Star Wars - Episode III:
Revenge of the Sith


Obi-Wan Kenobi:Ewan McGregor
Anakin/Darth Vader:Hayden Christensen
Padme:Natalie Portman
Chancellor Palpatine:Ian McDiarmid
Mace Windu:Samuel L. Jackson


May 2005
"A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away," George Lucas created an interstellar epic that forever changed the pop culture landscape. Starting with Episode IV back in 1977, "Star Wars" became the most successful motion picture franchise in history. And now, 28 years later, the saga comes full circle with the final installment, "Revenge of the Sith." This final prequel concludes the chronicles of Anakin Skywalker, whose path to the dark side of the force is cemented with the fall of the Republic and the rise of the Galactic Empire. Caught between good and evil, friends and enemies, right and wrong, Anakin begins his downward spiral with good intentions but against his better judgment. Says Yoda: "Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering." And sadly for Anakin, he becomes consumed by fear, transformed into the most wretched of villainy, namely Darth Vader. With state of the art technology by the numbers and one of the most anticipated origins of all time, the film excites and entertains with the same jubilant energy that made the original trilogy so beloved. Although far from perfect, "Revenge of the Sith" is a gratifying finale. And to Star Wars fans everywhere, a celebration of galactic proportions.

The Clone Wars are nearing an end. Three years after the Battle of Geonosis and the remnants of war still linger in a variety of skirmishes across the galaxy between the Separatists and the Republic. And in a bold and desperate move, the leader of the Separatists, General Grievous, kidnaps Chancellor Palpatine. It's a move that warrants a dangerous rescue mission. Led by Obi-Wan Kenobi, now a general, and Anakin Skywalker, now a Jedi Knight, the two heroes finesse their way aboard Grievous' ship to where Palpatine is imprisoned. However, Grievous has set a trap and positions Count Dooku to dispose of them. In the ensuing melee, Obi-Wan is knocked unconscious, leaving Anakin alone with Dooku. But without the guidance of his Master, Anakin is overcome with feelings of hate and revenge, exploding in a furious rage and ultimately defeating Dooku. But following the defeat, Anakin is troubled. After narrowly escaping a confrontation with Grievous, he begins to question his motivation, his future, and his allegiance with the Jedi.
Meanwhile, back on Coruscant, Anakin continues to be tested as Chancellor Palpatine appoints him as his own protector and confidant. Already suspicious of Palpatine, the Jedi Council refuses to grant Anakin the rank of Master and instead, asks him to act as their spy. Caught in the middle of politics and war, Anakin is terribly confused. His secret marriage to Padme has unexpected results - she is pregnant. Even more disturbing are the dreams he can't seem to shake about her premature death. Afraid of losing her, he becomes susceptible to the dark side. And after a decisive Jedi confrontation, his allegiance shifts. Now a Sith Lord, under the name of Darth Vader, Anakin and the Emperor set out to extinguish all of the Jedi and unite the Republic into one entity known as the Galactic Empire. As the Jedi and the old Republic fall apart at the seams, Yoda confronts the Emperor, Obi-Wan battles Anakin, and Padme gives birth to twins. Twins that will no doubt, change the course of the entire galaxy.
As the final and pivotal installment in the Star Wars franchise, "Revenge of the Sith" completes the circle to satisfaction. The evolution of TIE fighters, X-Wings, the Death Star, and the Stormtroopers; the hand off of C3-PO and R2-D2; the birth of Luke and Leia, the exile of Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi; and yes, the transformation of Anakin Skywalker into Darth Vader. All of these and more are addressed in Lucas' climactical prequel, adequately fulfilling all of the background stories and details that lead into "Star Wars," now simply known as Episode IV. With excitement and a newfound joy, Lucas recaptures the childish enthusiasm that made the originals so beloved. Space battles never looked better, lightsaber duels are more compelling and meaningful, and many circumstances delightfully foreshadow future events, like the rescue of Chancellor Palpatine from Count Dooku. Overall, it's just a pleasant sense of completeness that comes from connecting the past with the present.

When it comes to effects, no one pulls out all the stops like Industrial Light and Magic. And for that, "Revenge of the Sith" is astounding. Utilizing over 2,200 special effects, it easily outmaneuvers and outshines the prior prequels combined. Save for one background plate that was shot during Episode II, Episode III was shot completely on soundstages in front of a green screen. But one would hardy notice with the magnitude of digital imagery going on. Backgrounds are busy with extraordinary detail, characters like General Grievous and Yoda blend in with real actors, and battle sequences are bursting at the seams with peripheral activity. In fact, it's so rich and so comprehensive that one can't help but be overwhelmed by the visual experience.
Yet, underneath the array of dazzling effects lies a story that is almost as flat and empty as the two previous outings. Though the writing is much improved, it still suffers from the woeful writing of the past. A failure to build empathetic or intelligent characters, stumbling through abrasive and tedious dialogue, and inserting too many unnecessary plot points - all of which diminish the film's emotional potency, degrading what should be a powerful human tragedy into a fanciful farce. Most definitely, the romantic dialogue has been tamed considerably this round, but there are still too many awkward moments between Anakin and Padme. "You're a good person. Don't do this! You're breaking my heart!" Listening to such robotic and choppy dialogue is painful, as even veteran actors like Samuel L. Jackson appear to be wincing. And when there is no dialogue exchanged, the film takes a few questionable detours, tangents whose purpose is only to showcase special effects, i.e. the opening battle sequence or Yoda's timely visit to Kashyyyk.
Unlike the original trilogy, the prequels have struggled to maintain any semblance of character empathy or affability. There are no wise-cracking Han Solos, no lovable sidekicks like Chewbacca, and no strong female and heroic leads like Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker. Instead, both Anakin and Amidala are the exact opposite - whiny, weak, and absent minded. While on the other side, there is no strong, ever-present villain like Darth Vader. Darth Maul, General Grievous, even Count Dooku are dispatched all too quickly. And while McDiarmid's Palpatine has his day in "Sith," it comes only after a barrage of political foreplay. The one exception to all of this attention deficit development is Obi-Wan Kenobi. Played expertly by Ewan McGregor, Obi-Wan evolves throughout the trilogy, from a young Padawan learner with insecurities into a confident leader, a General who acts as the voice of reason for the Jedi Council. And the character benefits from McGregor's wit and warmth, making Obi-Wan Kenobi the one shining performance in "Revenge of the Sith." Not to mention, a perfect segue into Alec Guinness' Kenobi in "Star Wars."

Although continuity flaws typically go unnoticed, in a successful franchise like "Star Wars," they become a bit of a distraction. Most significantly, the hypocritical nature of the Jedi. Presented as defenders of the Republic, upholders of democracy and justice, these Jedi take the offensive in their most dire hour, allowing revenge to dictate their actions. And speaking of which, why are the Jedi Masters so easily disposed of? How does Obi-Wan age so rapidly between "Sith" and "Star Wars?" And why doesn't he recognize R2-D2? How could Luke and Leia remember anything about Padme from childbirth? And how come it took 19-20 years to build the first Death Star, yet only 4 years to build the second? Of course, none of these are detrimental to the final product, but they do make you wonder how detached Lucas has become from the world that he created.
"You were the chosen one! It was you who would bring balance to the force, not leave it in darkness!" Such words fall on deaf ears in the final chapter of the Star Wars saga, ending in darkness with only an ounce of hope. Much like the Force, this one binds all things together. And unlike the prior two installments, it restores faith in Lucas and the franchise. A highly entertaining and rewarding film, "Revenge of the Sith" does more walking than talking. With much more action and far less politicking, the film exudes confidence, displays grandiose effects, and presents compelling drama; however, because of lackluster character development from previous outings, the emotional quotient cannot get into hyperdrive. It's a problem the prequels have had since "The Phantom Menace," all the way up to Darth Vader's initial gasp. But it's a problem that cannot detract from the simple joy of being transported to a galaxy far, far away. And as any true Star Wars fan will tell you, this one was definitely worth the wait.

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"To Star Wars fans everywhere, a celebration of galactic proportions."
"Lucas recaptures the childish enthusiasm that made the originals so beloved."
"The film exudes confidence, displays grandiose effects, and presents compelling drama."