Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith

Cast:
Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi
Natalie Portman as Padmé
Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker
Ian McDiarmid as Supreme Chancellor Palpatine
Samuel L. Jackson as Mace Windu
Jimmy Smits as Senator Bail Organa
Frank Oz as Yoda (voice)
Anthony Daniels as C-3PO
Christopher Lee as Count Dooku
Keisha Castle-Hughes as Queen of Naboo
Silas Carson as Ki-Adi-Mundi & Nute Gunray
Jay Laga’aia as Captain Typho
Bruce Spence as Tion Medon
Wayne Pygram as Governor Tarkin
Temuera Morrison as Commander Cody

Summary:
Revenge of the Sith is probably the best of the prequels. With strong performances by Ian McDiarmid, Ewan McGregor, and Yoda, it delivers much of the action and darkness that fans have been looking for. The final connection with the Classic Trilogy ultimately makes it a satisfying conclusion to the Saga.

Story:
Please note that this review contains spoilers here and there. You’ve been warned!

Revenge of the Sith is the third Star Wars prequel. It is set 3 years after Attack of the Clones and 19 years before A New Hope.

War! The Republic is crumbling under attacks by the ruthless Sith Lord, Count Dooku. There are heroes on both sides. Evil is everywhere.

In a stunning move, the fiendish droid leader, General Grievous, has swept into the Republic capital and kidnapped Chancellor Palpatine, leader of the Galactic Senate.

As the Separatist Droid Army attempts to flee the besieged capital with their valuable hostage, two Jedi Knights lead a desperate mission to rescue the captive Chancellor…

Amid a vicious space battle around Coruscant, Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi board the cornered Separatist command ship in order to save their leader. There, Anakin and Obi-Wan have their final duel with Count Dooku. Unfortunately Anakin taps into the Dark Side to defeat his enemy. It ends up being his first major step in becoming Darth Vader.

After successfully saving Palpatine, Anakin returns home after 5 months of battle in the Outer Rim to find Padme pregnant. However, the joyous occasion is marred by Anakin’s vision of Padme dying in childbirth. Desperate to save her, Anakin looks everywhere for a way to prevent his vision from coming true. It is then that Palpatine reveals himself to be the Dark Lord of the Sith and offers Anakin a way to save Padme. Will Anakin remain loyal to the Jedi and the Republic or will he forsake his training and Obi-Wan in order to save his wife and child?

Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith is rated PG-13 for sci-fi violence and some intense images.

What Worked:
I should start out by saying that I’m a little biased when it comes to Star Wars. I’m a lifelong fan of the movies and I helped start TheForce.Net, so take my opinion of the movie with that in mind. I should also say that this review is unique in that I’m reviewing it with two different hats. I’ll be giving my opinion as a card-carrying member of the Star Wars Fan Club and also as a parent with a young child begging to see this extremely intense film. I’ll also say that I spoiled myself silly by following spoilers since Episode II and reading the novelization. With that out of the way, let’s dive into the film itself.

Revenge of the Sith is probably the best of the three prequels. It takes everything that was good about Attack of the Clones and reduces everything that was bad about it. You have cool battles, Yoda in a lot of action, more cool bad guys, and no Jar Jar (well, at least no Jar Jar dialogue). That being said, you also still have some bad dialogue, slow scenes between the action sequences, and cheesy romantic moments. Fortunately none of these weak points drags the film down like they did in Attack of the Clones. With everything said and done, I think my favorite Star Wars films from best to worst are The Empire Strikes Back, A New Hope, Revenge of the Sith, Return of the Jedi, Attack of the Clones, and The Phantom Menace. (But ask me again in a year and my ranking will most likely change.)

The acting this time around seems to be better for a prequel. Ian McDiarmid really steals the show as Palpatine. The way he manipulates Anakin’s feelings is superbly done. His physical transformation from the Chancellor to the Emperor is stunning. From his look to his voice, it is quite impressive. When he finally looks like the Emperor from Return of the Jedi, it is very disturbing. McDiarmid also delivers a number of the lines with just the right amount of feeling to really irk you. For example, after Anakin kills Dooku, he congradulates Anakin and casually says, “Kill him” with just the right amount of cheerfulness to make you do a double take.

Also stealing the show again is Yoda. Every scene he is in is great. His final battle with Darth Sidious ends up being the real impressive moment and almost upstages the final battle between Anakin and Obi-Wan in which it is intercut with. This is also probably the best Obi-Wan performance by Ewan McGregor. He shows so much more emoton this time around that you can’t help but notice the difference. McGregor plays him with a lot of humor early on, then with a lot of anger and regret towards the end. Natalie Portman is also pretty good as Padmé. In the first half of the film her performance is not that great because she’s stuck only doing romantic dialogue with Anakin. However, as the film gets darker and darker, she’s able to do a little bit more…namely crying. And she does it well. The same pretty much goes for Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker. He’s in top form when he’s in action, brooding for the camera, or raging. In Revenge of the Sith there’s a lot of that as you would expect. I should also note that Jimmy Smits gets a lot more to do as Senator Bail Organa this time around. He’s kind of the Wedge Antilles on Revenge of the Sith in that he’s a secondary character that plays a key heroic role in the events while staying out of the spotlight.

The editing in the film is particularly noteworthy towards the end. As Padme takes her dying breaths, it is intercut with Vader taking his first infamous breath. In fact, as the Darth Vader mask first appeared on screen at the end, it was the first time I really felt the prequels connect with the classic trilogy. (On a side note, we get to see inside of Vader’s helmet and we see what he sees from the inside.) Subsequent scenes where Luke and Leia appear as infants also help really connect the stories and were really emotional for me. Over 25 years of story all finally came together.

Unfortunately, there’s no real standout action scene in this movie like there were in the previous prequels. TPM had the final battle with Darth Maul which was a showstopper. AOTC had Yoda and Count Dooku battling it out. ROTS didn’t really have one moment that stood out better than the other. None of them were jaw-droppers, but none of them were bad either. The movie opens with a good space battle. The opening scene is this great shot following the Jedi Starfighters as they weave in an out of the battle over Coruscant. It’s technically amazing and beautifully orchestrated, but it certainly doesn’t take away the crown of Best Space Battle from Return of the Jedi. The lightsaber battles between Anakin and Count Dooku and Palpatine and Sidious were all pretty good, but not stunning. In my opinion the battle between Obi-Wan and Grievous was better (though short). When Grievous pops out his four lightsabers and starts to battle, it is quite stunning. The ensuing chase between Grievous’ wheel bike and the Boga ended up being very cool.

Of the ROTS action scenes, I had a few favorites. First up, I liked the Jedi Purge. You see the action go from planet to planet and the Jedi being mercilessly surprised and mowed down. The combination of action, effects, and cool worlds made it memorable. As previously mentioned, the battle between Yoda and Sidious was spectacular. It’s an epic battle filled with lightsabers, lightning, and Senate pods hurtled with the Force. I really enjoyed it. Finally, there’s the big duel between Obi-Wan and Anakin. It was very cool, but my expectations were pretty high. It felt a little anti-climactic up until the final shocking move. (Oddly, a number of people coming out of the theater didn’t realize that Obi-Wan cut off Anakin’s legs and remaining arm.)

The effects are pretty much excellent across the board. In the previous prequels there were shots here and there where you could really say, “Man, that looks terrible”. Nothing like that was noticeable to me in ROTS. All the ships, aliens, and worlds looked good to me. I will say Temuera Morrison’s head on to of CG clonetrooper bodies didn’t always look natural, but it’s forgivable.

I haven’t been crazy about John Williams’ work in this movie, but his score did stand out in a few key scenes. The opening space battle had some great war drums that instantly set the tone of the film. There is some great creepy music during the beginning of the Jedi Purge that shows things are really beginning their downward spiral for our heroes. Some eerie droning during the opera scene is also unsettling and is a great accompaniment to the revelations about the Sith.

There are a few Easter Eggs here and there in the movie. Look for a cameo by a blue faced George Lucas during the opera scene. You can also see his son, Jett Lucas, mowed down by clonetroopers during the Jedi Purge. The Millennium Falcon is also very visible as Anakin, Obi-Wan, and Palpatine return from the crash site. Look for cameos by the mouse droids, too. Also listen for mention of Expanded Universe character Quinlan Vos among some of Obi-Wan’s dialogue.

I mentioned at the beginning that I spoiled myself silly before seeing this movie. I don’t think it hurt me at all while viewing the film. In fact, I think I had an advantage over other audience members because I found myself better able to understand some of the more confusing moments of the film. I also had a little more background on the characters and situations which helped considerably. And even knowing the entire plot, there were still a couple of surprises for me. The whole opening scene with Obi-Wan, R2, and Anakin on Greivous’ ship is different than either the novels or comics depict.

Now taking off my fan hat and putting on my parent hat, I have to mention the PG-13 material in the film. To be quite honest, I expected it to be a lot more intense than it ended up being. I think if you let your child watch Attack of the Clones and LOTR: Return of the King, then there’s nothing in this movie that’s more intense than in those. Anakin is shown preparing to kill Jedi children in the Temple, but the scene is switched away quickly like it was in Attack of the Clones before he killed the Sand People women and children. You see heads and arms lopped off at other moments in the film, but the camera doesn’t linger on it any more than it did in Attack of the Clones. Padme is shown being Force choked, but it is rather quick and almost glossed over. (Anakin and Obi-Wan have a conversation over her body before starting their battle.) The most intense thing in the movie is Anakin literally getting set on fire and burning alive. This probably clinched the PG-13 rating. His hair is burned away and his skin is cooked. It goes by quickly, but you’re going to have to judge for yourself if your kid can handle it. Padme also does a lot of screaming and crying while delivering the twins and that could upset kids. Oddly, I also think a scene where Palpatine gets his wrinkled, evil face is quite disturbing and could give small kids nightmares. In the end, I recommend screening it first without your kids, then deciding based on that if they can handle it. Personally, I think I’m going to take my young kids now and take them out of the theater during the parts that could potentially scare them. It wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be.

Overall, I think George Lucas has learned from his previous mistakes on the other films. While this is by no means a perfect movie, I think it will please fans.

What Didn’t Work:
Revenge of the Sith does have its problems. First and foremost, it’s a little hard to buy Anakin’s turn to the Dark Side. He does so very abruptly. He goes from being a loyal Jedi to mowing down Jedi children within a few hours. Admittedly Lucas had to turn him within the short running time of the film, but it didn’t seem like a natural progression in the movie. It needed more time to develop.

I was also disappointed with Padme’s final fate. Lucas tries to get across that she dies of a broken heart rather than by being choked by Darth Vader, but it’s hard to buy. No matter how you cut it, Anakin kills his wife. Yet despite proof that he murdered children, destroyed the Jedi Temple, and choked her, Padme still insists there’s good within him. Really? Where? It’s certainly not apparent in the movie.

There were also a few moments where I cringed at the pure cheese. For example, Chewbacca reprises his “Tarzan yell” from Return of the Jedi. I didn’t think that was such a high point that it needed to be relived. Also, when Darth Vader breaks free from the operating table, he does so in a clumsy manner like Frankenstein. It was terribly awkward. The ensuing, “Noooooo!” by James Earl Jones is also a surprisingly weak.

Also noteworthy is the fact that the Kashyyyk battle is extremely short. The whole battle is on the screen less than a couple of minutes. I was also disappointed that General Grievous didn’t have a bigger role. He doesn’t do as much in the movie as you might hope. I also felt that Yoda gave up battling Sidious way too easily. It would have been more logical to have seen him stay on Coruscant and wage a guerilla war against Palpatine. Oh well.

The movie also leaves a lot of questions unanswered. Why does Leia remember her mother? (I’m sure it’s something to do with the Force, but this is never mentioned.) Yoda also casually mentions that the ghost of Qui-Gon is still around and will train Obi-Wan how to be a ghost, too. Really? When did he learn this? It’s almost a passing mention in the movie, yet it is fairly significant. Grievous is also shown coughing a lot, but it is never explained why. (You have to watch the Clone Wars Cartoon Volume II to see that.)

The Bottom Line:
Revenge of the Sith is probably one of the best of the prequels and it should satisfy fans who were unhappy with the first two.

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