The Force is Strong With This One

by Alan Rapp on May 23, 2007

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Star Wars – Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
  • IMDB: link

Let me preface this by saying my review will be tainted by the experience of seeing Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith in a sold out opening midnight show at Kansas City’s newest (and, in my opinion, finest theater).  In my experience this is how movies like this should always be viewed; in packed theaters full of die hard fans hoping that George Lucas can capture magic in a bottle one last time before the curtain falls on this series.

star-wars-revenge-of-the-sith-poster1George Lucas’ much loved franchise has taken some hard criticism over the past few years with his “improvements” to Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi.  Add to that a less than rousing support for the first two movies in the prequel trilogy, The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones, and you honestly had to wonder whether Lucas could deliver on this, the final Star Wars movie (at least for now).

We needn’t have worried.  Aside from a couple painful scenes between Padme (Natalie Portman)  and Anakin (Hayden Christensen) awkwardly expressing their love in rather stilted dialogue (which are both mercifully short) the movie is hugely entertaining and is easily the best of the “prequels.”  In fact I would go so far to rank it as good, or perhaps even slightly better than Jedi.  Not that much of a stretch when you realize many elments of the film were origionally intended for Episode VI (the volcano planet, the Wookie battle, and of course obviously, the title Revenge).

The plot in a nutshell is this, Chancellor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid)  has seized greater power while behind the scenes orchestrating events to his design.  The Jedi are scattered throuhout the galaxy in waging Palpatine’s war, allowing Palpatine to easily tempt Anakin Skywalker to turn to the Dark Side of the Force.  I won’t go into detail of how this is accopmplished, but I will compliment Lucas on his subtlity in this story telling, something which he nevers seems to get any recognition for.  Eventually the Jedi catch onto Palpatine’s motives, but too late for them and for young Anakin, who has little choice but to throw his lot in with the would be Emperor.  Chaos insues as all Jedi are declared enemies of the Republic and Palpatine declares himself Emperor of the Galaxy.

What amazed me about Revenge is how much story is actually told, but yet how naturally it unfolds.  One of the complaints about the last two films is the storytelling was rather stilted, much more so than the first three films.  Whether it was because Lucas felt more free in telling the last part of the story, or that he simply had more time to think up exactly how Anakin became Darth Vader,  or simply that Lucas decided to tell the story the way he wanted and not try to please the increasingly disatisfied fanbase, whatever the reason, the movie simply moves better than his last two efforts.

Because the pace is better and the story is more interesting (face it folks, this is the movie we’ve been waiting for since ‘83) and the cast has been together longer,  the actors, with only a couple of small exceptions come off very well.  Obi-One (Ewan McGregor) hasn’t been this good since, well, his death scene.  McGregor has grown more comfortable in this role with each film, and I wonder what he could do with the character if given more time.  Mace Windu (Samuel L. Jackson) is finally given some more weight and depth, with interesting consequences.  Count Dooku (Christopher Lee) wonderfully chews up scenary in reprising his role from Episode II.  Jimmy Smits gives a noteworthy understated performance as Bail Organa.  And Yoda?  Good in the movie he is.

This review wouldn’t be complete without mentioning four characters.  The first two are R2-D2 (Kenny Baker) and C-3PO (Anthony Daniels), both of whom are wonderful.  In fact R2 nearly steals the movie with the great performance in the opening battle sequence.  Daniels isn’t given as large a role, but just having 3PO in gold plating whinning incesantly brings a few good chuckles.  Alas Padme (Natalie Portman) fairs far worse.  Although she’s used mainly as a plot device (in both turning Anakin towards the Dark Side, and in bearing his children) she’s given so little to do she often seems bored.  Whether her failure is that of the script or her inability to do anything with it is open to interpretation.  The great surprise here is Hayden Christensen who seems to finally embraced the character and made him his own.  There are several moments in the film that he has to balance mulitple emotions.  The movie relies greatly on his performance and he does not disappoint.  Much improved from his performance in Clones.

A movie is often juged in two ways.  One, is how does the movie hold up as a whole.  As I have said, to me it holds up wonderuflly.  I realize the atmosphere surrounding my viewing may have increased my appreciation and enjoyment, but I’ll be back to see it again and I expect my opinion will be pretty much the same.  The movie more than wraps up the franchise, it recaptures much of the wonder and fun of the earlier films.  The movie is rated PG-13 and is much darker in scope than any of its predecessors.  (To which Jar Jar is on screen for a total of about 45 seconds and utters only one line, hell yeah baby!!)

And two, by individual moments that stand out long after the movie’s final credits have rolled.  This movie has several: the afore-mentioned R2-D2 sequence, the fatherly talks between Palpatine and Anakin where he skillfully and subtly pushes a wedge between Anakin and the Jedi Council, the suddeness of the turn in battle and the fall of the Jedi (nope, won’t say more than that), the climatic battle between Obi-One and Anakin, and of course the birth of Darth Vader.  All are wonderous, entertaining, humorous, and sad in their own way.  I also should mention with these the final shot of the movie, which beckons so successfully back to the roots of Star Wars that the pangs of nostalgia are almost palpable on one’s tongue.  It’s a loving moment, and a fitting one to end this life’s love that Lucas has had for the franchise that has been so good to him.

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