The broader story of the prequels is based on Roman history and the rise of the Third Reichthe story of a democracy that slips into dictatorship. It was easy to overlook the political plot during episodes I and II, when it consisted mainly of confusing talk of trade federation taxation of outlying trade routes, separatists, and the squabbling space aliens who filled the floating pods of the Galactic Senate. But now, it becomes obvious that the strange dealings all amounted to a concerted power grab by Palpatine to become Chancellor, secure emergency powers for himself, and build an army of clones. Using a fabricated threat, he launched a fraudulent war to extend his grip on power. Sound like anyone you know?
With familiar rhetoric, Palpatine declares the end of the Republic: in the name of peace, freedom, democracy, and security, he must accept the burden of power. Devastated, Padme remarks: "So this is how liberty dies... with thunderous applause." It is a shockingly serious moment, bitter and real. But the film's bluntest political statement comes when Anakin, lightsaber in hand, paraphrases George W. Bush's first State of the Union Address: "If you're not with me, then you're my enemy!" Obi-Wan, representing the forces of good, doesn't flip-flop. His damning answer? "Only a Sith deals in absolutes!" Mark my words: somebody is going to put that on a bumper sticker.
In a recent interview with Wired, George Lucas said: "Every few hundred years, the story is retold because we have a tendency to do the same things over and over again. Power corrupts, and when you're in charge, you start doing things that you think are right, but they're actually not." In other words: America, are you on the path to the Dark Side? Lucas did not go out of his way to stick these messages into a movie that otherwise has nothing to do with our world: the choice between good and evil and the possibility of our own corruption have always been at the heart of the saga.
It might not be overreaching to call "Star Wars" our first global myth. Anybody who's been born within the last 40 years and has access to a TV or movie screen is familiar with the story. The films' endless sense of wonder is among the best cinema has to offer. With "Revenge of the Sith", the series culminates in its most mature and powerful installment. George Lucas has constructed an extraordinarily sturdy fable that speaks loud and clear to our present situation. The movies don't get much better than this.