Review by Mark Walters

 

Well the wait is over.  George Lucas is finally bringing us the last installment of the STAR WARS film franchise with the release of REVENGE OF THE SITH on May 19th.  I got a chance to see a special advance press screening of the new movie, so without wasting time, here are my thoughts on it.

Anakin must fight Count Dooku in order to rescue the kidnapped Chancellor Palpatine.

The film opens with Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and his pupil Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) attempting to rescue Chancellor or Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid), who has been kidnapped and held prisoner by droid leader General Grievous (voiced by Matt Wood) and Sith Lord Count Dooku (Christopher Lee).  There's a war going on, and the Jedi are continuing to find themselves acting as warriors in hopes of putting a stop to things.  During the battle Grievous manages to get away.  Upon succeeding they bring the Chancellor back, and everyone still has faith that he will find a solution to the war at hand.  Obi-Wan goes off to search for General Grievous, a mission that is necessary for answers, but dangerous because of the risks involved.  Meanwhile Anakin reunites with his secret love Padme (Natalie Portman), who tells him that she is pregnant.  This could be a problem, since their marriage was done in secret, and if revealed could mean Anakin getting expelled from the Jedi order.  Padme also lets Anakin know that she doesn't quite trust Palpatine's decisions, and wonders if he could perhaps influence the Chancellor to think differently.  He soon finds himself recruited by the Jedi Council to keep an eye on Palpatine.  But his relationship with the Chancellor begins to sway his judgment, and Anakin starts to question the decisions of his fellow Jedi.  This coupled with vivid dreams of Padme dying during child birth make Anakin desperate for some sort of relief.  Palpatine promises answers, but his solutions appear questionable at best.  

Anakin and Padme hope their love can survive the trials they must face.

Well I'd love to say that this film corrects all the problems people had with the previous films.  I'd love to say that it plays out smoothly and ties up any loose ends we've been wondering about.  I'd love to say it's the perfect way to end the series, and that one could ask for nothing more.  But I just can't.  EPISODE III is not a bad film, but it's far from great.  The first 30 minutes failed to capture me at all.  It wasn't until the inevitable Jedi slaughters that I really started to feel enthralled with what I was watching.  I think in this instance it might be good to break things down into what works and what doesn't.

THE GOOD:

Star Wars Prop Replicas from Master Replicas This film is incredibly dark.  Thankfully George didn't shy away from making things sad and gloomy when they needed to be.  There are moments here that are the stuff of legend.  Some scenes are so great it's like they finally figured out a way to film those moments we've wanted to see our whole lives, and put them on the big screen.

The effects are amazing.  Yoda is incredible.  Every shot with the little green hero is done with superb fashion.  There are a few moments where I swear he just looks... real.  Not like they got the CGI to look like a puppet, but I mean he looks real!  There's lots of lightsaber stuff too, and I mean lots, so fans of that will be pleased.  The digital backgrounds look more realistic as well, like stuff you could see someone actually building... if they has oodles of free time.

There are some interesting new characters, and some familiar looking characters that are obviously meant to help tie things in with the original trilogy.  Almost all of the featured characters are cool, and many are memorable.

General Grievous is awesome.  He's like a precursor to Darth Vader, half-organic, half-cyborg, and one bad mutha to mess with.  I really enjoyed Matt Wood's voice for that character, and in many ways I'm glad they didn't use a more recognizable actor voice, as it would have distracted from it's overall effect.

R2-D2 is great.  Granted this little droid always gets some good glory moments, but in this film, oh man.  There are some terrific scenes with R2 here.  We've always rooted for the little guy, but this is the first time he's truly had such character to him.  One scene has Obi-Wan calling him, which is heard by some attack droids, causing R2 to cower behind some barrels and try his best to muffle Obi's voice.  It feels like you're watching a person hiding from the bad guys, not a robot.  It really humanizes him.  Plus he does a few things that are just fun to watch, more so than what we're used to seeing.

The space battle at the opening is exciting and different.  In the previous prequels all of the space fights seemed like little more than a direct homage to what we had seen before in the original trilogy.  This film mixes it up a bit.  The point of view shots are wildly imaginative, and ships don't just explode, they slowly disintegrate in elaborate and impressive ways.  It takes it all one step beyond what we've seen in sci-fi films before, and it's great to watch.

The inevitable Jedi deaths.  We all know they gotta go, and when they do it's pretty powerful.  Moments like this could've easily come across as cheap, or been glossed over in narrative, but George shows it to us in bold form.  He makes it a big deal when these guys die, and it's sad to watch them go.

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THE BAD:

One of the biggest problems with EPISODE II was the romantic moments between Anakin and Padme.  The chemistry just wasn't there, and the dialogue exchanges were fairly wooden.  Sadly this trend continues in the new film.  The exchanges between these two, whether romantic or otherwise, just come off as flat.

Mace's demise.  Okay, you know he has to die, so I'm not spoiling anything with this.  I've always liked Samuel L. Jackson.  I think he's a great actor, and clearly knows how to play a wide range of personality traits.  So I was stunned at how forced his death scene came off.  It's truly a performance issue.  I just didn't like it.  This is a character that is key to the story, and we should feel violated once he's taken from us.  Instead I just felt like they killed him off, and it was a disappointing death scene.  This is especially sad since his fight leading up to it is one of the best in the film.

Over-the-top Emperor.  Maybe it's just me, but when Ian McDiarmid shows up as the Emperor, several moments of dialogue delivery seemed a little too dramatic.  I heard people around me laughing at his performance, and it wasn't meant to be funny.  Most STAR WARS fans know that classic Emperor voice well.  Here it's overdone, like listening to one of your friends butcher lines of dialogue from RETURN OF THE JEDI.  Not sure what George was thinking in these scenes, but Ian should've taken it down a notch.

Missing scenes.  I know for a fact that several scenes got cut from the finished film, but it's also obvious that many scenes were truncated in editing.  You just feel like stuff is missing.  Bits of dialogue or character exchanges are absent, and it's distracting.  There are battle scenes that seem to have no closure, and important characters that never get a proper introduction in the story.  I was most disappointed with the way Chewbacca was used.  Sadly he's little more than set dressing here.  In fact if he wasn't specifically addressed by name in one scene, he could've been just another Wookie.  That's a shame.

Random goofy stuff.  Granted, there's not a whole lot of silliness, since the basic storyline is so dark in tone, but a few bits made their way in anyway.  Droid fighters that are supposed to be imposing, having silly voices that are used during battle scenes.  Not every machine in the film has to be a character.  Some of the droid characters missed the mark for me, particularly some in the opening space battle that jump onto ships and tear them apart like little gremlins.  I could've done without those.

Jedi Master Mace Windu attempts to arrest Chancellor Palpatine.

In the end EPISODE III does do what it's meant to do.  It wraps things up and leads into what we all remember seeing originally.  Some of that is done very nicely too.  A few moments toward the end are extremely satisfying, and almost allow us to forgive the rest of the film's shortcomings.  Will fans like it?  Most likely.  There's a lot in there to like.  Lucas did try to give us what we want.  Overall REVENGE OF THE SITH is a pretty good time at the movies.  Visually it's incredible.  I try to remember that big budget popcorn movies like this can't always be brilliant.  This is not a movie I'm desperate to watch again, but I did enjoy a lot of it.  It's pleasing on the whole, and in the end I think that's all that matters.

Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin fight to the finish.

BIGFANBOY.com score - On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the best, I give STAR WARS Episode III: Revenge of the Sith a 7.


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You can read my review of STAR WARS Episode II: Attack of the Clones by clicking here.


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