The Force Is Strong in This Installment
I’d like to preface this review with a small caveat emptor: I was rooting for Episode III to be great. I would’ve settled for good, but I secretly wanted something spectacular. So if you like, take my opinion on the One Movie About Which Everyone Has an Opinion with a grain of salt ‘— I’m a Star Wars fan, and while it’s fun to sit around and complain about Jar-Jar, at the end of the day, I really want to love a Star Wars movie.
That said, let’s start with the part you already know: this is the Greek tragedy of the saga, in which Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) gives in to his fear, which leads to anger, which leads to hate, which leads to that awesome black mask at the helm of the Death Star. But that’s less important than the question on the lips of George Lucas’ nation of wounded geeks which is, simply put: ‘does it suck as bad as the other two?’ The answer: no, little fanboy.
Actually, it’s pretty great.
There are many things that set this movie apart from its two lackluster predecessors, the most noteworthy being, at last, a human element that feels convincing. For the first time, the camaraderie between Anakin and Obi-Wan (Ewan McGregor) seems genuine; consequently, their clash at the movie’s climax is more poignant than any other part of the prequels. In fact, the characters’ interaction has improved across the board. Though the often-extraneous CGI remains, the actors seem less stiff, more invested in the material, and more passionate in their delivery. A few jokes bomb predictably, and some of the dialogue is as clunky as ever, but these elements somehow fail to mute the greater emotional resonance of the film. Appropriately, the showstopper is Ian McDiarmid, finally ‘revealed’ as Darth Sidious. His cunning, methodical manipulation of Anakin is note-perfect, and his performance brings out the best in his co-stars, especially Christensen, who hopefully will get less crap after this movie. He finally gets to play pre-Vader Anakin as fans always imagined him: jealous, impulsive, and ultimately dangerous.
While watching this film, I was happy to note how much was repaired. Gone are the goofy animated sidekicks (Jar-Jar, while not tortured or beheaded like we all hoped, at least doesn’t have a speaking role). Also blessedly absent is the not-ready-for-C-Span politicking. Instead of beginning Episode III with another 45-minute lecture on ‘trade disputes,’ Lucas plunges the viewer headlong into the Clone Wars with possibly the best space battle sequence of the entire series. While the political wrangling of the previous films is still present, this time it’s actually compelling, in no small part because it ends in a bloody coup.
Finally, there’s a certain satisfaction in how well Lucas links this final film to his original trilogy. There are enough ambiguities to keep fans arguing for years, but the plot’s transition into Episode IV has a remarkable fluidity. I’m disappointed that it took this long to get another good Star Wars movie, and I’m sad that it’s the last one. But I believe that in due time, Revenge of the Sith will generally be considered one of the best in the saga. All things considered, that’s not a bad ending to the journey that started a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.
Glen Baity welcomes comments and dissenting opinions at Tate Street Coffee, where he works and (basically) lives. The timid, bedridden and otherwise infirm can comment on this article via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.