Star Wars Hits Nashville

“Star Wars Episode III — Revenge of the Sith” opened in nearly 3,700 theaters on Wednesday, May 18. Showing on as many as five screens at some multiplexes, the final episode appeared on approximately 9,400 screens, more than any other movies except for last summer’s “Shrek 2” and “Spider-Man 2.” “Sith” had the widest release of any of the six “Star Wars” films (three years ago, “Episode II — Attack of the Clones” debuted in 3,161 locations) and brought in 50 million dollars on opening night alone. Box office records continued to be smashed over the weekend as Episode III earned 158 million dollars.

A local multiplex made five screens available for “Star Wars” as Bellevue 8, a Carmike Cinema, hosted their own opening night midnight showings. At 9:30 on opening night there were no lines outside the theater but a smattering of people were arriving to purchase tickets. By midnight, however, the front parking lot was full and cars were heading to the side lots to find the elusive remaining parking spots. A corporate gag order had been placed on the theater manager who declined to be interviewed saying, “I can’t talk to the press; I was told I could not give a quote,” but movie goers were happy to talk.
Arriving in Jedi costume complete with light saber to the enthusiastic applause of the crowd assembled in one theater, James Campbell of Fairview, TN, said, “I thought it was great! It tied up all the loose ends.” Campbell noted it finally explains what drives Jedi hero Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) to embrace the dark side and transform himself into Darth Vader. However, Campbell stated he hesitates to take his children (aged 8 and 4) to see it, citing a fairly graphic burning body and decapitation among his reasons.
The third part of George Lucas’ prequel trilogy is considered by many critics and fans alike to be the best “Star Wars” of the current trilogy, which began with 1999’s “Episode I — The Phantom Menace” and continued with “Episode II — Attack of the Clones.”
“I liked it,” claimed Carrie Greer of Bellevue. “My favorite part was when Anakin and Obi Wan (Ewan McGregor) fought.” One thing Greer found disappointing was the extensive use of special effects in the film, but she said she would still highly recommend it. As far as taking children to see it Greer noted, “It would depend on how old they are.”
The movie has come under some criticism for its apparent Buddhist philosophy as well as an alleged attack on the President. In one scene, a confused and deteriorating Anakin Skywalker says to Padme Skywalker; “If you’re not with me, then you’re my enemy,” a line some construe to resemble a similar well-known statement made by President Bush (Lucas denies the similarity was intentional). However, it was easy to ignore possible hidden meanings and get caught up in the sheer adrenaline rush the movie provided. I would concur with Campbell, however: “Sith” is NOT for the young or the squeamish.
On the plus side, the movie is not ambiguous about good and evil. The heros are heroic and the villains are quite evil. What makes the movie most noteworthy is the seduction of Anakin by Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) and the wrong choices Anakin makes that lead him astray as he turns towards fear, pride, anger and revenge. The price he pays for his choices is clearly seen as he deteriorates towards Dark Side.
“Star Wars” is not just dominating Nashville movie screens; “Star War” products have conquered the local market. At Nashville malls, Hechts department stores have a selection of vintage “Star Wars” t-shirts while EB Games carries the Star Wars video games. Burger King has “Star Wars” figures in their kid’s meals, and grocery and convenience stores across Nashville are carrying Pepsi products featuring Star Wars stickers, packaging and contests. Carmike Cinemas handed out their own “Star Wars” collectible — the premier issue of FLICK with movie facts, photos and trivia from cover to cover. However you look at it, Nashville has definitely found itself in a galaxy far, far away.

Photo: James Campbell crosses Jedi light saber blades with Yoda at the midnight showing of Star Wars on opening night at Bellevue 8.
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