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

One of the big, almost revolutionary strengths of the original Star Wars trilogy is that it didn’t start at the beginning. It didn’t walk you slowly into the story, introducing characters and their histories. Instead it just dropped you straight into the action and left you to enjoy the ride. And as the final part of the prequel trilogy, Star Wars: Episode 3 – Revenge of the Sith does essentially the same.

It isn’t hamstrung by having to start the story, or introduce characters, Episodes 1 (The Phantom Menace) and 2 (Attack of the Clones) have already done that and so it’s free to just give you action, adventure and a decent narrative story line. The reason I think the movie works so well, and is easily the best of the it’s trilogy, is that it is nothing more than a bridge. It’s story simply links that which went before to what we already know in the future. It’s doesn’t have to invent the plot, rather link two together.

Hayden Christensen (Anakin Skywalker) - Star Wars: Episode 3 - Revenge of the Sith

And that means that as a film it is noticeably quiet in dialogue. It very much “seen but not heard” with a lot more action than the others. Everything in this film is about the visual transformation, about really selling the darkening descent that the galaxy is going through by means of on screen actions rather than spoken words. I’ve accused the films before of having to always imply audibly everything that visually they were showing you. But that isn’t there this time. A look is the most powerful weapon in this film.

Also, this film is a visual treat, the special effects only ever fleetingly shaky. Normally though they are stunning and the feel joined and coherent. It feels built in a computer and yet real enough to thankfully not share from the computer game falsity that plagues Attack of the Clones. There truly are visual sequences that are beautiful. You almost feel as though this was the last movie to be made and they didn’t want to finish with left over money so blew the budget on the CGI. That and the fact technology had marched forward since they started filming.

R2-D2 - Star Wars: Episode 3 - Revenge of the Sith

While there is a lot of good in Revenge of the Sith, there are as always, problems with it. My main one being Ian McDiarmid as Darth Sidious. He just cannot fight. I adore him as the dark, twisted manipulator. And almost ironically, when he’s using the power of the spoken word to mould those around him he is stunning, and terrifying and warped. But when he has a lightsaber in his hand, when he’s actually fighting, he looks stupid. The close ups of him especially look tacky. His facial expressions giving away that this is not his natural environment and it destroys a lot of the illusions that surround the power of his character.

The rest of the cast and characters really all just blend into together, nobody really shining, and nobody really failing. R2-D2 comes into his own those as “the little robot who can” and is given his moment to create his personality and cement his reputation. He is the comic relief that Jar Jar Binks attempted to plunder in The Phantom Menace, but where are Binks just felt stupid and misplaced, a comical robot feels right and perfect. Enhancing the film.

Ewan McGregor & Hayden Christensen - Star Wars: Episode 3 - Revenge of the Sith

I also have an issue with the ending. For two reasons, and I’ll try here to be careful about spoilers. Firstly the acumination of Obi-Wan’s (Ewan McGregor) relationship with Anakin (Hayden Christensen) is just unsatisfactory. I understand it is predetermined, but I just can’t imagine it happening like that. I just think he wouldn’t walk away and leave him dying but not dead.

Secondly, the film never drags, and due to the fact it’s mainly action orientated, it never feels slow, or ponderous, and once again it uses the “comic book” style transitions that define the franchise between scenes. It’s noticeable, however, that as the film goes on these “chapters” shrink in size. Becoming shorter and shorter, until the end when they are virtual one page snippets. And while the pacing stays the same, this shrinking conciseness means the ending feels drawn out, always cutting for one last word and by the end I just wanted it over, I just wanted it to end.

While, the way it ends may leave a slightly sour taste in my mouth, I thankfully am happy to report that John Williams is back on track with the score. The film, like Attack of the Clones, doesn’t really introduce anything new but instead of loudly dominating the film, this time everything is taken down a notch and the result is a sound track that feels complimentary and harmonious to everything on screen. Noticeable but uninvasive.

Star Wars: Episode 3 – Revenge of the Sith is by far my favourite of the prequels. It the most enjoyable, and the most interesting. But I can’t help but feel that somehow it also feels wrong. That it somehow doesn’t quite feel real. I think because it’s taken away slightly from the characters and put more into their actions, it somehow loses a bit of humility and feels just like a chain of events. It’s just means that I will forever look at it as a decent ending to a poor run of films. Happy to watch it, but not worth the effort needed to get there.

7 out of 10 stars (7 / 10)

Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

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