Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith Review
By Joe Lozito
The "Sith" Hits the Fans
This was going to be it; the culmination of almost thirty years of "Star Wars" history. Finally, at long last, "Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith." The transformation of Anakin Skywalker into Darth Vader comes to the big screen. This one had the most potential, and in that way it is the most disappointing.
Look, I know I gave "Episode II - Attack of the Clones" three stars, and I have to live with that. But what I realized looking back at this trilogy is that "Clones" was the only one that even came close to living up to its promise.
"Episode I - The Phantom Menace" was supposed to be the birth of Darth Vader - perhaps the most memorable big screen villain of the late 20th century. Instead, we got some gibberish about midichlorians and a towheaded, "yippee"-spouting boy without a shred of emotional resonance. "Clones" was to be the flowering of Anakin and Padmé's relationship set against the start of the much-heralded Clone Wars. And, like it or not, that's what it delivered - along with several lightsaber duels and some Yoda butt-kicking.
But "Sith" was to top them all. It was supposed to be the fall of Anakin Skywalker. It was supposed to be the story of a man seduced by the Dark Side of the Force - something we've been hearing about since that great moment between Luke and Obi-Wan early in what is now called "Episode IV - A New Hope".
And what do we get instead? Well (spoiler alert!), we do get the fall of Anakin, but in the most unimaginative, stilted, by-the-numbers fashion possible. Don't get me wrong, I don't mean that there's no imagination in the film - quite the opposite. Like the previous two installments, "Sith" is wall-to-wall with beautifully realized planets and cityscapes. The Art Direction, as always, stands apart in its field. But, at the same time…what else is new?
Unlike Peter Jackson's "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, in which each film built upon the foundation created by the previous ones, George Lucas seems to have used his first two films to lower audience expectations to the point that "Episode III" actually seems like a good movie. In reality, "Sith" is just more of the same - more creatures, more space vehicles, more droids. There's nothing new here. We've seen it all before and, for the first time, it all seems tired. The confrontations between major characters (Anakin and Dooku, Obi-Wan and General Grievous) feel clumsy and under-directed. Even the most crucial moments - about which I won't give details here - are satisfying only in the most rudimentary way.
From a certain point of view, Lucas did himself a disservice by making the first two movies. Everything that was wrong with those previous films is in place here, but even more amplified. The dialogue, which needs to resonate with urgency, is as flat as ever. The plot, which should shoot forward like a runaway train, limps along with scene after scene of the aforementioned dialogue. And Anakin's transformation, which should be as shocking and unavoidable as the fall of Lucifer, is forced and unmoving.
The problem is with Lucas' need to make this story a trilogy. He has admitted that he only had enough story for one movie, so he put sixty percent in "Sith" and spread the other forty percent over the first two. So we get, as Lucas calls it, "Hamburger Helper", like pod races and that weird Ray Harryhausen tribute at the end of "Clones". It's not bad, it's just that "Star Wars" fans deserve better. Maybe one day it will be possible to splice together one great "Star Wars" movie out of this first trilogy. Until then, though, we always have Episodes IV and V.
It's old news to say that Lucas is more concerned with special effects than character and that's never more evident than here as a slightly more mature Hayden Christensen and a slightly less convincing Natalie Portman struggle through some painful love scenes. Ewan McGregor, the dependable, underrated rock of the series, holds on to what moments he can, but it's Ian McDiarmid who - after four movies - finally grabs hold of the film (despite some oddly subpar make-up). His scenery-chewing turn as the revealed Darth Sidious is infinitely more interesting and fun to watch that Anakin's descent. And that just ain't right.
Yes, I gave "Clones" three stars and I'll stand by it. It's not a great movie - none of the new films are - but, after the disappointment of "Menace", I was swept up in the anticipation of a new "Star Wars" film. This time, I guess, I'd felt like I'd been burned twice before, so "Sith" had a much higher hill to climb, and, like its central character, much farther to fall. Fool me thrice? Shame on Lucas.