Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith

Once again I return to the three films that made “prequel” a dirty word. I must say, it is genuinely a relief to get them done. However, it’s a very characteristic short-lived victory as I’m already seeing the problems ahead of reviewing not only some personal childhood staples, but films that have been torn apart, analysed from all possible angles and discussed for decades. It’s going to be tougher than I initially thought. I have a bad feeling about this.

Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005)
After being twice bitten and disregarding the sensible shyness that should have kicked in after The Phantom Menace, people still flocked to see Revenge of the Sith. The film had a lot to answer for, having to convince people that the prequels weren’t a waste of time and money, but also had to neatly tie this new trilogy in with the original trilogy. We (and by we I mean Star Wars nerds) knew that this film was the one where Anakin turned to the Dark Side and become everyone’s favourite asthmatic Sith lord. We’d seen some pretty shitty preceding nonsense, but this was the pay off. We’d seen Anakin lose his mother, get all up in some sandpeople’s business and now here was the birth of pop culture’s most iconic characters. And LUCAS FUCKED IT UP.

“I’m going there to end this war. Wait for me until I return. Things will be different, I promise. Please wait for me.”

God, I can’t be arsed to type a synopsis. Summat about war. All the actor comments in my previous reviews still ring true anyway. Now, Revenge of the Sith is not nearly as bad as Phantom Menace or Attack of the Clones. It has some good moments, but once again, there are too many baffling missteps to elevate the overall quality. The film goes for a “dark” tone. Certainly, there’s a lot more death and despair in this one, which beats cheering children and hooting Gungan bellends any day. It’s poorly done though, with the crucial lack of characterisation evident when you suddenly realise you don’t give a shit. Tragedy only works if you care for the characters. Even though Lucas had two films to chart the fall of Skywalker it still feels rushed. Anakin bends to Palpatine’s will laughably quickly after Palpy vaguely implies that he could save people from dying.

Revenge of the Sith is frustrating. I do actually like it and its my most re-watched of the prequels, but it’s a like that comes with many different caveats and qualifiers. Tonally it’s all over the place. For instance, in the opening scene, we go from Anakin slicing off Dooku’s hands and decapitating him, to R2 dicking about with security droids. It’s really odd. The film also flits from boring dialogue to impressive special effects driven action.  The dialogue, whilst tedious and functional, for the most part is better this time, with the exception of one scene which made me want to curl up and cringe myself to death. Here are les mots diabolique:

Anakin: You are so beautiful.

Padme: It’s only because I’m so in love.

Anakin: No. It’s because I’m so in love with you.

Padme: So love has blinded you?

Anakin: That’s not exactly what I meant.

Padme: But it’s probably true.

The delivery makes it even worse. Plus, the weird lighting and make-up on Padmé in this bit makes Natalie Portman, a usually fucking gorgeous woman, look like this. I normally wouldn’t mind, but the dialogue draws specific attention to it. Also there’s the aformentioned birth of Vader fuck-up. You know the scene. You know how it makes you feel.

As for the good things, I like the set-pieces. Having said that, I’m not a fan of the overlong final fight between Anakin and Obi-Wan. It tries to be too epic and falls flat. Duel of the Fates in Phantom Menace had the right balance. In Sith, it just drags after a while and as a result does the unthinkable-  it makes lightsaber combat boring. I like the scenes where Anakin is Vader in all but the suit. Marching through the Jedi temple with an army of clone troopers behind is undeniably cool. Plus, there’s a fucking dark scene where one of the worst child actors in the world says: “Master Skywalker, there are too many of them. What are we going to do?” and is answered by the harsh ignition of Vader’s lightsaber. It’s nasty, but at least it had some bite to it, unlike the majority of scenes in the prequels. I’m not saying more child murder would have improved the films (and that’s certainly not a notion I want quoted out of context) I’m just saying that at least the scene elicits a reaction from me.

“Twisted by the Dark Side, young Skywalker has become. The boy you trained, gone he is.”

So, yeah. Revenge of the Sith is the best of the prequels, but still not a very good film. As I said in my Phantom Menace review, the real tragedy is the missed opportunity here. These could have been great films. I’m inclined to blame Lucas for the most part, surrounding himself with yes men and not employing anyone with balls enough to tell him Jar Jar was fucking stupid and to go and have a shave. There will always be the original films, but that’s not the point. What could have been will always be the worse part. George Lucas didn’t “rape my childhood”, as some of the more melodramatic fans have said, but he definitely made the Star Wars universe glow a little less brightly for me.

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