This May, George Lucas completed his Star Wars series with the sixth and final film, Revenge of the Sith. This is a film that has been duly hyped for being the last Star Wars film, and as such, there has been quite a bit of anticipation, wariness and pessimism. Many have said that Lucas has lost his touch; emphasizing big-budget film making and special effects over plot, adding annoying comedic characters, and writing absolutely dreadful romance scenes. Revenge of the Sith however has corrected many of these errors.
Within the first 20 minutes of the movie, I was able to tell that Revenge of the Sith would be a great movie, namely because I witnessed something crucial. At the start of the film, we see Anakin and Obi-Wan attempt to raid a massive starship and retrieve Chancellor Palpatine [their captive leader.] The action in this scene is balanced with a sense of whimsy. It is through their banter that the two leads strike just the right balance between humor and believability. I remember when watching Return of the Jedi with the director’s commentary, Lucas had mentioned that it was always important for Star Wars to strike a balance between being believable yet having a certain sense of whimsy. Lucas finds this balance in Sith and immediately starts the film on a strong note.
It is ironic and appropriate that Lucas starts the film on this note, because as the film progresses, things get worse. This is the story of Anakin’s fall to the dark side after all. This darkness is a key aspect that gives the film its strength. Revenge of the Sith doesn’t just entail Anakin’s fall to the dark side, but also shows just how destructive the dark side is through the damage that he wreaks on his loved ones. Indeed from hereon in, Revenge of the Sith adds a new dimension to Darth Vader. Vader is more than just a powerful villain, but a man who had the best of intentions, and ultimately committed the foulest of deeds in order to execute those intentions. Darth Vader is a man whose loss is so complete, that his undisciplined recklessness cost him everything he loved, even his very name of Anakin Skywalker.
It’s also quite telling that Lucas does not pull his punches in this film, and dramatically, this is what makes Sith a far stronger film than the Phantom Menace or Attack of the Clones. First off, the acting is much better in this film. Secondly, the characters confront the darkness that begins to blanket the world around them. For example, towards the end of the film, when Obi-Wan confronts Padme about Anakin’s dark deeds, she plainly realizes that Obi-Wan, Anakin’s father figure, may well intend to kill Anakin, and we watch as what was once a storybook romance, slowly and violently unravels. In fact, one of the strongest scenes was the final scene, just after Obi-Wan has maimed Anakin. When Obi-Wan confronts him, he also confronts his failure in being a father. He must confront his failure of allowing a pure and hopeful boy to grow up into a dictator, a murderer of children, and ultimately, a killer of his wife. It is the drama that gives Sith its tragic tone.
That being said, this film also has some great fight scenes and choreography. However, this film does have one major weakness when it comes to those fight scenes. Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones both used a wide angle when filming a fight scene. They didn’t use quick cuts during a fight scene like more recent movies like the Matrix: Revolutions or Blade II. To this end, you could actually see just what the Jedi were physically capable of, and indeed you could get a full glimpse of the body language and the choreography that went into the fight. Unfortunately, in Revenge of the Sith, Lucas uses a lot of closer camera angles that ultimately obscure the body language and choreography that made the previous films as strong as they were. Moreover, some of the characters clothing is so dark that it blends with dark backgrounds making only the lightsabers visible. Normally, this might be cool, however I found that it gave certain shots a somewhat muddled sense of composition.
Another weak point is the side characters. In the Star Wars: Clone Wars Microseries General Grievous was considered to the single greatest hand-to-hand Jedi killer of his day. Grievous was truly a force to be reckoned with, and yet, in Sith, Grievous loses much of his menace. Obi-Wan is clearly so much more powerful than Grievous, that when he kills Grievous, his death seems rather pedestrian. Count Dooku was also another great character who is given great prominence in Attack of the Clones but quickly dispatched at the beginning of Sith. Indeed, he is so quickly dispatched that I was hoping for a little more from him. Dooku’s back story, a former Jedi that grew disillusioned with the order and left it, was such that Dooku could have offered more.
In conclusion, Revenge of the Sith is an excellent film that above and beyond all else, truly lives up to the legacy of the original trilogy. It is also a film that rights many of the wrongs of the previous prequels, and weds the drama and characterization of traditional mythologies with all of the action and adventure of science fiction movies. In short, Revenge of the Sith is classic Star Wars.
About Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith (2005)
Starring: Christopher Lee, Samuel L. Jackson, Frank Oz, Philip Harvey, Bruce Spence, Christopher Kirby, James Earl Jones, Bai Ling, Rena Owen, Hayden Christensen, Natalie Portman, Ewan McGregor, Kenny Baker, Nick Gillard, Jimmy Smits, Genevieve O'Reilly, Temuera Morrison, Goran D. Kleut, Ian McDiarmid, Oliver Ford Davies, Scott Hinds, Mike Savva, Jerome St. John Blake, Dean Mitchell, Suzie Steen, Jay Laga'aia, Joel Edgerton, Sandi Finlay, Ahmed Best, Claudia Karvan
Director: George Lucas
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