Should I Watch..? Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith
What's the big deal?
Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge Of The Sith (sometimes referred to simply as Revenge Of The Sith) is an epic action sci-fi film released in 2005 and is the final prequel released to the original 1977 release Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1). Set three years after the events of Episode II, the film charts the fall of the Old Republic and the rise of the Galactic Empire led by the evil Darth Sidious and the talented but treacherous Jedi Anakin Skywalker. The film stars Ewan McGregor, Hayden Christensen, Natalie Portman, Ian McDiarmid, Samuel L Jackson, Christopher Lee and Frank Oz. In contrast to the other prequels, Revenge Of The Sith received a largely positive reception and went on to gross around $848 million at the box office. It was also the last film in the series released by 20th Century Fox as Lucasfilms was bought by Disney in 2012.
What's it about?
With the Clone Wars raging throughout the galaxy between the Galactic Republic and Seperatist Alliance, Jedi master Obi-Wan Kenobi and his apprentice Anakin Skywalker attempt a daring rescue of kidnapped Chancellor Palpatine. Infiltrating the ship of Seperatist leader General Grievous, the pair battle Count Dooku with Anakin killing him. While Grievous escapes, Anakin reunites on Coruscant with his secret wife Padmé Amidala who tells him that she is pregnant.
With Obi-Wan dispatched to apprehend Grievous on the remote planet of Utapau, Anakin is turned down the title of Jedi Master and told to monitor the Chancellor's activities. Instead, Anakin strikes up a friendship with Palpatine who disturbingly knows far more about the Dark Side of the Force than anyone supposes. Haunted by nightmares of Padmé's death and desperate to acquire whatever power he can to prevent it, Anakin swears allegiance to Palpatine. Together, they initiate a terrifying plan to end the Clone Wars once and for all and eliminate the Jedi forever...
Anakin Skywalker / Darth Vader
Chancellor Palpatine / Darth Sidious
Count Dooku / Darth Tyranus
Samuel L Jackson
Senator Bail Organa
Release Date (UK)
19th May, 2005
Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
Academy Award Nomination
Worst Supporting Actor (Christensen)
What's to like?
Given that Lucas has been distracting us with a couple of digital puppet shows before releasing this, it's so gratifying to see him finally deliver on the promise these prequels initially held. Revenge Of The Sith is a properly dark film and one that rewards the patient (or forgiving) viewer with bundles of high-energy action and enough links to the original series to forge the gap between this and Episode IV. Like the other two prequels, the film is swamped in impressive CG (gone are the dreary battle scenes from Attack Of The Clones (2)) and also lets a number of the cast have fun as the Dark Side takes over.
McDiarmid, who has waited since 1983 to reprise the role of the Emperor, gives a deliciously wicked performance as Palpatine who joyously throws off the shackles of democracy and embraces evil like few others can. By contrast, the performance of McGregor as the goody-two-shoes Obi-Wan feels somewhat flat. However, Jackson finally gets to become the ass-kicking Jedi we all knew he was underneath that calm exterior and provides a more engaging hero than McGregor does. It's also testament to Lucas' story that although most fans will have some inkling as to what happens in the film, we remain fixed to the events of screen and enjoy the cocktail of terrific action, imaginative visuals and evil finally getting the upper hand for once.
- Mace Windu's lightsaber is purple, which is Samuel L Jackson's favourite colour. He apparently requested to have one that colour himself. His role in the prequels came about after George Lucas heard of an interview Jackson gave on UK TV stating that he would love a part.
- Every single Clone trooper in the film is entirely CG. There wasn't a single costume or helmet created for the movie.
- The on-screen body count for this film is 115, more than any other in the series. However, if one took implied deaths into account, then both A New Hope and Return Of The Jedi (3) would have considerably more.
What's not to like?
Although he's having fun as Anakin finally goes to the Dark Side, Christensen is still the wrong choice for the role - you never buy into his descent into madness and his appearance as the fledging Vader borders on film-wrecking comedy. Alongside the impossibly wet Portman as Padmé (who, frankly, seems like an after-thought in the film), the pair of them make the least likely couple since Anne Nicole Smith married J. Howard Marshall. Amid the chaos and devastation, Lucas also forgets to include everybody's favourite droid coupling - R2-D2 and C-3PO - who somehow manage to get roped into proceedings.
In fact, Lucas is at fault for quite a bit. Everybody knows that dialogue is not his strong point - something he himself has acknowledged - but Revenge Of The Sith is chock-full of laughably bad scenes. How anyone can refer to children as "younglings" without bursting into giggles is beyond me. And once again, the CG tramples over everything with whole sets, characters and even entire scenes composed of nothing but pixels. Obi-Wan's pursuit of Grievous isn't anything like as exciting as it should be and while the final duel between him and Anakin looks suitably apocalyptic, it never manages to convince. Looking back at the originals, Lucas should have realised that the film can still provide a spectacle without it being force-fed through Photoshop first.
Should I watch it?
Calling it the best of the prequels damns Revenge Of The Sith with faint praise - the film is an exciting and enjoyable blast through Star Wars' extensive back story and is a decent film in its own right. The film dispenses with the lightness of the other two prequels to become as dark an entry as The Empire Strikes Back (4) but with the action more in style with Return Of The Jedi. If you can ignore Christensen trying to cock things up, you'll be rewarded with a film that is far better than you might imagine.
Great For: fans of the series, action junkies, Goths
Not So Great For: date nights, very young children, people dismissing the entire trilogy of prequels (they're missing out)
What else should I watch?
With Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens (5) aiming to revive further interest in the series, it stands to reason that your best bet is to stick with the original trilogy which avoids any sort of Disney-fication. Featuring ground-breaking visuals, a young cast that captivated audiences across the world and one of the greatest baddies in cinema history, A New Hope signalled the arrival of a film that would change the industry like no other. The Empire Strikes Back allowed the characters space to make their impressions amid the carnage of open warfare, jaw-dropping sets like Cloud City and Dagobah and openly set the scene for Return Of The Jedi - my favourite of them all.
Star Wars' long-time sci-fi rival Star Trek had a number of feature films released as well including a rebooted continuity helmed by the director of the aforementioned The Force Awakens, J.J. Abrams. But I also found the Trek universe a bit more sedate and certainly never had anything as cool as a light-sabre in it. But viewers after a bit of action could do worse than Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan (6) and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country(7).
© 2015 Benjamin Cox