Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 2 hours 20 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for Sci-Fi Violence and some Intense Images
Directed by: George Lucas
Written by: George Lucas
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Hayden Christensen, Natalie Portman, Ian McDiarmid, Samuel L. Jackson, Christopher Lee, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Frank Oz, Matthew Wood, Jimmy Smits & Silas Carson
If you’ve sat through two iffy entries of a trilogy (PHANTOM MENACE, ATTACK OF THE CLONES) and the conclusion is immensely satisfying, does that make the entire trilogy worth watching? Hence, the big question that’s been circling in my brain after completing my re-watch of the STAR WARS prequel trilogy. Episode III is definitely the best of Lucas’s lesser three films. Everything has come full circle, making REVENGE OF THE SITH into the bleakest STAR WARS film to date. So much repressed misery, hate, fear and pain (as Yoda pointed out multiple times in the previous two films) in Anakin is unleashed. The film is not without a couple of problems, but REVENGE OF THE SITH is a legitimately good chapter in the STAR WARS saga.
The Clone Wars are nearing an end, but two powerful separatist leaders remain. These are the Sith Lord Count Dooku and the monstrous General Grievous. After Senator Palpatine is kidnapped, Anakin and Obi-Wan lead a rescue that has unintended consequences. Mission being an overall success, the suspicious Palpatine befriends Anakin on a personal level and corrupts him. Thus the storyline that many were excited to see when the prequel trilogy was originally announced comes full circle. Friends are torn apart, lives are lost, and galaxy becomes a far darker place…
If you haven’t seen the original trilogy, then you might still know vague details about what exactly happens in this film. Because it’s a prequel and the original trilogy is one of the most celebrated movie series of all time, the bombshell reveal at the end of Episode V has become cinematic joke at this point. Anakin Skywalker transforms into one of the biggest movie villains of all-time and the Empire becomes an omnipresent force of evil in the galaxy. A comparison has been made between the Empire and the Nazis in plenty of different articles and is a well-warranted description. The fall of democracy to dictatorship is believable in REVENGE OF THE SITH. Padme even says something along the lines of “This is how freedom ends. With cheers and applause.” The film does go out on a much-needed glimmer of hope with a final shot on a certain planet housing characters waiting to rise again to fight evil. It’s still a mighty depressing film. That’s exactly how it should be, considering the content.
Something also needs to be said of how exciting and fast-paced SITH is. This is a movie that consists almost entirely of pay-off for all of the build-up seen in the previous two prequels. This also has far better constructed light saber duels than in the bombastic Episode I. Though there are a couple of battle scenes involving the clones vs. droids, a lot of one-on-one face-offs take place and there’s actual (God forbid) emotion thrown into them. In the opening, Dooku delivers a more exciting showdown than his appearance in Episode II. The half-alien, half-machine General Grievous is one of the best original characters in Episodes I-III and makes me wish he had a presence in the former two entries. He also presents more of a threat in a fight thanks to super strength and four light saber wielding arms. Excess paid off in this scene. Then there’s the massive climax that intercuts between Obi-Wan facing off against a too-far-gone Anakin and Yoda fighting the newly scarred Darth Sidious. I may be going on a little long about these battles, but they really are excellent action scenes paying off in a lot of plot development building for two long movies.
The biggest problem with Episode III was seen in the last two movies. This would still be the utter blandness of Anakin. This isn’t helped by Hayden Christensen’s (a.k.a. Mannequin Skywalker’s) wooden delivery of lines that are supposed to be menacing. He looks threatening when he doesn’t have any lines of dialogue, but as soon as he opens his mouth, all fear goes out the window. As epic and spanning as the final fight sequence between Anakin and Obi-Wan may be, it could have packed even more of a punch if the previous films hadn’t delivered a so-so friendship between those two characters. I know this isn’t something REVENGE OF THE SITH can help as its own film. George Lucas is clearly doing his best to make up for all of his past prequel flaws, but the damage has been done. Episodes I-II have ever so slightly diminished what could have been a devastating, tear-jerking reaction of watching former friend turn on devoted mentor.
Though it could have benefitted from a stronger performer in the titular role of Anakin Skywalker (something that both Episodes I-II suffer from), REVENGE OF THE SITH makes sitting through the previous two prequels feel worth it. In spite of how silly or annoying they were at times, I actually enjoyed revisiting the STAR WARS prequel trilogy and look forward to covering the better (older) trilogy in the future (before Episode VII hits in December 2015). Episode III is a satisfying chapter of how Darth Vader and the Empire are ultimately formed, while the galaxy falls into darkness. You’re likely to crave a viewing of Episode IV soon after seeing this, because it leads so well into it. Overall, REVENGE OF THE SITH transcends the other two prequels. I’d argue this is actually a good movie!