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Slate's Summary Judgment: 'Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist,' 'Revenge of the Sith'


We can't all get to France for the weekend, but we `Cannes' visit the local movie theater. What's on this weekend? It's time for our weekly digest of what the critics are saying about the Force being with a certain new release. Here's Mark Jordan Legan with Slate's Summary Judgment.


OK, let's get right to that prequel that everyone in the world is talking about. That's right, "Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist." Now, now, don't get your Obi-Wan in a twist; we'll get to that other little film in a minute.

But first, in limited release, we have Paul Schrader's version of "The Exorcist" prequel. Now the odd thing about this one is that after Schrader, who write "Taxi Driver" and "Raging Bull," turned in his finished film, the studio deemed it too slow and not scary enough and dumped the whole thing. Then they hired Randy Harlin of "Die Hard 2" and "Cliffhanger" fame to make the film over and add more jolts and shake it up. Harlin's version was a critical and commercial flop last year, and thanks to the Internet and horror film fans asking for it, Schrader's version is now seeing the light of day.

(Soundbite of "Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist")

Unidentified Man #1: Built the church on top of this. That's why they buried it, to hold this down. They used St. Michael to emphasize that the Old Guards had no power before the one.

Unidentified Man #2: But I never believed.

LEGAN: Well, most of the critics like it better than Harlin's version, but not by much. Even though LA Weekly found it an `ambitious, serious-minded horror opus,' The Village Voice sniffs, `Predictably, Schrader's version is a sober as Harlin's is beery,' and Entertainment Weekly says, `This film is a notch better than Harlin's. It's elegantly framed and stately where the other one was music-video pushy.' So basically, we have strike two for "The Exorcist" prequel. Why don't they give the same script to the Farrelly brothers and then maybe "There's Something About Satan" will finally hit box-office gold.

Speaking of box-office gold, this week's only wide release--make that superwide release--is "Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Nerds"--er, "the Sith," sorry. The final chapter in the prequel trilogy shows how young Anakin Skywalker becomes Darth Vader, and then--oh, come on. If you need a plot recap, this movie doesn't need you.

(Soundbite of "Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith")

Mr. IAN McDIARMID: (As Emperor Palpatine) All who gain power are afraid to lose it, even the Jedi.

Mr. HAYDEN CHRISTENSEN: (As Anakin Skywalker) The Jedi use their power for good.

Mr. McDIARMID: (As Palpatine) Good is a point of view, Anakin. The Sith and the Jedi are similar in almost every way, including our quest for greater power.

Mr. CHRISTENSEN: (As Skywalker) The Sith rely on their passion for their strength. They think inwards, only about themselves.

Mr. McDIARMID: (As Palpatine) And the Jedi don't?

LEGAN: Now you might recall, episodes I and II were panned as nearly unwatchable by many critics. This time they're being pretty kind. That George Lucas is a genius. He didn't want to make those movies so lame, but he was forced to by the dark side. The New York Times crows that `"Sith" is by far the best film in the more recent trilogy and also the best of the four Mr. Lucas has directed. That's right, it's better than "Star Wars."'

The Baltimore Sun calls it `a pop masterpiece,' but the New York Daily News sums it up best for all the film's detractors--and they are out there--`The dialogue is astonishingly feeble and the acting unforgivably wooden.' In fact, complaints about the acting and dialogue about, even in the positive reviews. But most critics seem happy to overlook such earthly quibbles when it comes to a franchise that's meant so much to so many for so long. The Washington Post calls it `a brilliant consummation to a promise made a long time ago, far, far away in a galaxy called 1977.'

Of course, my one complaint with the film is that it never does explain how Darth Vader ended up doing voice-overs for CNN. But maybe that's another movie.

CHADWICK: Mark Jordan Legan is a Jedi-class writer living in Los Angeles.

And there's more to come on DAY TO DAY from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Mark Jordan Legan