Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith

At last, the saga is complete. Everything has come full circle, and we can finally understand exactly how everything in the very first Star Wars movie came into being. Well, sort of. There are still some gaps, most of which don’t matter, but for the main characters, it all makes sense. I am content with this. This film makes up for the blunder that was Attack of the Clones. Not entirely, mind you, but I thought that maybe the inspiration was gone from George Lucas’ mind. That’s not the case; this is the best of the Star Wars prequels.

It’s not really that the movie itself was anything special. It’s mostly just a whiz-bang effort of action scenes and special effects. But that we have everything pieced together now brings new understanding to the war that didn’t seem to matter in the, by release date, first three films. It lets us understand why the bad guys are the bad guys — it seemed beforehand that they were evil just because the series needed villains — and how they came to be that way. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Revenge of the Sith makes the earlier films better, but it certainly helped in comprehending them.

The Star Wars universe is so big, and it’s easy to feel lost within it. This film brings it all together, at least, as far as the movies are concerned. It answered pretty much all of the questions that I had, and did so in an entertaining and effective manner that (mostly) made sense. Was it perfect? Absolutely not, but I found myself more forgiving than I have been since the very first installment.

This is the climax you’ve been waiting for. Teased for the last couple of films, this is when Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) finally becomes the villain we knew him as in the original trilogy. That transformation occurs at the midway point of this film, for reasons that I will not spoil. This isn’t a “destination” film; it’s one about the journey. You know how it has to end, for the most part, and you’re here to see the small events and to further understand the why behind these moments in time. You get all that here.

You also get a great deal of action scenes, filled with some very impressive special effects. Revenge of the Sith comes three years after Attack of the Clones, and the CGI has improved since then. The earlier film often felt fake, while this one is more believable. Sure, it’s still a flurry of special effects in a lot of the scenes, but at least it’s eye-candy this time around and not eye-vegetables. The film returns to the franchise roots of looking visually outstanding.

You get some very fun lightsaber duels, force powers being taken to their extremes, some ship battles, and even another jungle type area where we get a Chubacca cameo. Sure, the last one seemed really forced in there — we don’t get to see Han Solo, by the way, so don’t even ask — but it’s a nice surprise and I have to admit that I smiled. The film is entertaining for its entirety, which was the biggest problem that the last one had. It was dull, and not a whole lot happened. This one has seemingly everything happen and you always have something to admire.

The only real character growth comes from Anakin, which turns him from a bratty teenager into the lord of darkness. This would have worked better had Hayden Christensen not played the role. I don’t generally think he’s a bad actor — see some of his non-Star Wars roles for examples of that — but him playing the dark and sinister type is just way too tough a sell. I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt here, but I couldn’t stop seeing him as the small kid trying to make himself look big and tough and scary. Maybe giving him the helmet right after the turn instead of at the very end would have helped this.

There’s a lot of gravitas to this film. Like the conclusion to the first trilogy, there’s a sense of danger at every moment. People could easily, and will, die in this movie. You know the primary players survive, but who won’t? And how will they be killed? You want the answers to these questions, even if you don’t necessarily want to see a beloved side character get the ax.

Most of the actors still aren’t very good here, save for Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi who actually gets more than one character moment. Natalie Portman’s Padmé gets absolutely nothing to do with herself, and the same is true of both of the droids. It’s not actors that make this movie a success. It’s the payoff from all of the world building that had been done in each of the previous installments, and the payoff you have in your mind when you piece everything together. That it looks incredible is a bonus.

Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith is a very fine conclusion to the second Star Wars trilogy. As a standalone film, it’s a decent spectacle. As the conclusion to a mediocre trilogy tasked with setting up a fantastic one? I thought it did a really solid job. It helps in understanding the films that, chronologically speaking, come afterward, and it’s the payoff from all of the universe building and exploration that we’ve done over the course of the previous films. The saga is at an end, and it’s worth it.

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