A long, slow, beautiful train wreck you can’t look away from, and although there are people you know on board, you still can’t help but smile at it because you get to watch.
War! The Jedi seek the leaders of the Separatists, Count Dooku (Christopher Lee) and the alien cyborg General Grevious, and can end the war if they can be stopped. Unfortunately, the true power play of evil has paid off; with both sides of the war orchestrated by Darth Sidious, the Sith have returned and are in control of almost everything. With the Jedi now scattered across the galaxy due to Sidious’ deception, it falls to Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) to decide the ultimate fate of all Jedi…
The plot meant to tie six films together is complex but succeeds. The effects meant to immerse viewers in the worlds of George Lucas’ imagination are the best money and creative thinking can buy. And the acting, well, let’s just say Yoda manages to upstage everyone (not bad for a CGI version of a Muppet). Overall, there’s little Lucas will need to apologize to fans for, even if he did squeeze Jar-Jar Binks into another scene and tricked us into hearing the word “midichlorean” again.
Star Wars: Episode III, Revenge of the Sith is not a happy film, but what did you expect from a tragedy? Humor comes from seeing not-so-stupid characters get the drop on their oppressors and action sequences so over-the-top that you can’t help but laugh while you’re cheering the characters on. Limbs are lost, people die, destruction is widespread, and evil reigns; since Jedi don’t swear and lightsabers draw no blood, all this violence is courtesy a mere PG-13 rating (thanks, MPAA!)
Episode III is about evil (with a capital ‘E’), choosing evil, and what makes one evil. Hayden Christensen may not have convinced us he could have ever been a loving father, but he makes up for it with his soul-selling choice to serve the Dark Side. Ian McDiarmid also unleashes his fury for the first time since Return of the Jedi, and it is truly a sight to see; this is the violence hidden deep with the recesses of the kindly but firm Supreme Chancellor Palpatine finally unleashed. Natalie Portman’s Padm?© finally gets her moment to shine when she realizes what Anakin has actually done and at last spurns him, but it is Ewan McGregor’s portrayal of Obi-Wan Kenobi that really gets the eyes watering as the heart holding all three prequels together breaks under strain of what he must do.
Are there problems? Yes. In spite of the best intentions, Padm?© and Anakin never find their onscreen chemistry; so much for Anakin “causing” Padm?© to fall in love with him (and explaining the stiff interaction from Episode II). Some of the dialogue, especially from Yoda of all characters, hurts to hear; there are moments on screen where just seeing what’s happened should be enough, but the impact is repeatedly softened with characters who won’t shut up with nothing to say. But a silent, defeated, and failed Yoda may be the saddest thing ever in scif-/fantasy; even a Lord of the Sith would be hard-pressed not to feel bad for little green Jedi master.
The curtain falls as an empire rises, and the rest of the story is already cinematic history.
(a three and a half skull recommendation out of four)