema and made it too reliant on special effects rather than strong plots and acting.

 

Star Wars has earned more than $3.5 billion at the box office and an estimated $9 billion in merchandise sales.