So we get to the last of the much-lamented prequel trilogy.
This one did at least have a slightly better title.
And clearly no-one learned anything from the preceding two films about managing expectations because there was a massive hype surrounding this one too.
To be fair, it actually did deliver in some respects. Although it was not without its failings.
And so to the obligatory ‘spoiler alert’.
Spoiler Alert – if you haven’t seen this movie then I’m going to spoil it for you if you keep reading. But if you haven’t seen it, it’s fairly likely that’s because it’s not your kind of film. So we probably shouldn’t worry too much about me spoiling it for you.
Part of the reason that we were all excited about this movie is that we assumed that we’d get to see Anakin Skywalker become Darth Vader. And that totally happens.
So, irrespective of anything else, it did its job.
There were some great fight scenes in this one.
And we get to see Yoda fight the Emperor, which was pretty cool.
Haden Christensen still fails to convince anyone that he can actually act, but using the barometer test of Ewan McGregor and Natalie Portman, it’s still reasonable to assume that the poorly written dialogue does him no favours. He is still worse than either of them though.
There is, again, way too much CGI, which was a hallmark of the prequels that more recent efforts seem to have mostly kicked into touch.
And there are, as per the preceding movies, some unwarranted attempts to shoehorn in characters from the original trilogy who don’t really need to be there. In this case Chewbacca turns up for a bit and does nothing. It was, admittedly, quite nice to see the Wookie home world presented in a slightly different manner to it’s previous incarnation in a live-action offering (which was 1978’s misguided ‘Holiday Special’ – more of which in a couple of weeks), but Chewbacca didn’t need to be there and his presence contributes nothing to the plot, except the suggestion that he is somehow friends with Yoda. Which raises unnecessary questions.
Also Padme’s death, at the end of the movie, kind of works within the narrative of this specific film, but as this was a prequel to a much beloved trilogy, her death actually renders quite a poignant scene in ‘Return of the Jedi’, where Leia remembers her mother, as somewhat less significant because we assume at the time she is telling Luke about his mother, which obviously now can’t be the case as she must be remembering her adoptive mother who had nothing to do with Luke whatsoever.
On the whole though, ‘Revenge Of The Sith’ was much better than might have been realistically expected, based on the preceding two films. The rise of Palpatine and his Galactic Empire and Anakin’s fall to the dark side are more compelling stories upon which to base a movie, rather than a trade dispute. That both ultimately feel a little rushed is because the previous movies didn’t develop the story enough so there is a lot to fit in to this movie. Clunky dialogue doesn’t help but there are some genuinely emotional moments and when a triumphant Palpatine issues the now infamous ‘Order 66’ and we see the Jedi being systematically picked off it’s hard not feel moved.
The much darker tone does help the film, and Ian McDiarmid makes the most of Palpatine’s more central role to completely steal the show. However, Anakin’s fall from grace is maybe a little too spectacular. We know Darth Vader is a baddie, but he’s also a baddie who is supposedly redeemed in the original trilogy. When we first saw ‘Return of the Jedi’, most of the really bad stuff was hinted at rather than shown on screen. Sure, he sadistically murdered a few of his own men because they failed to meet their performance management targets and he cut off his own son’s hand, but the very worst stuff done by the Empire tended to be carried out by someone else – Governor Tarkin in the original movie and Palpatine himself in ‘Return of the Jedi’. So, while it was always a stretch to claim that Vader could genuinely find redemption, it was vaguely possible if you suspended your disbelief. But then, in ‘Revenge of the Sith’, he brutally murders a load of children. And the evil becomes rather less implicit when you do that. He is definitely a wrong ‘un and frankly there’s no coming back from that kind of atrocity no matter how many times you chuck an Emperor into the reactor of a Death Star.
Whatever criticisms you can level at this movie though, the pacing and the action are significant improvements on what came before and it’s hard to find too many moments that are boring. And while ‘not being bored’ are the minimum expectations one should have of a Star Wars movie, by the time we got to this one, it was something off a relief.
Best Character – Palpatine
The unwieldy dialogue that cripples the other characters, seems to sit rather well with Palpatine. Maybe it’s McDiarmid’s years of working as a stage actor, but he thoroughly enjoys himself in this movie and an over-the top performance is exactly what was needed to make that most nefarious of bad guys really shine. He is the ultimate pantomime villain except, y’know, actually quite evil too.
Worst character – General Grievous
Presented as a new bad guy, presumably with half an eye on selling more toys, he’s easily the least threatening of the antagonists in all the movies. I just found him a bit annoying really. I can sort of see why it was helpful to the story to kill off Count Dooku in an earlier scene, but really General Grievous just highlights the stupidity of having killed off Darth Maul in ‘The Phantom Menace’. And actually, given that they managed to bring Maul back for the cartoon series, it’s a shame no-one had the foresight to consider resurrecting him for this movie too.
Unsung hero – Bail Organa
Princess Leia’s future adoptive father doesn’t have much to do in the preceding movies (indeed he’s not even in ‘The Phantom Menace’) but does manage to save the lives of both Yoda and Obi Wan Kenobi in this. Not that anyone really thanks him for it. Also, it would have made way more sense as a lead in to the original trilogy if he’d offered sanctuary to Padme rather than her dying. But he doesn’t even get that level of narrative importance. Because she dies. Special mention in the unsung hero category should also go to Owen and Beru, who don’t even get any lines to say in this movie, but still agree to take responsibility for raising Luke, even though it’s abundantly clear that they only met Anakin once and didn’t really like him.
And so ends the prequel trilogy. Join me tomorrow when I tell you all about how awesome the first Star Wars movie is. And how George Lucas tried to ruin his own masterpiece in the nineties.