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Throwback Review: Star Wars: Revenge Of The Sith

Posted By:Lawrence Napoli
Wed, 12/16/2015 - 00:15

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A Film Review of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

(read our throwback Attack of the Clones review here)
(read our throwback Phantom Menace review here

 

Just when you thought the convolution of the Prequel Trilogy would be beyond redemption from a narrative perspective, George Lucas intersects his galactic struggle plot with the Anakin centric plot, gets an all hands on deck effort from his entire cast and happens to draw the first PG-13 rating in six, full length feature Star Wars films (The Force Awakens will be #2).  It’s amazing how many limbs and heads have been severed throughout this sci-fi soap opera, but yes ladies and gentlemen, we finally have another (official) “edgy” Star Wars film and rightly so because Anakin finally becomes Darth Vader.  Mind you, the entertainment value of this film is certainly no less of either of its predecessors.  It is every bit the popcorn, eye candy, and adrenaline-inducing extravaganza with its excellent action, exquisite music and beautiful visual effects.  There are, however, a few factors that separate this film from its brethren.

First and foremost, the entire cast finally decided to bring their A-games to the various sets and soundstages to push their characters to their emotional limits.  Hayden Christensen showed the largest upswing as the script gave him several moments to behave like an adult with amazing powers while considering the situations he is being forced to use them in.  Christensen was given opportunity and direction to compose his emotions to finally present Anakin Skywalker in a manner that demands attention, respect and sympathy.  In fact, moments of reflection were the order of the day for every actor as McGregor, Portman, Jackson (heck, even Yoda) were shown onscreen taking in that which their characters know which not only builds dramatic tension, it allows the audience to finally get inside these characters’ heads.  The chemistry factor was improved between Padme and Anakin, the relationship was strong between Palpatine and Vader and the final confrontation between Obi-Wan and Anakin was as dramatically intense as it was dominant with its action.

Second, the plot has finally dispensed with the half-hearted political conflict at work and revealed it to be a basic plan for ruling the universe via Sith ideology which will bring peace and order and an iron fist to all.  Making the antagonists people rather than propaganda and procedure simplifies the plot, making it more accessible to all.  Now, I will be the first to admit that I am not the biggest fan of de-saturating the story for anyone, but the concept of Jedi fighting a seemingly corrupt political system was too large of a subplot that simply did not have enough screen time to develop in any meaningful way.  Kill Tyrannus, Kill Grievous, discover Sidious, final conflict and done: that’s what Revenge of the Sith is about.  Cutting down on that galactic strife business also allows for more screen time to the Anakin/Padme secret marriage plot which is essential to identifying the straw that broke the camel’s back regarding Anakin’s fate.  Again, focusing on people as the pillars of conflict produces drama that an audience can take interest in.

Finally, there is a sense of gravitas in Revenge of the Sith that simply doesn’t exist in the previous two films.  Sure, there was always danger for the main characters, but the visual style, presentation, and performances sometimes yielded an innocence or ignorance about them that made an audience feel too safe in their seats.  Anakin force-choking Padme, killing younglings (off screen), slaughtering the Separatist Leaders and unleashing beast-mode on Obi-Wan is a horrible, narrative tragedy, but is also exhilarating to witness.  So much so, that it makes an audience truly guess what could possibly happen next as Anakin proves in scene after scene how capable he is of anything.  Mind you, it isn’t the “edgy” script that makes these plot points effective without a halfway-decent explanation as to why Anakin chooses his dark path, the reasons for which are not as depraved and amoral as his actions.  He wasn’t being pushed to the brink of insanity as it seemed Attack of the Clones was insinuating.  He was pushed to desperation.

Action Style

All elements of Star Wars action were on point: space combat: check. Massive ground wars, check.  Chase sequences, check.  Light saber duels, absolute check.

6/6

Action Frame

Once again, excellent cinematography was at work as I was extremely impressed with the angles used during the Palpatine/Yoda fight sequence.

5/5

Lead Performance

There’s a real sense of urgency for all the leads and while I will credit Christensen with a vast improvement over his first stint as pre-Vader, some of his quips to Obi-Wan at the end like “don’t doubt my power” and “this is my galaxy” or thereabouts weren’t as demonstrative as his accusations of betrayal to Padme.

4/6

Supporting Performance

Ian McDiarmid finally has a chance to shine as Sidious and shine, he does.  Samuel L. Jackson does a respectable job, yet I don’t believe he could contort his face anymore than he did during his fight with Palpatine.  Jimmy Smits was swell as Bail Organa and probably could have used more of him in previous films.

4/5

Music

John Williams.  ‘nuff said.

6/6

Sound F/X

Star Wars.  ‘nuff said.

5/5

“Moving” = 30/33

Digital F/X

There was only one thing that looked really bad and that was Vader’s charred dome as his mask was being lowered down to him.  The rest was mint.

5/6

Special F/X

Who doesn’t love seeing bodies spontaneously ignite?  Seeing Vader on fire was intense.

4/5

Costumes

The Amidala fashion show ends in the maternity section, which is fine, but still elegant.  Is it bad that her best dress was when her character is being laid to rest at her funeral?  Wookie suits were great.

5/6

Hair & Makeup

I really did not like the concept and execution of Palpatine’s “scarring” whatsoever.  It looks like he was morphed into a fat, chewed up marsh mellow man.

2/5

Exteriors

The visual design for Mustafar alone practically takes the cake.

5/6

Interiors

The shear regality of several spaces on Coruscant was beyond compare.  I was a big fan of the concert hall myself.

4/5

“Picture” = 21/33

Hook

The Jedi must make a final push to end the war by saving the Chancellor, then discover the hidden threat and learning that the prophesy of “the one bringing balance to the force” actually meant the Jedi had to be all but eradicated.

3/4

Conflict

Nobody gives a damn about Separatists, the Republic or the Empire, but the audience likes Sith vs. Jedi.  We still don’t know why the existence of one perspective on the force vs. the next prompts the other to attack it.  Both sides kill with impunity and seek to consolidate their power.

3/4

Resolution

Finally learning the circumstances that put the man behind the mask were interesting, although I wasn’t fully convinced how easily Obi-Wan put Vader down after such an intense and prolonged saber duel.  Also, Franken-Vader was way too cheesy.

2/4

Dialogue

For the most part, there was good stuff between Anakin and Obi-Wan.  Better stuff between Anakin and Palpatine.  Believe it or not, the best was between Padme and Anakin. 

4/6

Exposition

The previous two films are all the exposition an audience needs here, but we still don’t know why Jedi and Sith are in opposition to each other outside of the academics of power, nor do we know why the Sith desire revenge here and now.

3/5

Character Uniqueness

General Grievous’ visual style was cool for a 4-armed light saber wielding android (but why does he have asthma?).  Anakin finally becoming Darth Vader is pretty neat, although I would’ve liked to see him retain those red and yellow, blood-shot irises of hate/rage as a permanent external indicator of his inner corruption.  

4/6

Character Relatability

Is there anything you wouldn’t do for the love of your life?  Most would say not much within the confines of the law, morality and sanity.  Some might cross those lines.

3/5

“Story” = 22/34

Overall MPS Rating: 73/100

In like a lamb, out like a lion is an appropriate expression in describing the Star Wars Prequel Trilogy.  It had difficulty finding its ground for a while until George Lucas made the simple morality battle royale the only conflict that really mattered anymore.  The dynamic of that which is right and points of view is a complex element of morality that every Star Wars film has referenced, but never fully delved into.  Lucas clearly had other immediate needs to adhere screen time to developing, but it would be interesting to see if any subsequent Star Wars film in the future would be entirely devoted to exploring the seemingly opposing perspectives of Sith and Jedi and all the reasons why.  If there’s anything that can be learned from a tragic hero/villain like Anakin Skywalker is that sometimes one simply knows the right path and sometimes the choice is not so simple.

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