Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith (2005) / Fantasy-Action

MPAA Rated: PG-13 for violence and some intense images
Running Time: 140 min.

Cast: Ewan McGregor, Hayden Christensen, Natalie Portman, Ian McDiarmid, Samuel L. Jackson, Jimmy Smits, Frank Oz (voice), Anthony Daniels, Christopher Lee, Keisha Castle-Hughes, Kenny Baker, Peter Mayhew, Matthew Wood (voice), James Earl Jones (voice)
Director: George Lucas
Screenplay: George Lucas
Review published May 20, 2005

As one of the few critics who does not malign Episode I and Episode II, and in fact, one who enjoys them very much, it should come as no surprise that Episode III, the best of the Anakin Skywalker trilogy, met well with me.  While most film series seem to lose their luster after the first couple of films, the Star Wars series carries a great deal of energy, imagination, and interest throughout all six films, and still leaves me hungry for more.

Perhaps what makes the success Revenge of the Sith, the supposed final chapter of the overall story (according to Lucas), surprising is that it should have easily been the most boring and predictable film in the series.  Since we already are intimately familiar with Episode IV, we already know the fates of nearly every character involved, we know certain characters will not die, and others will not live.  Seeing everything we know already come to pass should have been anticlimactic.

Despite it all, Episode III is a compelling tragedy of a man corrupted at the hands of a master of evil, and it brings a great sympathy to the character of Darth Vader that had mostly been absent before.  Lucas mentioned during the pre-release for the film that it was akin to Titanic in space, where we all know the tragedy will befall everyone in the movie, which makes every scene before the fall seem more ominous and heartbreaking.  While it is true in the case of Anakin Skywalker, I wouldn't go so far, since we all know that the story continues, and that eventually the evil is undone.

In this chapter, the Clone Wars are reaching the end of its run, and Obi-Wan (McGregor, Big Fish) and Anakin (Christensen, Shattered Glass) are sent on a rescue mission to try to get back captured Senator Palpatine (McDiarmid, Sleepy Hollow).  The rescue mission ends with the final battle with Count Dooku (Lee, The Return of the King), but they have one more enemy to deal with, the still mighty General Grievous, who commands the mighty army of droids.  The Jedi Council are doing what they can to save the Republic, but are becoming increasingly aware that something is afoot, fast coming to the conclusion that Palpatine may be behind all of it, in a power play that seeks to give all that the Republic had built up into his hands.  Meanwhile, Anakin's wife Padme (Portman, Closer) is pregnant, and his is plagued by prophetic visions of her dying at childbirth, which Palpatine assures him can be remedied only if Anakin learns the dark side, becoming a Sith.  Confused by his loyalties, Anakin is seduced, and with the Jedi Council maligned as the instigators of an overthrow, Obi-Wan Kenobi may indeed be the only hope.

One of the fascinating things about Episode III, for those who know all the rest of the saga, is to see how all of the pieces fall into place.  Despite all of the action, adventure, and occasional jaunts into juvenile fare, the Star Wars movies have a complicated back story.  While most of the story up front deals with certain key characters in certain situations, the entire background is one of a complicated coup to bring a galaxy to its knees in the guise of an Empire, and a rebellion that seeks to end that.  How this is done is actually quite fascinating, with cataclysmic events and occurrences like you'd find in the histories and mythologies of Ancient Greece and Rome. 

George Lucas writes and directs again, which has always been a bit of a double-edged sword.  He is a master of his characters and their fates, as well as that in putting together all of the breadth and scope of the Star Wars universe, but the sometimes wooden, trite dialogue gives his films a tinge of unintentional humor that almost makes us guilty for liking them so much.  After six films, I've just learned to embrace the hokey qualities for the sake of the overall adventure, and I become absorbed by the rousing confrontations and fantastic battles between good and evil.

Episode III sees a much more mature Star Wars movie, the only one to earn a PG-13 rating, and the one with the least amount of cute characters meant to be marketable to young children.  One can see that Lucas has listened to the quibbling of the fans and has tried to give them a final movie worthy of their longtime adoration and respect.  With this last chapter, the full story is now complete, and thankfully, it ends with a resounding bang, as it should.  Lucas has always been a master showman and storyteller, he shows his prowess quite well in the final piece to his series.  The film is about death, birth, and rebirth, and just as the series has finally reached its final conclusion, fans should be ready for the series to be reborn again as they watch the older chapters in a brand new light.

-- Follows Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999) and Star Wars: Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002).  Prequel to Star Wars (1977), The Empire Strikes Back (1980), and Return of the Jedi (1983).

Qwipster's rating:

2005 Vince Leo