Ah yes, the film (and review) everyone has been waiting for. Well, lemme get right to the point: Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith is a much better movie than the other prequels. Ok, you can breathe easy now. The acting is a little better (but still dealing with horribly stilted dialogue), the visuals are pretty to look at, and the emotion is DOA. But you knew (and expected) all of that, right?
There be SPOILERS here. You’ve been warned.
So let’s see. The opening battle sequence is a lot of fun, very cool, and makes R2-D2 into the coolest droid that you’ve never seen in any of the other films. So, throw that continuity out the window. The lightsaber duels, in general, are more intense and faster paced – which they should be! Which means, when we finally get to the final Anakin/Obi-Wan duel, it’s lightning fast. Like, holy cow are they fighting! Other notable battles are the Grevious/Obi-Wan fight, and the Yoda/Sidious fight. Mace Windu’s ultimate (and final) fight explains the Emperor’s “look” in Return of the Jedi, but does not do justice to the kick-ass fighting that we should have seen with Sam Jackson and his lightsaber. I think he gets more on-screen fighting in Episode II, and the Clone Wars cartoon.
The big wookie battleis the “fight that never was”. What you saw in the trailers was, for the most part, pretty much all there was. Oh well. And the way that the Jedi are ultimately slaughtered tells me that there were really only like 7 Jedi out there in the universe, and they’re easily decieved and killed. Maybe the Sith deserved to win?
But while the Sith can fight, they sure as hell can’t act. Once Palpatine goes all melty, his overacting hits high-gear. You’re sure to laugh at how ludicrously bad Ian McDiarmid is playing up the role. Contrast that with his performance on the bonus DVD that comes with the soundtrack, in which he’s practically falling asleep, and now you’ll know why – he used all his energy up playing a caricature of his 1983 role for the film.
There was a good moment in the film, though, when Padme is worried that Anakin might make a bad choice and go to stop the Jedi from arresting Palpatine – the sequence is shot very old-school, and shows (in cutting, and long shots) the internal conflict brewing. When she finds out that he did indeed go to the Chancellor’s office, she breaks down. Wow – emotion! (And the music in the scene is very un-Williams, which is even nicer!)
So Anakin ultimately goes to the dark side because he wanted to save Padme’s life – and the only way to do that was to get the kind of super-powers that only the Dark Side can offer. At least according to Palpatine, who has a very nice story about a Sith lord, who clearly was killed by himself. It’s a wry story with lots of subtext, and reminded me of how totally and utterly idiotic Anakin is.
I mean, it’s bad enough that we have to belive that he’s in love with Padme in Episode II, after not seeing her for 10 years, and it’s even worse that she fell in love with him. I mean, totally unrealistic. But now, with Episode III, it’s bad enough to be forced to believe that Anakin is so in love with Padme that he’s willing to throw everything away to save her life (because he couldn’t save his mom’s). If we accept that, then we’re asked to accept that Vader is an idiot, and ruled by simplistic emotions. Oy.
In a blessed (and expected) move, C3-PO has his memory erased. R2-D2, however, does not – presumably because he’s too trusty and (as we do see in Episode IV anyways), no one would believe him. Chewbacca makes an appearance in the film too, but it’s just like 3 very very short scenes. And yet for some reason, the crowd thought it was just the “coolest thing ever”. I guess they were easily amused. Speaking of which, the guys sitting to my left were true Star Wars geeks, who practically fainted from orgasmic joy as the opening title hit the screen in all it’s pure-digitally-projected glory. Urrggh. I heard so much squealing to my left during the film that I almost went kosher. Almost.
The Luke/Leia birth is intercut with Vader’s “assembly”. It didn’t have the emotional impact it should have had, and I think much of that had to do with Padme (Natalie Portman) and her inexplicable reason for dying. She “lost the will to live”, presumably because she found out that Anakin turned to the dark side. Not because he tried to choke her or anything medical. Nope, that’s right, she dies from…. a broken heart. Oh lordy.
The opening shot of the film is a thing of beauty – ILM does a great job with the visual effects on this film, and it’s just a thing of beauty to watch. The only problems I had were during the Anakin/Obi-Wan battle, where the sheer amount of red on screen (due to all the lava) made it just a bit hard on the eyes. But that’s not a VFX issue, just a personal one. Musically, Williams’ score was just as useful as expected. It was straightforward and served its purpose. In the grand scheme of things, it’s just alright. There are only really two new themes in the film, and they work pretty well, but the tracking-in of music from the previous films was starting to get pretty old – although it’s not unexpected. I wish they had a big big version of “Duel of the Fates”, as they had indicated six years ago that they would, but oh well. The use of Leia’s theme at the end is nice, but I still wish Williams had used the “Luke and Leia” theme from Return of the Jedi. I also wish that the Yoda shot on Dagobah was included (as I had read it was supposed to be, in the digital presentation of the film), but then I also wish that Padme actually appeared to be in danger when she was being choked by Anakin. I guess I just can’t win.
Quibbles and issues aside, this film is definitely the best of the prequels. Is it the film everyone was hoping it would be? Kinda. It’s not perfect, but hey, at least it’s not Howard the Duck.
Update Friday 5/6/05: Just to clarify… I DID like the movie. It was a lotta fun! I didn’t talk at length about all the good stuff because that would take way too long. But I liked the action scenes. I liked the pacing. I liked the story. I liked the characters. I liked the look. I liked the music (editing issues aside). I liked a lot of it. So, go see the film. It is definitely worth it – all my quibbles aside!