REVIEW: Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

First off, let me start off my review by saying I liked “The Phantom Menace” and “Attack of the Clones”. No, they don’t measure up to the original trilogy in terms of story or emotional involvement to me, but they had some incredible visuals, some great characters, and the lightning storm Jedi swashbuckling that has become the signature of the new trilogy. I can’t resist a good sword fight.

“Revenge of the Sith” is brimming with sword fights. It’s more full of flashing swords than Jabba is of gorgs. If you like Jedi action, you’re going to walk out of the movie giddy as a Naboo schoolgirl after she’s elected queen of the planet.

The biggest feeling I left Episode III with though was very similar to the feeling I had when I walked out of “Return of the King” — I wished there were more. The movie rockets by like the Millennium Falcon making the Kessel run. There are plenty of new and beautiful locations, there are great performances by many of the actors involved, and great moments of story and revelation. In fact, George Lucas has so many great ideas in this one he can’t spend much time with any one of them. It’s a story told in one long, fast, enthusiastic breath, and I was an enraptured listener. And once you’ve heard it once you’re going to want to stop that excited storyteller and ask them to go back to the beginning and tell it again, so you can ask questions and think about it some more. You’re going to want to know the whys and the hows. Like “Return of the King”, I walked out of the theater thinking, “I can’t wait for the extended DVD release where maybe we’ll get to see some of the scenes that were cut, and get even more of the story.” At the end, I really thought it was just a terrible shame this movie is only two hours long. It has the same adrenaline rush of a good roller coaster ride, and the same draw to repeat it again for the good parts.

I read the book and the script beforehand and was just amazed at the level of story and emotion in this one. This is, of course, the story of how Anakin Skywalker becomes Darth Vader, but it is also the story of the fall of the Republic, the ruin of the Jedi, the rise of the Empire, the end of a love story, and the birth of hope. Comparing the movie to the book and the script , I really missed the loss of some of the subplots and the stories of the other characters. (Padmé especially suffers in this regard, since she has little to do once her subplot was cut but to sit and watch her husband’s fall.) But it’s probably a wise choice, with as much is packed into this movie, to focus it on Anakin, for it is ultimately his story.

And given the real spotlight on him, Hayden Christiansen really shows his talents. There’s a great scene between Hayden and Natalie Portman at the beginning that really sets up Anakin’s fall. The actors’ work in that scene is so good, it reveals a complexity of character that makes the rest of the movie work. Hayden really shows Anakin being pulled in a million different directions, and the internal pain he must be suffering trying to make his life work as a Jedi, a warrior, a husband, and perhaps even the Chosen One of prophecy. I think people who don’t really get this scene might have issues really accepting Anakin’s fall, but the scene really worked for me.

Ian McDiarmid is also given a platform to truly flex his considerable acting muscles here. He is wonderfully Evil as Palpatine, and his scenes really engaged me. It is his performance, his ability to be Evil and yet convincingly deep at the same time, that makes the conflict between the Sith and the Jedi work. McDiarmid really creates the tiniest bit of…maybe not sympathy, but a sort of understanding for his character. I really want to know more about the history of the Sith now.

Yoda and R2-D2 really steal the show at points. Some of my favorite moments feature either everyone’s favorite astro-droid, or the little green Jedi Master.

The movie won’t be perfect for everyone. There is some cheesy dialog, but hey, this IS a Star Wars movie. It’s somewhat graphic in its violence, but lives up to its PG-13 rating. There’s nothing outright terrifying, but there’s a little bit that’s gross (hey, we all know how Anakin becomes Vader). It might be too much for young kids. But the movie’s violence is portrayed as a consequence with moral overtones associated with it. There’s a good lesson at the center of the Star Wars mythos, and this movie tells it in a very direct and emotionally engaging way.

I think for me, George really left me wanting more in a good way. I wanted to sit in that theater for three hours and really linger on these characters and soak in the places and the story. It is truly a moving, involving action movie, and I think fans of the series are going to find a big place in their hearts for this one.

This IS the movie you’re looking for, Star Wars fans. Rush out, get tickets, and get ready for an experience that truly brings the circle to completion on the Star Wars saga.