Director: George Lucas
Cast: Hayden Christensen, Ewan McGregor, Ian McDiarmid, Natalie Portman, Frank Oz
Series: Star Wars
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Length: 140 Minutes
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This article features minor spoilers for Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.
After Attack of the Clones, Star Wars kind of became a joke. It was one of the biggest letdowns in the franchise's history, and it has, to this very day, sullied the reputation of the entire prequel trilogy. Still, when the "final" episode had a release date, Star Wars fans held their collective breath and hoped for the best.
Perhaps for the first time in the Prequel Trilogy, fans' expectations were perfectly met. We knew this movie wouldn't be the greatest, but we wanted it to be the best of the new films, and wham, right after the opening crawl, we get the most epic space battle in any Star Wars film ever (at least as far as the scale of the battle, not the stakes). Star Wars felt like Star Wars should, and the Prophecy of The Force was fulfilled.
Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) and Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor), after several years of fighting in the Clone Wars, are called back to Coruscant to help defend the planet from a massive Separatist invasion force. Also, a Separatist General has captured Chancellor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid), and is holding him hostage aboard a battle cruiser in the middle of the invasion force.
So It's kind of hard to get any father without spoiling the opening, but I kind of have to to get any further into the actual plot. This opening sequence, while amazing, is a little over-indulgent and it's about twenty minutes long, so the film takes a while to shift gears from this giant battle to the actual plot. If you haven't seen the film yet, I'm sorry.
So after the Jedi barely avoid disaster, and safely return the Chancellor to the Senate, Obi-Wan and his fellow Jedi Masters begin to suspect that the Chancellor isn't quite what he appears. Using the attack on the Republic home world as leverage to gain even more support in the Senate, and "Emergency Power" and the overwhelming control that comes with it. Anakin is assigned to keep a close eye on the Chancellor, but using his mastery of manipulation and the Dark Side, Palpatine twists Anakin against the Jedi, and uses Anakin's fears of losing his wife, Padme (Natalie Portman), and their twin children in her belly, to convince him that the Dark Side is his, and his family's, only salvation.
So, after twenty minutes of mind blowing space battles, lightsaber duels, and blaster bolts and explosions galore, this film kind of trips itself up when it reverts to concluding the side arcs of the previous film. There's a lot of ground to cover too, and unfortunately, Anakin's and Obi-Wan's most thrilling adventures are only hinted at in bits of awful dialogue, just like the opening of Attack of the Clones, leaving us plenty of time to get reacquainted with the most forced love story in the history of cinema.
When this film does pick back up, and the plot is in full swing, it just so happens to hit a good stride for most of the rest of the film. There's a great balance of action, shitty acting, and exposition, that honestly, is really fun to watch. Again, this is mostly thanks to Lucasfilm's near infinite resources and their overwhelmingly talented art department, but the great visuals are in service to an entertaining narrative, not the best part of the film.
Thankfully, Ewan McGregor and Hayden Christensen finally seem at least marginally comfortable in their characters, and their back-and-forth dialogue in the first act of the film feels more natural. Unsurprisingly, Ian McDiarmid steals every scene he's in... again, and this time his joy in his role is even more tangible. He even gets to shine in what is undoubtedly the best scene in the entire trilogy. His Darth Plagueis monologue is chilling, and it gives him ample room to play with his character, and for a moment, we see just how great his understanding of Palpatine is.
Unfortunately, after the climax of the film, everything kind of goes loony. George Lucas jam packs the ending of this film with enough of those Wikipedia summary moments that I've mentioned before to almost warrant another film. Think of the roughly thirty endings of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, except on x32 fast forward.
In spite of it's flaws, this movie is actually pretty solid. I went into doing these reviews feeling that The Pahntom Menace was going to be the best. It had been a long time since I'd seen any of the prequels, but now that the end credits are rolling on Revenge of the Sith, I've realized it was the one prequel film I watched where I felt pretty good through most of the runtime. With the biggest battles, best effects, most cohesive narrative, and a pinch of passion, Revenge of the Sith is the only prequel film I'd recommend to casual film or science fiction fans.