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JULY 1– 4

A long time ago, in a pre– Phantom Menace world far, far away, an oncoming squadron of TIE Fighters spat forth from the underbelly of an Imperial Star Destroyer was among the most feared sights in the galaxy, striking terror in the heart of any idealistic young rebel or wayward smuggler unlucky enough to come across one. Only now, however, having witnessed the pre-Empire splendor that was the Galactic Republic’s armed forces, can we see the TIE Fighter, Bomber, and dreaded Interceptor for what they actually were: a collection of mass-produced, lightly armored shitboxes with wings, easily blown to smithereens by even a glancing laser blast, that could answer for their many shortcomings only in sheer numbers. It’s this very concept of quantity over quality—which plagued the new regime in every aspect of its existence—that differentiated the inferior technology of the short-lived Empire from that of the long-standing Republic and was among the chief factors for its inevitable demise. Perhaps, upon completion of the costly (yet equally flawed) Death Star—a mobile space station designed to squelch rebellious insurrections on recently conquered worlds—the overextended Empire found itself without the financial resources necessary to provide its army with the proper training, armor, and weaponry to maintain its galactic dominance. Or maybe Emperor Palpatine and his cronies were simply too busy micromanaging their many wars in various star systems to notice that their bumbling foot soldiers were getting their asses handed to them by a bunch of Muppets with rocks. Either way, the heavy-handed political comparisons between the dark lords of the Sith and our current Republican administration imposed on theater audiences by George Lucas in his latest installment in the ongoing Star Wars franchise gives us as much reason to hope as it does to despair. The only question left is: Which of the Bush twins will convince Darth Dubya to see the evil of his ways? The films screen beginning Friday, July 1, and run through Monday, July 4 (see Showtimes for a full schedule), in conjunction with the “American Film Institute’s Life Achievement Award: George Lucas” series at the AFI’s Silver Theatre and Cultural Center, 8633 Colesville Road, Silver Spring. $8.50. (301) 495-6700.