Revenge of the Sith

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May 24, 2005

Revenge of the Sith

By Andrew Dobbs

WARNING: the following film review contains excessive dorkiness and a few spoilers. Still, as one writer I saw noted, if you don't know what happens in Revenge of the Sith, you probably were surprised by the ending of Passion of the Christ.

I've been meaning to write this post for a couple of days now, as I saw Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith for the first time on Saturday. Yes, for the first time as I went to see it yet again on Sunday night. I hope I get to see it a time or two more on the big screen, as this film is easily the best Star Wars feature since The Empire Strikes Back and lightyears away from the first two prequels, which were staggering in their awfulness and devastating in their disappointment.

Revenge of the Sith is much like Empire in that they both end darkly. At the end of Empire, the Federation has been weakened by a resurgent Galactic Empire, Luke Skywalker is maimed by Darth Vader who promptly informs him that he is his father. The likelihood that peace and freedom will return to the galaxy and balance returned to the Force looks grim indeed. In this film, the "Chosen One"-- Anakin Skywalker-- allows his jealousy, selfishness, self-doubt and anger to turn him to the Dark Side, being crowned Darth Vader by the Chancellor (soon thereafter Emporer) Palpatine, aka Darth Sidious, before participating in some unspeakable crimes. The darkness of the film gives it a far more serious feel and less artificial tone than the last two films, and since the struggle is largely internal the over-the-top lightsaber battles are frequently punctuated by compelling dialogue.

That's right, I said "compelling dialogue", something the last two films were criminally lacking. Indeed, there are some flops of lines-- virtually all of the exchanges between Anakin and Padme are wooden and slightly embarassing-- but the performances of the superb Ian McDiarmind (the Emporer) and Ewan McGregor (Obi-Wan Kenobi) and the fantastic direction of a much more interesting Hayden Christiansen (Anakin/Vader) more than make up for these shortfalls.

I will say, however, that Lucas depends far too much on technical wizardry. Shortly after I saw the movie on Saturday I watched the original Star Wars (heretofore known as A New Hope, the episode's title) and the difference in the films was stark. Where the lightsaber battles in the new films are so fast paced they are practically epileptic, the ultimate battle in New Hope between Vader and Kenobi was subdued and classic. While the dogfighting scenes in the new films are cluttered with thousands of computer-generated bits of irrelevance, the old films had a simple and conservative look that made the scenes that much more compelling. And because the landscapes of the far off worlds of the original trilogy had to be so simplistic the writing and acting took on greater meaning. Lucas has made a great film in Sith, but it takes about 45 minutes to get good. Before that you feel the same dread you felt sitting in Phantom Menace or Attack of the Clones; afterwards you feel the excitement of the original films-- particularly New Hope and Empire. Were I Lucas' boss, I would have started out by cutting the special effects budget by about 75% and told him to find a way to make it work. The film would have been the best of all the films. As it stands, I'd say it is probably the third best-- significantly behind Empire and New Hope but slightly ahead of Jedi (the film where Lucas began his habit of substituting special effects for plot).

Briefly, there has been some talk of the politics of the movie. I think that Lucas tries too hard to quickly slip an anti-Bush message into the movie. My biggest problem is that he handles it poorly-- he could have easily made it the tale of a power-hungry leader undermining traditional democratic institutions in order to establish a brutal colonial order across the galaxy and the liberal-minded Jedi fighting him off. Instead, he takes the same old storyline (with few parallels to today's situation) and tries to throw in some one-liners that fall flat. Padme's tearful rejoinder as the Galactic Senate cheers on Palpatine's grasp for power of "So this is how freedom dies: to thunderous applause" is gripping; but when Anakin says that "if you aren't with me you are my enemy" and Obi-Wan responds that "only a Sith thinks in absolutes" seems to go against the grain of the story. The Jedi are fearless defenders of liberty and the light side of the force against the encroachments of the Dark Side. That seems pretty absolutist to me. Rather, Lucas should have either left the politics at the door (the best option) or had him respond with something to the effect of "I will proudly be called the enemy of the Dark Side." The message is muddled and unnecessary.

In the end, the film is interesting, morally complex, emotionally engaging and exciting. I would recomend it to all fans of the series. It will restore your faith in the series after the previous two dreadful movies and get your blood pumping for the beautiful mythology of the Star Wars story. May the Force be with you.

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at May 24, 2005 02:59 PM | TrackBack


Andrew, if you don't mind, I'm going to skim a bit, to avoid spoilers, etc--but I have it on good authority this is an *excellent* film. I'm glad you got to see it--I'll give it my review if I have time to go. :)

Posted by: Andrea Meyer at May 24, 2005 09:04 PM

I do agree with you Andrew, its a great movie in the tech sense, but as the actual words that are said, its horrid. Being a Jedi Master myself, that's one reason I have loved the saga because of the story, yet the presequals didn't really do it because of the technology (well, I think Episode I was the best with most dialouge than 2 and 3). For those who have loved star wars since we were kids, the story that was made in the first group, and lucas had to make a good story cause of the shortfalls in techonolgy in the 70-80s. With these movies, he was able to play around with more and so that's what he did. One part that there should have been more is when Ankin and Palpatine are together after Windu, there could have been more said rather than the "NOOOOOO, what have i done" blah blah blah, But honestly, as my mom said when I went to see it a second time with her, and so that I can evaulate it more, it was a god awful boring movie, and had we not know the story line, it would have been. Yet, it does hit you emotionally at the end, which I belive Lucas was going for.

Yeah, the President for Texas Young Democrats is a nerd.

Posted by: Mike at May 25, 2005 02:51 AM

Yeah, when Obi-Wan said the absolutes line I thought to myself, "Really? The Jedi reject NOTHING outright?"

Posted by: Drew at May 25, 2005 07:09 AM

1. How cool is it that the President of the TYDs is a Jedi?

2. How does one become a Jedi?

3. Do you have a light sabre? If so, where can I get one?

4. I still thought it was really good.

Posted by: Andrew Dobbs at May 25, 2005 01:14 PM

"At the end of Empire, the Federation has been weakened by a resurgent Galactic Empire"

Who has been weakened? "Federation" is "Star Trek". I assume you meant "Rebel Alliance"?

Posted by: Mark at May 25, 2005 01:17 PM

Forgive me my mistake Mark, I'm actually not much of a Star Trek fan-- I simply got the Trade Federation mixed up with the Rebel Alliance.

Posted by: Andrew Dobbs at May 25, 2005 03:45 PM

Andrew - you can't buy them in a store, Jedi's have to make their own light sabres (using the Force of course).

Posted by: hemphead at May 25, 2005 05:33 PM

Hey Mike, do you have a 20-foot vertical?

Andrew, I'm sure you can get one from a Sith Lord. They use synthetic crystals. The Jedi are probably forbidden from selling theirs.

Posted by: Sal D at May 26, 2005 02:44 PM

Yeah Andrew, I try to keep it a secret. But you can get one by visiting Ossus. There's useally a flight to it at the Austin Airport, you just have to look.

No Sal, I actually doing have a 20 vertical jump. Unlike other jedi's I'm a little heavy set, so its a little harder when I'm not trying, but when I'm in a battle, it's easy.

Posted by: Mike at May 27, 2005 02:11 PM

If you're not into Star Wars you just won't get Ep. III.

But there are some nice touches in the last quarter of the film. The cutting back and forth between the Anakin vs. Obi-Wan lightsaber fight and the Palpatine vs. Yoda one was cool. The same technique was used for the medical scenes involving Anakin and Padmé Amidala.

If nothing else, the film was worth my $6.25 for Padmé's line:
"So this is how liberty dies, with thunderous applause . . . "

Posted by: Tim Z. at May 28, 2005 10:30 AM
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