Star Wars Episode III:
***YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!***
Updated (6/17/05) - click here to go directly to the updated section
(5/18/05) - This is going to be long; real long. Probably one of the longest reviews you will find anywhere, but I’ve waited more than 20 years for this film and I want to get it right. As I write, I shall be listening to the soundtrack for inspiration. Here we go...
The film was really good. Not great, but really, really good. It is easily the best of the new trilogy. No matter what anyone says, George Lucas is a master storyteller and a genius when it comes to visuals. He is a digital painter of dreamscapes and nightmares. One of the things that makes Star Wars work so well and why it has captured the imagination of people and cultures across the globe, is its visual prowess. The dialogue is there and makes everything click a little better, but you could watch these films not knowing a lick of English and just know who the bad guys are, understand as the story unfolds and be astounded simply by the visuals and the music. This is because of George’s eye for visual detail and his inspiration from previous grand storytellers like Akira Kurosawa. It is this detail that stands out in “Revenge of the Sith.”
These visuals begin right away. The opening space battle is so magnificently well done and there is just so much to look at, you could watch the film ten times and still not see everything that is happening within that 5 minute time frame. This type of detail is strewn throughout the movie to give it that sense of realism. One of the things that struck me right away were the backdrops; the canvas world in which the people of this universe far far away live in. Lucas makes a point to show you that a particular planet has two gorgeous looking moons orbiting or is surrounded by an asteroid belt. It is simply stunning to look at these settings and not for a second believe these places don’t exist. The same goes for the costumes, the sets, the battles, the droids and the worlds; even just the everyday goings-on of a city or village. Amazing. A ship exploding will break apart into a thousand pieces, and if you were to slow the film down, you could actually see each and every one of those pieces with exquisite detail. It is not just what you see either. It is the way you see it. The way the “camera” moves to give you different vantage points is a sight to behold. One of my very favorite scenes in the film was about 3 seconds long and took advantage of these stunning visual cues. Anakin and Obi-Wan are in the midst of their final, now epic, lightsabers duel. As they are fighting, they go through a small corridor with lightsabers spinning and flailing. The swords inevitably hit the sides of the hallway and sparks and flashes happen just right to give you this intense feeling of chaotic battle. You are placed right in that hallway with them and I almost had the urge to duck for cover a little. It was great. I look forward to those three seconds again.
The sound effects are often my favorite piece of the puzzle in any movie. Star Wars is part of the reason for this fascination. Ben Burt has one of the coolest and most fun jobs in the world. Make a lightsaber sound like it does or make each ship have it’s own distinct sound. I won’t go into it; you’ve seen the other films. It’s more of the same, but no less magical. Speaking of sound though, how about that music? John Williams delivers again. What else can I say? It’s a masterpiece as usual. He’s multi-award winner John Williams for God sake!
Ok, so did I like the film or what? Yes. Like I said, it was really really good, but not great. Later in the article I will list what works and what doesn’t. But for now, here’s the gist: It is dark; much darker than “Empire.” Anakin does some horribly upsetting things (slaughtering children, murdering the Vice-Roy and proclaiming that it is his new empire). The emperor is revealed and finally becomes truly evil. Of course the Jedi are destroyed and terror reigns supreme.
This film is everything real Star Wars fans have been hoping for. It is jam packed with action and lightsaber duels. Very little of the cute-sy Ewok type stuff. There is very little downtime. More Yoda battling the forces of evil. This time, it’s a real fight. Not against the wuss that is Count Dooku, but this time he’s up against evil incarnate. The Emperor himself. Oh, yeah! That’s what we have been clamoring for George! I encourage everyone to see this film. Even non-Star Wars fans (is there such a thing?) will probably enjoy the fantastic fun, tension, action and tragedy "Sith" has to offer. Rated PG-13 for intense situations and violence, it is just what the series needed to get it back on track. A more than worth while experience.
The acting has also taken a huge step forward. Lucas has gotten rid of, or minimized, the amount of speaking time for inferior characters and actors. The Neumoidians (trade federation leaders – you know, the annoying Asian-type aliens from Episode I) only have a couple of lines, and Jar Jar has only one quick outburst (thank God). The well done acting comes from the main players: Anakin, Obi-Wan, and Yoda. But the real prize for acting in this one comes from Ian McDiarmid (Chancellor Palpatine). From the moment he becomes disfigured, his character takes on a life of his own and he is the Emperor we remember to a tee. His little discussions with Anakin as he coerces him to slip further and further towards the dark side are clever and ingenious. They discuss what really is wrong/evil and what is good. And Palpatine does a great job of almost convincing even me that maybe it is the Jedi who are the bad guys, and the Sith are trying to do what is right. His evil laugh and grin while attempting to destroy Yoda is enough to keep the goose bumps on your flesh overnight.
Like I said earlier, the dialogue is there to help the story click a little better, but we still get it with the visuals. I think it is safe to say Lucas some room to grow in his script writing. You can see Lucas’ inability to direct or choreograph one on one intimate scenes such as Anakin’s reuniting with Padme. In fact, almost every scene with Padme seems contrived and forced because all of her scenes are dramatic, not action, in orientation. The exception to this would be the final scene with her and Darth Vader on Mustafar (the molten lava world – which, by the way, looked awesome from space). However, this film takes a giant leap forward in script-writing. The weakest part of the first two films was not Jar Jar, but the incredibly poor dialogue (and the acting that had to speak those words). The words and expressions used in this film are so much more powerful and emotional. Anakin has much matured since the last film and it shows. The dialogue is still weak in places, but unlike the first two films, the story overshadows that and it can be overlooked.
There are some moments of silliness that Lucas insists in putting in his films. They are not really funny or even amusing. They just make me groan and wanna say to Lucas, “why did you have the droid do that?” or, “I can’t believe you just had him say that.” I realize it is for the kids and it adds “comic” relief, but not really. It makes the real fans of my age upset, and it does a disservice to the kids who you are trying to put into a certain mood. Examples would include the Wookie Tarzan yell when swinging on vines, or the things the battle droids say, or the way they act. “Roger, Roger” or “Uh-oh,” in a child-like voice. Slipping and sliding around on oil slick like Laurel and Hardy in a banana peel factory. Which brings up another point: since when is Artoo this super droid that can catch things, fly around, destroy battle droids, etc? He could barely get down the stairs in “A New Hope.” Now he’s jumping in and out of ships, scooting along at incredible speeds and flying across caverns. Grrr. That is NOT the Artoo I grew up with and learned to love. He always was the little droid that could, but he had to make-do with what he was. Now Lucas has him as the little droid that battles armies with flame throwers and oil slick. I don’t like it, but...whatever.
The thing about “Revenge of the Sith” is that it has to tie into episode IV smoothly. I would say that it accomplishes this pretty well, although slightly thrown together at the end. The ultimate connection it has to make of course is how exactly does Anakin become Vader. It happens very slowly throughout the entire course of the movie, and you see it working slowly. Working would be the key word there. It really works well. In fact, it was actually really frustrating for me. I knew it was coming, I could see it happening and I was powerless to stop it. Sort of like “Titanic,” but much more important. I felt the need to plead with Anakin to reconsider his choices. But alas I could not, and the galaxy will be gripped in fear and oppression for years. Sadness ensues. I think this is exactly what Lucas was going for. Lucas knows that Anakin’s transformation is the heart and soul of his film. With the growing divide between the Jedi council and the Chancellor, Anakin is caught in the middle. Trained all his life by Obi-Wan to be an exemplary Jedi, but suddenly plagued by dreams of his wife's death in childbirth, offended by the Council's refusal to grant him master status and susceptible to the Chancellor's promise that only through the attainment of dark powers can he save his wife. Although everything that takes place stretches the entire film and the transformation seems dragged out, Anakin actually becomes Darth Vader with one final decision: destroy Mace Windu and kneel at the feet of the Supreme Chancellor Palpatine. In that sense, he changes within a few seconds time. Everything in the film goes against the grain for Anakin. He tries so hard to do what is right, but since it appears the universe is against him, he cannot escape doing what is wrong. Of course, he is not truly Vader until the mask and body suit fit into place and the famous breathing sound fills the theater accompanied by James Earl Jones’ voice over, “yes, my master.” That was also one of the fantastic scenes of the film; the emotion of seeing this good Jedi officially transformed into the ultimate evil. A very pleasing surprise to me was the point of view of Anakin, as the Vader mask was lowered onto his face. We were, for the first time ever, though only for a few seconds, able to see the world as Vader does. It was...a...great…shot; and totally unexpected.
There are a few other tie-ins that worked well. For example, the emergence of some semblance of the original trilogy. There are ships that
resemble X-Wings, TIE fighters, Star Destroyers and best of all, Palpatine’s shuttle is very similar to his and Vader’s shuttle in “Jedi.” A young Grand
Moff Tarkin can be seen standing next to Vader and Palpatine overlooking the construction of the Death Star. Of course Chewbacca makes a brief
Other connections that had to be made and were, were:
Some loose ends that were NOT tied up:
Besides what I have already mentioned, this is just a quick list of what I liked, my favorite scenes and what I did not like so much...
The Light Side:
The Dark Side:
Things I would’ve like to see more of:
A Few Other Observations…
The details of the story we already knew are now given to us and the story will never be the same again. As I was driving home from the theater, I was
thinking about how well everything was tied together, which led me to start thinking about episode IV. From now on, I don’t think I will ever again
watch those movies in quite the same way. Everything I see will now be looked at from Anakin’s point of view. The final light saber battle between
Obi-Wan and Vader on the Death Star will also take on a whole new meaning. I’m not sure if this is a bad thing or a good thing. But it will
happen…with everything. From Luke’s training to “Empire’s” duel on Cloud City. The entire last hour of Jedi in the Emperor’s throne room now
will be so much deeper and personal. It is almost as if my childhood has been stolen. That maybe is a little harsh, but I do slightly feel that way.
Darth Vader was always the evil bad guy, now I see him as a good man who was manipulated and lied to; and only started down this dark path by
doing what he needed to do to save someone he loved.
Last couple things…
I want to explain to everyone that the prophecy is not wrong. Anakin is the chosen one. It is he who brings balance to the force in the
end. He is the one who ultimately destroys the Emperor. I have heard too many people say that they are confused by this. Well, there’s
And finally, let me just say a thank you to George Lucas. Even though he’ll never read this of course. He has given us years of
entertainment and has closed it out with a huge bang. He changed the way movies are made and practically invented the summer blockbuster.
So to criticize little bumps in the road in his recent efforts is not only disrespectful, it is sheer ingratitude; and I hated to write about some of them because the man I/we admire so much has given us a lifetime of X-Wing, TIE fighting, saber wielding, Ewok cheering, Yoda-isms, Harrison Ford and fun fun fun. So thanks George, and
may the force be with you…
Here are the six films starting with my favorite and ending with my least favorite: