i will mark this down as yet another one of my most memorable theatre experiences in my life. Episode III was released in the first semester of my last year of high school, and i remember i had been waiting for it eagerly since the moment i walked out of the screening for Episode II.
I remember it being one of the loudest (in a very good way) movie i had ever seen as the pounding drum of the opening shot managed to rattle the seats in the theatre. I remember how heart broken my sister and mother and i were when Anakin destroyed himself in a blaze of hatred, and how everyone in the theatre seemed to hold their breath waiting for Darth Vader to take his first breaths which sent quite a chill up my spine when i first heard it. I also remember that moment being ruined by that awful NOOOOOO! But more on that later.
Everything i want in a Star Wars movie i can enjoy here with this instalment. It has a satisfying story and character arc, it has huge battle scenes between space ships, clones, and droids. It has five light saber duels, and it finally tells me the story that i wanted to see: How did Anakin become Darth Vader.
With all of the more or less uninteresting antecedent information out of the way Lucas can finally do something interesting with all of the characters. Stuff finally happens to them that has effects that we see played out before our eyes. Anakin having started his training at too old an age, thus having a troublesome attachment to his mother, people and places outside of his Jedi lifestyle succumbs to the all too human fear of loss. His desire to save Padme results in the total destruction of not only himself but of the Jedi Order and any hope that evil would not be allowed to rule the Galaxy.
I’ve heard a lot of criticism of Anakin’s motives for the killing of the Jedi as being too simplistic and unmotivated, this opinion fails to hold any water for me. Anakin starts his journey by losing his home and mother, being the age of 10 allowed him to become attached to people and places and this attachment is ill suited for a Jedi knight’s lifestyle, and as a result he is initially rejected by the council on the basis that he is too old to begin his training. The one character who accepted him and was a brief mentor was killed and subsequently he has his mother die in his arms. This prompts him to go on a murderous rampage killing all of the men, women, and children of the tribe of sand people. Now taking all of that into account, is it really so hard to accept the fact that when he receives visions of the future that show Padme dying in child birth that he would attempt to do anything to stop it? It isn’t unprecedented that he would kill children, he did it before. The Jedi Masters are suspicious of him and his arrogance although greatly curved is still very much under the surface which fuels his anger and frustration at his masters. I really can’t see how there isn’t enough justification for him to do what he does.
Anakin himself is also much more likeable this time around, his duel with Dooku in Attack of the Clones and his subsequent involvement in the Galaxy spanning clone wars has made him much more level headed. As opposed to him being unable to control both his anger and his arrogance he is now able to focus the former and is shameful of the latter. He shows himself to be an ideal Jedi Knight in his rebuttals of the Sith teachings at first, his shame at killing Dooku, and his honesty when dealing with Palpatine when it becomes clear he is Darth Sidious (by alerting Mace Windu who very much dislikes Anakin) but in the end it is his fear of loss that is the chip in his armour that Palpatine uses against the good in Anakin. And if that isn’t a character arc that is worth watching then i really don’t know what else it could be.
In the years following Attack of the Clones CGI effects had become more and more predominant and as Andy Serkis’ brilliant portrayal of of Gollum would finally show the potential of an all CGI cast member could really have on a film it is much easier to accept the fact that most of the movie is done in a computer. Yoda is perhaps the films greatest achievement with his ability to show thoughtfulness, sorrow, and even a bit of buried rage in his eyes being all the justification the movie needs to be all CGI.
The look of the film is also greatly improved, although the same camera was used between Episode II and III (being the F900) the recording media was greatly improved. Attack of the Clones was put onto HDCAM tape, Revenge of the Sith however was recorded onto HDCAM SR which allowed a for a greater colour depth (4:4:4 colour spacing as opposed to 4:2:2, which in laymen terms means more variation in colour contrast) resulting in more natural, less pastel washed colours overall.
Whether he read a book or got Spielberg or Coppola to give him some pointers, George Lucas finally caved into improving the quality of the actor’s performances which has been a constant complaint levelled on him since A New Hope. Most of the actors just seem more comfortable in their roles, they seem less like planks of wood and more like humans, there’s even a drawn out moment of tortured contemplation to be had that miraculously works to motivate the terrible events that follow.
On top of all of these improvements John Williams supplies an almost photofinishing runner up for the best score of the series. The Imperial Theme first heard in Episode One as an ominous nine note whisper at the end of the light weight Anakin’s Theme is now fully connected to him in Enter Lord Vader. In an underscore to Anakin’s and Obi-Wan’s duel we get two fantastic melodies with the stand out being “Battle of the Heroes”. Williams also looks back and connects the two franchises musical themes with the inclusion of Luke and Leia’s themes in the closing montage of the film.
While many of the prequel’s wrinkles being ironed out in this outing some stubbornly cling onto the franchise.
Once again any intimate scene between Anakin and Padme is just so awkwardly presented. The two actors lack of chemistry and dreadful dialogue just ruins anything that could develop between them. Everything they do is so on the nose, the scene where they share a moment on a balcony is a perfect example; instead of maybe brushing Padme’s hair, or giving her a gift, or sharing a meal together Lucas has Anakin stare at Padme and say in so many words: “…Man i really really really LOVE YOU, you know that right? I mean i like love you, and stuff. I just can’t make this fact clear enough.”
Humans don’t act like this (or at least anybody i’d want to be around), a foot rub would be more intimate than this garbage. This is just horrendously done, i can’t say this enough, i grind my teeth whenever i see it now. Awful, awful, awful.
While it is a minor gripe, the criticism towards the fact that much of the relationship between Obi-Wan and Anakin relies on too much assumption and not enough action on either parties part is something that holds a bit of water for me. However, i just find it rather easy to infer and strong friendship between the two, what with Obi-Wan basically raising Anakin and the fact that they have gone through war together for some years.
And then there is the No…
Look, i know the reason it is in the movie. No, is said in everyone of the films in the series with the exception of Return of the Jedi (although the one in Attack of the Clones barely counts). But good lord when it was spouted out for the first time everyone in the theatre either suppressed laughter, or looked really embarrassed to be watching the movie. Which is sad, the build up with the funeral music, Vader’s power crushing the pillars and droids in the vicinity, the way he breaks loose from the operating table like Frankenstien’s Monster, and Palpatine’s evil grin is perfect and what better way to cap off Anakin’s transformation into Darth Vader then a howl of pain and rage. But the fact that the No, is supplied just by James Earl Jones makes it just sound awful. I’ve always thought it would’ve been better to hear a mixture of Anakin’s and Vader’s voices mixed together, and instead of a NOOOOOOOOWWWOOOWOOWWOOWOWWWWOOOOO!!!! A cry of pain would be best.
As a special treat, the film has no less than five seperate light saber duels, and despite there being so many none of them feel gratuitous or mis-placed.
I will for brevity sakes focus on the most important one that being Anakin against Obi-Wan Kenobi. I as a child had a book that i ordered in one of those schoolastic catalogues that we used to get in grade school every 6 months or so, that explained why Darth Vader wears his suit and re-breather (that being because he was burned by lava) and ever since then i wanted to see that duel. The battle that is shown here is quite literally everything i could have hoped to see as a young child.
The driving thematic currents are for the most part on the surface of this duel (good vs evil, and so on) so the duel for the most part relies on spectacle to drive the narrative. Its well staged, its well shot, its brilliantly scored, its fantastically edited (which is par for the course with this entire series), and it ends with a painfully sad and tragic ending.
Revenge of the Sith is my favourite Star Wars film, it has everything i love about the series in one heat movie. It has space battles, enormous stakes, decent acting (at long last!), a tremendous score, tons of Light Saber action, and a coherent and decent story. It has its flaws, of which probably aren’t listed above but the overall presentation and the fact that it fulfils the promise of showing finally how Darth Vader came to be, that i had been wanting to see since i first watched Return of the Jedi all those years ago and washes all of the bad taste of the previous films away.
I love it.
**** 1/2 OUT OF FIVE