Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith

© 2005 Ray Wong

Stars: Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Hayden Christensen, Ian McDiarmid, Samuel L. Jackson, Jimmy Smits, Frank Oz, Christopher Lee, Anthony Daniels, Matthew Wood, Kenny Baker
Director: George Lucas
Writer: George Lucas
Distributor: Fox
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence, disturbing images and themes
Running time: 140 minutes

Script – 8
Performance – 7
Direction – 8
Cinematography/Animation – 9
Music/Sound– 7
Editing – 9
Production – 10
Total Score – 8.2 out of 10

After 28 years, we finally get to see how Anakin Skywalker becomes Darth Vader. That itself is reason enough to see STAR WARS III, one of the most anticipated movies of all times.

REVENGE OF THE SITH opens three years after the initial battle of the Clone Wars. As the conflict nears its end, the Separatists, led by Count Dooku (Lee) and cybog General Grievous (Wood), capture Supreme Chancellor Palpatine (McDiarmid). Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi (McGregor) and his protégé Anakin Skywalker (Christensen) engage in a dangerous mission to rescue Palpatine. Besieged with anger and revenge, Anakin kills Dooku despite the Jedi way.

Back on Coruscant, Anakin learns that his wife-in-secret, Padme (Portman), is pregnant. Soon, Anakin starts having visions of Padme dying in childbirth, much like how he dreamt of his mother’s death before she died. Meanwhile, Palpatine asks the Senate for more power, so he can finish the wars. He also asks Anakin to be his right-hand man, and to spy on the Jedi Council. Anakin discovers Palpatine’s secrets and the truth about the Sith. Desperate to save his wife’s life and hungry for more power, Anakin is drawn to the dark side of the force. His tragic descent leads to his ultimate transformation and the birth of the Galactic Empire.

As Obi-Wan, McGregor (BIG FISH) has matured both physically and intellectually. Calm, logical and compassionate, McGregor successfully channels Alec Guinness, who starred as the original Obi-Wan. The speech McGregor gives at the end of his duel with Anakin is both heartbreaking and profound. And the final image of him on Tatooine sends chills up my spine. In comparison, Christensen (SHATTERED GLASS) seems wooden and out of place. In some pivotal scenes, Christensen fails to convince us the complexity of Anakin/Darth Vader. However, he redeems himself in his final scenes.

Portman (CLOSER) doesn’t fare much better either. She has close to nothing to do in this film except to act concerned or sad or horrified. Compared to her tour de force performance in CLOSER, this seems a letdown. Jackson (COACH CARTER) is consistently good as Jedi Master Mace Windu, and his crucial moment with Anakin and Palpatine is one to be remembered. Oz (MONSTERS INC) once again provides the familiar voice for Yoda, but it’s the digital wizards at ILM that bring the diminutive master to life.

Sadly, Yoda is also one of the best “actors” in the film. For example, Smits (BLESS THE CHILD) has almost nothing to do, considering his importance in the future saga. And Lee (LORD OF THE RINGS) is nearly wasted in a brief scene. Dooku was once a formidable villain. Here, he’s reduced to a mere exclamation point. The standout, however, is McDiarmid (SLEEPY HOLLOW) as Palpatine. His performance is pitch-perfect, leaving us with a sense of dread, exhilaration and wonderment.

Lucas (STAR WARS) is never considered a master screenwriter. His dialogue is often cheesy, and his drama often melodramatic and campy. But that’s one of the reasons why we love STAR WARS: the cheese. Lucas totally delivers here. He is also very good at thematic storytelling. His political and social commentaries strangely echo our current times. His characters, however, sometimes suffer under all the light-saber fights and space battles. One only yearns for the humor of Han Solo, or the interesting interplay between Luke, Han and Leia.

As a director, Lucas is top-notch, as is the production. The special effects are outstanding. The space battles are breathtakingly thrilling. The light-saber duels do not disappoint. And Yoda kicks ass again. At 140 minutes, ROTS is surprisingly fast-paced, none of the drudgery of the previous two installments. Lucas has the good sense of shortening the political mumble-jumble and let the actions speak for themselves (and Jar-Jar Bing does not talk – bless him). The ending, in particular, is satisfying, with or without the cheese. After seeing ROTS, we simply can’t watch the original STAR WARS trilogy the same way again. And that’s a good thing.

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