Here it is. This is the prequel often referred to as “the good one”. But is it? Well, it’s certainly better than the other two. It was good enough that even though I had been turned off of Star Wars in the aftermath of Attack of the Clones, and recognized its faults on my first viewing, I still enjoyed it enough to see it twice in theaters. It’s also the one I pay attention to the most when I rewatch the Star Wars movies.
But I hesitate to call this a good movie. Sure, it’s got a more focused story than The Phantom Menace, this time round the romance is actually supposed to feel uncomfortable, knowing where it will eventually lead, and there are moments of sheer genius. But Revenge of the Sith is still not without some big problems. LIke the previous post, I’m writing this blog post assuming that readers are at least mildly familiar with this movie, so I apologize if you haven’t seen this and you feel lost.
Like the other Star Wars movies with George Lucas’s involvement, this has been discussed to death. Mr. Plinket’s review alone is almost as long as the movie, analyzing pretty much anything you could think of with this movie’s faults, and the faults of the prequels as a whole, while also looking at some of the moments that are genuinely good. As with the other Star Wars movies, the behind the scenes information is readily available in multiple forms. It’s not worth talking too much about that when I can just tell you to watch one of the documentaries. There’s nothing more I can add besides a brief look at my own thoughts.
This is by far my favourite of the prequels, and unlike the other two, which I can almost completely ignore and not feel like I’ve missed anything, I actually enjoy parts of this. The opening scene tracking shot, while purely designed to look cool, is still a great shot. It sucks you right into the movie, leading into what starts off as a great opening action scene. But after Anakin and Obi-Wan land inside General Grevious’s ship, it starts getting messy. Right away, you’ve got two major villains on the ship. The first one, Count Dooku, is killed within minutes of first showing up. What was the point of building him up in Attack of the Clones if he’s going to be killed off so early again?
That leads to this movie’s biggest flaw in a sense. It’s just too dense, both visually and with its subplots. It leaves little room to show the friendship between Anakin and Obi-Wan, which really should have been the core of the entire prequel trilogy. Yet in Episode 1, they barely meet. In Episode 2, they spend most of the movie apart, and most of the rest of the time bickering. In Episode 3, they talk about how they’re friends and they work together a couple of times, but then they’re separated until Anakin is already Darth Vader. And that’s so that the Emperor can isolate Anakin and seduce him, so it makes sense in this context. But it’s still hard to emotionally feel their friendship being destroyed when they barely see each other on screen for three movies.
Like the other prequels, the acting is a very mixed bag. On the plus side, Ewan McGregor has pretty much perfected his Obi-Wan performance by now, and there’s not one moment where he’s not at least a little convincing. Ian McDiarmid is always entertaining as Palpatine – he’s evil, he knows it and he loves being evil. At times he’s very convincing, and at other times he’s delightfully over the top. He’s clearly enjoying himself and it’s hard not to have fun with him.
Even Hayden Christensen has a couple great moments. His best acting moment is when he learns Padme is pregnant. He shows everything from bewilderment to happiness, mixed with fear, within seconds, and it’s all subtle. There’s also a great scene showing both Anakin and Padme looking at the city, their faces telling the audience everything about their worries.
But that’s all marred with a number of other moments where actors feel dry or bored. Samuel L Jackson is completely wasted in this movie and this trilogy as a whole. He’s known to be an intense actor, always at his best when he’s acting angry, excited or perhaps a little crazy. He can still do a job with more serious dramatic roles, but as someone who’s supposed to be a very dangerous Jedi who can tap slightly into the dark side of the force without being tempted by it, he should get angry every now and then. He should have been shouting or grunting while fighting Sidious.
And that Sidious lightsaber fight … ugh, so badly choreographed. I’m going to break from the promise of not talking about the behind the scenes for a second to bring up what happened. McDiarmid didn’t know until the day of filming that George Lucas wanted him to be in the fight, instead of just using a stuntman. As fun as it is to watch McDiarmid grinning as he stabs Jedi, he clearly doesn’t have any skill. It looks so awkward. It’s a complete waste of what could have actually been a great fight scene.
I could go on about how there are perhaps too many different planets, how Grevious feels like a side-track and that Dooku could have easily taken his place, or how several action scenes go on for too long. To sum it up, this movie is a mess. A mess with enough great moments, a haunting enough soundtrack, and a strong enough ending that it makes up for the mess. If the entire movie was on the quality level of the opera scene, it could have actually surpassed The Empire Strikes Back as the greatest Star Wars movie of all-time. Seriously, everything about that opera scene is pretty much perfect.
So as a whole, I would agree that this movie is at least mildly good. There’s enough salvageable material to save it from being bad like the other prequels, but there’s enough dumb to stop it from being great. It feels like the story George Lucas really wanted to tell when he started making the prequels. Despite its clutter, it’s much better planned out. And the way Palpatine tempts Anakin to the dark side of the force is fairly compelling. It’s just too bad he heel turned a bit too quickly.
If you’re interested in my older post where I suggest ways to improve this movie, here it is. And of those three posts I wrote, this is probably the one I’m most proud of.
Next up is the animated Clone Wars movie, which saw a theatrical release for some reason. I’ve decided to skip my mystery posts for now, seeing how even without them, I need to get through three more movies before The Last Jedi. I’m hoping to upload that post on the day of the Blu-ray release. The mystery posts on the other hand are in no way official entries in the franchise, but still worth mentioning in this blogathon. Until then, may the dark side of the force be with you.