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.
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.
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).
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