Indianapolis. You will not find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy — not when Star Wars Celebration III is in town. Part fan gathering, part orchestrated tub-thump for the third and last Star Wars prequel, Revenge of the Sith (in theaters May 19), the confab has attracted the faithful from all over the world on this late-April weekend. Stormtroopers — members of a fan club called the 501st — patrol the sidewalks. Boba Fetts are everywhere, including a dad with two Jedi-dressed sons. A Leia in the skimpy slave-barge dress proves to be a popular photo op. And on a Friday evening more dreary than Dagobah in spring, hundreds are huddling under umbrellas and tarps to wait through the night for three Saturday-morning Q&A’s with George Lucas, gracing his first Star Wars convention since ’87. Scott Knowles, 38, is seventh in a line that will grow thousands long over the next 11 hours: ”It’s like he’s coming down from his ivory tower to rub shoulders with us.”
Or just wave, which is what Lucas does as he walks onto the stage the next day to the roar of clammy, dripping masses. Clad in jeans and rustic red boots, the billionaire auteur tells them what they want to hear. That he’s proud of Sith, the final act in Anakin Skywalker’s tragic devolution from slave boy to Darth Vader. That Sith actually won’t be the end of Star Wars — two TV series will expand the saga further. And that he deeply appreciates their allegiance, even as he has struggled to come to terms with being George ”Star Wars” Lucas. The last chance at a question goes to a boy who just says a heartfelt ”Thank you.” The kid scampers up on stage for an impromptu photo with Lucas, who then leaves to a standing ovation, and all seems well in his empire. . .
But it’s not. For there is a disturbance in the Force, and it’s called The prequels have stunk like bantha poodoo. Excitement for Sith is palpable here at Celebration, but in the wake of Episode I — The Phantom Menace and Episode II — Attack of the Clones, it is tempered by a wariness that has resulted from unmet expectations, mostly among adults for whom the original trilogy is something of a sacred experience. ”George Lucas Raped My Childhood” has become a popular refrain on geekdom message boards. Even at Celebration III, the ultimate Star Wars party, there are cracks in the facade. Like the emotional conclusion to Lucas’ third Q&A session, in which the ”Thank you” boy repeated his ”Thank you” moment and was hauled up again for pictures with Lucas. Those who witnessed it both times found it rather suspicious. Ironically, they probably shouldn’t have seen it twice. Organizers were expecting to fill all three sessions to capacity, but by the third were recruiting audience members from a seven-hour-long line for. . .toys. Amazingly, Celebration had overestimated the demand for Lucas himself.
In a perfect prequel world, Sith should have been Lucas’ victory lap. Instead, it comes with a staggering amount of weight on its shoulders. Bringing coherence to Anakin’s fall and cohesion to the entire six-part epic. Restoring luster to the franchise. Even validating the creative legacy of George Lucas.