Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith.
20th Century Fox presents a film written and directed
by George Lucas. Running time: 140 minutes. Rated PG-13
(for sci-fi violence and some intense images). Starring
Hayden Christensen, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Ian
McDiarmid, Samuel L. Jackson, Jimmy Smits, Frank Oz, Anthony
Daniels, Christopher Lee, Kenny Baker, Peter Mayhew, James
Earl Jones (voice).
Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith
I don't know why I'm even bothering to write about this. Due
to my unfathomable laziness, as I'm putting fingers to keyboard
right now Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith
has already set a box-office record, and it has made over
$70 million in its second week. I, personally, have
seen it twice, and I know people who have seen it many more
times. It really doesn't matter what score I have up there,
whether four stars, or three, or none. If you haven't seen
the film already, you probably aren't going to, and if you
are, you don't care what I have to say.
it's Star Wars, man. The last one (I hope), the end
to a saga that has captured the imaginations of billions,
whether they were alive when A New Hope came out or
have seen the films only in George Lucas's bastardized redigitalizations.
Lucas, for better or worse, has left his mark forever on the
cultural landscape of America. The original trilogy, the re-releases,
the prequels. The films will endure forever - one hundred
years from now, people are still going to be reciting dialogue,
breathing like Vader and making that cool light saber noise
with their lips.
so Revenge of the Sith is almost impossible to view
as a movie rather than an experience, as something
so much more than a sci-fi flick dominating your multiplex.
But that's what I'm here for, and it's what I'm going to attempt.
I've assigned a score, however meaningless, and I have my
reasons. The film is the best Star Wars since The
Empire Strikes Back, for what it's worth, but it's far
from perfect. There are moments of sheer brilliance and power,
true, but there are also moments of ineptitude. Anyone who
tells you different is fooling themselves.
this point, everone knows the story of Revenge of the Sith.
Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) is corrupted by Emperor
Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) and becomes Darth Vader, the most
iconic villain in filmdom. Padme (Natalie Portman) gives birth
to Luke and Leia. Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) faces off
with Vader and defeats him, scarring him for life, resulting
in the black suit we all know. The Jedi are hunted down and
killed. Evil takes control in the Empire. The end.
first half of the film is typical Lucas exposition. He sets
up the power struggle between the senate and the Jedi Council;
he expands the Anakin-Padme romance; he shows the events that
lead up to Anakin's turn. And, unfortunately, he does it clumsily.
The politicking is thankfully less prevalent than in the other
prequels - mainly limited to the Council talking about Palpatine
- but it's still uninteresting when it shouldn't have to be.
The romance is just as bad as it was in Attack of the Clones,
full of the same atrocious dialogue - "I'm only beautiful
because I love you so much"; "No, it is because
I love you so much" - and puppy dog eyes.
it's clear that this story, the one that we all know, is the
only one that Lucas really wanted to tell. He was just spinning
his wheels with The Phantom Menace and Attack of
the Clones, locked into his promise to make an all-new
trilogy. The material in those two films could have been -
should have been - condensed and inserted into the
beginning of this one. Because nothing that happens here gains
any power or resonance from the other prequels, simply from
what we know will come after.
what power the second half of the film actually holds. Once
Anakin turns, the film grows despairingly - almost smotheringly
- dark. It is sci-fi adventure as Greek tragedy. The slaughter
of the Jedi is portrayed in a broad, epic montage backed by
operatic classical music, and it is a truly striking, stirring
sequence. But nothing in the film matches the sheer impact
of the Obi-Wan/Anakin duel. For once in the trilogy, something
that happens has actual weight, the knowledge that what is
going on will affect the world forever. When Anakin has been
defeated, his legs and one good arm chopped off, and Obi-Wan
cries, "You were the chosen one!", the heart swells.
Yes, it's a broad, potentially cheesy moment, but it also
has a certain majesty that is undeniable.
is a testament to McGregor's tremendous performance that the
scene works so well. He has spent the entire trilogy being
that glue that kept the films together, and here it all comes
full circle. He seems to be channeling Alec Guiness - his
sense of humor and adventure, his pathos - and it helps bridge
the gap between the two trilogies. He has true moments of
emotion, and his heartbreak at dealing with Anakin is palpable.
other actor fares as well. Christensen has improved, but not
enough. His pre-evil scenes showcase his ability to pout childishly
almost as well as in Clones, and by the time he actually
starts doing a good job - post-Vader - it is too little, too
late (frankly, I blame Lucas; he has never been good with
actors, and Christensen has done strong enough work in the
past - see Shattered Glass - to give him the benefit
of the doubt). Portman is utterly wasted, but no one should
ever deny her ability to call up lots of tears on command.
McDiarmid, praised in many reviews, hams it up unbearably
for the most part, hissing and moaning and all but twirling
his handle-bar mustache; his is evil by way of Snidely Whiplash.
always, the film displays an astounding array of special effects.
It may just be the most technologically impressive film ever
made; it looks great, too, sharp and brightly colored. For
the first time in the trilogy Lucas seems to know what he
wants to do in his direction, which is more focused than ever
before - but what the hell's with the wipes? It would be okay
if they were all just vertical, horizontal or diagonal, but
when he starts getting as fancy with it as he does here it
becomes almost unbearably distracting.
I'm beginning to ramble. This is the kind of movie that has
that effect on people. It is such an important event that
we feel the need to talk about it - about the good, the bad,
whatever; just talk, get our emotions and feelings
out. Star Wars is over. It's right that it's over -
and it should stay that way - but the films have been such
a part of our lives for so long that to know that there will
never be any more is a strange feeling. Revenge of the
Sith, the final episode, is powerful, uneven, severely
flawed and utterly essential. There is no excuse not to see
2005 Matt Noller, not that anyone would ever want to steal