Movie Review | Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith
Why this order? In the build-up to The Last Jedi, I'll be working my through the films in what I believe is the best order to experience them: namely, Machete Order. There are two differences: 1) Rogue One has to fit in there, and 2) I'll also include The Phantom Menace for completeness.
The prequel trilogy ends here, with the completion of Anakin Skywalker's fall to the Dark Side and his transformation into Darth Vader. The path has been a bumpy one and, for many, almost ruined the character thanks to Hayden Christensen's poor portrayal of the future Sith Lord.
Still, far better to already have the knowledge of how impressive Vader turns out to be, plus the chance to see him in action again in the grand climax of Anakin's story in Return of the Jedi.
As for the rest of the film, it nicely ties things up ready for the original trilogy, allowing even first time watchers of the series to spot the links if watching the movies in Machete Order. It's also one last chance to see Obi-Wan and Yoda at their fighting best before succumbing to their final fates.
Revenge of the Sith also serves as an excellent way to show how devious Palpatine is before making his first physical appearance in the original trilogy - if watching these movies in Episode order, the scale of his plotting may be forgotten by the time he is re-introduced aboard the second Death Star.
Movie Summary: Three years into the Clone Wars, the Jedi rescue Palpatine from Count Dooku. As Obi-Wan pursues a new threat, Anakin acts as a double agent between the Jedi Council and Palpatine and is lured into a sinister plan to rule the galaxy. (IMDb)
Sith is the best of the prequel trilogy, but that isn’t exactly a high bar to clear. In fact, expectations had been dimmed so much by the poor receptions for Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones, the fact that it wasn’t outright terrible was seen as a point in its favour.
While Revenge of the Sith is by no means a bad film, neither can it be called a good one. It has its good moments, but there are still plenty of low points too. A lot like Justice League, it all ends up feeling muddled and, ultimately, unsatisfying.
It’s also helped by the fact the movie has to tie in more closely with the original trilogy, meaning we see and hear more of the good side of Star Wars, leaving the prequel failures behind.
The perfect example is the character of Anakin Skywalker: Attack of the Clones started his descent into villainy, but Revenge of the Sith finishes it, with him being given the name Darth Vader, then finally the iconic black suit of armour.
It’s a feeling reinforced throughout, starting with the huge battle at the start, involving what are essentially proto-Star Destroyers, X-Wings, and even TIE Fighters – surprisingly, Obi-Wan and Anakin in the last of those, although the resemblance is more in their ships’ silhouettes than a direct likeness.
Speaking of the two Jedi, it’s at least enjoyable to see Ewan McGregor return to form, clearly enjoying the darker material as his character moves closer to the Alec Guinness version.
Unfortunately, Hayden Christensen is still poor as Anakin, although there are plenty of reports that he did plenty of scenes better and Lucas messed things up in the edit. Hearsay and gossip? Possibly, but George Lucas has never been the best director of his own franchise, so it’s a theory that has persisted.
Although it isn’t helped by Natalie Portman being almost as bad, clearly uninterested in the material and not making any effort to even try and lift it to a higher level like McGregor. Ian McDiarmid also goes a little too far with his version of Palpatine, exaggerating to such a degree that he’s almost too over-the-top to take seriously.
It’s unfortunate as Revenge of the Sith is yet another film in this series about the villains of the piece coming out on top – this time, to the greatest degree imaginable. Has there ever been a mainstream blockbuster antagonist who achieves what the Emperor does here?
Having hidden in plain sight for years, he takes complete control of the galaxy, eliminates practically all opposition and even recruits one of the Jedi to his side, making him the new Empire’s top enforcer. Not only that, he gets away with it!
Indeed, the sequence where he orders the Clone Troopers to eliminate the Jedi is one of the highlights of the film, as another fantastic piece of music from John Williams plays over various scenes showing the heroes been taken down one by one as the Republic falls.
Sadly, the film is let down by the same excessive use of CGI as the other prequels, with far too many sequences and set-pieces now looking worse in some areas than the best-looking video games.
This will continue to be an issue with every film that uses CGI until full photo-realism is achieved: at least with a model, there is an actual object that will react perfectly to however it’s lit. A model will have a weight that the human eye will detect because it actually is a physical object. What was state-of-the-art for 2005 is fully in the 'Uncanny Valley' these days.
Revenge of the Sith is a decent film marred by creative decisions that come from one person having total control over absolutely every level of what happens on screen and no-one willing to tell him it isn’t good. The movie’s connection to the original trilogy is what saves it, as Lucas has no choice but to go back to what had already worked once before rather than persevering with his own new ideas. Most people will get some enjoyment out of Sith, but a majority will probably watch it just the once, or only ever again as part of re-watch when a new Star Wars film is released.