REVIEW: “Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith”

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When it comes to the prequels Star Wars mastermind George Lucas certainly saved his best for last. “Episode III: Revenge of the Sith” is a fabulous final chapter to the sequels and a movie that stands firm on its own individual merits. Rewatching it I was reminded of just how much I enjoyed it not only during its initial release, but during every subsequent viewing.

Episode III begins three years into the Clone Wars. The opening sequence is an eye-popping rescue attempt in the atmosphere above Coruscant. Chancellor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) has been captured by General Grievous, the commander of the Seperatist’s droid army. Jedi Knights Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) lead the successful rescue but fail to capture Grievous. It’s an exhilarating way to start the film full of action, stunning visuals, and some meaningful story nuggets. It also gets in some genuinely funny humor before the inevitable darker turn.

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 Lucas moves things along at a much faster pace than the previous two films mainly because he has a lot of ground to cover. Obi-Wan sets out to track down Grievous with hopes that his capture would end the war. Palpatine continues his quest for power through the manipulation of politics and war. But the Chancellor’s biggest target is Anakin who he secretly works to sway to the dark side. Anakin and Padme (Natalie Portman) continue to hide their marriage which proves tougher after Padme reveals she is pregnant.

The sheer number of dangling story threads is pretty daunting but Lucas ties them up nicely and his management of both narrative and tone is superb. He keeps his focus and doesn’t wander off into needless side-stories. The movie stays centered on Anakin and those closest to him – Padme and Obi-Wan on one side, Palpatine on the other. We already know Anakin becomes Darth Vader and Lucas chronicles His turn in a powerful and often heart-breaking way.

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That doesn’t mean other key characters and plot points are overlooked. Yoda (so perfectly voiced by the great Frank Oz) gets some big moments as does Samuel L. Jackson’s Mace Windu. Lucas answers questions concerning the Jedi Order, the Trade Federation, and of course a few bigger ones that directly connect to Episode IV. As a long time fan of the original three Star Wars pictures it’s pretty amazing to watch these two trilogies connect in such a satisfying way.

Several things take a step up from the previous film, most importantly the performances from Christensen and Portman. Christensen takes a huge step up which is impressive considering he is given much trickier material to work with. The range of emotions and the level of character transformation isn’t easy to pull off but he does a nice job. You’ll cringe at a couple of line deliveries but as a whole its a solid performance. Same with Portman who just feels more comfortable with her Character. McGregor is outstanding as is the conniving McDiarmid).

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 Even visually Episode III seems more focused. The special effects are simply stunning but we get none of those shallow sequences that feel like nothing more than a CGI showcase. Here everything serves the story, the environments, and the atmosphere. And of course you have John Williams. The man is a musical genius and has 51 Academy Award nominations to his credit. Star Wars fans know him best as his music has played pivotal roles in the storytelling for every Star Wars film (minus “Rogue One”). Episode III features some of his best work especially in the darker second half.

In case you can’t tell I still love “Revenge of the Sith” and that enthusiasm was only strengthened with this rewatch. It’s a fantastic conclusion to the prequels and a satisfying segue to the classic original films. It all but wipes away concerns for the previous episodes especially when watching them in succession and viewing them all as one 415-minute whole. They most definitely have a place in the Star Wars universe.

VERDICT – 4.5 STARS

4-5-stars

25 thoughts on “REVIEW: “Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith”

  1. This is the one film I can still get behind without too many issues . This movie was a solid jump for me in the right direction . The opening sequence is an amazing space battle . I also agree that over all , Lucas keeps the pace up and is able to tie up many story lines in a satisfactory fashion .
    The last light saber battle between Obi-Wan and Anakin is very cool , although at times suffers from too much choreography at times ( a thing that was bothersome for me the whole series ) . McGregor is once again excellent , even when speaking some groan worthy dialogue ( once again a sore point for me throughout this series by Lucas). Yoda gets his big moment and the score by Williams is as expected , wonderful .
    My issue with this movie is I always felt there was zero chemistry between Portman and Christensen . The dialogue between the 2 going back to Attack to this movie is some of the most groan worthy of the whole series and that is saying something because after re-watching them , Lucas did himself no favors . I think Lucas strength is the story , world building but dialogue has never been a strength .
    Christensen for me is also a issue . I just find his performance wooden and even when trying to convey conflict within , I hate it when I see a actor acting and as a bunch of set around watching his performance , when he flips out , we chuckled because we just thought it was so forced . He didn’t have the acting chops to portray the inner conflict to me .
    This whole series just never connected with me emotionally and I had high hopes but was left quite disappointed.
    At the end of it ,I liked this movie but it would only get a 6.5 from me.
    However I have enjoyed your take on them , even if I don’t totally agree . But thats what makes talking about movies fun , if we all agreed , it wouldn’t be as much fun . Look forward to another retro review.

    • Thanks so much for the comments and following along. As you can tell I really did love this movie and in many ways it helps me overlook some issues I had with the previous two. It really helped watching them back-to-back-to-back.

      I really do feel Christensen steps it up big time in this one. I was able to buy into the inner conflict you mentioned. He does start to crack in the end when his hair goes wild and he tries to utter “don’t you turn against me” with some menacing emotional heft. Didn’t quite work. McGregor on the other hand…so flipping good. I really want that Kenobi movie!

      Really glad you bring up the space battle. It is so well done. And the final saber battle is pretty epic. You could see those guys pouring their all into it.

      About the chemistry between Portman and Christensen, I see where you’re coming from especially if I really focus on it. Yet for some reason it has never been an issue for me. I’ve never had a problem buying into them even though it is a legitimate gripe.

      Thanks again for following and commenting. As you can tell I adore this franchise. Maybe a little too much. 😂

  2. im enjoying these posts a lot. thank you Keith. I think Sith is better than Clones. Have already mentioned the computer graphic issue in the previous posts. too much. but General Grevious is a well conceived villain. and Palpatine is well acted. a sad story but a good history lesson for why Vader is who he is.

    • Thanks so much and I appreciate you following along. Grevious is such a crafty character. And Palpatine is sooo slyly vile in revealing himself and his master plan. For me Sith really brings everything together in a fascinating way.

  3. Of the prequels, this is the film that I liked mainly for Palpatine and some of the action sequences including the battle between Obi-Wan and Anakin despite Christensen’s acting in some parts of the film where he has to emote and such. There is also some horrific dialogue like “Hold me Ani, hold me like you did in Naboo”. I wonder if PO’TMAN MOTHAFUCKA! went Klaus Kinski on George Lucas for his writing and Christensen for his acting.

    • I love this one. That final light saber battle was a great moment and a solid but sad climax to their friendship. Both McGregor and Christensen really put their all into it. And Palpatine is so deliciously vile. They way his master plan comes to the surface is really satisfying!

  4. I am not a Prequelist. I generally despise them, and have since their release. That said, there’s a gleeful adventure-bound fun to be had with ROTS, despite its ongoing narrative issues and bland characterisation. Easily the one I rewatch most, certainly far moreseo so that the other two. God, How I wish Lucas had handed the reins to more competent directors to bring to life. These films could have been simply gorgeous.

    • Absolutely love this film and I stand firmly by my assertion that this film makes the other two better. No narrative issues for me at all. I thought Lucas was definitely more focused here and everything came together in such a satisfying way.

  5. Both me and my brother were going “wow” when the movie finished (rare for my brother). I really loved how well the dark tone was handled; an all-round ”evil triumphs over good”. The special effects are definitely the best of the prequels – very visually dazzling.

    • I think I only have reviewed one of the original films. I adore all three. “Empire” is still my favorite. I see it as the perfect sequel and it launches Star Wars into the franchise it is today. Some people give “Return of the Jedi” a hard time and I’ve never understood why. I love that movie.

      • Empire Strikes Back is my favourite of the original trilogy, too. Return of the Jedi is weakest of that trilogy (in my opinion), but still really really good – much better than some make out. And of course A New Hope is still the great classic that started it all.

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