As I mentioned at the end of my Attack Of The Clones review I was left feeling quite hyped for Revenge Of The Sith when that films credits rolled. As the release of Episode 3 drew closer I had heard plenty of good stuff concerning the film. It was gonna be a 12 certificate which meant it could be a little darker than the previous 2 which is precisely what this entry needed. That Lucas was being harder on himself when it came to putting out a quality film. That Jar Jar Binks was barely going to be in it. Thankfully upon viewing the film all those things appeared to be true. Didn’t stop one scene dragging the whole thing down though…
I’ll get to that scene later. For now here’s the setup. WAR! That’s the first word on the title crawl. Well except for the words Episode III. Anyway, that’s a much better way to set us up than talk of taxation and trade disputes and negotiations. What we get here is the sort of opening sequence we want from a Star Wars film. It’s flashy, action packed and fairly fun. In the space of 20 minutes we get a space battle, droid destruction, a lightsabre battle, and action packed rescue and Anakin “Landing” half a giant space ship in Coruscant. Quite a good start I’d say. Except for how dumb some of it is.
It’s the nature of the rescue of Palpatine that gives me issues.We know Palpatine is the Sith Lord so why is he putting himself in such a dangerous position at the start of the film? He’s been “captured” by the Seperatists and Count Dooku, hence Anakin and Obi-Wans daring rescue. Obviously Dooku would have no intention of harming his master, so why set himself up as a target? The plan must have been for the Jedi to rescue him which Dooku should have been in on. If he wasn’t what was his idea of the plan? Either way he ends up minus two hands and a head. On top of that Palpatine ends up in situations that should have killed him at least 3 times during this rescue. He either has a hell of a lot of faith that the 2 Jedis won’t let him die or the guys suicidal. He falls down a very long elevator shaft very narrowly missing getting killed by a falling elevator. Nearly gets sucked out of the window after his General (Who I’d assume knows who Palpatine really is) shatters it to escape. Finally he risks being burnt to a crisp as the space ship he’s on starts to burn up on re-entry. So much could have gone wrong there and it makes you wonder what his plan really was. How much does anyone he’s working with know? How much is he leaving up to chance? It’s just bonkers.
Anyway after this opening sequence the film hits a slump. For about half an hour it’s the same boring talking about nothing with scene after scene that do nothing but move our characters to locations rather than furthering their story arcs or revealing anything of worth. I suppose Anakin has his little nightmare vision thing but, as we should all know, cryptic visions of the future are a lazy writers plot device to give a character purpose. It goes up there with memory loss and powers gained from lightening on the laziness scale. After a while though this slump goes as more time is spent with the point of the story, Anakin’s gradual descent into the dark side.
This is actually handled fairly well. Anakin displays a fair amount of internal conflict even if it is spelled out a little too clearly for the audience. Ian McDiarmid is pretty much excellent as the Dark lord of the Sith with his little moments where you hear a little of the Emperor in his voice. it’s a shame he ends up being a bit of a cackling villain by the end of the film though. Once the film gets underway there’s little of the sag that accompanied much of the previous two films and as such this prequel becomes instant the best of the three.
It is by no means a good film though. It is merely passable and on occasion fun. It’s all the little plot holes, mostly hangovers from previous films overly complex political elements, that keep this film from becoming a genuinely good piece of entertainment. One moment I somehow only just picked up on, which will admittedly sound like a niggle, I feel is a sign of just how lazy the script can be. At one point Obi-Wan heads off to a planet to find General Grievous. We see him get his order, then he says goodbye to Anakin, then he flies off and we see him at his destination. Now I’d assume space flight isn’t all that fast seeing as they’ve made a big deal out of the distance between places in these films before so when in the next scene Padme says Obi-Wan visited her this morning I got a little confused. Just when did he visit her? We saw his whole day from the moment he got his orders. She talks as though he visited her after receiving those orders but we just saw each step of his journey. Did Lucas not re-read his script? There’s more odd mistakes like this but it’s not worth going into them because others have already in much greater depth.
Effects wise this has easily the most unnecessary special effects in the trilogy. They even CGI R2-D2 for most of the opening sequence. Even something as simple as a character jumping over something is a CGI model rather than just attaching a guy to a harness. ILM have been falling behind with effects work over the years. It’s their animation and overly clean style that give their effects away. In general though the effects are very good, they’re just too obvious to ignore.
So that scene that nearly brought the whole film down? Why, it’s this one of course…
So the great and powerful Darth Vader is finally here. Anakins lost an arm and 2 legs… and the other arm actually… been burnt to a crisp and left for dead. His last words to Obi-Wan are screams of hatred. We see him being built as Padme gives birth to Luke and Leia. Darth Vader is born as Padme dies literally of nothing. A droid actually says there’s no reason why she is dying, she just is. aww she’s dying of a broken heart. What was wrong with saying her windpipe was crushed by Anakin when he choked her? Oh of course, that would make him the bad guy and Lucas doesn’t want that. Lucas carries this on by having Darth act like a whiny emo bitch by having him ask what happened to Padme. Why would he care. He tried to kill her. Bit late for regrets now. Then upon being told she has died, which the Emperor couldn’t have known, Vader lets out the infamous “NOOOOOOOO!!!” And the audience laughed. Or at least me and a few of my friends did. Lucas clearly has a problem with visualising internal conflict in his films. Screaming “no” seems to be his go to move too. Luke does it at the end of Empire Strikes Back, although Hamill actually pulled that off. Vader does it here and… Jesus Christ they made Vader say it again at the end of Return Of The Jedi on the new Blu-ray editions. God dammit Lucas.
Anyway this all comes after an overly long and very scientifically improbable lightsabre duel over some molten lava. Nevermind that you’d be on fire once you’re within 10 feet of the stuff. Anakin and Obi-Wan just shrug off the heat and beat each other up whilst we become gradually more aware that what we are actually watching is two guys stood on slightly raised green platforms in front of a green screen while George Lucas looks on through a monitor with a latte in hand. And right there is the problem with all these prequels. they’re lazy, fake and lacking in any sort of emotional investment from Lucas. The cast try, they really do on this one, but even they got told to talk in a monotone way by Lucas. It’s like he literally wanted to suck all the humanity out of the films. It was the humanity and the tangible nature of the original trilogy that gave them a feel that lasts still to this day. they stand as achievements in cinema because you knew that every inch of them was hand crafted and the scale you saw on screen existed for real at some point, albeit in miniature form.
Overall Revenge Of The Sith is the best of a bad bunch. I can get through it without needing to pause and only a few moments make me facepalm which is more than I can say about the previous two films. it has many plot and character flaws but it at least manages to keep it’s pace up most of the time and has plenty of fun action sequences. To add to that the sense of completion with regards to how it ties into the original trilogy starts to really show in the last half hour. We see the Rebel Blockade runner, an in construction Death Star and a few 70s style haircuts. At least, barring a lack of ability to contain inner conflict, the film ends exactly how any Star Wars fan would want it to. Tomorrow I’ll be watching A New Hope. Things can only get better now.