Saturday, 4 July 2015

Film Review: Star Wars Ep III - Revenge of the Sith

Director: George Lucas
Starring: Hayden Christensen, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Kenny Baker, Anthony Daniels, Samuel L. Jackson, Frank Oz, Christopher Lee
Runtime: 140 minutes

10 years old this month, Revenge of the Sith was (at the time) the definitive conclusion to George Lucas' Star Wars saga. In conjoining the Original Trilogy and the newer, less revered Prequels, Revenge of the Sith is the strongest entry since 1983's Return of the Jedi.

And yet, it's still not great. The Star Wars magic is still missing in places. Here are my thoughts on how Episode III stands up today...

Forget Mockingjay, Deathly Hallows or Allegiant. If there is one film that warrants being split into two, it's Revenge of the Sith. The amount of narrative and character growth that George Lucas attempts to cram into this final entry borders of insanity. Where Phantom Menace has a thin plot strung across its elongated runtime, Revenge of the Sith suffers from the complete opposite.

During a breakneck 140 minutes, Lucas rushes through key plot points such as Anakin Skywalker's (Hayden Christensen) descent into the dark side, the execution and exile of the Jedi Order, Palpatine's (Ian McDiarmid) dissolution of the Senate, Obi-Wan's (Ewan McGregor) distrust of Anakin, Padme's (Natalie Portman) forbidden pregnancy, the conception of the Rebel Alliance and the deaths of two 'key' villains, Count Dooku (Christopher Lee) and General Grevious (Matthew Wood).

It's overstuffed, messy and very uneven; moments such as Anakin's betrayal of Mace Windu (Samuel L. Jackson) or his destruction of the Jedi Temple feel very rushed and contrived. I don't buy into Anakin's arc in this film at all and always feel as though his acceptance of the dark side is way too straightforward. It's almost as though Palpatine could've converted him by simply proclaiming, "Look, I have brownies, fresh out the oven!"

That's not to say the film doesn't have its moments. Amongst the chaos there are bits and pieces that jump out as being genuinely affecting or iconic. The opening shot that pans through the battle over Coruscant gives me chills. I really like how the plot picks up mid-adventure, almost like a Saturday morning cartoon.

Also, despite his motives being muddled, Anakin's march on the Temple is emotional and haunting, as is the sequence where Order 66 is carried out across the galaxy. The final lightsaber duel between Obi-Wan and Anakin is wonderfully elaborate and acrobatic. The master and the apprentice finally come to blows and it's everything we've been waiting for since The Phantom Menace - except it's all bolted onto the end of one film rather than spread across two.

In terms of acting talent, it's more of the same creakiness as before. Hayden Christensen is no better here than in Attack of the Clones. It's really hard to sympathise with Anakin and his torment when Christensen can't act for shit. The same can be said for pretty everyone across the cast - and that's saying something when you have talents like Portman and Jackson onboard.

The dialogue isn't much better. Lines such as "Anakin, you're breaking my heart!" and "From my perspective the Jedi are evil!" belong in a freshman year student film or fanfic rather than the official, signed-off script. And yes, I know that this is Star Wars and not Hamlet but c'mon, cinema's most iconic series can do better - the Original Trilogy is proof of that.

Something that does satisfy in Revenge of the Sith are the visual effects. Having honed his craft on the previous two prequels, Lucas dumps the full extent of his imagination on the film and transports us to new worlds not before seen - Kashyyyk, Utapau and Mustafar to name a few. Not only that but we finally see the legendary Clone Wars committed to film - the opening sequence I mentioned earlier atop Coruscant between the clone army and General Grievous' droid fleet is a real sight to behold.

Lucas certainly presents the audience with concepts that are designed to capture our imagination - new worlds, new villains, a darker tone that doesn't shy away from death and destruction. In what should've been the definitive chapter in the series, Lucas does drop the ball on a number of occasions - but the Star Wars myth and sheer majesty of the series is enough to redeem even the most irredeemable of flaws.

The Verdict: 7.5/10

Revenge of the Sith does a decent enough job of filling in key moments of Star Wars lore given that the narrative is so rushed and muddled. Threads like the Vader's rise to power feel very forced (pun intended) but the parts it does get right go some way to evening out the film.


  1. I agree with just about everything you said, here. And I still like it better than Return of the Jedi. F'in Ewoks.

    1. There was a time when I thought the same, but I think ROTJ edges it for me now :)

  2. The biggest issue with this film is its predictability. Sure, we knew the end game from the beginning of Ep. 1, but we only had one bookend. And, while the opportunities for surprise narrowed a bit in Ep. 2, we didn't exactly know where it would leave us. Regardless of where Ep. 2 ended, we would have been able to predict the events of Ep. 3. So, why not pack some of that Ep. 3 drama into Ep. 2. You hit the nail on the head, here!

    1. Thanks mate! I've never really thought of it that way! :)



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