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Review: Star Wars, Episode III – Revenge of the Sith

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So at least we’ve seen the whole story; the ends of the circle finally meet in the middle. We’ve seen how innocence (well, angry and whiny frustrated innocence, anyway) finds itself corrupted by absolute (and a bit melodramatic) evil and becomes the face of the devil for a generation of consumers. We’ve seen enough poor acting, worse directing and execrable dialogue to last me another thirty years.

But all snarkiness aside, did I like Star Wars, Episode III: Revenge of the Sith? Yeah, actually…yeah I did.

For all of the problems the movie has–and though they’re numerable, I’m not going to go into too much detail here because honestly it’s the same things that were wrong with The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones–the good for me in ROTS solidly outweighed the bad.

To begin with, we have the single best performance found in any of the six Star Wars movies: Ewan McGregor must have betrayed George Lucas’ direction (or lack thereof) much the way Anakin Skywalker betrayed the Jedi. (I’m sorry, that was too geeky even for me.) I find it impossible to believe at this point that Lucas could draw that kind of performance out of an actor. Not only has McGregor’s Sir Alec Guinness impersonation continued to improve, but A} he actually seems to be having fun with the part early on in the movie, and B} flying in the face of everything Lucas’ direction aspires to, he conveys real honest-to-God emotion after Anakin turns to the dark side of the Force. I’m surprised Lucas didn’t just CGI all of the emotion right on out of there in post-production.

Star Wars, Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005)
Grade: B
Written and Directed By: George Lucas
Starring: Ewan McGregor Hayden Christensen Natalie Portman Ian McDiarmid
Studio: 20th Century Fox

Hayden Christensen manages to be far less whiny in his second go-round as Anakin Skywalker, though it doesn’t make him any more likable–he’s still too quick to damn perceived slights against him and blames others for his own shortcomings…a perfect recipe for being manipulated toward embracing the dark side. Anakin also confirms in ROTS what’s been strongly suggested ever since The Empire Strikes Back: face of the devil or no, Darth Vader’s never been any more than a glorified flunky. Vader may be the public face of the Empire, but Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) is its black heart.

Anakin might very well be the most powerful Jedi Knight there is, but he doesn’t have any balls: he can’t even stand up for himself when the Jedi Council thinks he’s a stooge for Palpatine and he can’t do it even when he knows Palpatine is manipulating him. Poor Anakin just never seems all that bright–he’s a do-what-I’m-told instead of a do-what-I-say.

His story boils down to two absolutely pivotal moments. In the first, he makes the decision to turn to the dark side (and make no mistake, it was a conscious decision, whether he was manipulated into making it or not). And in the second, he seals his path and forever robs himself of any chance at redemption–even to the point of revoking whatever redemption he might have found in his son’s eyes at the end of Return of the Jedi. Some deeds simply can never be undone, and the acts performed by the newly-minted Lord Vader are absolutely unforgivable.

And I believe that Obi-Wan Kenobi would agree with me. The revelation of that moment, that horrific act of young Vader’s, kills something inside Obi-Wan and his anguish is palpable during the final lightsaber duel between the two. This battle between two men who had been close as brothers produces the most emotionally-packed moments of any of the series–and it casts the duel between these same two characters in the original Star Wars in an entirely new light. All of the passion missing from Episodes I and II surfaces in this battle that actually lives up to thirty years worth of buildup. Impressive.

I wish I could take this paragraph to talk about Natalie Portman and her final journey as Padme; I wish I could tell you that she eloquently expressed the tragedy of her character in a tear-inducing performace. But I can’t, because she was reduced to a prop in this movie. R2-D2 displayed more personality than she did. But we love Natalie, so we blame that on Lucas.

What I will talk about, though, are the visuals. Can I get an “OMFG,” people? All of the spectacular eye-candy of the first two prequels was as motes of dust compared to the visual feast to the opening starship battle over Coruscant–the single most incredible such sequence yet committed to celluloid. The production design and visual effects were, unsurprisingly, top-flight across the board. If Lucas could have restrained himself to directing the CGI scenes and let someone like Joss Whedon handle anything having to do with real human actors, I think its possible this movie might have gone down as one of the best science fiction movies ever made.

But he didn’t, so Revenge of the Sith will have to content itself with being the third-best of the Star Wars movies (behind Empire and Star Wars, ahead of Jedi, Clones and the loathsome Menace).

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Written by Allen

May 29th, 2005 at 2:25 pm

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